Chirpity chirpity chirp chirp chirp
I rang my first ordinary Sunday service at the abbey this afternoon. Chirpity chirpity, etc. And I did not humiliate myself.* Quadruple chirpity. Sextuple chirpity. Icosahedronic chirpity.
I didn’t tell you this last night because there’s a limit to how much gruesome suspense I’m willing to share. Gemma has kept on telling me that the abbey is always short at Sunday afternoon service, and that last week, for example, they almost didn’t ring at all because only four ringers turned up—apparently they have a status to maintain, and with eighty-seven bells refuse to countenance minimus**—and then Wild Robert, who I believe shows at the abbey most Sunday afternoons except when he’s in London practising for the national twenty-six-bell demolition derby, arrived in the nick of time***. Indeed Wild Robert told me a similar story about Sunday afternoon at the abbey a fortnight ago. And then after the reification of the overgoddess last week I was thinking, okay, McKinley, they didn’t need you but they let you ring, when are you going to start paying your way† by showing up for ordinary service ringing?
Dither dither dither dither dither. The other side of service ringing is that you don’t get to do it till you’re ready. Till you can, you know, ring. Which I’m not showing really rampant signs of being able to do at the abbey (yet). I’m clearly improving, if raggedly, but . . . but if they’re that short-handed we could ring frelling call changes.†† Dither. Dither.
So last night, Saturday night, at the last possible minute for Sunday, I wrote—emailed—Ulrich, saying that I felt I should wait till I was asked but Gemma keeps telling me the abbey needs ringers for Sunday afternoons and while I’m finding ringing at the abbey a steep learning curve if/when they think I might be more of an asset than a liability . . . I could maybe come along.
Then I spent the rest of the evening twitching wildly every time my email pinged.††† But by the time I went to bed last night at seriously mmph o’clock‡ Ulrich had not answered. He could have clutched his forehead and reeled away from his email with a cry of dismay . . . or he could have a life and been out doing pleasant things on Saturday night. But apparently my Sunday afternoon was to be free to keep on with SHADOWS.‡‡
I was staggering around, perhaps rather late, this morning, grappling with difficult issues like tea and underwear, and I had Astarte on the kitchen counter. And she pinged. I stared at her with a wild surmise. That email ping could have been any number of people. It could have been my homeopathic mailing list. It could have been someone wondering where I was and why I hadn’t answered their last (a lot of choice here). It could have been first contact with a sentient alien species.
It wasn’t. It was Ulrich. Please do come along, he said.
So I did.‡‡‡
And I wasn’t brilliant.§ But I was okay.§§
* * *
* This is me, right? I don’t say ‘I did well’ or even ‘I did pretty well’ or even ‘I didn’t do too badly’. I say ‘I did not humiliate myself.’ Siiiiigh. I wonder if I could ask for a positive attitude for my sixtieth birthday?^
^ I could ask.
** Four bells. Remember that method ringing is about jumbling up the order, but that a bell can only move one place each row. There’s not a lot you can do with only four bells. People have been known to ring full peals on four bells . . . but they’re madder even than the usual run of method ringers. At New Arcadia, however, if there are four ringers for Sunday service, they ring minimus.
*** Which is not to say that he hadn’t been to London. He had. In several locations. Wild Robert spends all day on a train on Sundays, punctuated by bursts of ringing. By the time he gets to the afternoon ring at the abbey the edge, I believe, is wearing off, and he’s almost ready for the new week, which contains things other than ringing.
† I’ve said all this before but I’ll say it again because it’s important. Bell ringing lives and dies on a huge amount of volunteer effort. A huge amount of volunteer effort. Being a paid-up member costs you about £7.50 a year and if you are a cheap s.o.b. your church will pay your sub for you. The rest is the hours that you and the other ringers put into it. All those millions of hours ringing teachers put into teaching people to ring—most of whom will drop out again before they become useful ringers—are all gratis. All those hours the bands around those learners put into ringing for the learners to bounce off of are all gratis.
But we need bells to ring. Bells are housed in churches^ and maintained by church admin.^^ And we pay for the enormous privilege of having bells to ring . . . by ringing services. Ordinary Sunday services, and anything else the priest or semi-sacred minion or congregation member asks for—reification of goddesses, weddings, funerals, births of grandchildren, first official contact with sentient alien species^^^, whatever. It’s what we’re for. And yes, there are lots of ringers who don’t honour this unwritten contract, but they are all slime moulds.
And personally, as someone who needs endless practise grinding to frelling LEARN anything, I get anxious about payback pretty quickly.
^ There are, I believe, a few Catholic churches with method bells, but the overwhelming majority of method ringing goes on in Anglican church towers. I think this is true world-wide as well as the UK, but then method ringing as it is done in the UK is a British invention and British art form, and it tends to show up only in (chiefly) English-speaking ex-colonies: USA, Australia, South Africa. The UK and particularly England however is the only place there are lots of bell ringing towers.
^^ With occasional help from ringer-driven Bell Funds, especially when major work needs to be done. Churches haven’t been wealthy since Henry VIII. Ha ha.
^^^ I’m looking forward to this one. Perhaps they’ll compose a new method, like they have for the Olympics+. Spock Royal. Aeryn Sun Surprise. Vorlon Vector Double Spliced.
+But don’t get me started.
†† I’m not looking forward to call changes at the abbey. The ringing chamber, as I keep moaning, is gigantic, and the sound-carrying is dire. As it is I’m just about guessing when there’s a sharp barking noise during a touch that it’s the conductor shouting ‘bob’ or ‘single’. Now all I have to do is figure out which. Call changes are dependent on the conductor calling EACH change. Which means you have to be able to hear them. But call changes mean that people who haven’t learnt any methods^ can still ring.
^ Or are too panic-stricken or intimidated to remember them
††† It does this kind of a lot. I belong to a distressingly lively homeopathic list.
‡ I have many wicked friends who want the worst for me, and introduce me to evil computer games. I’m also rereading CHARMED LIFE for the umpty-mumbleth time, but I’m trying to read it as slowly as possible, which leaves me easy prey to evil computer games. Aaaaaugh.
‡‡ Speaking of aaaaaaugh. AAAAAAAAAAUGH.
‡‡‡ Note that I wasn’t sacrificing a good gardening afternoon or anything. The gale didn’t merely knock all my rosebushes over, it drove water both under my front door and through the stable-door crack in the middle. I hope the baby robins are hugging the ground. The hellhounds and I, attempting to hurtle, remained earthbound chiefly because they hated the whole situation so much that they became little anvils at the ends of their leads.
§ Brilliance, with me and bells, is not an option.
§§ I was half grateful and half amused, watching Og figuring out how best to handle me. He called an easy touch of bob minor while I was ringing inside. I rang the tenor-behind for Stedman doubles—at a tower that isn’t the abbey I can ring Stedman. And we finished with rounds on the back six, which was kind of a hoot. The last four bells at the abbey are all seriously, INCREASINGLY huge. I’ve told you about ringing rounds on forty-six, where you pull off and then have to wait till it’s your turn again, because there are so many bells that have to go first. In a way the effect of waiting is more pronounced when you’re ringing only the back six because it is only six, but the pauses between the big bells are so marked. I was, of course, on the treble. Dong . . . dong . . . . . . . dong . . . . . . . . . DONG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DONG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DONG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DOOOOOOOOONG.
But it was also useful, this afternoon’s ring. I’m finding my feet at the abbey. I hope.
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