Novice members of the Union of Monks are angry. The UM is complaining that priory
management is refusing to introduce new technology. Monasteries have always been
places of great innovation and invention, they claim, and union members are always
willing to take on new working practices in the interests of economy and improved
efficiency. They maintain that management is terminally resistant to change, insisting
on outdated methods and unfashionable habits.
UM members are threatening to boycott Vespers and Compline, and to stage work-to-rule
protests during Lauds and Midday Prayer. If necessary, they say, a series of one-day
strikes will be held on the third Sunday of each month, and Lent will be cancelled.
Our reporter spoke to Brother Crow, the senior UM shop-steward at Plugborough Priory.
“We are not wanting to cause any trouble?”, he said. He spoke in that modern way
of appearing to ask questions when he was really just make statements, an annoying
affectation he probably picked up from watching travelling players at annual fairs
and jousting tournaments. “We just want to make sure all our members get the best
deal in this century’s pay round? And the opportunity to maximise our chances of
Brother Crow went on to explain their predicament. He said that Novices have to pass
a set of oral and written exams and prayer intonations to become fully qualified
monks, and that these are all carried out under strict vows of silence and demanding
time limits. “We need to know how long we have to complete each question or intone
each prayer? And the only way we can do that is if we have a timepiece in the exam
So why is there a problem? asked the reporter.
“Well, there are these new timepieces that have been invented in the Low Countries?
You know, they have two sort of pointers that go round and round at different speeds
on a numbered dial to indicate passage of minutes and hours? They’re called clocks,
and it’s amazing technology? Really hi-tech? They would be perfect for us to have
a quick glance at to see how much time we’ve spent on the exam, and how much is still
to go before we have to put our quills down? But Brother Examiner won’t let us have
one in the exam room? Management say they are the spawn of Lucifer, and they refuse
to let us use them? They say we have to go on using those old-fashioned hourglasses?
The ones where sand drops through a small hole? Who uses those things nowadays? It’s
like living in the dark ages?”