Sunday 25 June 2006


I am aroused, as I am every Sunday morning, by the clangour of church bells, merrily pealing out across the lea…

Well, actually, rattling the goddam windows!

There are several GOOD things about living next door to a church: it can be very handy if you happen to find yourself in sudden need of sanctuary; and it is also useful because, having a lightning conductor on the spire, it’s far more likely to get struck by lightning than you are!

But as for the bells… Oh, no, no, no!

Now, I was brought up in the country (it’s not really country anymore, but it was then - and I’m talking about having a blacksmith with an open forge in the village high street!) so I KNOW about church bells.

Indeed, I’ve even served my turn tolling the single bell for the Angelus, so I’m well aware that complex clarions are only achieved as a result of a lot of expertise, practice and an acquired understanding of such terms as ‘Little Bobs’ and ‘Weasels’.

I also know that bell ringing should really only be done by a team of hoary old yokels drawn from a 1950s cast of ‘The Archers (An Everyday Story of Country Folk)’ ideally with such names as Ned Larkin, Tom Forrest and Walter Gabriel.

What Bell ringing most certainly is NOT, is having the vicar of a church flick a switch in order to turn on an electronic recording…

Every Sunday morning, our relatively peaceful neighbourhood is shaken by a riotous ding-donging of bells (involving first-rate ‘treble bobs’ and ‘dodges’) niftily accomplished by the ringers from St Gudgeon’s, Tittums Touch, and transmitted to the rudely-awakened world via a rather tiny loudspeaker in the tower.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, EVERY evening at six o’clock we are treated to a flat-ish rendition of the first verse of ‘The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended’ (words by John Ellerton, music by Clement C Scholefield, 1874), which may well have been one of Queen Victoria’s favourites but which, heard on a daily basis, soon outstays its welcome and is seldom ENDED quickly enough!

Incidentally, those not aux fait with the darker recesses of ‘Hymns Ancient & Modern’ may care to BRIEFLY check out this turgid little number... Just turn up those speakers for maximum effect --- and think BELLS!

Anyway, Lord Tennyson may well have written: “Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,” but I tell you, if he’d been living next to OUR next-door church he’d have been wildly praying for a power-cut!

[Image: © Brian Sibley]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While not quite the same thing (and, boy do you have my sympathies), everyday, when I was in Primary School, a student was picked at random, called to the Principal's office, given this enormous handheld bell and were told to walk around the yard ringing it, which is how we knew it was time to go back to class.

It was great fun to have to ring the bell, because not only did you get to ring the thing, you got boss the other - older - kids around and get five minutes out of class. It was brilliant.

Then, the school renovated. And part of the renovation was to get a swank new P.A. system and button-push bell. This bell was not so much a bell as a horn, and not a nice musical horn, but a one-note, blast-your-ears-off-of-your face-it's-so-darned-loud horn. And they would "ring" it twelve times a day.

Which might explain why so many of us used to go home with brain spliting headaches.

I didn't. Why? Well, back then I lived next door to the school. A Catholic school that also rang this horn instead of its bells.

So, yeah, you have my sympathies.