A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Strange new world

Neil Pickford has to make some adjustments

I’m feeling a bit strange at the moment, insecure even. I’ve got a sick note for a month and I’m not allowed to do my normal job, which is making me a trifle skittish.

As a result of a little medical appointment last week I’ve been perforated on my left side and it will take a few weeks for my muscles to return to normal. “Don’t even lift a tea pot with your left hand for a fortnight,” I was sternly warned and, being a good boy, I shan’t.

That’s actually not going to be a problem because it’s armfuls of coffee pots that make up my regular regime. It’s the huge number of other items that are far heavier which would cause me problems – and we’ve got a host of events coming up for which two fully-working arms will be a basic requirement – so it’s been decided to ‘rest’ me (as out of work actors would describe it).

T’other Saturday saw a Wedding Fair inside our walls for the second time this year. The last was a major logistical exercise for the virgers: John and I cleared all the chairs from the nave several days in advance but that wasn’t an option this time so everything was concentrated into the Friday.

The plans were in place: we would both stack the pews in groups of three and wheel them (each load about as easy to manoeuvre as a fat drunk with a bottle balanced on his head) to an out-of-the-way spot. Then bring in as many tables as we could raise and put them in place for the exhibitors, supplying each table with a power lead and enough separate seats to satisfy demand. Then restore everything to its proper place before the evening grew too ancient.

And then the date for my operation arrived to throw all our manning planning into the air.

I’m glad to say we have a part-time virger (Kevin) who is available to fill in when required and also a few other able-bodied individuals who could help John with this major logistical exercise – I thought it was probably more diplomatic to just stay out of the way rather than hang around looking pathetic and making unhelpful suggestions.

But there are many more of these events to come before Christmas and, in a couple of weeks I need to have another minor operation which will take me out of heavy-lifting action for a further month to six weeks after that. And that’s upsetting me because I feel that I just won’t be pulling my weight (literally).

Oh, everyone has been very kind about it and said that I mustn’t rush myself and it’s most important that I get properly well before returning to work. Don’t worry: “you’d do the same for us,” – that sort of thing.

It’s driving me mad.

It’s odd – there are jobs I’ve done in the past where I would have willing paid good money to any GP who’d sign me off for four weeks – double the money if they’d make it for six. Yet this one (which is a long way from being the highest-paid I’ve ever had) has got to me. I’m pathetically offering to come in and just sit in the office if they need me, only to be told to go away again and look after myself. If I was paranoid I might think they were trying to get rid of me but they’re just being kind – I think.

But if I’m a virger who can’t shift chairs then I am a man without a mission, and it’s an unfunny feeling. I may just have to go and write a book instead.


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