January 3, 2014

New Year’s Eve on the street and in the bell tower, continued


Since SP teams are a minimum of three, we were going to have to meet up before I peeled* off to my second commitment.**  We gathered at the massive great front of Forza and discovered . . . that the door into the close was locked.  The door to the bell tower is off the close.  Oh.  Hmm.

I tried it two or three times, the way you do, feeling a fool.  It went on being locked.  Emphatically.  I don’t know that Forza’s big outside doors are original—since the first abbey was knocked down by William the Conqueror so his bishops could put up something new and flashy, I doubt it.  But they’re built to look like they were salvaged when the rest of the old abbey went under the wrecking ball equivalent in the late eleventh century and rehung in the new build for that quaint traditional look.  You kind of expect ‘Aethelstan was here’ to be carved into the lintel.

I noticed a group of bellringers striding purposefully toward us.  Er, I said, the door’s locked.  We know, said Conall.  So are all the other doors.


I think most of the other SPs were trying not to fall into fits of helpless giggles.  Eventually there was a rumour that the farthest-away and most inconvenient close door was still open, so five SPs went one way and I hared off after the other bellringers, struggling out of my coat and hat as I went.  Sic.  We’re not supposed to wear our SP gear, flamboyantly logo’d as it is, anywhere or any time under any conditions but when we’re on the beat with our team being Street Pastors.  I knew this, and when the possibility had first come up of ringing and pastoring I’d remembered that I was going to have to have something to drape over my coat, but I’ve been so focussed both on Peter and on the fact that I had not to focus on Peter while I was SPing***, that this little detail had kind of dropped out.  Fortunately it was not raining.  I turned my coat inside out and . . . it’s a big heavy bulky furry thing, bless it, and it didn’t want to turn inside out and there was no question of my putting it back on that way, so I stumbled along carrying a small Navy-blue polar bear cub in my arms.

The rumour was true and we got in through the Strait of Gibraltar gate, picking up hangers-on as we went, since on New Year’s Eve traditionally a lot of people with more sense the rest of the year† struggle up all those stairs to watch us ring in the new year.

We attempted, with mixed results, to scamper up all those stairs.  All.  Those.  Stairs.  I haven’t been up them in a while and they’ve got longer again.  And then our first hasty pull-off was somewhat marred by the fact that my bell was frelling locked and wouldn’t.††  Meanwhile more and more people were coming up to watch us so we stood around whistling little tunes with our hands in our pockets pretending that this is all part of the New Year’s Eve tradition while someone belted up that last flight of stairs to the belfry and unlocked my bell.

We did finally ring.  And I thought about how sad I’d feel if I were out on the street listening instead of in the bell tower trying to tell myself that I haven’t forgotten everything, and mere rounds on eighty-six or four hundred and twelve bells is no big deal even if you do have to hold up and wait about ten minutes before it’s your turn again while everyone else rings—especially those last few bells which range in size and weight from Thomas the Tank Engine through nuclear submarine to aircraft carrier.  Bong.  The mayor was there.  The bishop was there.  The Folies Bergere were there.  No no I made that up.  Although they might have been.  It was a frelling crush.  And I’ve told you before the ringing chamber is the size of a ballroom.  Two ballrooms.

It was a real crush going back down those stairs again.  Anorexic Chihuahuas have been known to have claustrophobia on that final staircase.  I’d tried to blitz for the head of the queue and I almost made it.  But immediately ahead of me were a family consisting of a tall gentleman in a very long coat whose tails trailed up the stairs behind him a remarkably long way, and ahead of him two frelling women who . . . really I have no idea what they were doing, barring whining.  Look, you can SEE what the stairs are like, if you are helpless screaming cows, why didn’t you change your minds and go to a nice ground-level party somewhere?  Oh, right, you don’t have minds.  I am not joking that the rest of us were standing at the top for a good two or three minutes while Barbie and Midge totally failed to negotiate that admittedly challenging last flight of stairs. And I was failing to channel the Holy Spirit about this situation.  FAILING.  FAAAAAAAILING.†††

Spilled out onto the street at last.  Pelted for the one open door out of the close to attempt to rejoin my team before it was time to go home and . . .

The one open door was shut and locked.  Noooooooooooo.‡


* * *

* Pealed.  Ha ha ha.

** Maxine^ kept saying, It is so cool that you are doing both.^^

^ Three of the four of us SPs from St Margaret’s were on the job last night.+  Are we the superbest or what.

+ And Eleanor was at home feeling guilty.

^^ I think I told you there was some administrative stress about this initially, but our overall team leader was fine with it, so I got to do my double act.

*** Also that I had to have suitable-for-sharing food to bring for the break.  I have my priorities.

† So far as I know theoretically anyone can come watch us any time we’re ringing.  But any time but New Year’s Eve you have to ask a ringer first.  And possibly hire a Sherpa.

†† When you’ve got eighty-seven bells you don’t want to haul them up and down^ every time you want to ring, especially when the biggest half-dozen of them weigh in total almost as much as the Isle of Wight.  Forza has a fancy locking system that bolts the bells in place, mouth up, ready for ringing.  But you do have to unbolt them.

^ Ringing up and down:  bells are normally left mouth down because it’s safer.  Therefore to do method ringing you have to drag each bell by pulling on the rope so it swings higher and higher till it’s ready to stand upright mouth up on its beam.  At which point you’re ready for full-circle ringing.

††† I am still failing.  In the first place, why didn’t they wait and let the rest of us get out first?  In the second place, there is a perfectly good tiny cul de sac at the bottom of that first stair:  having held us all up for probably five minutes total while they minced and tittuped and whatever the galflibbet, why didn’t they draw aside at that point—I’ll let them off the profuse apologizing—and let the rest of us by THEN?  But noooooooo.  They waddled^ on down.  And it’s not like Mr Coat-tails didn’t know there was a press of numbers behind him:  he looked over his shoulder several times.  Maybe he mistook me for a Street Pastor and thought that I was channelling the Holy Spirit at him.  These are not Holy Spirit vibes, honey.

^ This is not a weightist remark.  I know plenty of people whose doctors wish they were thinner who are neat and nippy on their feet.  Both these bimbos were, in fact, slim and slight.

‡‡ I didn’t mean for it to run to three.  Well, I didn’t mean for it to run more than one post, last night.  This is sort of the KES/PEGASUS New Year’s Eve post.


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