A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Flights of Fantasy

Neil Pickford has writer’s block – or has he?
It’s time to cry Hallelujah and let slip the Henrys of war, to reduce t’ foul smell above the choir… or something like that (thank you Shakespeare and your Henry IVth).
The few visitors we’ve had in between snowfalls over the last week have found our Minster to be lacking its normal aura of peace and tranquillity – rather, they’ve been assaulted by a stereophonic buzzing noise emanating from a round red box pulled by each virger.
We’re spring-cleaning at the moment and this is the third time I’ve helped John with the task. It’s very daunting when you start – some 30,000 plus square foot of floor to Henry (we don’t have Hoovers in the Minster), and hundreds of yards of cracks and crevices that are currently home to Christmas tinsel. We’ll have it all out by Easter, I promise you.
It’s time to be ruthless – shoving the hose right under the central heating pipes and in all the little bowls and corners where dust can gather, then up the pillars to annoy long-established spider colonies that haven’t realised they’re not welcome.
Then, when the floor is done (having also been de-chewing gummed and the most obvious stains tempered down somewhat), it’s on to the window ledges and various other things located further off the floor, including all the wooden statuary in the quire.
That’s January pretty much budgeted for – we won’t get many roof tours to break into our process of edulcoration and so we just have to get into the right frame of mind, then systematically work through the building from one end to the other without cutting corners (and, boy, there sure are a lot of corners in this building).
And so I was dreamily progressing up the north transept aisle in a westerly direction and my mind started to wander.
Long-suffering readers of my writings will know that I’m already working on one book – a fully-illustrated and updated DVD version of a classic encyclopaedia on Beverley Minster. However, that’s pretty much come to a halt at present because I need more photographs of windows and memorials and the light just hasn’t been right over the last few months (well, for my cameras, anyway).
So while that’s been dumped back in the ‘pending’ tray I’ve started tinkering with an older project that disappeared up its own cul de sac a few years ago. It’s a science fiction novel, the first edited draft of which runs to 120,000 words and it has already attracted great praise from the few readers who’ve been shown the manuscript.
This book will, obviously, eventually become a trilogy and, extremely probably, a very popular series of films – I shall become a cross between JK Rowling, Michael Crichton and Terry Pratchett.
Sadly, however, no publisher has yet displayed any interest in taking it on, for which I can only blame gross incompetence, stupidity, illiteracy and, probably, a complete lack of imagination and sense of humour.
Realising I have to get past this first barrier of cretinism before I can progress to the next hurdle en route to making a billion pounds (sorry, bringing reading pleasure to the world), I’ve been kicking around alternative intros to the book to make it a bit more instantly accessible. Unfortunately, over the last few months I’ve not really achieved much in this direction.
However, this week, while a mere fraction of my brain grappled with the task of teasing some more silvery paper and an orange pip out of a crack, another section suddenly had a bit of a ‘eureka’ moment.
You see, the tale is set in a future century when the entire population has retreated underground to avoid environmental disaster (or have they? That’s one of the mysteries.)
Anyway, the hero – or, more accurately, the chief protagonist as he’s not very heroic – has spent his entire life, along with the rest of his tribe, in one of the endless huge tunnels that were constructed as bolt holes from the catastrophe.
Be honest, it’s great so far, isn’t it?
Anyway, I realised that it needed something a bit more connected with the present day for people to ‘relate to’. Something like Beverley Minster, in fact.
So now, Geraldo Guitar and his best friend Tim-Jim, in their endless wanderings through the caves of Gaia, discover the well-preserved remains of Beverley Minster underground – with the inevitable hilarious consequences (if I can think of any). They are fascinated (as you will be) and start exploring the old structure – making a discovery that will change the future of humanity and also uncover stranger civilisations below (sorry, gave away part of the plot there but that’s OK. You’ll have forgotten by the time this tome finally makes it onto the Amazon best-seller list).
It can’t fail.
The Minster is such a magnificent building that it inspires thousands of people every year. Some people become hooked and return week-in, week-out, called back not by religious impulse but by a structure that is beautiful and endlessly fascinating. Just bringing the building into my book guarantees success.
Then, when my trilogy becomes a large-scale film franchise it can be shot on location in the Minster itself, generating much-needed income and also boosting visitor numbers for years to come. 
And from my enormous royalties I will be able to pay for a brand new floor in the Minster – one that looks great, doesn’t stain, and has no cracks that tinsel could hide in.
It was then that the extension cable came out of the Henry and the dream faded away – but at least I got a blog out of it.   

First published January 2010


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