Should you have been a reader of my regular ramblings for a while you will have gleaned that St.Cliff’s (my charge) is a church of a more traditional kind, boasting both a bell tower and the requisite bell-ringers. Whilst I understand that this time-honoured practice is not everyone’s cup of tea we at St.Cliff’s consider it to be one of the attributes which make this fair isle what it is. Which is why there was more than a little consternation in our midst when Mr Peabody (one of the aforementioned bell-ringers) had an unfortunate accident involving a faulty underarm deodorant spray which has left him unable to raise his right arm above his shoulder, an absolute must for any bell-ringer if they are to be in with half a chance of doing their stuff.
It has not helped matters that we had designated this coming Sunday as Roof A-peal Sunday (the humour being my contribution) with the opportunity to sponsor a peal. Not only that but we had also lined up the bishop to grace us with his presence (and hopefully a little something from his ample stipend towards our meagre tally) as well as a representative from our free newspaper.
That the local Methodist church recently had a whole half page given over to the refurbishment of their toilets was, I confess, a motivating factor in inviting the fellow to do a write-up on us.
Having secured his attendance (and the promise of much-needed publicity for St Cliff’s) the last thing I needed was to have to cancel the event, Mr Peabody or no.There was nothing for it but to place a lineage advertisement in World of Anglicanism for a ‘stand-in’ and hope (and pray) that Mr Clench our somewhat tight-fisted treasurer did not object to the invoice for £39.45 pence that was wending his way, second class. As luck would have it (or should I say God’s providence) it emerged that an experienced bell-ringer, a Mrs. Ivy Bellringer (of all the strange co-incidences) lived but 200 yards from St Cliff’s and one telephone call later (and the promise of a little something to ‘make it worth her while’) we were no longer a man (or should I say, a woman) down.
There was much jubilation when I broke the glad tidings to our bell-ringers that we were ‘back in the game’ and that a replacement for Mr Peabody was on her way to join them. Such were their resulting high spirits that they allowed themselves a moment of light-heartedness before the serious business of rehearsing for the big day.
In no time at all they were taking the Mickey out of each other and jovially pulling each other’s legs. All harmless fun, as far as I could see. While they went up to prepare for their practice I was asked to wait at the foot of the stairs and instructed to direct Mrs Bellringer to the bell tower on her arrival.
I will confess that when the lady finally arrived I was still a little heady from our mirth-making and, thinking that leg-pulling amongst the bell-ringing fraternity was the ‘in thing’, I proceeded to follow my instructions to the letter and to ‘send her up when she arrives’. Having a large nose and unusually prominent teeth I did not find it difficult to settle upon a steady flow of ideas as to how I could in fact ‘send her up’ as requested.
It was only after I drew breath following what I considered a to be particularly amusing and clever flow of Mickey-taking comments that the lady spun on her heels and stormed off at a rate of knots down the path. I soon discovered (to my cost) that I had laboured under a misapprehension regarding the kind of personal japery I had directed at her and that indeed bell-ringers employed no such leg-pulling custom whatsoever.
I fear that those immortal words penned by John Dunne might have been written personally for me. ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.’
Onward and upward