The music society's new stage arrived. We agreed to meet at nine in the church for a trial run putting it up, and as I drove past I could see the rest of the committee with the stage on its purpose built trolley, progressing up the road from the Chairman's house in a slightly wobbly procession. Once I'd parked and joined them I discovered the reason for the wobbles was that the wheels were not set quite right on the trolley so that it threatened to topple over where the road had a pronounced camber. The man from the staging company who had come to supervise the handover pronounced himself not yet satisfied with the design, and said he would take the trolley back with him in his van for modifications, and it would be returned to us by early next week at the latest.
Putting the stage up was about as chaotic as you would expect from seven people who had never seen it before. We could probably recoup the cost of buying it by offering team building mornings to local firms in which their staff would have to cooperate to erect it. It took some time to establish which way round the 1.5 by 1.0 metre boards were supposed to go, and that the sensible place to start was by the foot of the pulpit, the steps to the pulpit being one of the immovable objects we had to work around. Amid many cries of Move that one that way, and If you shift that one over we can slot this one in here, we got all eight boards lined up the right way round in a four by two array, and fastened together. Only one leg needed chocking, which was quickly done once the Chairman had gone to fetch the bits of an old wooden wine box to use as packing. Adjacent boards were held together with two bits of aluminium moulded to fit the profile of the edges of the boards and tightened with bolts and wing nuts once in position, and the steps at the front came as a single unit held in place with two captive bolts.
The fiddliest bit was applying the velcro strips along the front edge to hold the fabric valance which we had ordered in order to make our new stage look smart, though in fact it is hidden by pews for the most part. The man from the staging company stuck it along the whole of the front edge in one long strip then we needed to cut it where the panels joined. The Chairman said we needed scissors and I volunteered that I had some nail scissors in my handbag, but somebody else went to fetch the church scissors. They turned out to be chunky kitchen scissors that were too big, and I produced the nail scissors, whereupon the rest of the committee were amazed and the Chairman said she thought I had been joking. I don't know why. I have a torch in my handbag as well, and a pen, a pencil and an eraser, and in the days of paper Sudokus I used to travel with a pencil sharpener. We discovered a tiny design error when we tried to fit the valance behind the steps, which is the only section of valance the audience will be able to see unless they are sitting in the front pews, as the bolts supplied to fasten the steps to the front were too short once they had to go through the thickness of the fabric. Unless somebody nips down to B&Q to buy longer bolts before Sunday then our young soprano and accompanist are going to have to manage on a stage without a skirt. And we will need to make sure that next time we put the same boards the same way round at the front, unless we want to apply more velcro. The man from the stage company left us with the rest of the roll just in case, but it should be straightforward as long as we stack the trolley in the right order.
Altogether it was a most ingenious system and felt reassuringly solid when I stood on it. Once we had got used to it I reckon it would take a couple of people no more than half an hour to erect, tops. Maybe three people to get the laden trolley up the ramp out of the church. We didn't try that bit today because once we'd dismantled the stage again it was left stacked in a corner until Sunday's concert while the trolley went off for modifications. There was one dissenting voice on the committee who was vehemently against the stage, on the grounds that we would never be able to move the fully loaded trolley, and it would be most galling if they turned out to be right, and that was the final hurdle at which the new stage project fell, after running such a promising race up to that point.
The old stage was still in the church awaiting volunteers to help move it back to its home across the road, and as the pieces of the old stage were stacked in the corner where we wanted to put the new stage, and the new stage was blocking the access needed for the trolley to transport the old stage, it all turned into one of those fox, goose and river puzzles. The floor boards of the old stage really are horribly heavy and awkward, and as I helped lift them into the garden trolley we use to trundle them over to the commune and back one of the men on the committee hissed to me that he wasn't being sexist but I really shouldn't have to do that sort of thing. I thought it was very sweet of him, though if he were to call round sometime when I was hedge cutting and see the Systems Administrator and I moving the Henchman platform around the garden he would understand why I was not fazed by the stage. The old stage is really dreadfully heavy, though, and awkward to grip because the flats don't have any sort of a rim or frame to hook your fingers around when you lift them.
I have agreed to go back over on Sunday morning to help put the new stage back up again, this time for real. I must remember to put a small pair of mole grips in my handbag, in case of any problems with the wing nuts.