A view backstage at Beverley Minster

The Mushroom diet

Or, how to lose friends and influence with people.
I’ll be honest; Sunday was not one of my finest moments in the Minster. I’d had a few days holiday and, when I came back, lines of communication had somehow become severed, although no one realised this until too late.
The first thing that went wrong was Sunday breakfast – there wasn’t any. This was a doubly annoying fact.
Firstly, it was annoying because no one had told me we weren’t doing the normal cooked Breakfast at God (which is available to everyone who attends our 8am communion or will be coming to our later 10.30 service) and so I’d laid out all the tables and chairs as if we were. I’m not a fan of wasting my time or efforts.
Secondly, I was relying on that breakfast to get me through the morning.
I frequently work the early shift, largely because it means I get away in time for the 1pm start of most Formula One races throughout the year – and this week I was geared up to watch the season-end spectacular in Abu Dhabi.
In consequence I had come in to work just after 7am, having scoffed just a small bowl of cereal to keep me going for a couple of hours, expecting to top up at 9am and thus ready myself for two hours of yelling at the television as Jenson Button and Brawn GP celebrated winning the world championships.
Instead, the lack of any edible packing in my stomach threatened a serious imbalance to my normally placid interior, risking bursts of bad temper on the exterior.
I just hoped there wouldn’t be anything to trigger it. But there was.
I won’t bore you with the details, or repeat the sequence for myself or I’ll get all cross again, but basically I had to assemble a multimedia environment  (projector and screen) at very short notice. It’s not an easy job and one that is made harder by the fact that both John and I seem to confuse any laptop we connect to this projector – even when we hardly touch them. For us it has become an operation that is fraught with worry and trepidation at the best of times.
And now I was doing it in a rush, on an empty stomach.
You didn’t need an amplifier in church that day, you’d have heard my grumbling up in Wednesday Market and my rumbling in St Mary’s. As far as I was concerned I was on a diet that day – the mushroom one. You know: kept in the dark and fed …..
Anyway, I was feeling royally sorry for myself and the day got even worse when someone uncovered a simple set of instructions for the service that had all the relevant information clearly listed.
Because it hadn’t been put in the normal place I hadn’t seen it so I’d had no time to prepare what should have been straightforward. And it wasn’t really someone else’s fault. It turned out to be a self-inflicted wound by the virgers – but somehow that didn’t make it feel any better – nor did it fill my stomach, (perhaps I should have eaten it).
It just goes to prove what I was banging on about two weeks ago – you can buy or set up the most comprehensive and marvellous all-singing recording and reporting system in the world, but it still relies on people using it properly. If you don’t then any system is just so much random whiffling in the wind – an out-of-context irrelevance.
Anyway, I ended up doing the job I should have completed the day before and I apologised to everyone who needed apologising to so I guess it worked out in the end, but it would have been so much easier if people had told me things directly instead of relying on other forms of indirect communication – no matter how efficient it’s supposed to be.
Mind you, sometimes the illuminating beam of foreknowledge is unhelpful too, as I discovered the very next day.
On that Monday we had our normal forward planning meeting. Being the first one in the month it meant we go through the diaries for two months ahead to see what vagaries the calendar and outside world will throw at us.
The more mathematically adept of my readers will have worked out that this November meeting therefore put the spotlight on the month of December and, oh boy, is that busy. Frankly I’m not convinced that my foreknowledge is helpful in this respect – it’s certainly not doing anything for my peace of mind.
On the first Saturday of that month, for example, we have our annual County Choir Christmas performance – the Messiah this year, which will be very popular and probably attract nearly 150 singers to perform for a packed church.
It’s such a big choir that we have to build raised seating to accommodate them all at the West End of the Minster, because we need a large area unencumbered by choir stalls, pulpits and so forth. This means we then have to turn all the seats in the Minster through 180 degrees to face the choir. Readers of my blog this time last year may remember how much enjoyment John and I get from this exercise.
It’s not so much the turning of the chairs that’s a nuisance – we get plenty of volunteers to help us and, in fact, we virgers prefer to do it ourselves because we have a system and it works well. After the show the choir strips down the raised seating and lighting and, under our direction, gets it out of the way so the Minster looks fairly normal only a few hours later.
It’s just the fact that, after all the helpers have gone but before we can go home that night, we have to set everything up for the next days services. And, of course, the next day is one of those Sundays that’s scheduled to have an all-singing, all-dancing, all multi-media All Age event.
It’s amazing how much more work there is setting up for informal worship than there is for a formal one – by the time we’ve moved the chairs to make space for the children, then the music group, then the mixing desk and, of course, our flipping screen, projector and cursed laptop – well, it’s nearly midnight and, of course, I’ll be on duty at seven the next morning. All I can say is, there’d better be breakfast that morning or harsh words will be spoken.
Then there is another day with a booked Christmas concert during the afternoon, leaving the virgers with just two hours to strip the whole thing down and build a new stage for a candlelit concert that evening. There are extra services for Advent, festivals, concerts with services soon afterwards, Churches Together. Then, of course, there’s Christmas Eve with its two Crib services, Nine Lessons and Carols, then Midnight communion (plus an 8am and morning service on the day itself. The more I look at it the more work I see, shifting chairs, building staging, pushing the Steinway about, cleaning up, getting ready… actually it’s probably better if I didn’t know too much in advance, thanks all the same.
Perhaps ignorance is bliss.
First published November 2009

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