A view backstage at Beverley Minster

The plank in my eye

Neil Pickford tries to educate the ignorant

Pride comes before a fall, they say – and I think they’re right.

“Do you know what,” said a woman visitor t’other day to her friend in tones of great surprise as they walked up the aisle in Beverley Minster. “They do weddings here!”

I stopped and had to replay the words through my head once more before I could believe what I’d heard.

This, for sheer drop-mouth ignorance was right up there alongside the question: “Are you open on Sundays?” which I have been asked on several occasions. And, to make this question even more surprising, to me at any rate, the questor was not someone whose background would, shall we say, have distanced them from Christianity in England. These were white, English, middle aged folks who had, I would have thought, been surrounded by reminders of Anglicanism all their lives, even if they never went in a church. Surely these would have somehow seeped into their consciousness.

I was obviously very mistaken. All of these people, probably no better or worse educated than most people who walk through the Minster doors, had never once encountered the traditions which created a large chunk of the history of our country. Whether you think they are good or bad doesn’t matter; it is the sheer insulation of these people from what was – until perhaps a few decades ago – an absolutely indivisible part of the warp and weave of daily life in Britain that astonished me.

Mind you, I’m not really in a position to feel self-righteous about this because, in my own way, I’m as bad as the cases mentioned above (and with less justification) as I found out the very next day.

Normally I pride myself on my general knowledge – I’m a fairly good companion to have around during pub quizzes or Trivial Pursuit marathons but there are gaps, and I must acknowledge them.

I also happen to be a fan of railways of all kinds and so, when I was recently told that a steam locomotive was due to be running through Beverley station I wanted to see it ‘in the flesh’ so to speak.

I subscribe to a railway magazine that details such things and if I’d not been too sloppy to read it properly I’d have known about this trip anyway. When I did finally locate the listing I found the telephone number of the company that had organised it began in ‘01482’

I couldn’t believe it – a locally-based train trip organiser? Exciting news!

So I ‘phoned them to ask for more details and to be put on their mailing list for future endeavours – after all, I like to support new businesses. I was really looking forward to this.

“Oh no,” the voice said down the phone. “We’ve been trading for 20 years and, in fact, we’re retiring from it in a couple of months.”

Oh, how embarrassing. My own hobby; my own locality, and I was completely ignorant. So who am I to feel superior to the lady who learned for the first time that we perform weddings in Beverley Minster? If I can be so uninformed on a subject with which I am fascinated, what can I reasonably expect from people who simply haven’t been told things?

Oh dear, if I’m not very careful I’m going to draw a moral lesson this week, and that’s somewhat outside my core of expertise.

So, if you’ll just excuse me, I’ll go back to stacking chairs ‘cuz I know all about that.


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