Return to the Abbey
It’s September* and normal life attempts to return after the excesses of the summer.** One of the first manifestations of what in my life now passes for normal is . . . beginning ringing Sunday afternoon service at the abbey again, after the August break.
As I was toiling up the 1,000,000,000,000 steps† to the ringing chamber I was thinking drearily about my options. There are two big problems with the abbey: the first is that it’s the abbey and the second is that because it’s the abbey practise keeps getting cancelled because they’re ringing a multi-somethinged quadruple peal of blah, or there’s a frelling concert, or the Grand High Panjandrum of Jurglefretz is visiting and for some reason wants silence. And at that rate I never am going to learn to ring on eight, let alone ten, twelve or forty-two because I am OLD and a slow learner. I need more frelling time on a frelling rope. I will continue to ring Mondays with Colin because Colin is a darling and has a friendly welcoming band, but Glaciation only has six bells, and we don’t often have a band capable of triples on the eight-bell South Desuetude nights. And my experiments with ringing occasionally at New Arcadia again have not been totally successful. . . . ††
A nice woman I’ve only seen a few times at the abbey, but Gemma likes her†††, was there this afternoon and we fell into conversation over my knitting. It turns out she rings at Fustian, which is the gold standard in this area and I wouldn’t go to a practise there at gunpoint.‡ Indeed as soon as she said ‘Fustian’ I prepared either to genuflect (tricky while holding knitting needles, especially if you’re me) or to cease at once my impertinence in speaking to her . . . but she said that they had BEGINNERS PRACTISE two extra evenings a month, they ring lots of Grandsire triples, I don’t have to be a member of Fustian‡‡, I can just show up. YAAAAAAY. I admit that Fustian is farther than I want to drive regularly, but I can probably manage two practises a month. . . .
Wild Robert was also there, and a good thing too, since he kept dragging me back from the brink with the Grandsire triples.‡‡‡ He broke his collarbone coming off his bike about three weeks ago, and is ringing one-handed . . . but that has never bothered him. They rang touches of high-level fancy stuff with him round the front on the lighter bells. We finished with plain hunt caters—plain hunt on nine bells and the tenor behind. This was, sadly, for my benefit: it meant all ten pairs of available hands were pulling on ropes, and the only thing I can ring on ten is . . . plain frelling hunt. SIIIIIIIGH. We were ringing on the back ten, so even the two, where I was, while a perfectly nice friendly bell, was not a teacup with a tinfoil clapper.
Wild Robert rang the tenor. The nineteen-ton Forza Abbey tenor. With one hand.
He did acknowledge afterward that he probably would not want to turn it in with only one hand (ie ring a method where the tenor is not just ringing last every row but has to move around with the other bells). Even frelling so.
But possibly even more insane . . . we left together, and I was asking him about the accident and so on—I was afraid he’d got clipped by a jerkface in an SUV or similar, but he says not—and he said, quarter peal week is coming up. You should ring a quarter of Cambridge minor.
I should what? I can barely get through a plain course, and that’s only if the rest of the band knows what it’s doing really well. I have never rung a touch. Suggesting I ring a quarter is like saying, oh, you and the hellhounds should enter the Iditarod. You should yarnbomb the Forth Bridge.§ Wild Robert, in classic Wild-Robert manner, said, no, no, by the end of a quarter you’ll know everything about Cambridge minor. Well, yes, supposing I survived to the end of a quarter, which is about as likely as . . . my ringing the Forza Abbey tenor to anything. Or winning the Iditarod.
We parted with me rather dazedly agreeing to learning what happens when a call is made—what I, on my bell rope, would have to make my bell do. But this quarter isn’t going to happen. It’s too good an example of Wild Robert manifesting as . . . er . . . Wild Robert for me to pass up mentioning it here—and as far as that goes if it gets me a forty-five minute grind of Cambridge with a band that knows what it’s doing, it’ll be worth it to me. But a quarter peal? It’s a lot likelier that SHADOWS will outsell LOTS OF SHADES OF WHATSIT.
* * *
* AAAAAAUGH. IT CAN’T BE SEPTEMBER. IT CAN’T BE SEPTEMBER.
** Erm . . . we did have summer, didn’t we? I distinctly remember^ complaining about the heat for . . . at least forty eight hours. I got into shorts at least twice. Probably just as well it wasn’t more often, since I was bitten on the back of my left knee by something that really didn’t like me and the mark is still there. It’s no bigger than a medium-sized grapefruit and is fading from bright red to dull purple but it’s not in any hurry. If I led a life that involved skirts I would be buying extra pairs of 1,000,000 denier^^ black tights.
^ Well . . . ‘distinctly’ is stretching it. I don’t waste valuable (crumbly) brain space distinctly remembering much of anything, except maybe where the nearest bar of G&B chocolate is. I haven’t got room. I have too many stories to find shelving for. And bell patterns, of course.
*** Speaking of AAAAAAAAAAUGH.
There were only six of us to begin with so we rang Grandsire doubles which even I can ring at the frelling abbey, and even when we’re on one of the middle sixes^ so we’re standing in a queue for pity’s sake there’s no ‘ringing circle’ about it. But then more people showed up and we rang Grandsire triples and . . . oh gods oh gods oh gods. Albert, bless his pointed little head and his ridiculously sweet temper, said to me on leaving, and managed to sound hopeful, See you at practice on Wednesday?
Yes. I’m afraid so. I may be doomed, but so is the abbey. At least till they throw me out.
^ Ie of bells. The controversy rages on about whether method bell ringing is ‘music’ or not, but method-ringing bells are tuned to the standard western scales, so if you want your methods to sound nice to western ears abbey ringers need to choose a run of bells out of the thirty-six or eighty-nine available that will sound like a coherent and harmonic group.
† There are more of them than were in July. I counted.
††† Although this is not a reliable standard because Gemma is much nicer than I am.
‡ Okay . . . yes, I’d go at gunpoint. But I wouldn’t ring anything.
‡‡‡ I should really really really stick to knitting.^
^ I don’t want to.
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