So yesterday I was contemplating despairingly the likelihood that I would not make it to tonight’s opera.* Not only do I ache in every limb, including the extra leg and two extra arms I had been hitherto unaware of possessing**, but my head, throat, chest, stomach, back, hips and butt aren’t doing brilliantly well either. And I am still making antisocial noises—which while I doubt are contagious any more, I wouldn’t really want to be sitting next to me in a theatre either. And at this low point in morale and stark barrenness of future . . . I received an email.
Asking if I would like to ring handbells Saturday night. That two of his beginners from Tuesday were coming round and he apologised for the lack of advance warning but he could really use some help.***
Well now there’s an idea.
And so, offering up a modest little hymn to the normally evil gods of handbells, I wrote back without undue show of enthusiasm†, that I thought I probably could. And I could hear his sign of relief half a mile away from inside the mews with the windows closed and a CD of CARMEN playing.††
Frelling cowpats, I forget what hard work it is, drilling beginners. The other night doesn’t count—the only time I wasn’t knitting, Colin and I were merely giving a woman who was two-thirds of the way there already an opportunity to consolidate her skills. Tonight counts. Also, Niall had told me there would be only two of them, but all three turned up. On the assumption we will be seeing more of them, I will give them names: Olga, Enoch and Farrell. And suddenly Niall and I were outnumbered.††† It shouldn’t matter, when you’re only inculcating them one at a time‡ but somehow it does. Also, of course, although Niall and I both knew this going in, we’d be ringing non-stop the whole night. And—because this is Niall—of course we ran late. Although to be fair, as soon as you have that extra person, it takes that much longer to get the secret brainwashing electrodes fixed under everyone’s skin. And you don’t want anyone to leave without their secret brainwashing electrodes in place.‡‡
Poor Olga. I hope there’s a way to crank up the outflow on her electrodes. She needs to fall in ardent and inexplicable love with handbells really soon or she’s not going to stay the course. I so empathise. Niall has (conveniently) forgotten this, but it took me FOREVER TO LEARN ANYTHING.‡‡‡ Olga is that one in this group. Enoch is a very experienced tower ringer, and he seems to be doing the Colin thing of juggling two blue (method) lines in his head so he can ring two (hand) bells, which is a perfectly good way to begin§ but at some point he’ll have to make the leap over the bottomless abyss to handbells as handbells. But we can worry about that later. He’ll certainly make a handbell ringer if he decides he wants to. Farrell is tentatively our most interesting prospect . . . which is to say that if he keeps on like this he’ll be soaring past me in a month or two and ringing full peals of Sordid Sod’s Law Maximus by the end of the year.§§ But among other things this meant that every time we changed hapless victim to the next in the queue, Niall and I had to adjust for a different situation—much harder on Niall, who’s also trying to mind as well as ring—but unsettling for me too. You realise how much you do ring by both the tune and the rhythm when neither of these is happening—and when every time you shift your third the non-tune and non-rhythm changes too. You do occasionally get learners who are more like each other than they are unlike, and then you can settle down a bit and just grind. But that wasn’t the situation tonight. Also, particularly at the beginning, before the electrodes are working yet, you are tense with anxiety about whether your prey is having a good time. You want them to enjoy it. No, really. It cuts down on electrode wear.
The situation tonight is that I am toast. Which makes a change from the toast-free death a few days ago. . . .
* * *
* http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx I’m suspicious of the stability of this link. At the moment it’s showing Manon, which is what I want it to show, but it doesn’t SAY Manon, and I suspect it’s going to swim on to La Trav the minute my back is turned. But I can’t off-hand find the permanent page for the Met’s 2012 production of Massenet’s Manon Live on HD, which was tonight, and I don’t feel like wasting any more time on it. I personally feel that the Met’s web site, like so many, suffers from Glossy Pain in the Ass Syndrome, where the concentration has been entirely on how pretty everything looks and entirely NOT on how easy it is to navigate.
** Now that I’ve found the latter . . . two more hellhounds?
*** Yes, he could. Theoretically a single person can teach two beginners at a time to ring minor (six bells), but he (or she) won’t live long. The proper ratio is one beginner per two people who can ring whatever they’re trying to hammer into the third person. DING!
† You have to be careful with Niall.
†† Not at low volume. I’m also deaf with sinus whatever.
††† I also want to know how Niall got this one past Penelope at all. Penelope declared Saturday a bell-free zone years ago. Some time during the era that Niall was ringing eight or nine times a week. I imagine he got it past her because of the festival of delight Tuesday was—Penelope is not hard-hearted, she just feels there is more to life than (whisper it) bells—but the truth may be that Penelope is not herself from Happy Grandmother Hormones. Their youngest, and the only one who lives locally, produced her first offspring a fortnight ago, and Penelope is doting. She showed me photos tonight: very high on the awwwww goodgy goodgy scale. You don’t even have to be her grandmother to appreciate this.
‡ We did ring some plain hunt on eight, which was somewhat exciting. And Niall, because he is Niall, threw us into Grandsire Triples to finish—eight bells, but the treble and the two only plain hunt, and the eight is tenor-behind, so any ringer who can ring it in the tower only has to remember to go DING in last place with that other blasted bell every row. This leaves the 3-4 and the 5-6 to do all the death-defying stuff. Whimper.
‡‡ You don’t think anyone rings methods on handbells just because they enjoy it, do you?
‡‡‡ Speaking of the hard graft of breaking down, I mean training, beginners.
§ Even if it makes people like me who don’t have that option gnash their teeth.
§§ I am bracing myself to hate him which will be rather too bad. When we broke for tea tonight we all stood up from our fairy-ring of hard, mentally stimulating^ chairs and went to the sitting-room end of the sitting room. There is overstuffed furniture for four, the hard chairs, and plenty of floor. I automatically sit on the floor. I slightly tend to sit on floors anyway, depending on circumstances, and I’ve been sitting on Niall’s floor during tea breaks for handbells for a long time. I don’t think about it any more. And tonight I could use the change of position to give different aches and pains a chance to shine. Farrell said, I thought only dancers did that—choose to sit on the floor. (He’s a dancer.) I didn’t want to get into the aches and pains—it’s pretty obvious I have the lurgy^^, but he’s also about one-third my age^^^, and I don’t want to scare him. So I said (truthfully) that I’m a fidget. He grinned. Yes, that’s right, he said. Dancing is just organising how you fidget.
^ Stop that sniggering
^^ I posted to Facebook last night that I sounded like James Earl Jones with laryngitis. No. Wrong. I sound like Lurch.
^^^ Oh those snappy young neurons. If I’d learnt change-ringing on handbells at twenty . . . I still wouldn’t have been able to do it because this brain is not the right shape.
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