A view backstage at Beverley Minster

My exciting life – and other animals

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford tries to sum up his day…
I realise I got a bit distracted t’other week when I tried to tell you about my normal day. Please don’t think it was because my mind wandered due to boredom generated by the subject – heavens no.  I was merely derailed, as you may have noticed, by a growing sense of injustice and absurdity.
My sense of injustice has also been fanned, nay – enlarged and engorged over the last few years – by the sad tale of the Minster screen projectors.  These expensive items of equipment had a sorry history and reputation among the virgers for an obstinate refusal to perform when required.  When we finally found out what the problem was, however, we felt great embarrassment so, obviously, we don’t want anyone to know about it.
So please don’t repeat what I am about to tell you to ANYONE.
You see, we virgers were the guardians of the equipment. Individuals would, with the permission of the vicar, borrow it for church-related events and return it each time with a reassuring: “Everything’s fine – believe me. No need to test it.”
Well, being trusting souls we did believe them, ignoring the sound of crunching glass as we replaced the boxes in their safe storage spots. We then could never figure out why the stupid things wouldn’t work next time we tried to set them up for an All-Age Service or suchlike. Being naïve we couldn’t deduce that the muddy outline of a boot print on top of the box might indicate someone had been less than gentle with the machine. We thought the failure was mere mechanical mischief – along with the disappearance of the expensive connecting cables.
We played with the old church laptop, we loaded a new operating system and did everything we could to solve the problem without costing the Minster a penny. Eventually, however, we gave up, called in the experts and were amazed to find out that, basically, the poor things had been wrecked by careless users.  The bulbs were in pieces, a fan had been bashed out of its fitting and some of the internal connections were loose. Nice.
So we bought another one and the vicar decided to keep it under his own careful control rather than trust us with it anymore. John and I heaved a sigh of relief.
So you can imagine how nervous I was when I asked to borrow the highly-delicate machine for a non-church use last Saturday, even though I knew permission would be granted.
You see, the projector was needed for the Annual General Meeting of the Minsters Rail Campaign (MRC) – a campaign close to the hearts of me and the vicar (in that order).  For my sins I look after the rather amateurish MRC website while Jeremy has become a patron and also led prayers at the start of last year’s meeting.
We hope to persuade enough individuals and organisations of the wisdom and viability of restoring a direct rail link between Beverley and York, using much  of the former trackbed that connects  Market Weighton, Pocklington and Stamford Bridge (with slight detours where housing estates have been plonked over the route). Local authorities back it, national environmental organisations support it membership is growing and some large construction firms are showing an interest, so who knows? Certainly the upper echelons of the Minster (and I) think it’s a good idea and we’re expecting to help with a publicity stunt later this year.
Anyone who has visited us may have noticed a fine model of our building in the nave. Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, York has got a comparable replica of itself and we’re going to rig up some sort of model railway ‘twixt both constructs and invite the TV cameras in. Don’t know where, don’t know when, but watch this space.
Anyway, long before that great event we needed the Minster projector so it was ceremoniously unlocked from the Vicar’s climate-controlled security zone and carried delicately by yours truly on a cushion made of the finest feather-filled satin covers to the venue.
The machine worked perfectly, the meeting concluded and I was left with the terrifying responsibility of getting it back along Flemingate to the Minster in one piece. As I trudged back my arms were sagging under the weight and my ego was crushed by a crippling sense of duty. The satin cushion was damp from the nervous sweat of my palms.
Gradually my destination grew larger as faltering footsteps drew me slowly close until, finally, I was almost there. Deep joy – I could see John in the distance. I hollered, beckoned and quickly hung the projector around his neck before cycling away at speed. And that was it – not my responsibility any more – I laughed madly with relief.
Yes, I’m sure it’ll be fine next time we want to use it. Trust me.
Um – oh dear, I seem to have gone a-wandering again. I promise I’ll try to concentrate harder on my subject next week.
First published April 2011


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