Further Complications of Abbey Ringing
The wedding at the abbey today finished only seven minutes late.* Shock.** I hadn’t even got my knitting out yet. I was busy worrying about parking for New Year’s Eve and applying to long-time abbey ringers for advice. I don’t fancy the long walk back to my usual edge-of-town car park at midnight-thirty; the centre-of-town one that casuistically calls itself the abbey car park and which has been full since the middle of November is unpredictably*** full the rest of the year too—and even that one requires an unpleasant saunter down a dark high-walled medieval alley† and an excellent opportunity to fall in an open and magnificently unlit water-channel if you are so inclined.
Now that I’m an actual branded member of the Forza band I’m eligible for a parking permit for the close . . . which has made me fall down laughing so hard that I keep forgetting to apply. Ulrich gave me the form today†† but even if they decide to overlook my foibles I’m not going to have it by Monday†††. Don’t worry about it, said the old guard in unison. Nobody’s going to be checking abbey parking permits at midnight on New Year’s Eve. So if I don’t post here on the 31st it’s because I’m walking home.‡
* * *
* Which means you hear it thundering through those vast spaces as you creep along your open gallery on the way to the tower. This is the down side of that fabulous angle on the choir queued up for their parade through the nave that you have coming down, since the usual service ring is before. If you’re ringing after something then you’re coming in while it’s going on^ and . . . you want to mind your manners, even if your big feet are out of your control. You trip over that danglefrabbing break in the stair tread^^ again and you bleed silently. No language. The initial thud and gasp will go unremarked: Forza is over fifteen hundred years old. Ghosts are inevitable.^^^
^ If the bride isn’t having brunch in Monaco first and got a little held up. Grrrr.
^^ It hasn’t been mended in six hundred years because Saint Inexorabla narrowly missed being martyred there by tripping over it with her big feet and the ninja archer’s shot whistled through where her head should have been. She was passing as Dom Inexorable, of course. This was a monastery. She was a monk. History does not record what she had done to rouse someone to sufficient exasperation to hire a ninja to deal with her, nor what a ninja was doing wandering around the back woods of Hampshire in the 1400s and hiring out to kill annoying monks. The story does say that he laid his bow down forever that day and entered the monastery as a novice and that he and Inexorable later became good friends.
^^^ Including, according to some authorities, Inexorable and the ex-ninja, Dom Goro, having a passionate dispute about a tricky point of theology.
** Fortunately my shock was not so great that I embarrassed myself on the end of a bell rope any more than usual. We were not a particularly good band, which meant call changes and plain hunt, since the usual rule is that you want as many bells going as you have pairs of hands for, so your worst ringer sets the standard. But there were twenty-nine of us, which meant twenty-eight ringers and a stand-out, and Scary Man stood out to call the call changes. Having your conductor standing out works extremely well in that airplane hangar because with umpty-mumble bells going you cannot HEAR a THING but a generalised roar, certainly not some puny little human voice screaming: SIXTEEN TO FOUR!, THIRTY-THREE TO FIFTY-SEVEN!^ and instead he wanders around the circle standing in front of his chosen victim and screaming directly at them.^^ The only thing that went horribly wrong with the call changes is that I’d moved too slowly when he called us to fill in and all the front bells were taken so I ended up dead centre on the fourteen^^^. To make the shouting easier Scary Man tends to break call changes into the front and back halves . . . and put me on the lead forever. I HATE LEADING WHEN IT MATTERS. Leading ruthlessly exposes your rhythmic shortcomings, of which I have many. I stood there trying not to twitch, which is one of those things that makes you ring unevenly, and telling myself that if I were doing it too badly he’d get me off the lead even if it messed up his pattern. Arrrgh.
^ For those of you who know how call changes work, yes, then he has to move briskly to shout at the other person affected, who may or may not have figured it out for themselves.
^^ Did I say twenty-eight bells?
^^^ And most of the front thirteen and Scary Man instantly said, ARE YOU ALL RIGHT THERE? and started offering me alternative ropes, and I derived some backbone from somewhere and said that I was fine. The middle bells of twenty-eight are not heavy and frelling totally within my capabilities if I weren’t so frelling prone to PAAAAAANIC, especially at the frelling abbey.
*** Weirdly unpredictably. I think there must be secret global conferences going on underground in the catacombs or something. I never knew Forza had catacombs^, but then . . . they’re secret. And any number of those gnarly little medieval doors could lead to crypts and grottos recently refitted with cutting-edge multi-media, infinitely twiddle-able indirect lighting, and coffee makers that look like a bad day on the FARSCAPE set. And frog graveyards.
^ Except for frogs. Especially lately.
† With very irregular paving stones.
†† It’s forty-seven pages long and demands your genealogy back to 1066 and the name of your sixth-form sportsmistress, and the vehicle you are wishing permission to possess its being briefly within the shadow of the abbey must present a clean and well-cared-for appearance as will not frighten any passing deans or deacons or ghosts of monks. Maybe I should buy another motorcycle. There’s less to keep tidy.
††† Especially because I forgot to put it through the office door on my way out today.
‡ Too Much Information Update: The hellterror has been crapping her tiny brains out, the last two days. Every time she sees me waving her lead^ in a meaningful manner she leaps to her feet and says, Oooh! Are we going outside? I’m so excited, that means I can crap again! No, no, I’m not going to stop with a mere pee, I am definitely going to have another CRAP! It’s such fun!
^ Her inferior substitute back up lead because in the excitement of getting indoors and having lunch after all on Thursday I managed to leave her good one behind. Georgiana says she’ll bring it back the next time she comes through, which is most weekends. I hope this doesn’t turn into a Georgiana’s Champagne Stopper situation however: she sent the rest of the bottle home with Peter on his birthday. The champagne was finished off in a punctilious manner and the stopper . . . remained sitting on the table when Georgiana stopped for tea here last Sunday and had a nice little ride in the bottom of my knapsack on Thursday.
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