A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Say ‘Cheese’

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford gets in touch with current thinking
I have recently started what my wife calls my ^Don’t eat so much bread and cheese, you fat fool” diet which is, you must admit, both simple to understand and motivational at the same time. However, to be honest, it has not been a festival of fun. In fact I feel that a little pleasure has disappeared from my life.
So I wasn’t too surprised the other day when I was accused of not smiling brightly as I scraped some fresh chewing gum off the flagstones inside Beverley Minster (oh, the glamour of my job).
As the person who made this accusation wears very thick spectacles I could have argued that they were mistaken, but it was true.
Even though I’ve tried to hide it I must admit that my normal bouncy, joyous and sunshine-bright personality has been a little less upfront than normal. I may have even been a trifle sombre for a few seconds during this cheese-free week.
Anyway, in an attempt to recover my ‘joie de vivre’ I decided to re-read some of my earlier columns and remember the glowing tributes that have been showered upon me since I started contributing to the Advertiser.
Well that didn’t take long, did it?
My mind drifted further afield for something that might raise my spirits. I was searching in vain for anything I have written that has attracted praise, and then it hit me.
It’s just a few words that have only existed for a few months, but already I’ve had two copies stolen from where they were on display, someone else asked me for a personalised version to be printed, which was then proudly mounted in the cab of a delivery van and, only yesterday, I heard someone repeating the words over-and-over as if to remember them for posterity.
I must share this jewel with you now. It is a sign I designed to address a constant problem, and reads:
If you miss and make a mess
Help reduce the cleaners’ stress
Please use some toilet roll –
then use some more
And leave behind a nice, dry floor.
Thank you
                                                                   William Shakespeare (honestly)
… … and I felt SO pleased with myself.
Now this particular sign happens to be located underneath one of the new electric fire-safety lights that we are currently (‘current’ – ‘electric’ – did you see what I did there, readers? Sorry) …fitting throughout the Minster.
Once you start trying to comply with the latest regulations you realise what a huge amount of work it entails and, after all, it’s not that long since we upgraded to what were then regarded as the highest standards. Still, as the large public venue for many, many miles we have a responsibility to be as safe as possible, and that means continuing to monitor and implement changes in the regulations.
Because the new regulations about emergency lighting are so demanding it has involved a lot of new wiring, and this has brought its own surprises.
Once we started looking for the best way to provide continuous illumination to escape routes we found that the main wiring system had been very much lashed together over the years. Last Sunday, for example, we discovered (the hard way) that the fuse for the lights inside the main Highgate entrance is in a box in the lower bell-ringing chamber.
This is some 50 feet above the ground and, to achieve this irritating result, a previous Sparky had completely ignored another, much more obvious, fuse box at ground level.
We’re finding similar little oddities all the time – if we lose a light ‘here’ then the solution will probably be found somewhere over ‘there’.
It keeps me fit, clambering around the building and chasing problems – so maybe I don’t need to be on a diet after all.
I feel my smile returning.
First published June 2010

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