Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Sail Away

Apparently, it's been the longest heatwave this summer since 1976. It's currently a lot like Rwanda, only extremely humid, which makes it a little less pleasant, but still nice. I haven't had to do much acclimatising, except to the light nights, which still freak me out a little bit.

Despite the heat, there was an incident of water damage at our local sailing club. Mum and Merrick are key-holders and open up for events. They got an emergency call when a pipe burst and brought down half the ceiling!


The sailing club bears didn't look too concerned.


My nephew, Damian, does a lot of sailing. He turns sixteen this year, which is fairly incredible. He was thirteen last time I saw him. It's amazing to catch up and find out how his life's going. He's turned into a really interesting, clever young man. It was a real pleasure to spend time with him.

Did a lot more clothes shopping with mum. Every time we go out we seem to find something nice to eat. This time it was a sandwich shop inside a place that only sells magazines. Floor to ceiling - every magazine you could think of. I didn't know there were that many magazines in the world. Had to eat frozen yogurt to get over the shock.

Went home via Lidl and I openly wept when I saw the pesto. 99p for a large jar of green pesto. It costs about a fiver in Kigali for half the amount, and I haven't seen it in months. Tempted to take an entire suitcase home.

Consoled myself with a large glass of Courvoisier, and endless fun with the crystalware.

Also spent some time down the local church, helping to ring the bells up for a funeral. Someone in the village died in a car accident recently. He was very well liked and it was very unexpected, so there was a huge memorial service. I didn't go to it as I was visiting my brother in Leicester, but I was there in the morning to make sure the bells were ready for the team coming to ring them later - which included my mother.

Church Spire from the Outside
The Leper's Window
Reputedly where people with leprosy would stand to watch the service from outside.

Organist Preparing

Before ringing the bells up, I took a little peek into the belfry. The bells have all been refurbished, thanks to mum and Merrick's efforts to raise the money. Should mean people can keep on ringing them for a few more years to come. It involved climbing up some extremely narrow, windy steps.

On the first floor you can see a room where the bell ropes are guided up the tower in wooden casings, to stop them smacking about. The bells were originally cast in 1847. The church is currently dedicated to St Etheldreda, but was originally dedicated to St. Wilfred, which is interesting because, although everyone knows Merrick by that name, his first name is Wilfred, and he's the tower captain.

Then it's through a narrow hatch into the bell chamber.


Church Spire from the Inside

The bells would probably have hung higher up originally, by the windows, but were lowered to help reduce the noise.

We headed back downstairs to ring the bells up ahead of the service. In the pictures above, the bells are resting down, with their clappers pointing towards the ground. When the bells are up, they rest upside down against a wooden bar called a stay, with their clappers pointing towards the sky. This means that when the ringers come, they just have to pull the rope once and the bell will swing fully, creating a clear sound. When bells are resting up, they are quite dangerous. If you accidentally get caught in the rope, the weight of the bell could pull you up and smack you against the ceiling. When I was a kid, we used to delight in flying about the bell tower like Peter Pan on the ropes, but if you didn't know they were up and you tried that, it could potentially kill you. Many people don't realise how the bells work, they think you just pull the rope and it makes a sound, but it's a bit more complicated than that. 

If the bells are up and there's nobody in the tower, we tie them together in the centre of the room with church pews on either side and a notice warning people.

As we were leaving the church, Merrick spotted a poem on the font that had been written by the man who died. It was a good one, so I hope - wherever he is now - he won't mind me sharing.


Sunflowers, like people, stand up and
look over fences,
drop their faces against the wind,
drive artists insane.

Big yellow suns,
the compact core shimmering,
the fire-tongued petals.
No surprise if sunflowers walked,
a natural movement for their fluid stems,
the gesturing leaves.

But these bodies of fire
burn themselves out,
like a spent man bent and withered,
pathetic victims of their own fierce glory,
the ages of man,
the sunflower story. 

- Nigel Townsend

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