A view backstage at Beverley Minster

The relaxing sound of cleaning

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford anticipates a relaxing January
It’s good to get back to work after a short holiday, isn’t it boys and girls? Oh no it isn’t! I hear you reply in full seasonal pantomime mode. Well, actually, yes it is, and here’s why.
Firstly, the Christmas break in Pickford Mansion was less a time of ‘Mistletoe and wine’ and more a tale of ‘Grizzle, blow and whine’ because what’s the first thing that happens when you get a few days off? That’s right children, a nasty bug that’s been hanging around for weeks and waiting to strike, strikes when your defences are down. This was the particular bug known to the scientific community as: “the one that doesn’t give you a temperature but makes you cough and sneeze a lot and gives you lots of catarrh and makes you fall asleep all the time-itus.”
So the beautiful turkey and each of its carefully-chosen trimmings all tasted vaguely the same, as did the nice Rioja that accompanied it, and I kept falling asleep between sentences.
Couple that with my incessant barking cough and occasional wall-shattering sneezes and I really wasn’t very good company on the day, just grumbling away in my distant seat while bonhomie went on around me. 
My wife was also busy with Hunter’s Hall, our three-star bed and breakfast (convenient for the town and all facilities and amenities, very clean, reasonable rates, look out for the yellow door, see for details – thank you). Instead of a quiet Christmas, as expected, we were inundated with refugees from frozen water pipes, floods, dangerous road conditions and obstinate electrics. At 5pm on Christmas Eve itself we even had the classic biblical: “Is there any room at the inn?” request. However, in spite of tradition we did actually have a spare and didn’t need to offer the bike shed in the garden as the only option – and she wasn’t heavily pregnant either.
It was with a tangible feeling of relief that I slipped back into my SuperVirger costume and prepared to resume battle at the Minster on behalf of goodness, truth and the Anglican way.
January is year-end in virgers’ eyes – time for tidying up and chucking out. Visitor levels are extremely low so we can get on with spring cleaning and removing the detritus of Christmas. First things first, the two 20 foot high Christmas trees must be disconnected from the organ screen and lowered (with due reverence and care) to the floor where they will be sawed up and carted away to that great compost heap in the sky. Then the Henry-ing starts.
Thanks to the recent weather our floors are covered in mud and dust, sprinkled in with a load of fairy dust (well, tinsel), pine needles and sweet papers. Now it’s all drying out we can get the worst of it off with our cleaners before attacking the residue with Nautilus. Attention will then shift to our window ledges (for which we have devised special virgertools to make the job simple) and on to our magnificent carvings in the quire (for which unique virger-devised equipment will be used to prevent damage). We might even polish all the brasses. The vicar, old ‘imindoors’ himself, has also instructed us to have a mega clearance of any rubbish in the Minster so expect a clearance sale of unwanted, rusty and damp junk in the neighbourhood soon. Then, suddenly, the whole place will be sparkling again, ready for the next wave of visitors and worshippers.
Gosh, what an exciting life I lead. I may have to go and lie down while I contemplate its sheer shimmering translucence.
I feel your envy.

First published January 2011


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