I made a special extra trip today to East Bergholt to help transport the stage over to the church ready for Sunday's concert. The stage has been the subject of much debate, research and hand wringing by the committee over the past several years. It is very old, made out of massive sheets of wood supported on a slot together steel frame, and heavy. The community in the former convent opposite the church, which is quite possibly the most upmarket commune in England, kindly stores it, and one of their members has for years masterminded getting it over the road to the church, putting it up, and then reversing the whole process after the concert. But he is now in his mid eighties, and although fit and healthy he no longer feels like manhandling enormous pieces of wood about.
Various attempts were made to recruit some younger and fitter helpers for him, but none proved reliable. The committee are not as young as they used to be, as is the nature of committees, and once we'd resolved the question of whether modern modular stages could support the weight of a grand piano it was generally felt that a new stage, a lightweight system made out of much smaller individual components, suitable for being assembled and disassembled by a party of pensioners and (ahem) ladies would be more suitable. If we had to have a stage, that is. Discussions in committee went round and round the houses about whether we really needed one and which other local music events had a stage or managed without, at the end of which we were back where we started, which was that we wanted to have a stage. I certainly did. Part of the fun of going to a live concert is being able to see the musicians, otherwise you are getting perilously close to thinking that you might as well save yourself a drive and a chilly evening in a not very comfortable pew and the risk of other people coughing, and just buy the CD (or the download if you are a young person).
However, after all the debates about which stage system to get we have not bought any of them in time for the start of the season, so for Sunday's concert we are stuck with the monster timbers. The Chairman was worried about whether there would be enough people to help the guardian of the stage with transporting and erecting it, since she and her husband might be busy looking after the musicians. I told her I would help if required, since I was quite strong although small and quamquam est femina, though if not needed I'd as soon save myself the hour's round trip to East Bergholt. I thought I detected some scepticism on the Treasurer's face during the last committee meeting when she said I'd offered to help. Humping large wooden stage panels about was clearly man's work. I got the call, and to be on the safe side persuaded the Systems Administrator to come and help as well, which was very good of the SA since the music society is really nothing to do with him.
The guardian of the stage thought there might be a gaggle of helpers from the primary school who have arranged to use the stage after us, but in the event nobody else turned up and it was just the three of us. It wasn't really very difficult. The stage turned out to be stored in the convent's former chapel, along with a remarkable quantity of other bits and pieces, and it took us three runs up the road with a four wheeled trailer, only holding up the traffic slightly. The boards were heavy, but not so heavy I felt nervous trying to carry them in case something ruptured. It turned out the verger allowed the keeper of the stage to wheel the trailer right into the church, which is a considerable honour when I think of the trouble the music society got into after dropping cheese crumbs on the vestry carpet a couple of years ago. The turns were pretty tight, but we made it up the aisle and thankfully the SA did not ping his back in the course of obeying the instruction to heave the trailer over a bit. The whole process only took three quarters of an hour with three people, and by the end of it the SA and I were beginning to rediscover the partnership that used to let the two of us put a ten metre long-keeled yacht into a marina berth without once needing to speak to each other, once we'd agreed which slot we were going into.
It is impossible to do anything in a village without being spotted. When I got home I found a message on my phone from a friend who lives in East Bergholt. I saw you outside the church!