A view backstage at Beverley Minster

The unending war

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford enlists for the greater good
The fine weather arrived in the middle of April, just in time for the first of our Spring weddings. It was a beautiful day and the groom – whose family was staying at the Hunter’s Hall Bed and Breakfast on The Leases (motto: “very good beds and very good breakfasts”, visit for details) – assumed we’d laid on the glowing sunshine especially for their big day.
And, of course, I accepted full responsibility and his grateful thanks.
After the service itself the happy couple went through our West Doors for the obligatory photographs and compulsory confetti-throwing (our vicar’s obsession with chucking bits of paper surely makes him a bit of a ‘scatter-brain’ hahahahahaha- sorry) but, sensibly, insists that this should be done outside the Minster to aid the process of biodegradability.
Well, it wasn’t a windy day but, to no one’s surprise (especially not the virgers) some of the coloured paper shapes wafted back inside the church where they lay quietly, adding gaiety to the scene.
But that was Saturday and, of course, on Monday it’s time for the virgers to tidy everything up and get the building ready for the next event, whatever that might be. So the confetti had to go.
Now, let’s be honest, it’s not the most exciting job in the world, vacuuming the Minster’s floor. After all, there’s about 30,000 square feet of it – and that’s a lot of paving stones for confetti to land on.
So I try to make a game of it, just to keep myself amused and motivated – and my favourite is a variation of Space Invaders.
You see, the confetti is (or are, not quite sure of the grammar on that one) an alien race, intent on conquering the Minster for its own evil purposes. Don’t bother asking what evil purposes pieces of paper might have for the Minster – just accept it, alright?
Anyway, I am the Protector of Earth – if I put on my formal black robes to do the job properly I’d be Darth Virger but, in my sparkling latex Minster t-shirt, I am instead Flash Pickford, Wielder of the mighty Henry and Master of its legendary flexible Dooberry.
I search the universe for traces of my evil opponents, destroying uncountable millions in the first minutes of my counter-attack, but my enemies learn from the fate of their unlucky comrades. They start to hide and I need all my skill and cunning to outwit and conquer them with the mighty Vacuum of Doom.
Tenacious little so-and-sos, I have to concede as I proceed further and further down the nave towards the altar, making mental bets with myself as to how far they will have penetrated the sacred building on their nefarious tasks.
As I advance, driving deep into enemy territory, I encounter victims of their mad campaign of conquest – civilian casualties that have been innocently left underneath our pews during Sunday morning service and captured by the rapacious hordes for who knows what evil purposes (again).
Worst of all was the sight of seven once-mighty kneelers, now lying supine and abandoned among the wreckage, but I also encountered the following: a pair of gloves, the powdered remains of one pulverised slice of bread, some strange pink goggles, two used tissues, two chocolate bar wrappers (empty), various sweet papers (empty), five palm crosses, one T candle (unlit), a plastic bag and two torn gift aid envelopes (empty). One can only imagine the agonies they must have suffered.
I mourned for each victim as I carefully bagged them up for reverential disposal at a more convenient time, and swore revenge for their loss.
Finally I had completed my cleansing of the nave and there, standing proud and defiant right in the very centre between pulpit and lectern, was a solitary and surprisingly tiny pink horseshoe. As battle-hardened warrior to worthy adversary I saluted it with the respect it deserved before bringing my mighty whoosh-weapon into play and, without a flinch it was gone – conquered but unbowed.
Proudly and yet with sombre dignity I turned off the Mighty Henry and started to carefully repack my trusty military assets, very aware that a warrior’s fate depends on how well they look after their weapons.
Wearily and yet with the sense of a job well done I put my tools back in their proper places and returned to reality – and then had a horrible thought. After the photographs this particular couple had a wedding reception in our south transept. This meant…my colossal brain instantly realised the danger … the happy couple had walked down our South Nave Aisle, contaminated by the foe. Unwitting allies of the enemy, they had allowed the confetti to smuggle itself past my defences. We were all doomed unless I acted quickly.
I ran to the weapons cabinet and unleashed the power of Henry once more, then followed this with the sterilising majesty of the awesome Blue Meany itself, the revered Nautilus!!!!
We’re safe for now – until the next wave.
Anyway – how was your day?
First published May 2011


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