Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bells on Sunday

I like the pealing of church bells, but they have to be good ones. We are cursed with living virtually under what I suspect to be the worst set of bells in Christendom, and to compound the misery, they are operated by the keenest and most inept set of ringers in Christendom too.

They don't just ring them on Sundays, but 'practice' most nights of the week for about 3 hours at a time, forcing us to turn up the radio in our compact but adorable kitchen, just so we can follow the dialogue on the Archers.

Sometime in the last half of the 19th century, they demolished what must have been a perfectly charming 18th century church and replaced it with the towering pinnacle which is photographed every few seconds by Japanese tourists who ought to know better, but obviously don't. The cost of rebuilding this church was about £9000, and I would imagine that 99% of the money went on the arrogant masonry (bits of which threaten to fall off every winter, and would kill any passer-by), leaving a pittance for the casting of a new set of bells (one original remains, but is swamped by all the others when it rings), and they got what they paid for. Bells like these could only be rung be tone-deafers, and if you weren't tone deaf when you started, you would be after four weddings and a funeral.

The ringers used to go to the nearby 'Green Tree' pub at around 9.30 on practice nights, and one night some years ago when I had just about enough of them, I stormed into the little old pub with the intention of killing them all where they sat, but lost heart as soon as I saw them sitting about with pints of English ale in their hands, looking expectantly up at me as I entered.

There were about 8 of them, with ages ranging between about 90 and 15 (the 15 year-old was nursing an Olde English Coke), and I began by asking them, "Are you the bell-ringers?!"

The 90 year old simply said "Yes", with a benign and welcoming expression on his face, so I left it at that and ordered a pint for myself before leaving without another word. They probably thought I was plucking up the courage to ask them if I could have a go sometime.

I should have killed them all when I had the chance, because I guess that the old one has since died and been replaced by a younger fellow with a lot more energy - they seem to practice for 5 nights a week these days, and continue for about an hour longer than they used to. When you add weddings, funerals, Christmas, New Year and Memorial day to that, I am surprised that their tinny bells haven't worn through at the clapper.

The thing is that I know they can muffle their bells because they do just that on the 11th of the 11th every year, and occasional during funerals, so why don't they always do it?

I did think about offering the use of our compact but adorable city apartment as a Mosque and setting up an amplified call to prayer on the roof-top by an elderly and tone-deaf Moslem smoker, pointing right at their place of worship, but for one thing I don't think it would be allowed to continue for longer than one dawn, and it might attract all sorts of unwelcome attention.

As I write, a large and well-attended rugby match is about to take place on the other side of the river. What with car alarms, police sirens and the rest of it, the noise pollution in Bath is reaching an unacceptable level. I think I might have to go deaf in my old age.


  1. Laugh, I did. Especially when you walked into the bar. But surely the poor buggas have to practice.

  2. We had some 'friends' visit a while back, and rather than stay with us (phew), they decided to stay on a camp site. They found a perfect spot, overlooking a lake, that was surprisingly empty; the following morning at 6 am they discovered why. They said the bells were SO LOUD that they literally had to block their ears.

    Our village bells are electric... but OK.

  3. Well yes, Tom - at least in those circumstances I could take out my hearing aid!
    Re bells. The clock on LincolnCathedral used to strike the quarters/halves and full hours. When Ray Milland (are you old enough to remember him?) made some war time film (was it In Which we Serve/The Dam Busters or something?)he complained to the management of The White Hart hotel, which sits right next to the cathedral and the striking was turned off for his benefit.
    You could try making a donation to the bell fund in return for muffling.

  4. Maybe you should have, but I'm glad you didn't (kill them) that is. Tom you have my full sympathy, I think those bells would drive me spare too.

  5. I think I must have mentioned these bells before - I remember your mates, Cro, and I remember Ray Milland, Weaver - I think I remember 'The Man with the X-Ray Eyes' the best. I might be out by now if I had killed them, Moll - I bet they would have rung the bells to welcome me home.

  6. This reminds me of an episode from Midsomer Murders I watched last year (I know, I was desperate!). The whole team of bell ringers were gradually despatched, one by one. The culprit turned out to by an ‘innocent’ old lady from the village. Can’t remember what her motive was now. Maybe she didn’t like the sound of the bells.

  7. I feel your a child we lived next door to a church and they did indeed ring the bells every chance they had. They rang them before funerals and tolled one bell for each year of the persons age. 90 year olds had my mother in headaches.
    I was curious one day and asked the bell ringer if I could "help".. He agreed and we went up to the "bellfry". We climbed many steps and there was a huge snake that had wound it's way into the small room....that took away any desire to again learn!!

  8. What was that other 1920s detective that helped out on 'ringing the changes' all night and solved a murder at the same time? Maybe that's the same one, Sue.

    That sounds like extreme bell-ringing to me, Donna. We only have bats in our bellfrys.