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Every time a bell rings an Angel gets his wings

In villages all over the world bells mark time.  They mark the hours, often the half hours and even the quarter hours through the day and sometimes throughout the night.  They call to prayer, they toll for the dead, they ring out joyously the news that two people are wed.  They sound their eccastic pleasure on Christmas morning and in France they are silent from Good Friday til they sound sonorously, building slowly, softly, increasingly exuberantly on Easter Sunday. After they have flown to Rome to be blessed and have dropped their goodies for the worthy on their flight home, of course.   Here in my village we have eight-til-late bells tolling out the hours and giving a single bong for the half hour.  I rather think I know their secret – shhh, don’t tell but … they are mechanised.  However a human person, possibly the Priest himself rings the bells for Mass.  He’s a dashing figure who wears his Catholic robes with a panache that the kings of couture would applaud on the catwalk.  He is also quite clearly tone deaf and devoid of any rhythmn.  A far cry from the rehearsed peels of my village church in England.  That was melodious this is frankly cacophonous.

Church bells to me are the soundtrack of ordinary life.  They mark out that rhythm that man has lived to for centuries.  It matters not whether you are part of the Church. It matters not, indeed whether you have any religious faith.  The bells provide the backdrop to life itself.

My birthday is at the end of September.  My youngest daughter came to stay for a week and wanted to take me for lunch.  Her treat.  This is a HUGE deal when the daughter in question is a student.  We drove to Brioude.  Its a town I have wanted to explore for a long while, just over the border in the Haute Loire (also part of the Auvergne Region).  We had very delicious lunch and then walked in the rather insistent mizzle that marked my birthday out from the WHOLE of the rest of the sunshiney month.  We heard the bells of the Basillica and we knew instantly from their sober tone that they were marking a funeral.  No-one needed to tell us to be quiet as we passed the building, the bells did it for us.  And somehow, those bells wrapped us for a moment in the huddled sadness of the group waiting to greet their loss for the last time.  Brought us to a halt, illicited respect.  Yes, bells are the soundtrack to ordinary life and that soundtrack is played in simple notes that mortals simply recognise and divine.

These bells are in Sainte-Anastasie in the Cezallier Cantallien.  They sit in a fine clocher-peigne which for non French speakers translates as a ‘bell comb’.  It describes perfectly the open structure that prettily suspends the bells rather using than a tower to house them.

DSCF4013PS:  Zuzu, George Bailey’s ‘little ginger snap’ is quoted in the title … at the end of the magic that is Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ squeezed tight by her daddy whose Guardian Angel (second class), Clarence has literally been his salvation she tells him this fact.   Her teacher told her so ….

Screenshot 2015-10-17 11.27.45

This piece was originally written two years ago, in response to The Daily Press weekly photo challenge (Extra)Ordinary – all other entries are here

55 Comments Post a comment
  1. Arby #

    I absolutely love the words, and the photo, so stunning and clear.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 16, 2015
    • Thank you Arby …. I’m not a photographer but sometimes it just works!

      Like

      October 17, 2015
  2. Wow what a wonderful post! I love the different bells and the meaning and when they are ringing! I never thought about it! How nice to have your youngest take you to lunch! Very lovely picture and post!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 16, 2015
    • She insisted I had dessert and then took me to the patisserie and bought dainty pastries for tea …. So precious, Lynz I’m delighted you enjoyed the post 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      October 17, 2015
      • I loved it and could hear the ringing. we live near a University and the bells ring randomly and it is lovely!

        Like

        October 17, 2015
  3. Lovely post. We don’t have bells where I live in the country, so that isn’t an experience I am familiar with, apart from films.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 16, 2015
    • We tend to want to live a more rural life and our house search is all about isolation but I must admit, the sound of bells is something I will miss. Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      October 17, 2015
  4. As far as I recall, English church bells are mounted to swing in a circle…so the sound is lifted up…while all the French church bells that I have seen just bong to and fro.

    In a previous house in France we could sit out in the evening and hear the bells from five surrounding parishes….I’m sure that they were mechanised, but there was just enough of an interval between for us to imagine a cassocked figure madly pedaling his bike along the country lanes from church to church.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 17, 2015
    • Now THAT is an image to cherish! And you are right about the difference in the way the bells move. I once harboured a desire to become a bell puller in England … I have no such desire here – even it might save a priests pedals 😉

      Like

      October 17, 2015
      • I used to be a campanologist! (Is there no limit to this woman’s skills? I hear you gasp in surprise!) I was 12 and had to stand on an orange box to reach the bellrope. I too was contemplating on old churches and bells on Saturday when I found myself sitting in our ancient church for the first time in the 30 years I’ve lived here. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by life and instead of coming straight home from my shopping I was drawn to turn in the opposite direction towards the church, where I spent an hour in quiet meditation. The bellringers practise every Friday evening, I hear the occasional clang and wince as I remember my own faux pas usually during ‘Plain Bob’ which we could never all get right at the same time!
        I love It’s a Wonderful Life and usually watch it at Christmas. Lovely piece. 💜

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • I am absolutely in awe of this fact. I would love to ring bells. It’s a Wonderful Life is my all time favourite movie … to me it has the greatest message of all to deliver and I will be found watching it on Christmas Eve without fail. So glad you enjoyed the piece and so glad you shared your moment’s meditation. Churches do have a particular peace but I suppose that is unsurprising 🌸

