The National Trust, who own the church here at Staunton, are having new lead put on the tower and the north aisle. Their access is across our main forecourt and I was shown the document covering procedures and precautions for bringing in scaffolding etcetera. ‘That’s a lot of paper,’ I commented. ‘That’s nothing,’ the Trust man replied, ‘You should see the whole schedule.’
In this fine old church the twice monthly congregation kneel to worship the risen Christ. Up above, the contractors kneel to the Gods of ‘elf, safety and bureaucracy. When I meet the foreman, he is usually waiting for an architect, or an archaeologist, a structural engineer or someone to check on the wellbeing of the bats in the tower. The blokes who get their hands dirty must surely be in the minority.
On the other side of the church three men will shortly be erecting tower scaffolding to get onto the roof and check the gutters blocked by leaves. A sensible precaution, but from time immemorial a task performed by two men and a ladder in a fraction of the time. ‘Elf and safety says that ladders are dangerous, and ‘elf and safety trumps just about everything. Surely it is the careless use of ladders which causes accidents? We are creating an adult version of the culture which bans running in the playground, or playing conkers.