It’s RAINING. Why is it RAINING? I know, I know, it’s the frelling jet stream, it’s not streaming, it’s settled down in its deck chair with its Pimm’s* and isn’t going anywhere. But for the last three days the national weather report has declared that all the rain is in Ireland and up north. THEN WHY IS IT RAINING HERE? Hampshire is about as south as you can get, unless you want go down to the edge and fall in the Solent.** It will remain dry in the south, says the radio. It will not remain dry in the south. It hasn’t been dry in the south in about two months. It rains EVERY DAY. Sometimes it rains more and sometimes it rains less, but it rains. I am expecting to wake up some morning and discover that the hellhounds and I have turned mossy green overnight. Getting laundry to dry . . . eh. Even with the Aga on*** you can just about feel water droplets forming on your face if you walk in the bathroom after I’ve hung a load of laundry on the overhead airer. Airer. Ha. The fogger. The moister. It’s kind of interesting, in a depressing sort of way, what’s happening in the garden, which I haven’t got out to do any work in . . . probably about two months. There’s the stuff that says YAAAAAAY RAAAAAAIN WE LOOOOOOVE RAIN and is growing six or eighteen times its normal size. And there’s the stuff that’s drowning. But trying to make my work-for-pay schedule align with the whimsy of the heavens, so I could get out and do some weeding and some rescuing, is not on: plus if there’s a break in the downpour I probably need to try to hurtle hellhounds. Hellhounds are not at all good natured and cooperative about getting wet and clearly feel that something should be done about the frequency with which this undesirable occurrence is foisted upon them. I couldn’t agree more. I’m just a little at a loss about how to implement it.
I certainly failed today. We drove out to Warm Upford (in the fantastically reliable Wolfgang) for some different soggy landscape. I had just been listening to a weather report saying dry in the south as I parked under a tree and it started raining. Arrrrgh. We hurtled anyway. I wasn’t going to waste the drive, and it was indeed a different soggy landscape. However one of those moments of Utmost Humiliation occurred.† We were stopped under another tree while I was texting to Niall about how I wasn’t going to accept his almost irresistible offer to ring handbells with his fancy Wednesday group tonight when there was an unexpected opening, which doesn’t happen very often . . . because I am not going to blow off abbey practise till I RING BETTER and also they’ve accepted their fate and made me a member††. There was some urgency involved since it was only about eight hours hence and, as Niall knows, Pooka hangs around my neck pretty much 24/7.
But as I was texting, standing under a tree out in the middle of nowhere in the beautiful Hampshire countryside with two wet cranky hellhounds and the rain trickling down my glasses, a runner went past us. A serious runner, clearly, from his tall skinny frame to that lope that only long distance runners have to the spandex running gear which was absolutely devoid of any little rectangular pockets containing mobile phones. And as he sped past us he gave me exactly the look of contempt I have given other slaves to technology on similar occasions.
* * *
* Humans don’t like Pimm’s and deck chairs in the teeming rain. We’re funny that way.
** Which you would hardly notice. Oh yes, you’d say. This is very heavy rain. We’ve had a lot of it lately.
*** And why wouldn’t it be on when the ambient temperature tends to hang out in the fifties? (That’s the low teens somewhere in Celsius.) July you say? Maybe it’s not the jet stream, maybe some of the eastern Australia winter got lost and fetched up here?^
^ And has joined the jet stream with the deck chairs and the Pimm’s+. They’ve discovered they’re twin souls and now we’ll never get rid of them.
+ You all know your Pimm’s, yes? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pimm’s It’s one of these fabulously English things that I as a lifelong Anglophile# have always known.##
# Yes, lifelong. It has survived emigrating here which is pretty robust of it. Real life is a kick in the teeth to most misty ideals. Hey, England is still the only country with lots of change-ringing bell towers. Even if this somewhat begs the question about how/why I learnt to ring in the first place. A silly-with-it Anglophile who moves to an area of this country whose local chapter of the ringers’ guild runs to dozens of towers~ (even if not all of them are managing to maintain either a band or the ringability of their bells, sigh)? I was doomed.~~
~ Tonight at the abbey went reasonably well. I got through my de rigueur touch of Grandsire Triples better than sometimes which is to say that I held my line when other people were losing theirs. Arrgh. Scary Man was not there tonight so some of us peons were revolting. Gemma stood her bell after successfully ringing an unaffected touch of Stedman Triples and said to me, wouldn’t you like to give it a shot? Oh, go on. And I said, no, no, I haven’t been asked. Gemma, while a proper member and booming up through the ranks with speed and panache, is still a lower-level ringer, but at this point Linnet joined us, found out what we were talking about, said to me, would you like to? And I said I would love a shot at Stedman Triples here, so Linnet, who is an upper-level ringer said, I’ll have a word with Albert. Who did his slightly-stunned look and said okay. I had a minder, and I didn’t do it perfectly, but I did it and I clearly can do it. Even at the abbey.
I’m also sure that my rather startlingly successful evening at New Arcadia last Friday was an aid to progress. The abbey is not an easy tower. I was talking to one of the other upper-level people—one of the ones who can actually turn in the monster abbey tenor, which is to say ring it as part of a method rather than just bonging behind—and he said that one more thing about ringing there is that all the bells are more or less odd struck, which gets increasingly interesting the more and the bigger bells there are.
Although speaking of turning in the tenor—we had a visitor tonight. This modest young slip of a lad who looks like he spends his spare time helping little old ladies cross the street. And who belongs to one of these elite ringing groups so occult we revolting peons aren’t allowed to know its name, let alone its secret handshake. They rang Cambridge major for him to have the opportunity to turn in our tenor. I am pleased to report that while he did it admirably he had the decency to have to work at it a bit, and to look a little overheated by the end.
However I am even more pleased to report that our tower captain, trolling for bodies, asked me if I’d ring for the Olympic opening ceremony they’re laying on Friday week. Gemma and I were discussing the pros and cons of going to the pub (we went) when he strolled up and asked ‘if either of you ladies was available’. I think this counts as being asked. I proudly wrote my initials on the chalkboard.
~~ Have I ever told you the story of the weekend I spent in Hampshire with that fascinatingly peculiar writer Peter Dickinson and his wife? Peter’s first wife was already ill at that point but Peter and his elder son took me sightseeing, which included footpaths, thatched roofs, flint-and-brick architecture, beech trees, oak trees, cider, Morris men and change ringing. I suspect this is another of those how many times have I told you . . . oh well.
##Not that I’m one of its supporters, mind. Single malt Scotch, yes. Pimm’s, no. Previous generations’ alcopops. Feh.
† No, not being caught having a pee in the hedgerow. This has already happened.
†† If they ever do. Sigh. But see previous footnote about being asked to ring.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.