A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Carrying a torch for Beverley

Neil Pickford presents his regrets.

Sometimes it’s hard being a humble scribe, especially when one has been elevated to the heights of celebrity, merely for providing a few hundred words every week to the world-famous Beverley Advertiser. Despite my best efforts at sinking into the background and being inconspicuous I am sometimes dragged forward by my betters and asked – nay, begged – to include something within my tiny divertissements.

Such indeed happened only the other week when I was present, in the background and being generally inconspicuous, while the Olympic torch relay took place in Beverley.

The Minster was hosting a civic reception to mark the event, we had more be-chained officials than you could shake a stick at, if such was your wont; we had the local man who had designed the splendid torches which are carrying the flame around Britain; we had Look North recording the occasion; we had a very popular member of our congregation carrying the torch through town and the former mayor of Beverley had worked hard to erect patriotic decorations around the building.

The Minster catering team had done another excellent job of preparing and presenting food for guests, the mood was happy and, dare I make this sweeping generalisation – yes, I dare – everyone was quite excited. I was photographed holding one of the official relay torches and felt curiously thrilled. People were grinning in all directions.

In fact it was wonderful to be involved with the whole afternoon but then someone suggested it should make the subject of my next column. I had to break their heart: “Sorry,” I said. “Next week has already been written and, of course, the week after will be too late.”

And I felt awful because it had been such a fabulous afternoon, the sun had beamed and the world would have been a much nicer place if I’d been able to record this fact. But I can’t, because, by the time this column gets published, it will be yesterday’s news.

I felt the dilemma acutely: as a human being I wanted to spread happiness regardless of deadline: as a former journalist I was trained to follow the news agenda. So, this, I’m afraid, forces me to discuss the currently unpredictable nature of British weather.

When I’ve actually stuck my head outside my office I see that we have been experiencing pretty much the full collection of extremes, from lipstick-melting heat to goosebump-generating chill, sometimes on the same day. At least this year the wind has yet to repeat a previous triumph, of whisking a bride’s mother’s hat completely over the top of the Minster before depositing it safely in the eastern churchyard – but that could happen any time.

And so…..actually, I don’t know about you but, for the first time in my life as a true-born Brit, I don’t want to talk about the weather. It was all right in the good old days when it didn’t change much – you remember, we had warmish, wettish summers and coldish, dryish winters with a sort of fluctuating bit between each of them. Then: “turned out nice again” was just a bit of idle chatter designed to aid social interaction. Now, when we’ve just been facing a fair recreation of monsoons with attendant flooding, following Sahara-like aridity with the associated hosepipe bans, the topic is just too darned serious to mention casually – and it’s taxing my limited social skills to the utmost.

How I wish I could have written about the Olympic relay and avoided the topic altogether but, sometimes a humble columnist has no control over the words they write. Sorry.



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