Bell ringing in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 14:19 14 January 2016 | UPDATED: 14:19 14 January 2016
Novice bell ringer John McMinn explains the pains and pleasures of bell ringing in a village
Is there a finer sound on a lazy summer weekend afternoon than that of distant church bells drifting across the verdant green fields of our fine county, evoking an Englishness which is fast disappearing in the overwhelming face of modernity. A timeless sound that wells up and fills the hearer with a warm patriotic feeling. Well yeah there is, and that’s when it’s me doing it.
You see I have recently been inaugurated into the Yoxford Battalion as a junior trainee campanologist. No, this is not an “ology” in camp as many have cruelly suggested, but the noble art of church bell ringing. I thought, in my naivety, that it was going to be relatively easy to learn. After all how hard could it be to tug a long rope with a bell attached, but I have now realised that it is in fact a much more complex skill that involves more than pulling for England, for an hour or so, on a bouncing rope.
Unfortunately, you can’t learn quietly in a room on your own until you are ready to perform. Every mistake is heard by the whole village while they are sitting down in front of the telly watching Coronation Street, or some other soporific nonsense designed to discourage the masses from fomenting revolution against our ruling masters.
Normally when I want to sing or practise a piece of music I do it privately, locked in a room by myself until the moment of revelation when I can perform my perfected piece for all the world to hear. In my fertile imagination this will, of course, be followed by endless applause, flowers thrown at the stage, and the opportunity to turn down a knighthood. Not so with church bells.
Meet someone in the village after our practise and they will say something to the effect of, “I heard you bell ringing last night. It takes a long time to learn doesn’t it?” On the face of it this appears to be a thoughtful and supportive comment. But of course it isn’t. It is really a nice way of saying that it sounded appalling and was responsible for the person concerned spilling their cocoa down their nightie while grabbing the anti maccassa from the sofa to block their ears on a Thursday evening.
Nevertheless we apprentices will soldier on undaunted, grabbing our sallies and checking our bells for all we are worth until we have mastered our new found skill. There is a plan for us to ring our first simple peal for the Queen’s 90th birthday in April next year. I don’t personally feel any need to do anything for Mrs Mountbatten Windsor’s birthday, 90 or otherwise, but when one lives deep in Royalist territory one has to keep one’s revolutionary fervour beneath the radar, awaiting the call to rise up and crush our Norman rulers. So I will keep practising and tugging my bell rope week after week ... just to keep the enemy guessing.