vestryview

A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Onwards and upwards

 Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford puts on a brave face.
Apparently, one of my predecessors once had a pedometer attached to see how far they walked during a typical day. The total was over 10 miles and, working and walking up and down one of the largest parish churches in the country, I find it quite easy to believe.
In fact, if I’d repeated that exercise over the last few weeks then I reckon the thing would have exploded.
I don’t want to moan – actually, I suspect I do and so I shall. When I wake up in the morning there is a huge pain from the top of my shins right across my feet.
Despite this, on a typical working day I bravely stitch on a smile and prepare to be nice to people for up to nine hours on the trot – regardless of the discomfort.
Naturally my family suffers when I switch this off but, hey, it’s not a perfect world.
My boss, John Dell, complains of a similar problem but, because his smile is much nicer than mine, he’s obviously not in as much pain as me. Stands to reason.
It’s the floor, basically – it’s hard stone and we virgers are pounding up and down the Minster’s full 333 feet length (that’s 101 metres for all my metricated readers) uncountable times each day.
Here’s a typical sequence: we’re up by the West Door, oiling a hinge or fiddling around with pews when someone asks us to let them into the vestry at the far end. Deep apologies, but they’ve forgotten their key and so that’s 666 feet (sorry kiddies, 202 metres) of unwanted tramping.
Actually, I think I’ll do the rest of this piece in metric – repeated use of the word ‘feet’ is bringing the pain back.
Anyway, normally on the way back to the West Door the virgers are interrupted by a volunteer who has only just discovered that they are running very low on welcome leaflets and could I get them some more from our office (which is at the other end of the Minster).
We deliver the requested documents, having clocked up a further 200 metres, only to be reminded that it’s nearly time for a roof tour. Hopefully we look around, desperate for the place to be empty so we can continue with oiling the chairs or fiddling with the doors but we find there are four or more people, desperate to explore the hidden wonders of our building: fair enough, they are wonderful, but they are up 113 steps behind a locked door and, oh goody, I’ve forgotten to bring the key with me.
Guess which end of the church THAT’s kept.
And don’t get me started about how far we actually walk when we’re whisking our trusty Henrys around to clean the nave and transepts. I daren’t even think about it or I’d start to whimper.
So I trust you realise how very, very brave and selfless John and I are being when we invite you all to come and climb our 165 foot clock tower with us this Bank Holiday Monday (31st May). It’s a rare chance to stare down on the town of Beverley and the Wolds from the very spot where, only a few weeks ago, Fiona Bruce was recording a sequence for the Antiques Roadshow.
The 40 minute guided tours cost £10 each, start at 10am and involve over 212 steps – to reserve a place phone 01482 868540 or turn up on the day. It’ll be easy to find either John or me – just follow the screams.
p.s. – sorry, no room to tell you why we spell ‘virger’ with an ‘i’ this week either – perhaps I’ll be able to do it next week instead.
‘Til then.
First published  May 2010

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