Monday, 8 December 2014

Ringing the Changes



Anyone who has ever read and enjoyed Dorothy L. Sayers' famous detective novel The Nine Tailors is likely to be intrigued by campanology, and I'm certainly no exception. After her first few novels, Sayers set about testing the boundaries of the crime genre,and The Nine Tailors integrates plot, setting and theme with considerable subtlety. She was very good on background description, and ahead of her time in this respect, because the background is not superfluous, but relevant to the storyline.

I re-read the book when I was working on The Golden Age of Murder, and was impressed all over again with Sayers' skill. It really is a shame that she only wrote a couple of detective novels after that before turning her attention elsewhere. Had she maintained her zest for the form (and for writing about true crime) she would have left an even more remarkable legacy. Incidentally, I recently read the text of a talk by Professor B.J. Rahn about The Nine Tailors, and when it is published in due course, it will represent a worthy addition to scholarship concerning Sayers's splendid book. Speaking of which, if all goes to plan, I'll be discussing the subject of writing about the genre on this blog both tomorrow and on  Wednesday.

Despite Sayers having fired my interest, I have never actually tried my hand at bell-ringing -not until Saturday, that is. A visit to Cheadle Hulme, and Kate Ellis and her husband Roger was arranged to coincide with the local Victorian day. Our own village of Lymm has had a Dickensian Day in December for many years, and it's a very good way for a community to come together in the run-up to Christmas.

Now Kate and Roger are very experienced and accomplished bell-ringers, and they spent some time demonstrating the knack of bell-ringing to visitors, whilst attired suitably in Victorian dress. Of course, I had to have a go myself. Very enjoyable, too. As in so many areas of life, I didn't quite match up to Lord Peter Wimsey's instinctive prowess, but it is fascinating to hear the bells ring as one pulls on the rope. And I managed to avoid strangling myself with the rope, which apparently is an occupational hazard....

4 comments:

John said...

Saw the post title and thought it was about Aickman again. Sounds like you had fun. I just hope you didn't awaken any dead things. :^)

seana graham said...

That looks like fun. Yes, I do remember being fascinated by the bellringers in Sayer's story, although I only saw the television version.

Oddly enough, I was on a church tour myself yesterday, this one in my own town. The Episcopalian Church has reached the ripe old age of 150, which I know is nothing in your part of the world, but pretty impressive in California, especially given earthquakes and fires. Anyway, there was no bell tower, but there is one solid old bell that sits outside on the roof, and one member of our tour was absolutely thrilled to be given the privilege of ringing it thrice. There's just something about bells, I guess.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi John, there were a couple of ghosts and a horde of zombies, but I just presumed they were just Manchester United fans! :)

Martin Edwards said...

Seana, yes, there is definitely something about bells. I have a GA book waiting to be read called THE BELL IS ANSWERED and I'm tempted to push it up the TBR list...