Getting back to normal*
And the bad news is . . . well, in the first place, they’re gone. I wrote Hannah an email last thing last night, saying, I’m going to bed and it’s still early evening for you. Had a return email this morning saying ‘I woke at 2 am’.**
Email is great, but she’s writing from three thousand miles away. They’re gone.
Although not without excitement. Sunday morning was not one of any of our better mornings. I woke up at seven, said ‘stuff this’ and rolled over. And stayed that way. Some while later I gradually opened one eye thinking comfortably, hmm, I actually did get back to sleep, didn’t I? And the one eye slowly swivelled toward the array*** of clock faces on the bookshelves† beside the bed.
They all said variations on a theme of ‘8:35.’ And I have to be up a ladder with my hands on a bell rope by 8:50, although 8:45 would be better.
You never saw any still-asleep person move so fast. –What is this? Never mind, just put it on.†† Hellhounds were outraged: they move slowly (and, in their case, luxuriously, which is a little beyond me) in the mornings too, and here I am hustling them immediately outdoors when they haven’t so much as finished stretching and purring††† yet–and where they stood around looking aggrieved–fine, come in, keep your legs crossed or your penises retracted or whatever you say to boys–and then back in the CRATE?! They’re used to Sunday mornings but this is . . . indecent.
In the tower we started off with the Fantastic Four‡ but eventually had enough for minor (six working bells) and I had one of those Moments That Count When You’re a Mediocre Ringer. I was on the lowly treble, but the thing that is regularly undervalued about the lowly treble, when you’re a mediocre ringer (the good ringers know better), is that the treble in ordinary methods really does keep the inside bells sorted out. When you’re ringing an ordinary touch–especially on Sunday mornings when you’re a hero by being there at all–lots of ringers, myself included, ring by when they pass the treble, which tells you which piece of ‘work’ you’re supposed to be doing. If you forget, where you are in relation to the treble is probably your first recourse. This requires that the treble be in the right place, which may not be happening if some of the other bells are going wrong because you’re going wrong. We had one of those moments Sunday morning where someone went rather shatteringly wrong. We had two blows of cacophony but I on the treble, for a wonder, had remained in the right place, and our third blow we were all rather miraculously back where we were supposed to be again. This is mostly down to our ringing master shouting orders, but it was also because the treble stayed in the right place and dragged everyone after her.
Thanks to last minute stragglers we managed to ring down all eight bells in peal too which is a glorious noise when you get it right, and we got it pretty right. So I was feeling comparatively okay despite the leftover cold trickle of ten-minutes-to-get-to-the-tower adrenaline plus the immediate prospect of saying goodbye to some of my nearest and dearest . . . when I saw Hannah’s face appearing at the top of the tower ladder. She’d said she’d come by for service ring if she could, but I hadn’t been expecting her because packing always takes longer than you think it will, and they needed to leave by ten. I was going to swing by the newsagent for chocolate‡‡ for the plane journey and go say goodbye.
The lock on the porch door won’t turn, she said. I had to crawl out a window. ‡‡‡
. . . . And they have four large suitcases and an airplane to catch.
Climbing down the tower ladder, and the adrenaline is starting to gallop again.
Hannah said, And we don’t have a key to the bolts on the sitting room door.
The sitting room door is a piece of plastic garbage which I want to replace but it has to get in line. When Third House was finally mine§ and the Lock Man came round to change all the locks he couldn’t replace that one because it’s integral to the stupid plastic door, so he added two locking bolts. The locking bolts have dumb little keys that the Key Man can’t duplicate. So only the master set of keys has the bolt keys. Which has never mattered because everyone goes in and out the side door. Which leads to the porch door.
Yes you do, I said.
No we don’t, said Hannah. I gave them back to you yesterday.
No you didn’t! I said, starting to panic. I gave them back to you again!
Two women standing in a churchyard staring at each other. And have I mentioned that there was a lot of bad-tempered weather circling like a tiger around a nilgai yesterday? Two women standing in a churchyard staring at each other while the thunderheads pile up.
Peter usually meets me as I come out from service ring, and he was there yesterday. So we all parted, Peter and I to hasten back to the mews and the cottage respectively for the spare sets of Third House keys in case one of them has a porch-door key that will work, and Hannah to go back to Third House and turn her handbag upside down in the hopes that the master keys are in there somewhere.
It was raining by the time Peter and I turned up at Third House with our useless keys: some piece of the lock has fallen down in the keyhole and you can’t even get a key in. But the boot of the rental car was full of Large Suitcases: the master keys were in the bottom of Hannah’s handbag. Whew.
It was really pelting down by now. And–I’m not kidding–the first lightning zapped across the sky and the thunder crashed as Hannah and I threw our arms around each other. They drove off in the-bridge-is-out-and-how-will-the-doctor-get-to-the-kid-with-diphtheria-now? weather, the water sheeting off the roof and geysering out from under the wheels. Peter splashed back to the mews and I went wetly back to the cottage to commiserate with sulky hellhounds.
But Hannah and Cormac and Rebecca and Ruby are all home and dry today. And three thousand miles away.
** This shouldn’t happen if you’re taking your arnica for jet lag. Arnica is brilliant for jet lag^, nine people out of ten, or even nineteen out of twenty, ^^ and I started Hannah on it several years ago. You take your first one–usually a 30c is enough–about an hour before the plane leaves, another one as soon as you arrive, and a third when you go to bed that night. This puts you on local time: if you’ve lost a night’s sleep you’re still short of sleep and it won’t cure that, but you’ll be short of sleep on local time. And be sure to go to bed that night on local time. I know it has worked for Hannah–I probably told you all this last October when she was here before: I do my little arnica tap dance as often as I can create the opportunity–so I hope this is an aberration. If it isn’t we may fiddle with the potency a little. One of the lovely things about homeopathy is you can always adjust.
^ As well as for horseshoe-shaped bruises and an assortment of other damage.
^^ For the twentieth person there are other homeopathic remedies to try.
*** At the moment there are three of them. Plus the 24-hour kitchen timer that is the only time-appraising apparatus that does what I tell it to. Long, er, time readers of this blog know about my dogged^ inability to come to terms with the fourth dimension.
^ And dogs do have something to do with it
† In front of the books
†† And no, I did not show up at the tower with my pants on my head. Not, I will add, that this necessarily would be noticed, since Sunday mornings are a trifle drastic generally. Which is doubtless why more Sundays than not we’re extremely grateful if we are able to ring six bells. Weekly heroism is in short supply in the modern world. Especially weekly heroism that happens at 8:45 Sunday morning.
‡ Although we’re three girls and a bloke so some reassignment of superpowers is perhaps in order. Although I’d like to be the lumpy one that bursts into flame easily. I already have a tendency to burst into flame easily. I’d quite like to be able to back this up by burning things down when they peeve me. I’d also like to be able to point my finger at aggressive off-lead dogs and make them disappear to the Planet of Odd Socks. And then fry the owners.
‡‡ Definition of civilisation: somewhere you can buy Green & Black’s on a Sunday morning. We have a very enlightened newsagent.
‡‡‡ What a good thing I do not have civic-minded neighbours. Although if the next-doors–the ones with the Evil Terrier–called the cops on me it would be war. I found seven balls in my back garden Sunday afternoon from over the wall. Seven. Five tennis balls and two black and white soccer balls.
§ I suppose all real estate transactions have an epic quality . . . like a few millennia of Sunday service rings all in a row. . . .
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