A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Santa’s on his (or her) way

Beverley Minster virger (correct spelling) Neil Pickford considers the forthcoming festivities.

Well, it’s almost here, the long period of preparation has almost finished and the virgers’ evenings are looking a little less demanding than they have been of late. Thanks to the better weather we’ve managed to provide a venue for several thousand happy(?) parents, pupils and concert-goers. That’s a considerable relief after the disappointments of snow-doomed cancellations earlier this month but it does mean that we virgers have been busy.
Last week I came into the Minster for the morning service before working Sunday afternoon and evening as part of my normal shift routine, then all day Monday – followed by a few hours of overtime to cover the Macmillan concert.
Then it was my ‘weekend’ off on Tuesday and Wednesday so, naturally, I worked each evening with John, setting up then tidying down after various concerts: Thursday I was back to work anyway – there was nothing festive in the diary so, just for a change, I returned to the Minster at 9pm to listen to a very relaxing service of Compline.
Friday it was 8am ‘til 11pm as there was a youth café that evening but after that the weekend was fairly normal – there was no staging needed anywhere, just extra services.
Monday saw us preparing for the High School end of term carol service on Tuesday which is a magnificent production in every sense of the word – but quite a lot of work to assemble and dissemble afterwards. And then concluded my 13 consecutive days of work in the Minster because, suddenly, the diary was eerily empty. Time to take stock and realise that Christmas itself was only four days away.
I had two empty days in which I could cram in everything I needed to do before the packed 24-hour sequence of two Crib services, Nine Lessons and Carols, Midnight and Christmas Morning worship that John and I have shared out between us. So what should I do in those precious 48 hours?
Well, it’s too late to start working on my planned audio CD recordings of ‘Mister Minster/View from the Vestry’ for the 2010 Christmas market so that project will go on the backburner for another few months – again.
I hope my wife has written and sent out all the Christmas cards, because I know I haven’t. I would offer to put up some Christmas decorations but I’ve noticed them sort of magically appearing around the house over the last few weeks so it’s probably all done by now.
I’ve got a horrible feeling I shall be spending all of one day doing what I did last year, which was queuing at Morrisons with two trolleys full of the stuff that sensible people bought last week. This year I shall try to remember to take my Ipod with me.
And then, yikes, I’ve got to buy some Christmas presents. Drat, drat and double drat.
And, what’s worse, it’ll be too late for internet shopping to get anything delivered on time. Drat, drat and triple drat. So that involves a frantic trip around Beverley retailers.
Now while I’m more than happy to support my local shops I’m afraid that most of our High Street these days is tailored towards people who like dressing up (‘tailored towards: dressing up’ – did you see what I did there, folks?)
Anyway, what I meant to say was that most shops are definitely not familiar to a scruff-bag like me so I don’t know how to choose stuff in them. You see, I don’t even know what size I am – all I know about my clothing is that it just seems to have a variable number of ‘X’s and ‘L’s on the tag, so the chances of me getting anything that’s the right size for someone else are beyond the computational skills of a supercomputer (especially one operated by the Met Office).
And let’s not go into the additional complications of colours, or appropriate styles. I suspect that if I bought what I thought, in all innocence, was suitable I’d get a slap around the face.
So I think it’s book tokens all round again. Mind you, I’ll then spend a lot of time trying to decide which gift card is the ideal one for each recipient (from the vast range of six that is normally on offer) then forget my choices by the time I get home.
I’m afraid these days that I can only remember three decisions at any one time and if I have to make a fourth then the whole lot explodes into randomness again.
But I’m sure they’ll all understand – after all, ‘tis more blessed to give than to receive.
And what do I want for my ideal Christmas present (apart, of course, from universal love, peace and blah, blah, blah)? Well, actually I’d just love to have one of those magnificent quad bikes I saw in Beverley recently with a snow plough on the front. Then, if we get attacked by wintry weather once more I shall be able to go out like an angel of mercy (rather a fat one, granted, but angelic nonetheless) and offer to clear people’s driveways for 50p.
“Fifty pence?” they will say to me, disbelievingly.
“Yes,” I’ll reply. “That’s all I’ve got.”
And on that note I wish seasonal greetings to the lot of you.
First publsihed December 2010

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