With only a few weeks to go until the King’s coronation, volunteers are still being sought to “Ring for the King”. Here’s why I’m glad to be a bell ringer.
In our digital age, church bells may no longer serve as news media, alerting locals to births, marriages, deaths – I learned of the Queen’s death on my DAB radio as I typed at my PC – but they still have the power to unite the nation.
Last September, ringing to mark the death of the monarch and the proclamation of the new one was a moving act of community and patriotism. It will be an honour to ring for the coronation in May.
The reasons I took up bell ringing have nothing to do with royalty…
Before I was born, my great-grandfather was a highly accomplished ringer, and I’d always wanted to learn in his honour.
In my teens, reading Dorothy L Sayers’ mystery novel The Nine Tailors, set around the bell tower of an East Anglian fenland village church, informed and intrigued me about the practice. A few years ago, when my parish church acquired a new ring of eight bells, I determined to try my hand at last.
Like most newcomers, I assumed bell ringing to be a simple process. I thought pulling a rope to elicit the desired effect would be like using the chain to flush an overhead toilet cistern.
I know now it’s a far subtler art. Learning to control a bell takes many hours of training, before you even start trying to ring in complex patterns as part of a band. And yes, band is the right word, because church bells are musical instruments.
Perseverance pays off. Bell ringing is sociable and entertaining. It improves mental and physical agility, balance, muscle endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Whenever a fellow ringer arrives at a practice night complaining of backache, the rhythmic, gentle stretching involved in ringing a bell for an hour or so enables them at the end of the session to skip down the spiral stairs, pain-free. As a hobby, it costs nothing, and you don’t need special kit.
Why join a gym when you can be in a bell ringing band?
But be warned: if you take up bell ringing to Ring for the King, you’ll likely find yourself hooked long after 6th May. Bell ringing is for life, not just for coronations, which is just as well, considering coronations don’t happen very often. We’re unlikely to have to wait another 70 years for the next one, but our Royal Family has form on longevity, which is good news all round. You should have plenty of time to perfect your bell ringing technique for the next one.
This post was originally written for the Tetbury Advertiser‘s April 2023 edition.
LIKE TO GIVE BELL RINGING A TRY?
Then come along to the next Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival event at St Mary’s Hawkesbury on Saturday 22nd April, where Tower Captain Colin Dixon will give a talk on the language of bells. The bells will be ringing to mark this special occasion, and the bell tower will be open for tours and taster sessions.Visit www.hulitfest.com for more information, or book via Eventbrite here:
IN OTHER NEWS
I’m pleased to report a very successful launch of the new charity anthology, The Little Shop of Murders, for which I wrote a new, exclusive Sophie Sayers Cozy Mystery short story, set around a community library in a red telephone kiosk.
It has been riding high in the Amazon Kindle charts, the #1 Bestseller in various categories including Fiction Anthologies, which is great news for the three charities to whom all profits are going!
The book is also available in a beautiful glossy paperback, which I’m seen clutching here in the phone box library in Horton, the next village to mine.
For more information about this lovely joint venture with 14 other mystery writers, plus details of the three children’s charities that it’s supporting, read my pre-launch post here: