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[personal profile] katsmeat
Norwich is currently running a heritage week. Which amounts to the public getting let in to see old things that they don't normally. A fairly sizable chunk of the city centre consists of 17th and 18th century buildings stuck on top of medieval cellars and undercrofts. So an awful lot of outwardly dull shops have interesting, hidden nooks and crannys normally only seen by the minimum-wage, pimply-faced teens that work there.

Today I dropped in to look at the bell-ringing chamber in the church of St Peter Mancroft, and got a reasonably interesting talk on the bell ringing that has been going on there since the 17th century. I also had a bash at ringing one of the smaller bells. This is, BTW, damnably hard work and makes the fact they ring the bells continuously for four hour peals quite impressive. In 1734, they rang the bells for 8 hours, in an event still known as the "Bloody Peal" because of the state of the ropes when they finished. You'll be unamazed to learn that 18th and 19th century ringers had a reputation for being complete piss-heads who were always having rows with the church vicars. The vicars needed somebody to ring their bells, but often disliked the ringers' frequent lack of respectability. If the traditions had been kept up, I would have expected the modern crop to have a bit less of the "middle-aged, middle class" about them and a smidgen more or the "biker-gang".

I am now tempted with the idea of taking up bell ringing. This is odd as music making is something that normally creeps me slightly. Perhaps it's because I'm from a 100% non-musical family and avoided it as much as possible in school, but to me playing music carries an air of alien unknowableness. Sheet-music looks incomprehensible and hence slightly sinister; "eldrich" is a good word.

But of course, change ringing isn't music; it's pulling ropes in a complicated, mathematical sequence, so that's OK. Plus, you're technically playing an instrument that's 300 years old, weighs two tons, and could (in theory) kill you if it all goes go badly wrong. That seems to offer certain indefinable things that a banjo or a piccolo simply can't.

I will consider the matter, as I feel reluctant to start something new unless I know there's a sporting chance I can commit to it (the unused climbing shoes in the bottom of my wardrobe are still an embarrassment to me).
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June 2012

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