September 22, 2011




            It’s all Bronwen’s fault.  Hear that, Bronwen?  IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.

            I haven’t been to Forzadeldestino in years because it intimidates the gorblimey out of me.  Also in previous eras it was not always welcoming to ringers of a less than a Gadzooks Pentathlon level and you were made to feel it if you asked for plain bob doubles.  Also it’s stonking huge.  I’d kind of forgotten how huge.   The abbey itself is the size of a small country*** and to get to the tower and then into the ringing chamber requires you take a tour.  Now here is the capital city, and here are the major seaports, and here is the palace of the queen and the exchequer.  And the llama farm.  The queen is very fond of llamas, and her breeding programme is  . . . Where was I?  I have no idea.  But there are mountains.  Look, I think that’s snow. 

            There are mountains.  And the steps that have been hacked into them are short, curly, and uneven.  And they keep switching back on themselves till you’re pretty sure your heading is one of the more obscure of the wind’s twelve quarters, and with every twist the corridor you’re no longer walking along but climbing through gets smaller.  You’re already hauling yourself hand over hand up the rope helpfully looped along the wall—now the ceiling is pressing in on you till you have to take your knapsack off and carry it the last few steps in your teeth.  Where is a llama when you need one?

            And then you creep out of the claustrophobic tunnel into a ringing chamber . . . the size of a ballroom.  Or possibly a llama farm.  And have I mentioned Forzadeldestino has forty-six bells?  Well, maybe thirty-eight.  Lots.  You grab a rope and you have no idea where you are.  You can pick out the tenor(s) because they’re the ones with massive boxes under the ropes but . . . towers with more than six bells (at New Arcadia, for example, where we have eight bells total) may ring the ‘front six’ or the ‘back six’.  At Forzadeldestino they have the front eight, the back ten, the second-front six, the second-back fourteen, the middle eighteen, and the King Olaf Memorial Twelve and a Half.  We rang plain hunt—plain hunt!  One miserable frelling step beyond call changes!—on eight hundred and ninety six and I couldn’t count that high.  I know the pattern—that’s one of the things about plain hunt, it’s EXACTLY the same pattern if you’re on four bells or four hundred.  I had a minder for plain hunt and I still couldn’t do it.†

            Did I say ‘humiliating’?  Humiliating.

            I’m not going to expound upon the touch of Grandsire triples that I only failed to derail because everyone kept ringing around me like stepping over a dead rat in the road.  Except to say that . . . when you have so frelling over-many scrangblatted bells, if you’re only ringing eight of them, you aren’t ringing in a circle, you’re ringing in a line.  This is HORRIBLY CONFUSING (to the tiny easily-confused mind).  Also, having just been ringing on sixty-seven (plus tenor-behind) there didn’t seem to be enough of them, when under ordinary circumstances, eight bells all going at once seems like a lot. 

            I wanted to go home long before the practise was over.  And the real problem is . . . shut up Bronwen, you’ve caused enough trouble for one evening†† . . . I have to go back.  I mostly can’t be bothered having stuff to prove any more—this is one of the advantages of getting old:  not having to care about so much dumb stuff—but tonight was real getting back on the horse that threw you territory.  I have to go back. 


            Oh, and the banana?  Next time I’m going to eat a banana first.  Very grounding, bananas.  Plus a few calories to give the panicking mind something to chomp on.  Unless I manage to find a convent between now and next Wednesday.

* * *

* Where I will take up origami and scrimshaw.  I will also knit.  And it has to be a convent that takes hellhounds.  The Convent of the Goofy Little Friends of St Francis.  

** Okay, wait.  If I’m giving up ringing, I won’t have ringing humiliation stories to tell.  I don’t have to join a convent.  Although . . . no internet connection . . . hmmmmmm.  It’s not that I don’t spend way too much time cruising.  Or rather, it is because I spend way too much time cruising.  Think of all the knitting I can get done without an internet connection.^   I might even, you know, finally finish something. 

            Which reminds me that I never got round to responding to some of the comments about audiobooks.^^  It is very much a yes-it-works-for-me/NO-IT-DOESN’T-WORK-AT-ALL thing but I am having that late-convert’s where have you been all my life reaction.  At the moment I’m listening to the 20th-anniversary revised edition of DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY, Everything You Need to Know about American History But Never Learned, by Kenneth C. Davis^^^ and am finding it absolutely riveting.  He’s getting all of American history in 600-odd pages though so it does kind of careen past, with the concentrating listener going, Wait, wait, what happened because of what?  Didn’t we miss out a president or two here?#  I am a little testy, however, because I found out within the first chapter or so that I need the hard copy to go over after I’ve listened to the audio version, to fill in those moments when my mind wandered or I got stuck at the ‘wait wait’ point and didn’t hear what happened, or when something I was so sure I knew turns out to be wrong that the new version just bounces off the hard smooth well-muscled skin of my bum steer and disappears.  I have the original book, and I’ve been reading along in that, but it ends twenty years ago.  And it turns out that the new version is so frelling new it’s only available in hardback.  The total sum I’ve spent on this book—which I now have in two paper editions and an audible download—it might as well be frelling Kelmscott’s frelling Chaucer.  But my American history is probably the best it’s ever been, not that this is saying much.##  ### This is the full 30-hour version—there’s an abridged six hour version and I can’t even imagine.  

            But on the subject of the mind wandering:  I’m listening to an audiobook either when I’m knitting or hurtling hellhounds in town.  And there are horrible knots, lumps and dropped stitches in the one or sudden encounters of a drooling pugnacious canine kind on the other that are overpoweringly distracting.  

^ I know I’ve told you that I only bought my first computer because I could no longer get replacement parts for my IBM Selectric I typewriter of hallowed memory.  

^^ And I now can’t remember which thread they’re on. 

^^^ Who is now a brand name.  Don’t Know Much about Geography, the [American] Civil War, the Bible, the Universe . . . and Anything Else.  No, really. 

# Yes.  I do think it’s brilliant—and a medal as well to the reader-aloud who I think gets it just right—which is not to say that I don’t sometimes disagree with Davis’ choice of emphasis and what to leave out.  But that’s inevitable in a book like this, and it’s got a massive bibliography as well as a scattering of ‘must-reads’ in the text. 

## And not as if I’ll retain more than about 2.03% of it. 

### I don’t know if the link is going to take you to or inside my account to my own personal page, where it says ‘your rating is’.  But yes, the single-as-I-write-this five-star rating is mine. 

***Luxembourg, say.  It’s definitely bigger than Monaco. 

† Not in my defense—there is no defense—but further confusion is caused by the fact that the rhythm of lots and lots of bells is different from the rhythm of fewer bells.  When there are so many of the wretched things clanging away you pretty well have to hold up and wait every stroke . . . and this, to those of us who already have trouble with both rhythm and ropesight, is diabolical. 

 †† She was having some trouble too.  Nothing like as much as I was having.  Stop talking to me in that kind, patient, sympathetic voice. 


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