If the face fits – what should I do?
Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford gets very reflective.
We had that Roger Taylor, drummer with the venerable rock band ‘Queen’ in the Minster the other day – or did we? Actually, I’m not really sure now.
I’d been sort of casually glancing around, just taking in the overall picture, when a certain face struck a chord in my mind.
It wasn’t – was it? No, it couldn’t be – or could it? Why would he? Well, why shouldn’t he? I mean… I needed to look closer and, sure enough, the jaw, mouth and lower half of the face was a dead ringer for the man who drove stadiums wild as they heard ‘We Will Rock You’ thundering through the ether. Fantaaaastic – I started to smile, then checked myself.
Was I sure it really was him? He’d be a few decades older than the good-looking chap who helped create the unending ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (back in what my younger son charming describes as ‘mediaeval times’) but surely the top half of his head wouldn’t have changed that much. I needed further information so I sidled closer and strained to hear him speak.
Eventually he uttered and I’m almost certain it was the voice of a different person. I’m glad I didn’t bounce up and offer an embarrassingly over-the-top welcome to a perfectly ordinary, and probably quite shy, visitor.
But why was I in such a dither over a particular individual coming to the Minster, no matter how famous he might have been? OK, I admit that he’s a bit of a hero of mine and so there was a little frisson of excitement from being able to thank someone personally for any pleasure I’ve had from their work over the years, but that doesn’t fully explain my feelings. After all, he’s just a human being, the same as the other 70,000 who walk through our doors every year.
It’s not as though I haven’t met a few celebrities in my time – even some of my heroes such as Spike Milligan, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Roy Wood and Vivian Stanshall to name but a few (he shamelessly and proudly name-dropped). I’ve also met and interviewed dozens of remarkable individuals: authors, actors, singers, political and business leaders – even the Archbishop of York – and I’ve enough experience to know that, underneath it all, they’re just the same as you and me. Blood pumps around their bodies just as it does in everyone else, they still require sleep, food and other basic essentials. It’s just their experiences that mark them out as different.
And these different experiences don’t necessarily make them interesting people.
Despite this world-weary knowledge I still found myself thrilled by my proximity to someone who’s been given a lot of money, some of it from me, for hitting a stretched skin. Was it a weak-minded pursuit of celebrity (I’m certainly willing to admit to weak-mindedness), or is something more significant involved?
No, I don’t think there is and, in fact, I know I shouldn’t have been feeling this way at all.
You see the whole thinking behind the creation of my employer, the Church of England, nearly 500 years ago, was democratic. All are equal in the eyes of God. Our priests are not superior to the common herd; we all share bread and wine on equal terms. We were all entitled, nay, expected, to think about the message of the Bible for ourselves instead of just accepting some load of gobbledygook from a man in a dress who could read things in a foreign language. And I accept all that.
So if all men (and, possibly, women) are equal then why on earth will I feel a huge burst of excitement at the promised arrival of two famous actresses to perform at the Minster in December? It completely flies in the face of the equalitarian teaching of the church, and yet I’m not the only one who will feel it, am I? After all, the whole purpose of getting ‘big names’ at events is to attract the crowds – and they will come, of course we will.
Perhaps it’s just our sad hope that a little bit of sparkle, of ‘star dust’, will shine on our drab, wretched existence for just a few seconds, then brighten our memories for the rest of our lives. Perhaps it’s the same attraction that makes us actually visit a football match instead of watching it in greater comfort, and with action replays, on the telly – there’s an unquantifiable but tangible sense that it’s more real, more complete, that you are actually participating in the event and are being enriched by it.
I don’t know that it’s a particularly positive aspect of human character because it makes us prone to uncritically latch on to leaders who can take us into bad places. But it does make us feel good and gives us a warming tingle when it happens.
And if I ever find out it really was Roger Taylor, and I missed the opportunity to shake his hand, I shall be absolutely devastated.
I admit it. I’m a sad old git.
A full archive of around 150 articles from the View from the Vestry collection is free here at: vestry-view.blogspot.com – and a CD with a selection of 13 of the best, read by Neil Pickford himself, is available at the Minster shop, price £5 –or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.