vestryview

A view backstage at Beverley Minster

When is a door not a door?

As the outside temperature rises Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford detects a decrease in angst

It’s really nice when we experience a spell of hot weather in Beverley as the Minster goes ‘au naturelle’ (oooh, nice! A bit of yer actual French, that was).
Well, what I mean is, we open both doors on the north side of the church to let the sun (and visitors) go in and out.
For the Highgate entrance this means a 20 foot tall wooden thingy is agape during the day and this presents a more welcoming appearance to visitors. At the east end the disabled door is hooked open and this has the effect of removing a barrier between visitors and the toilets – which has a surprisingly profound effect. Suddenly, people are no longer staring at a large arrow and asking: “Is this the way?” as though having an existentialist crisis. Nor do they say: “Can we get back in again afterwards?” obviously fearful that a free-entry historic monument might try to lock them out. Now they can just follow their noses (so to speak) to the toilets.
So some summer visitors are relieved, both before and after they’ve been relieved (if you see what I mean) and I know why. It’s all to do with primitive memories and I shall explain further, once I have donned my professorial gown and mortar board.  Pay attention class:
It is obvious that almost all human behaviour has its roots in survival lessons learned by our distant cave-dwelling ancestors, subsequently refined over the centuries.
Let us examine this in the context of the humble door.
Now the door is a simple device, merely a rigid extension of the original brontosaurus hide that successful hunters used to keep the warmth in their caves after a triumphant trip with pointed spears and Raquel Welch. Arguably, therefore, it’s the oldest piece of home-improvement in human experience as upturned skulls being used as soup tureens or fingerbowls should be classified as status symbols rather than practical inventions.
A brontosaurus skin used as a door flap was also a safety device: it would have convinced other brontosauruses that the cave was already occupied by one of their own and, of course, being so big, there wasn’t likely to be room for two of them, so they’d go away. This theory is boosted by the fact that brontosauruses were very, very stupid. Ancient man quickly learned that brontosaurus skin doors were an aid to survival – a lesson they could pass on to their children.
And, of course, once they were alone with Raquel Welch behind skin/doors that kept prying neighbours away they were more likely to have babies than those who didn’t – I trust I don’t have to draw pictures on this.
The human race thus developed a profound respect for the life-saving and life-giving properties of doors and, being superstitious in those times, began to imagine they had mystical powers. Eventually they started to worship them – and Stonehenge itself proves that this cult of ‘Door’ had risen to incredible levels. Mind you, it’s in Wiltshire which, let’s be fair, has always been a bit strange. I mean, have you been to Swindon lately? Eeugh!
We don’t know much about the form of door the ancient Swindonians worshiped as, sadly, after all these centuries they have rotted away leaving merely the doorposts and lintels as eloquent and somewhat sad reminders of their primitive civilisation.
It is surprisingly that the more sophisticated Egyptians never got the hang of doors as this knowledge would have saved them an awful lot of trouble over the centuries. They were a people who worshipped their rulers (in a way that modern politicians can only dream), and wanted to save them from the constant threat of plagues and whatever else. They built giant triangular royal structures in a desperate attempt to keep their supposedly divine rulers safe from locusts, hailstones and whatnot but never mastered the door. Instead they constructed elaborate mazes to keep the savage elements away, which were only partly successful.
Sadly for the Pharaohs their enthusiastic but deluded and ignorant citizens ended up placing airtight seals on the entrances to protect them – with tragic consequences. Just think what a difference it would make if they’d only invented the hinge. Why, Tutankhamen might still be alive today!
In more modern times just recall the fate of the crew of the Marie Celeste. Theirs was a simple mistake:  the captain accidentally dropped his key into the Atlantic Ocean. The rest of the crew went out in a boat to help him find it and a door swung shut against them. They were stuck as the ship drifted away, unable to get back inside and eventually beached on the south east corner of the United States. Here, as a bitter reminder of the reason why they were never able to finish their meal, they named their new home ‘Florida Keys’ – a corruption of “Flo? Where da’ keys?’
It’s no wonder so many humans are frightened by strange doors after all these experiences, so we virgers are delighted to help reduce their anxiety levels in warm weather. Now we’ve got to work out some way of helping those poor wretches who are so traumatised by dreadful buried ancestral memories that they have to leave taps running when they leave.
Bless.

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