Back in 1994 – almost to the day – my 9-year-old self walked proudly down the nave of York Minster, clad in armour and with sword held aloft, watched by hundreds of my fellow Cub Scouts. For some unknown (but very welcome) reason, I had been chosen to portray that famous dragon-botherer, St. George, whose saint’s day we had gathered within our home cathedral to celebrate.
It was a bizarre experience, especially because the armour was actually made from cardboard and my trainers didn’t quite achieve the heroic effect the organisers had hoped for. Nevertheless, my triumphant appearance whipped the congregation into a hearty and chest-thumping rendition of Jerusalem that brought a tear to many an eye that day. This was was a truly spine-tingling cathedral experience and surely could never be bettered, I remember thinking to myself at that wonderful moment. How wrong I was.
On 21st October last year, Lisa and I had the great honour of getting married in York Minster. Six months on I still can’t believe how lucky we were to become husband and wife in one of the World’s greatest cathedrals, surrounded by our friends and family. Ever since that day the Minster, which has always had a place in my heart, has taken on a whole new significance in both of our lives.
Somewhat inevitably there were numerous references to my cathedral-licking career throughout the day, not least from bet master and best man, Adam (who still hasn’t done the naked forfeit, by the way). Canon Michael, the wonderful man who conducted the ceremony, even had a quiet word in Adam’s ear so God is now officially on the case. It is pleasing (not to mention relieving) to know that the Minster clergy are fans of the licking bet. In truth, I have never received anything but support from the Anglican Church, who have always seen the many positives of the mad quest I undertook back in 2011-12.
Still, it was something of a (pleasant) surprise to be included in the recently opened exhibition Tourist, Traveller, Pilgrim? at the Minster. The exhibition explores the many different aspects of pilgrimage and is thoroughly engaging.
I was asked me to write down my thoughts about the licking quest – why I had done it, what I had learned and whether it could be regarded as a pilgrimage. At the time of the bet it never crossed my mind that visiting and licking every Anglican cathedral in the UK could be construed as one, but with hindsight those many miles travelled had many of the hallmarks of a holy journey, just with a bit more tongue action involved. The exhibition, which is located in the Treasury, runs until March 2018 and is definitely worth a look.
Many people have asked if I intend to lick any more cathedrals. There are no plans to do so at the moment, but it’s safe to say that should I find myself in the vicinity of an un-licked one in the future then it will almost certainly get tongued.