Lu­nacy nips a flow­er­ing ca­reer in the bud

Bri­tain’s ‘elf’ and safety mad­ness caused Glouces­ter Cathe­dral to fire Annabel Hayter, 64, lest she loi­ter with the choir­boys

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

GLOUCES­TER Cathe­dral, one of those vast, im­pos­ing great churches that seem to form the western spine of re­li­gious Eng­land – Glouces­ter, Bris­tol, Tewkes­bury, Bath, Worces­ter – has known some times in its long his­tory.

An abbey was founded on the site of the present church as early as 679 AD.

But the foun­da­tions for the build­ing we see to­day, re­splen­dent in the win­ter sun and snow when I glimpsed it last week, were laid by Ab­bot Serlo from 1072 to 1104.

Henry III was crowned King of Eng­land there in 1216, and in 1327 King Ed­ward II was buried within its vast walls.

In 1555, amid the re­li­gious wars that broke out across Eng­land, Bishop Hooper was burned at the stake out­side Glouces­ter Cathe­dral on the or­ders of the Catholic queen, Mary.

Glouces­ter is a hugely im­por­tant re­li­gious cen­tre and, as its his­tory sug­gests, one of the great cathe­drals of Eng­land. But if it thought it had a story or two to tell about the past, then it had reck­oned with­out the present and its myr­iad lu­na­cies.

Christ­mas 2010 will go ahead in the cathe­dral with a tra­di­tional story of a crib and the baby Je­sus.

But the tale on the minds of many church­go­ers to the cathe­dral this Christ­mas will be of the 64-year-old flower ar­ranger who was forced to re­sign re­cently as chair­man of the Cathe­dral Flower Guild.

Shame and scan­dal be­tween the cathe­dral pews? Was naughty Ms Annabel Hayter caught “in fla­grante” some­where be­hind the north nave, a dis­robed, red-faced choir­boy some­where nearby? Not at all – such would be a scur­rilous sug­ges­tion.

Alas, Hayter was caught in the web of the “Elf and Safety” czars. That, it would ap­pear, is a far greater crime in mod­ern day Bri­tain.

Hayter had helped ar­range the flow­ers at Glouces­ter Cathe­dral for more than 15 years and vol­un­teered as a flower ar­ranger for more than 40 years.

It’s a pop­u­lar pur­suit. The ladies give their time for free, the church looks re­splen­dent each morn­ing and the cost, in terms of the flow­ers, is fairly min­i­mal.

It is a tra­di­tion that dates back who knows how long in the pages of his­tory.

Alas, the elf and safety czars poked their noses into this cosy ar­range­ment and snorted “We’re not hav­ing this”.

For I un­der­stand that in some Angli­can churches, you may find choir boys, and where you find choir boys, in the minds of these crazed czars, you find ram­pant pae­dophilia. Now in the Catholic Church, es­pe­cially in Ire­land, this is true; it has been ram­pant.

But there is no sug­ges­tion it has been equally rife in the Church of Eng­land. In­deed, gentle­men of “the other per­sua­sion” seem to re­side more there, like the for­mer mar­ried Rec­tor of Bath Abbey who de­cided it’d be a top idea to start af­fairs with parish­ioners. But I di­gress.

At Glouces­ter, with the elf and safety czars sniff­ing out po­ten­tial foul deeds like French dogs hunt­ing truf­fles, the el­derly ladies of the flower guild were sud­denly told they had to sub­mit to proper vet­ting to as­cer­tain whether they had crim­i­nal records.

Whether the crim­i­nal records might be for pinch­ing some of the flower money or a choir­boy’s bot­tom was not made clear.

No mat­ter, ladies who wished to ar­range the flow­ers had to be vet­ted. The rea­son was, while un­der­tak­ing that work, in the same build­ing, they might have to use the toi­let.

And that was the only toi­let in the Cathe­dral and thus might also be used by a choir­boy from time to time.

Annabel Hayter epit­o­mises the Eng­land and English of old. She re­jected this de­mand as lu­di­crous. And she would have a good few mil­lion lin­ing up to sup­port her, I sus­pect, should hers be­come a cause cele­bre.

For deep in the bones of an English­man or woman is a pen­chant for free­dom.

Per­haps it comes as stan­dard with a peo­ple who are, let us re­mem­ber, an is­land race.

Be­ing pushed around, threat­ened or told what to do does not sit com­fort­ably in the minds of tra­di­tional English folk. Po­litely (well, they used to do it that way and doubt­less still do in the case of good ladies like Annabel Hayter) they tell those mak­ing the de­mands to push off.

In­deed, five of Annabel’s fel­low flower ladies re­signed in protest at her treat­ment.

This type of thing can­not be coun­te­nanced in the “new” safety con­scious Bri­tain, where you can’t be care­ful enough about the dangers of a 64-year-old woman drag­ging an in­no­cent choir­boy into the toi­let of Glouces­ter Cathe­dral and hav­ing her wicked way with him as the morn­ing ser­mon is be­ing preached.

So Ms Hayter was fired and no longer ar­ranges the flow­ers at Glouces­ter Cathe­dral, and an­other lit­tle part of old Bri­tain dies.

And those who knew it as it once was, weep a silent tear at such id­iocy.

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