Cacophony at Cobweb Castle

Linda Nurden and bellsMOST churches have bats in their belfry. Ours has Mrs Nurden.

She is pretty good at peeling potatoes so is perfect for her newfound hobby of bell-ringing.

She tells me it has been a childhood dream to yank at ropes but instead of joining the navy she has enrolled in the dark arts of campanology after spotting an advert in the corner shop appealing for new blood.

Every Friday night she disappears into the ancient stone tower of Minster Abbey to ring the changes.

It can be pretty dangerous stuff, hence the reference to blood. The other night she returned home with a rope burn as if she had just gone ten rounds in the ring with a wrestler.

Then one of her colleagues ended up with whiplash injuries after a rogue rope let fly and almost took her eye out.

I had no idea bell-ringing could be such fun.

It all culminated on Sunday when Mrs Nurden was rewarded with her first paying gig – a wedding.

There was tension in Cobweb Castle as the nerves began to bite.

This was her big moment. She did not want to drop a clanger.

I asked if she was going to wear a new hat. She always does at weddings. But she looked at me as if I was an idiot. This is, of course, the normal look she reserves for me.

However, she did ask if I would like to listen so I sauntered into the churchyard.

Guests arriving for the wedding must have thought I was some kind of new pervert as I shuffled uneasily, filming the top of the church tower with my video camera while wearing a sinister black anorak to keep out the cold.

Alas, it was a bit of a cacophony. Mrs Nurden was in charge of bell three which weighed in at five hundredweight. I am not sure what that is in new money but at 31 inches in diameter I am guessing it can give you a bit of a headache if it falls on your bonce.

For those who need to know these things, it was made in 1663 by William Hatch.

I gather the operator of bell four came in too early which led to some interesting harmonies wafting out over the sunk-kissed Isle of Sheppey.

Mrs Nurden, now sporting some enormous biceps, thought it was all her fault and is undergoing extensive trauma therapy in the form of more rehearsals before her next outing.

Until recently I had never thought about the people who ring bells. They are certainly a dedicated lot.

Mrs Nurden has even brought home literature on the subject including The Ringers’ Handbook and The New Ringers’ Book. Both are full of strange tables which are apparently code for what bell to ring when.

They talk of Bob Minimus and Stedman and Grandsire Doubles, harking back to Fabian Stedman’s Tintinnolgia of 1668. Me? I think I’ll stick to TV.

Did I ever tell you my favourite programme was The Clangers?

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