A view backstage at Beverley Minster

A message to the world

Neil Pickford picks his next subject with care.
In my current role as columnist to the highly-prestigious Beverley Advertiser (free newspaper to the elite) I am becoming famous.
Last week I was guest celebrity in the highly prestigious “Me and My Motor” slot in the glamorous Friday edition of the  Hull Daily Mail, and shortly afterwards I was set upon by a fan who delightedly pointed me out to their visiting friend.
I must handle my new position with care and responsibility. Avoid controversy like the plague – oh, avoid cliches too. Don’t launch into pointless polemics – that way lies madness, or at least a suitable job description for Richard Littlejohn (and I’m not ready for that just yet, thank you).
So what shall I write about instead?
Well, as luck would have it, the answer came almost immediately in the form of a handy e-mail thingy. It seems that the local branch of the Church of England Guild of Vergers (I know, they can’t spell it properly, but despite that I’m still a member) is seeking new recruits to keep our skills and churches alive. Could I help?
I racked my brains. Who on earth would want a job where, on a typical day the members might  prepare an altar for a service; run a Henry over a huge nave floor and carpet, repair several chairs where people have broken off hooks when getting a cushion; prepare two flasks of coffee for a meeting; set up a mobile sound system for another group in a different room; give a 20-strong party of primary school children a 90 minute tour around the ground and roof areas; print out new directional notices; sort out change for the shop and prepare for a  a funeral on the following morning.
Then there’s stacking chairs, moving chairs, unstacking chairs and putting them in their  new place, doors to open, doors to lock, plus candles stands and toilets to keep supplied with their relevant consumables (and you don’t want to get those two mixed up, believe me. Oooooh, the tears and tantrums that can lead to).
On top of that there’s the regular window-cleaning, brass polishing, chewing gum removal, toilet  flushing, direction-giving and general problem-solving that a virger might have to deal with every day. You have to deal with a decidedly moody sound system and work out if if the wind is likely to burn out the motor on the door at the wheelchair entrance.
In addition you might get an unexpected visit from a gentleman of the road or someone who has recently been enjoying Her Majesty’s pleasure and is somewhat confused about modern life.
Don’t  forget the people who come in looking for a haven where they can quietly consider life, grieve, pray for help or even just find a friendly face to listen to them (not me – my face has been known to frighten young children).
All this so that the vicar and congregation can just walk through the door a couple of minutes before a service and, without distraction, do their ‘thang’. Then the priest leaps into a car to repeat the exercise in a different parish and the congregation can  be safely left to complain among themselves that one of the light bulbs  has blown and why doesn’t that lazy virger sort it out?
“I don’t know what they do all day in their little office, I really don’t.”
And all the time you’re hunting down church mice – hoping to catch one in time to roast it for dinner (it’s one of our perks, in lieu of a pay rise dating back to about 1857).
So did I know anyone who’d like to do a job like that? Of course not – they’d have to be raging mad to even think of it.
And yet you’d be surprised how many virgers, myself included, go around with a deep sense of contentment and job satisfaction. Odd, aren’t we?
First published June 2010


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