A view backstage at Beverley Minster

What do I know?

Neil Pickford sets the record straight

I was informed, t’other day, that some of my readers may believe this column has a sort of official status within the Church of England – a thought that made me wince.

To set the record straight – if you want expert comment, opinion or advice about how to move chairs safely and frequently; where replacement toilet rolls may be found in Beverley Minster and how to raise/dismantle tubular staging quickly, then I’m your man. I’m also pretty reliable on Rock and Pop Music from the 1960s and 1970s, various printing technologies from Caxton to 2001, the inner workings of the Ford Cortina, and the real processes that underlie pricing mechanisms in the modern world (well, I seem to understand it better than any of the clowns who have occupied the highest offices of state over the last 15 years, anyway).

For anything of a more liturgical note I would recommend you go ‘upstairs’ to a vicar, curate or priest. I’ll stay here in the cupboard alongside the virgers’ mighty floor-washing Nautilus, thank you.

Mind you – that doesn’t mean I’m not influential in my own way.  Some of my longer-suffering readers may remember my campaign to make ‘Hey Jude’ our new national anthem in time for the Olympic Games. I probably launched it a bit too late for the various committees to rubber-stamp in time for 2012 but, as the papers recently reported, it will be the song that actually opens the games in just a few weeks time, so it’s the next-best thing really.

And, all around the stadium, people will be holding up cards with the immortal words: “nah, nah, nah, na-na-na-nah” so the whole world will be able to sing along (as I suggested). I reckon that’s one to me.

Another area where a virgers’ campaign is having some results is in the churchyard where things are afoot! Yes, our oft-stated hope that the grounds could be opened up during the day for visitors to enjoy was picked up by various interested bodies – most-importantly the vicar, whose name is on the deeds of ownership. The council has conducted a survey into what needs to be done to make the area safe for anyone visiting and now we are going through the formal process of applying for Diocesan approval (a ‘faculty’) to make the necessary alterations (levelling specific gravestones, tidying up ledges, filling in holes in the ground, that sort of thing).  Going through the forms with this piece of bureaucracy does, however, mean that it will be 2013 before the gates can be thrown open to all, which is disappointing.

We virgers tend to grumble about this time-consuming process for every proposed change to the building and stock that cannot be described as ‘temporary’ because it can include something as minor as moving power points – which seems unnecessarily fussy.

However, this slow-moving request for approval is, overall, a good thing because it is how the Church of England can stop mad vicars doing daft things with their buildings, like painting them pink or converting the graveyard into a caravan park for travellers. It also prevents we virgers from just picking up a hammer and moving the existing choir stalls in the nave when the mood takes us – which is probably just as well, now I come to think about it.

After all, on matters of great importance, would you really trust the judgement of any person whose primary role consists of moving chairs around the building? Of course not – which is another reason why my little scribbles have no official significance whatsoever.

And yet, ironically, this week’s blog seems to have taken the form of a public information broadcast. Oops, sorry.


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