Sunday, 21 September 2014

The bells

I think I must have been living in parallel universes for some time.  The other day I asked my brother when his daughter-in-law's baby is due, only to be told she isn't pregnant.  Yet I'm sure he told me she is!  And that's but the one example of what I mean.

And was I in that other universe or did I really read  - about 10 days ago - that a judge (or whoever) refused to order a village church to silence its clock during the night?  I hope I did actually read it because I get so hot under the collar when I learn of people buying their dream house in a small village, only to complain that the church clock strikes every hour or that they are woken by the crowing of a cock in a nearby garden.  It always seems to me rather like somebody buying a house next door to a school - and then complaining that the children make a noise at play time!  Why is it, I wonder, that the local official who decides what noise is acceptable so often decides in favour of the newcomer, despite the fact that the church clock has been striking the hour every day for hundreds of years and nobody else is or ever has been bothered by it?

When we are in France, I delight in hearing the various clocks chiming the hours - and some of them even quarters.  The church in the village has a clock which sounds the hours and we can just about hear it when we are in the courtyard.  In the nearest town there are two clocks, one in the church tower and one in the medieval gate.  Both strike the hours, but they are not quite in synch, the medieval gate only starting when the church has finished chiming.  It always amuses me to hear that.  (I know - I'm easily amused.)

I've told the story before about one of the houses we were shown over when we were hunting for our elusive French hideaway, but what the heck . . .

Just a few minutes later we were in the square of the next village along the road, in the middle of a crowd of people dressed up as if for a wedding, which indeed proved to be the case. It seemed easier to accept the carnation buttonhole than to explain we were not there for the wedding but only to view a house. Why is it that one Frenchman or Frenchwoman alone can be quiet and charming, but when two or three dozen are gathered together they sound like a flock of starlings at dusk? By the time we had fought our way through to the door of the house, the volume of their conversations had increased to match that of Wembley Stadium on Cup Final day. Things got even more out of hand when a procession of cars swept round the corner, each driver trying to sound his horn louder and longer than the one before him. I was approached by a trio of femmes formidables, all billowy and blowsy like ships of the line under full canvas. From the glint in their eyes I got the distinct impression that they were intent on revenge for the Battle of Trafalgar. Disengaging myself with some difficulty, I followed Monsieur Moran (the estate agent) and Mrs S into the house as the bride descended from her limousine.

Did I call it a house? It was more like a rabbit warren, a delightful hotchpotch of rooms running off at all sorts of crazy levels. There was at least one room halfway up each flight of stairs. Stairs led down into a cellar which led on to a second with exits to both the garden and the kitchen. Somehow, the kitchen, which seemed to be on the same level as the rest of the ground floor, was also on the same level as the second cellar, despite the fact that we had descended stairs to reach that.

One thing it didn't have was a bathroom although in typical French fashion there was a shower installed on the landing. That problem could be solved quite easily, we realised, by converting the third bedroom or by utilising one of the rooms leading off the stairs. On the other hand, if a latter-day Bridget Bardot or Sophia Loren came to stay with us . . .

Smiling inwardly, I went with the others to inspect the garden. This was, or rather could have been, a delight. Walled on all three sides, it had two mature pear trees and would be a magnificent sun trap. The well, fortunately, was in a shed which could be padlocked for safety. Mrs S has a passion for gardening, and it was difficult to restrain her from getting down on her knees to start sorting out the borders.

Going back indoors we admired the new double-glazed windows in the living room. The house stood in a very pleasant position at one corner of the village square, the front windows giving onto the square, dominated by the large church just to one side, and looking across to the bar on the opposite corner. From the side windows we looked across the lane straight into a farmyard complete with ducks wandering about. We had reluctantly decided that both house and garden were too large for us, despite the knockdown price, when a major disadvantage confirmed our decision by revealing itself. The wedding service in the church had just finished, and as the bride and groom arrived at the church door the bells started. Two minutes of that and I knew just how Quasimodo must have felt in the tower of Notre Dame. I shuddered to think of the peace and quiet of lazy Sunday mornings being so rudely shattered, especially those mornings after good nights at the bar.

Monsieur Moran seemed very philosophical when we told him we would think about it over the weekend and let him know. He had obviously heard that before, although others had doubtless expressed it more elegantly than my French would allow.


Mike @ A Bit About Britain said...

Nice post. I'm totally with you on the subject of bells. Our village church is a mere stroll away and we love the sound of the bells, even the odd crazy campanologist!

Sarah said...

Beautiful post BP with a real story telling feel about it. I wanted to peek into all those rooms leading off the stairs.

I love church bells, my Grandfather was a bell ringer and sometimes used to take my up into the belfry (reached by some very rickety stairs leading up the outside of the church) we lived a little distance from the church but close enough to hear the bells each time they rang but I'm not sure I'd want them ringing right outside my house.