October 31, 2010

Errors and Glorious Opportunities


Some people know how to have a proper Halloween.  A friend writes: 

 Every year I host a party on Hallowe’en night for my gamer friends.  This year I have 10 attendees .  .  . we’re going the usual slightly silly route: Dawn of the (Cultist) Dead.  All our characters are employees or shoppers at the Groatsville Mall, c. 1985.  Cultists have taken over the Orange Julius and sealed off all the exits, and are planning to sacrifice the entire population of the mall to Mffrnmmmhmmgh Dark God Du Jour.  Our heroes will have to find a way to foil them using only the tools available at an American mall in the mid-80’s (cheap jewellery, oversized sweaters, large soft cookies, those incessantly yapping robot dogs from Radio Shack… I have great hopes for them adapting the laser engraving tool at the Things Remembered kiosk into a weapon of deadly accuracy.)  Now I need to draw the map, write up the characters, outline the basics of the adventure, and download a lot of Hall and Oates and Genesis onto my iPod….

I am no doubt easily amused, but this made me laugh a lot.*   It is also another example of People Getting Together to Do Stuff, about which category of human endeavour I am reeling away from afresh, moaning and wringing my hands.**

            Today was the first, pre-rehearsal-beginning meeting about The Octopus and the Chandelier and . . . it was full of people.  People!  Gah!  I’ve got careless about my aversion to people on account of ringing bells.  You can’t ring bells alone.  I am resigned to this.***  But a bell gang is usually six or eight people.  A crowded practise night around here is maybe twelve.  Fifteen would be amazing.  Fifteen would make me cranky.   

            We had eight for service ring this morning† which was a lot of people.  And then Niall and I went off to ring at Fusca Fenestra, where they were hosting the bishop and Amy had had to phone around to get pairs of hands on all her bell ropes, which at Fusca Fenestra is five††.  But five people is even more people in that ringing chamber than eight is in New Arcadia’s.  You have to inhale sharply just to make it round the last spit-curl turn and into the titchy room, and elbows are a permanent problem.  Visiting bishops have been known to inspect bell towers, but we had no fears in this case:  a bishop in full clobber wouldn’t make it through the arrow-slit that passes for a door into the stair, let alone up the stair. 

            But I digress.†††   And I was going to digress in another direction‡:  with reference to needing other people to ring.  There have been PC bell-method simulators . . . well, at least since DOS.  I remember the DOS version of Abel;  it was still around when I was learning to ring the first time, and it took zero space on your 2KB hard drive, which, given that 2KB is about a page of text‡‡, is a good thing.  I’ve still got Abel, now in the modern shiny version . . . and I still can’t use the freller.  I can’t get my head round it.  This is a source of deep distress to Niall, who feels I should be learning Consequential Sextuplet Bob in my spare time.  The lack of spare time doesn’t compute with Niall at all, but he does just about grasp that computers and I are a bad match at the best of times, spare or spareless, and bell simulators are just so . . . virtual. 

            And then Ajlr, our own Ajlr, kindly, cat-loving, piano-playing, garden-tending, forum-minding and, lately, bell ringing Ajlr, emailed me the news that there is a bell ringing ap for Apocalypse.  Nooooooo.

            I downloaded it last night. 

            I may be in big trouble.

            I still kind of doubt I’m going to be able to practise tower ringing on it—punching the screen with your finger is just too much not like ringing in a tower for me.  However . . . holding Pooka as if I’m texting, thumbs tapping, staring at the other pairs of bells in the tiny compass of her screen and counting like the dickens is not wholly unlike the handbell experience.

            This might actually work.


            I spent that extra hour of the changeover to winter time last night tapping away in a frenzy.  And I made the serious mistake of standing by the side of the road this morning, tapping, while I was waiting for Niall.  That’s one of the best/worst things about an iPhone:  it’s as disastrously immediate as opening a book.  Look what I’ve got, I said, foolishly, to Niall (who does not have an iPhone).  If I’d had the sense the gods gave tapeworms, Niall would have been the last person on the planet I told.  But I wanted someone who would appreciate it, you know?   He appreciated it all right.  You could’ve seen his face light up in Cumbria.‡‡‡  By the time we got to Fusca Fenestra he was offering to help me load touches§.  I’m sure it’s like Abel, he was saying.  I’m sure I can figure it out.  —There are good reasons why his wife Penelope refuses point blank to ring handbells.

            So I got to the Octopus and Chandelier meeting this afternoon and . . . PEOPLE.  WAY LOTS OF PEOPLE.  Like maybe . . . fifty people.  And that’s not even all of us:  some of us couldn’t come today.  It was held in Chrysalid’s assembly hall, which is where we’ll be rehearsing, and it’s not like I didn’t know there clearly have to be a lot of people involved in putting on a musical—and even if I didn’t know it§§ there’s the list at the head of Minnie’s email updates.  But . . . GAAAAAAH.  All of them together like this. . . . I ticked my name off the list at the door and ran to an empty seat on the far side of the circle.  And got out Pooka.  And started ringing bells with myself.

            But they’d put out the right number of chairs for the number of people, you know?  So the circle started filling up.  And eventually someone plopped down next to me and started chatting in the grotesque extrovert way of many old-hand theatre people.  He’s one of the principals.  Let’s call him Basil.  We eventually got round to what I was doing (with myself).  He’d at least heard of ringing methods on handbells, which puts him ahead of the majority of the population.   I said that I’d only just got this ap and was still figuring it out.

            An iPhone ap for method ringing, he said slowly.

            Yes, I said.  Cool, huh?

            Actually ‘geeky’ was the word I was thinking of, he replied.

            It may be a long four months till opening night.

 And now, speaking of people in groups, allow me to remind you of the totally exciting possibility of hosting or attending a PEGASUS and cake party.   Hey, it’s cake, and nobody’s expecting you to sing anything.  Black Bear has posted the rules here:


. . . and I want to encourage you to go have a look at the list of potential places and dates.  


You do not have to be a member of the forum (although new forum members are a good thing).   If you want either to attend one or organise one—email Black Bear.  It’s in her rules. 

 * * *

* I am however glad to be spared Hall and Oates.     

** Very suitable for Halloween.  All I need is the long trailing bloody garments

*** I’m even resigned to having them standing too close to me.  There are towers—New Arcadia is fortunately not one of them—where you and your neighbour’s or neighbours’ hair, limbs, spectacle frames and flapping ropes are in serious danger of becoming embroiled.

† Plus three-year-old Louise, Edward’s daughter, who has learnt most of the crucial bell jargon, so if you hear a small piping voice saying ‘bob! or ‘stand!’ you have to crush your immediate instinctive response perhaps slightly faster than you can.  There is the occasional band-wide stumble after one of Louise’s calls.

            Also, yaay for eight.  We have eight bells, we want eight ringers.  We are sweating getting our bells rung.  As I keep saying. 

†† Sudden phone call from Amy Friday night.  Sorry, Niall said this morning.  I suggested you when she rang me.  —Not like I haven’t done this to him many times.

††† I digressReally?  

‡ Well that’s a relief.  I was going to digress. 

‡‡ http://searchstorage.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid5_gci944596,00.html  Yes, I know I’m muddling up hard drives with RAM and ROM and olly olly oxen free, but I’m like that.

‡‡‡ What is that strange bright light on the horizon?  Looks like it’s coming from . . . Hampshire. 

§ All you need to know is that there is a plain course of a method, or a variety of touches.  Touches are harder

 §§ It’s, like, fairies, right?  You just leave stuff out overnight and the fairies do it.


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