A view backstage at Beverley Minster

So that was the year that was

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford reviews 2010
Those of you who have been following my weekly witterings exclusively in the estimable Advertiser will have missed my most recent writing. Having produced personalised, precious and perspicacious pearls of pre-Christmas pleasantries I was then informed that the paper wasn’t being published so my festive frivolity could only appear in the electronic ether, which was a pity as I thought it was worthy Winter whimsy (sorry, I’ve just had a drink of alliteration for breakfast and it hasn’t worn off yet).
Mind you, if no one has actually read my risible writing then I can recycle it for next Christmas, so it won’t be a complete loss.
Anyway, gazing into my justly-derided crystal ball I detected that the Advertiser was planning to run a between-holidays edition – this very one, in fact. I was shocked. This, in newspaper terms, is an annual gift to the lazy, addled-pated columnist as it gives them an excuse to drag out a few random facts, put them in the form of a list and then laughingly describe it as a review of 2010. Frankly it’s an obvious con, an insult to the intelligence of the reader and, equally, an exemplar of sloppy writing at its worst.
Sooooo – in no particular order we come to:
Most memorable moment in 2010 – nothing really springs to mind (ha ha).
Scariest moment – it wasn’t actually scariest for me, but for Aled Jones, It happened when the BBC visited Beverley Minster in May. He wanted to operate our treadwheel crane and we agreed. But first I had to prepare him to be careful. I pointed out that he was lifting a quarter ton weight all by himself, there were no brakes on the wheel and if he lost control he would be flung about like a little toy; his suit would be ruined; the weight would smash through the stone ceiling in the Minster and cause millions of pounds of damage – and it would all be his fault.
For a few minutes afterwards he tiptoed around the wheel like a snail with constipation and a look of abject terror on his face – every second captured on camera. However, in fairness I should say that he soon got the hang of it and, once he’d relaxed and could operate it safely, he did his piece to camera like he’d been working it as long as I have. If you want to watch the end results of my careful training then, by pure coincidence (assuming my crystal ball is working properly) you can see the finished sequence this Sunday, January 2nd, at 5.10pm on BBC1 in Songs of Praise.
Oddest moment – when I became a stand-in body double for Fiona Bruce. Same week, different BBC crew. Antiques Roadshow wanted Fiona to operate the wheel as well (as you might have seen back in September). She was a real trouper and, despite being about half my weight, turned the wheel, lifted the quarter ton boss, delivered lines to camera and ‘hit the mark’ (as we TV types say) after hardly any practice. That was all genuine.
What the camera didn’t show you afterwards was me then getting in to the wheel to spin it at a more normal speed and drop it safely back into place – the editing implied that Fiona was still treading the boards but she wasn’t – IT WAS ME, I TELL YOU – IT WAS ME!
I hope I haven’t destroyed any illusions with these intimate (and rather uninteresting) behind-the-scenes vignettes.
Biggest disappointment – finding out at the Antiques Roadshow that my valuable family heirloom, which was going to provide for me during my declining years, was in fact a horrible piece of tat. The expert looked as though he wanted to wash his hands after viewing it and I was so disappointed I threw it straight into the Minster bin afterwards. So no early retirement to sunnier climes for me.
Biggest satisfaction – getting ‘Nautilus’, our new floor washer. It’s making a big difference already and quite a few of the paving stones are already starting to gleam with their original light colour.
Most keenly anticipated change for 2011 – the new bungee harnesses we are getting for our safety rigs. Soon, if we should happen to topple over when we’re changing the lights some 50 foot above the floor then we will be gently lowered all the way down instead of hanging uselessly in space forever as a sort of post-modern chandelier.
 Hmmm – and that’s the highlights? It’s been a rum old year in the vestry, hasn’t it?
However, we are starting the new one with a bang – our special day-long series of tours inside the roof and Central Tower on Bank Holiday Monday 3rd start at 10am, so why not visit us? Work off some of that Christmas pudge; tone up those leg muscles ready for walking to work if the snow returns; see the treadwheel crane where Fiona and Aled performed for TV – and all the rest of it. 
And if not during the bank holiday, why not some other time during 2011? We’re planning even more new attractions including the opportunity to eat your food off the floors after they’ve been cleaned by ‘Nautilus’; and synchronised virger diving from the clerestory windows. And no admission charge!
Alton Towers, eat your heart out.
 First published December 2010


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