Ground floor ringing
CHEEZUM FRELLING ARRGH HOW I HATE GROUND FLOOR RINGS. If East Persnickety had been a ground floor ring, I would never have started to learn to ring the first time—well no, I would probably have survived the first weeks of handling lessons and groping my way through rounds, because there’s that early rush when you’re learning anything new where it’s all cool. And then little wisps of reality start getting up your nose and making you sneeze. My first Sunday service at a ground floor ring I would have taken one look at the AUDIENCE and run away.* If New Arcadia had been a ground floor ring I wouldn’t have tried to learn to ring again. If the (frelling) abbey were a ground floor ring I would be learning crochet sooner than anticipated because I had so much more time since I stopped ringing.
It does vary from tower to tower. Glaciation is a ground floor ring, as is Triggilum, but they’re each in a little nub off the back end of their respective churches, with doors between the ringers and the congregation. But this is still not really enough of a variation, because ground floor ringing chambers with doors tend also to be where the choir puts its robes on and the tea ladies make the tea, both of which occupations require a lot of bustling and flapping, which IS SERIOUSLY UNSAFE AROUND LIVE BELL ROPES, let alone live bell rope pullers.** Colin, who never loses his rag about anything, and who likes to put on being cranky occasionally to amuse the assembled at bell practise, has been known to be positively uncivil to people carrying trays bearing tall tea urns and tottering piles of cups through the rope circle while having jolly conversations over their shoulders with their colleagues similarly burdened. ARRRRRRRGH. The Glaciation ringing chamber is, at least, a reasonable size. At Triggilum, as I know to my cost in grey hair and stomach lining integrity, when someone comes barging through the doors, there isn’t ROOM for them to do anything but BLUNDER INTO A RINGER. And furthermore the bells at Triggilum, heavy, elderly, on plain bearings and rarely rung, are mean.
Anyway. I got a phone-call from Felicity early this week asking if I could ring a wedding at Crabbiton on Saturday. I ring at Crabbiton practises often enough*** that the tower feels familiar, and while I’m certainly aware that it’s a ground floor ring I don’t really think about it.
It was a popular wedding—daughter, indeed, of the ex-tower-captain. The church was totally packed out. I came in by the little secret door tucked into the side of the church and debouching into the ringing circle. AND THERE WERE ALL THESE PEOPLE. AAAAAAAAAUGH.
Furthermore, of course the ceremony was running late, so, having reeled back with a muffled scream of dismay, I returned outdoors to cower trembling† in a corner of the churchyard and knit frantically while I got more and more anxious about the trial to come. Now, I admit, this particular ground floor ring, while open to the rest of the church, is at least at the back. They’re not all STARING AT YOU. Except they are, of course, because we start to ring as soon as the joyful couple have begun progressing toward the exit, and most of the crowd are more than happy to stay for the floor show while they wait for the bottleneck at the door to ease. Bell ringing does look fairly peculiar, so some of the people idly watching will find themselves getting intrigued and will then amble toward the ringers.†† Then they start getting their cameras out.†††
And the worst of it is . . . over the phone to Felicity yesterday when she rang to confirm, I absent-mindedly let her talk me into ringing for the harvest festival tomorrow.‡ And I thought we were the floor show today. Tomorrow will be much, much worse.
* * *
* I wonder if the invitation to that first traumatic official service ring is delayed in ground floor towers for fear of just this reaction?
** Although I’m sure I’ve told you about Most Harrowing Ground Floor Ring Experience when I was ringing another of these frelling weddings at a church where for REASONS THAT REMAIN UTTERLY OPAQUE the circle of ropes was in the crossing, you know where the short arm of the church crosses the long arm of the church? And we were ringing both before and after the service. So you’re standing there RINGING while people are streaming through the rope circle, with the ropes flying, the way ropes will do, especially as this was (to add insult to injury) a long draught situation^, AND THEN SOME MUM CAME MOSEYING THROUGH WITH HER BABY IN A PUSHCHAIR.
Nobody died. But I’m still having nightmares.^^
^ Which just means the ropes are unusually long and the ceiling is unusually far away. The belfry is probably at least one more floor above that first ceiling, but rope-draught is usually counted from the hands of the ringers to the first rope-holes. Most long-draught towers have rope guides, which are extra little holes for the ropes to go through in some kind of structure below the too-far-away ceiling. But not all of them. Twitchy ringers like me REALLY HATE long-draught towers with no rope guides and long-draught ropes are common in ground floor rings on account of the basics of church architecture, which is another reason to hate ground floor rings. But a long draught ground floor rope circle in the church crossing . . .
^^ There was also a church I rang at on an outing once. I don’t remember where it was and I never want to go back there. And it was empty, it was just us ringers-on-an-outing. But the circle of ropes was up on the fripplehagging dais behind the altar. Whose appalling idea of a joke was that? Whoever it was, they really hated bell ringers. There is no way in glory that I would ring service standing behind the altar IN DIRECT LINE OF SIGHT OF THE ENTIRE CONGREGATION. One wants to believe that most of them are reading their Bibles or composing themselves for (or after) the service BUT EVEN SO.
*** Including last Wednesday, when Wild Robert had one of his monthly manias there. There were six of us for the six bells. And we rang Cambridge pretty well all evening. One and a half of us knew what we were doing. I knew maybe a quarter of what I was doing, as measured by whether I can hold my line against . . . the other three and a quarter of us going wrong. It was an interesting evening.
† Also . . . it’s cold. It’s, you know, autumn.
†† At Crabbiton, at least, there’s a come-no-farther rope that Felicity snaps across the front of the circle, so they can’t come frolic among us, with or without tea urns. Or, in the case of wedding parties, dangerous headgear.
††† Also, I have no sense. I like bright colours. Today I am wearing purple and turquoise. All I was thinking, when I was thinking about the fact that Crabbiton is a ground floor ring, is that I don’t want to be wearing jeans that I’ve just been pulling out uncooperative^ frelling plants in. Felicity was a member of the wedding party, so she at least was seriously dressed up. The other four—including Wild Robert in black—were all demure to near-invisibility. And then there was me. In purple and turquoise. Bright turquoise. Feh. I’ll show in the frelling photos. Who is that woman with her face all screwed up like she’s being tortured?
^ Uncooperative = dead
‡ The basic problem is that I believe that BELLS EXIST TO BE RUNG. If there’s an event where there should be rung bells, the bells should ring. So I’m kind of a patsy for people trolling around for one-off events.
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