Pictorial blethers

By blethers

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

Leonard Cohen's great song Anthem came to mind this morning, unhelpfully in the circumstances, as I was ringing the church bells for the first time in years, the rota ringer having gone, apparently, off to camp. It was unhelpful because after so many years I know the "song" of the bells off by heart - you can see the sequence of ropes written in rows behind them - and suddenly having another song on the brain almost put me off. And you would be amazed at how wrong it sounds if you play a bell out of sequence.

I took the photo when I'd finished because it suddenly struck me what a bizarre and Heath Robinson affair the ringing mechanism is these days. The frame, in which the ropes are plucked rather in the manner of a harp, is clearly very old, and clearly affected by its damp surroundings in the tower. There is a plate on the top telling us "John Warner and Sons Ltd, Bell founders to her majesty, Cripplegate, London". As Gladstone was in at the foundation of Holy Trinity (he donated some modest sum to get it started) I imagine "Her Majesty" as likely to be Victoria as Liz, though I could be mistaken. It certainly looks old enough. The ropes are, disconcertingly, of slightly different tensions, so that the bells sound unevenly if you're not careful, and every firm pluck at them sets the whole frame wobbling. There was a time - it happened to me twice, actually - when my ringing was interrupted by the screech of a pulley block running down its rope and quivering to a halt just in my hair; if I'd been an inch taller I'd have been brained.

The paper plan pinned behind the ropes was put there, I believe, by someone from the Inveraray Bell Ringers some time before we moved to Dunoon in 1974; the helpful light bulb clipped on the the precarious piece of wood is recent and would be rather better than a torch tucked into a coat fastening (I've done this) on a dark Christmas Eve. The bells hang in a chamber on the floor above this room; it is reached by a precarious ladder I've never climbed.

The next line of Anthem also seems appropriate. Forget your perfect offering: there is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in ...

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