vestryview

A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Looking back, looking on

The task of cleaning goes on, and on – but Beverley Minster virgers are already planning ahead.
After last weeks column I have been inundated with questions about only one subject – how is my science fiction blockbuster going?
Actually, inundated is overstating it slightly – in fact, and to be brutally honest, no one has asked me about it at all, but that’s not important.  In the true, ancient and honourable tradition of writers and columnists around the entire civilised world (and national newspapers) I shall plough my lonely furrow regardless of reality.
Anyway the answer is, not very well, thank you.
I don’t know why – it’s not as if I’ve had hordes of visitors to distract me, after all. Granted, the weather hasn’t been appealing (although nowhere near as bad as the Met Office has been predicting – just what hallucinogenic drugs have they been putting in the water supply at their HQ, eh?) but there’s no escaping the fact that we have been unusually quiet since the Bank Holiday.
Possibly it was thanks to some large orange barriers that sprouted in front of our main Highgate doors. They might well have led a casual observer to think (wrongly) that we were closed.
Those barriers were the direct result of a confused HGV driver taking the wrong route – some time between 8.30 and 8.50am – on Christmas Eve. We could tell by the tyre tracks left in the snow that this individual – obviously a relative of disaster-prone Frank Spencer as featured in ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ –  had used the pavement in front of the Minster to turn their large vehicle and, in so doing, they’d chewed up the kerb and York pavers rather badly.
And Christmas Eve was, as luck would have it, the busiest day of the year in terms of people coming for worship: we lay on two crib services for families, then nine lessons and carols followed by midnight communion. On a normal, non weather-affected year we might expect about 2,000 people to come through our doors from early afternoon onwards and we obviously didn’t want to a large number of them tripping over the snow-obscured wreckage outside.
Luckily, neither did the council who were on site by mid-morning to assess and sort out the immediate problem. It obviously wasn’t possible to do repairs then and there because of the snow but at least they cordoned off the dangerous bit and, this week, they’ve relaid that stretch and put in two iron pillars to dissuade anyone from trying the same trick in future.
So that problem has been solved – thanks guys – and there’s no visual or physical barrier to our main steps any more. Let’s see if our numbers climb significantly. If they do I might have to stop polishing and restoring the memorials in the nave – what a pity as I’m just getting into the swing of it.
I did have to take a break from burnishing the brasses for one of our regular staff meetings on Monday. As this had been the first Advent season in Beverley for our new vicar we all reviewed ‘The Minster Christmas Experience’ to see if we needed to change anything for next year.
There seemed to be a consensus that we should do some tweaks to the Crib Service – the stable was looking a bit battered now and, based on Jeremy’s experience at York Minster, perhaps we should look at varying the starting times.
Watch this space, Crib-fans.
But apart from that, and a bit of fine-tuning on some of the established services, it will be more of the same in another eleven months. So don’t throw away your copy of Wizzard’s: “I Wish It Could Be Christmas” just yet.
We then started thumbing through the diary for next December (oh yes, we like to plan ahead) and we discovered that we’ve actually got a few days spare in the 2010 calendar for concerts or events (of the right kind, obviously).
All our regular bookings: the schools, Macmillan and Melsa concerts, County Choirs and County Music Departments are in already in place and, thanks to the way the calendar falls this year, we have a week that is virtually empty.
So the Minster is open to suggestions and proposals. We virgers agreed that we could happily accommodate anything required, then crossed our fingers and hoped it won’t involve us in too much shifting of staging and seats.
But if it does, well, heck, that’s what we’re both paid such huge sums of money to do.  Bring it on, we say (at the moment).
Maybe, by the end of December 2010 we’ll look back fondly on this quiet January as a marvellous oasis of calm. But until then we’ve still got a lot of work to make the church spick and span.
Roll on Christmas.
First published January 2010

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