Although I, of course, wish you all a happy New Year, we started this one on a bit of a sad note following the loss after illness of Michael Conio, who had been our groundsman for the past 35 years.
Through December some of us visited Michael at home and I was pleased that he got to see all the cards and presents that everyone gave to us to pass on, finding out later that he read them all and how they made him smile.
During this time we got to know one of Michael’s nieces and I was fortunate enough to be asked to read at his funeral and memorial service. Thinking back over all the years of working with Mike to write the eulogy was a poignant experience bringing back memories of when he would see me walking through the Close and, without saying a word, gently mop his brow before continuing with his sweeping; that always made me smile. This whole department marches on its stomach and Mike used to particularly like cake, so when it was someone’s birthday he would take his usual seat in our canteen, which happened to be at the table on which the cake is usually served, nod when I said it was one slice each and then say he was full after his third.
The crematorium was full for his funeral and the Cathedral saw around 400 people at his memorial service, a deserving send-off for a conscientious, dedicated, funny, warm, irreplaceable man.
As one icon left the Close, another came into full view when the scaffold was taken down from the north east side of the Cathedral. We in the Works Department were tasked with having the Cathedral free from any scaffold that would be visible to visitors coming during the 800th anniversary celebrations for Magna Carta…and I’m very proud to say we accomplished it. Many of you may well be aware of this feat even if you don’t live locally as we have been shouting about it and I have been interviewed by Spire FM and Wiltshire Sound radio stations, I will hopefully also be speaking to ITV's Meridian News. I can’t say I find any of this media lark any less terrifying, but it’s so exciting to be able to spread the word about what we’re doing that almost takes over…almost!
I was also interviewed for Spire FM at the launch evening of this year’s Sponsor a Stone Scheme, you may remember from last time that our Development Department were weaving their magic on the brochure, the cover of which you can see in this month’s gallery along with a picture of our Canon Treasurer Sarah Mullally, Head Mason Lee Andrews, Masons Carol Pike and Alan Spittle and me when we went to collect a Civic Society conservation award for our work on the Chapter House, what an honour!
Speaking of honours in a few days I will be travelling to the Saddlers’ Hall in London to receive a Master Craftsman Certificate from the Worshipful Company of Masons when I will be charged with continuing to mentor anyone pursuing a career in stonemasonry; I hope to have official photos and will try for some from behind the scenes for when I catch up with you next month.
Until then I’ll leave you with the explanation behind this month’s picture at the top of the page, which is by Sally Firino who was in my December blog and had already drawn the Cathedral complete with giraffes and then added me in on the spire – really made me smile!