A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Doctor, doctor

 Neil Pickford needs to be reassured. Can anyone help?
Hello, excuse me. Are you a doctor?
Yes, I know it’s not normally a question you fire at a complete stranger but, you see, I’m desperate.
Please, don’t go away. You see I’ve got this bit of a problem and, well, I don’t want to make an appointment with my GP in case I’m wasting their time. I also know how rude it is when people upset doctors by spilling out their ailments (sorry, rather unpleasant phrasing there) at dinner parties, so I won’t do that.
Probably because I don’t get invited to dinner parties, amongst other reasons, but that’s not the point. It’s just not a nice thing to do.
So, really, my only alternative is to hope that I just sort of ‘bump into’ someone who can help me.
Anyway, I can see you’re busy so I won’t mess around any more. I’ll just get on with saying what I have to say and you can advise me accordingly. Yes, I’ll be brief – there’s no need to scowl at me.
Hold on, hold on, I’m just composing my thoughts – trying to be brief, just like you asked me.
It’s not easy, that’s all, trying to be as succinct as possible without leaving out anything important.
Alright, I’ll start then and we’ll see how it sounds.
OK, here goes…..
Well, the problem is, I seem to be putting on weight.
Well yes, thanks VERY MUCH for mentioning it. Yes I am rather heavier than normal anyway. Yes, 16 stone for your information but that doesn’t mean I can’t tell when I’m putting on a few pounds. Just because I’m not a supermodel doesn’t mean I don’t check myself in the mirror every few weeks.
Yes, the tummy is definitely a bit bigger than it was – but it’s not as if I’m eating any more. Oh, I’ve had a few pints of cider over the last week, which I wouldn’t normally, but that’s only been after I’ve burned off a lot of extra calories anyway – so that shouldn’t count.
Yes, actually, I do keep myself physically active, despite appearances. Well, I’ve been doing at least two roof tours most days when I’m working in the Minster – that’s 226 steps straight up, which has got to count for something. Then, when I’m on the tour, I always have to lift a quarter-ton weight using just a 300 year old treadwheel crane, so that’s a lot of calories as well.
I’ve had to all these tours because there’s been a steady stream of visitors all through the Easter holidays, which is nice, but it does create work.
On top of that there have been some one-offs that should have helped me lose weight – the other day we had to build a very large piece of staging for a concert which we then had to move about THREE TIMES where the user kept changing their mind. Then we had to strip it all down again at the end of the evening to get the Minster ready for Sunday worship.
And I’ve lost count of how many times we two virgers have had to push the two-ton Steinway piano around over those uneven floors. Well, it may not be two tons but it’s certainly heavier than a family car because I’ve pushed one of those and it’s a lot easier than a grand piano.
We’ve even had to hump around the six foot cross on its mount that normally stands in the St Katherine’s chapel – not an easy task, let me tell you. And don’t get me started on how heavy the Paschal candle stand is – I reckon they’re rammed a load of lead inside the wooden frame – it’s the only explanation. That’s on top of our normal full range of bending, lifting and cleaning.
I know it’s John and not me who climbed the north west tower to fly the flag before Easter, then again to take it down again, but I would have done if I’d been asked. Surely that’s got to count.
And, I don’t know if you already knew, but I did manage to grub out my hedge last week, with a bit of assistance. There was a lot of bending and carrying involved in that, so that should have helped to keep the waist under control.
It can’t be all those meetings we’re sitting through, making detailed plans about how we’re going to physically fill the nave with chairs for Songs of Praise, then strip them all out very quickly for Antiques Roadshow. Planning how we need to direct people safely around the various building activities that will be going on in the week beforehand, the car park closures required, how to clear everything out of the way for a wedding to take place slap bang in the middle of it all – then a concert right at the end.
Well, stands to reason, that’s not going to pile on the pounds, isn’t it? It’s not as if we get tons of biscuits or sandwiches at these meetings – it’s luxury if you get a cup of coffee most times.
Well, that’s it. What do you think? Doesn’t make sense does it, piling on the pounds when I’m doing all this work. Do you think I should see a doctor?
Hello, are you still there?
First published April 2010 


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