A view backstage at Beverley Minster

An unwelcome emotion

Neil Pickford feels uncomfortable

I don’t often ‘do’ guilty – largely, I suppose, because I very rarely do anything wrong.

That’s not to say that I don’t feel the emotion every now and then because, occasionally, random electrical pulses in the brain revive an old memory.

You know the sort of thing: naïve, childish errors; phrases that went the wrong way; gestures that were misinterpreted. Even then it’s normally toe-curling embarrassment rather than guilt which hits me first and, to cure this, a few seconds of mental self-flagellation usually sorts me out.

Guilt itself is a much deeper-rooted emotion that, at its most developed, can coil insidiously around your whole existence, choking any little green shoots of happiness that would otherwise grow into something substantial.  Long ago I discarded the image of Hell as being somewhere with flaming pits and demons. Instead I picture an endless array of sealed rooms, each with one occupant, whose guilt button has been turned up to eleven – forever.

So you’ll appreciate that I don’t just throw this ‘G’ word into the mix casually. You may also now have a good understanding of the depth of my feelings when I popped into the Minster a few days ago.

On that particular day the Minster was filled with brightly-decorated Christmas trees, there was a large stage assembled for a concert on the next evening, and there were a further 15 or so special events still to come before Christmas, each with their own unique set-up.

Last year I  was part of the two-man team which constructed and dissembled all this but, as I’m currently not allowed to lift as much as a coffee pot until my consultant signs me off the Minster has called in Kevin, whose job description is, normally, to step in for John or me when we’re on holiday.  Instead of which he’s been doing all my work for the last two months and I have to say he looked ‘crackered’ when I saw him. I, on the other hand, was just wandering around like a simple civilian, looking at that huge collection of pine needles and glistening confectionary, and simply thinking how pretty it was.

Last year I’d have been concerned with the yards and yards of cabling and dozens of multiplugs that were running along the walls to power the twinkling lights. I’d have been thinking of how and when we could get our Henrys out once the trees were taken down on Monday to remove at least 90 per cent of the needles and broken decorations that would be carpeting the aisles. I’d have been worrying about how best to set up the chairs for the next concert. I’d have been checking there were no children playing around in a manner that might damage one of the lovingly-crafted exhibits.  I’d have been doggedly thinking about what time I’d be going home each evening next week – quite a while after every last concert-goer had finally left the building. But this year I was a mere gadfly flitting from one bright object to another without a care.

It was so very easy, even for me, to overlook the sheer amount of work that had gone on behind the scenes and when I realised this I felt very guilty about not playing my part.

So spare a long thought for the caretakers, the cleaners, the postmen, the couriers, the temporary shop staff, the men in vans, the packers and, dare to whisper it, the virgers who are all extra-busy at the moment.

And, perhaps, after I’ve nagged you into remembering the hard-working people behind the scenes then I won’t feel so guilty about not being one myself.

Here’s hoping – and a Merry Christmas to both my readers


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