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
  5. My tabby ZuZu and I love the sounds of bells. Lovely piece. Clare

    Liked by 1 person

    October 17, 2015
    • ZuZu was the unwitting inspiration for the piece … I’ve had those words resounding in my head all week since discovering you and your kitties. Today I am fully swaddled at home (Saturday is NOT a good day to walk in new places lest The Bean or I get shot at by over-zealous hunters) and happily reading your blog, for which I thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      October 17, 2015
      • Yes, I’ve read your post about those hunters. Oh, and just this week another blogger, Russ, asked if I’d taken ZuZu’s name from “It’s a Wonderful Life” (his favorite movie, too) 3 votes this week for Wonderful Life. Holidays are coming! You’re welcome. Stay safe.

        Like

        October 17, 2015
  6. I never thought about the church bells other than they ring to announce services and weddings…hummm interesting…reminds me of the trains….they have different whistles depending on what they are doing…when we were traveling around the US I learned all the different sounds as l lay in bed listening to them through out the night..all different for crossing major roads to backing up, to here I come..and some were for how fast they were going….interesting…never thought about the church bells representing different events in the church….great post thanks…next time I hear a bell I will wonder whats going on….

    Liked by 1 person

    October 17, 2015
    • Two Brains tells me that in England at least if you hear an E flat sounded, it is a death. I love this story of the train whistles. So evocative!

      Like

      October 17, 2015
      • very interesting these bells…the only thing I hear is every noon a loud whistle goes off in the little town over from us to alert us to the fact it is noon time…LOL some of the churches in town play a recoding of bells clanging on Sundays… Sounds sad to me….like they can’t be bothered to ring the bell…when I was very young and we were sent to Sunday school they would ring the old bell…I loved it….

        Liked by 1 person

        October 17, 2015
      • Bring back the bells! I remember once being terribly naughty as a 5 year old at my first school the head mistress made three of us stay in at break. The other two were sent back outside and I was kept in. My heart sank to it’s lowest level and then the lovely lady handed me the bell to ring the end of lunchtime – it was big and brass with a turned wood handle and a leather strap. I could barely lift it but the sound it made will never leave me 🙂 Whistles are find though!!

        Like

        October 17, 2015
      • I love it….you being naughty….never!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 17, 2015
      • 😉 xx

        Like

        October 17, 2015
  7. I read this title and all the way through was thinking Jimmy Stewart and couldn’t understand why.
    I read the bottom and of course, It’s A Wonderful Life! The stalwart of any good christmas…!

    Liked by 2 people

    October 17, 2015
    • Watch it every single Christmas Eve without fail – have several different copies in various states of digital enhancement courtesy of my daughters and can honestly say that it is the ULTIMATE feel good factor even if it isn’t Christmas. Thanks for gracing me with a comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      October 17, 2015
      • Pleasure my dear and I too shall be indulging this C/E along with the Alistair Simm Scrooge….

        Liked by 1 person

        October 17, 2015
      • And Morecambe and Wise on Christmas Day I sincerely hope 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZedhoqYdfTM

        Like

        October 17, 2015
      • Bring me sunshine! The best. I have everything they have released so far on DVD. Love them!!!
        He’ll never sell any ice creams going at that speed…. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        October 17, 2015
      • 😉

        Like

        October 17, 2015
      • I do the same, Osyth – in fact I watch dozens of old Christmas movies throughout the entire month of December (always in black and white, never the ones where somebody rich decided that they knew better what the artists intended).

        There are a few Christmas films originally made in color that make my list as well, but never the remakes — any more than I would replace your gorgeous old bells and pretend my new ones were the same as long as they rang out the hours.

        Wonderful post – extremely worthy of a second life: evocative and uplifting. Loved the photos.

        Happy belated birthday!
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

        October 9, 2017
      • Thank you for birthday wishes … welcome any day in world of me!! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I came across it yesterday and just thought that Bernadette’s audience would ‘get it’. You have kindred film taste and rules, very clearly xx

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • I think you guessed absolutely correctly about the taste of the Salon. Love to read that you agree with my “rules” – lol. Since my first career was acting, I can get up on a pretty high horse about folks who mess with good films. I simply cannot help myself.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • Good job! The world needs more people who defend good films (and literature … I am uncomfortable about the trend for taking great literature and writing another book on the back of it like PD James ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ etc etc. I worked for The William Morris Agency (most directors and writers in my case but all in movies) so for different reasons I am just as ardent!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • Glad to hear that – good to know there are at least two of us. 🙂 William Morris, huh? I’ll bet THAT was an eye-opener.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • It certainly was. And it was the eighties …. remember Jerry McGuire? 😉 It taught me many things good, bad and downright ugly. But it was a fantastic opportunity and I do have a hatful of tales to tell 😆 xx

        Liked by 1 person

        October 11, 2017
  8. In our French village of choice, the (now pre-recorded) bells ring every hour with a “ting” at the half hour throughout the day and night.
    There is a particularly dramatic carillion at 8 am (get up you lazy b*****s) the a tuneful medley at 8 pm. High days and holidays attract extra variations
    We are quite used to it now, indeed when we are in the UK we struggle to sleep properly on out first night back because, as Trev says, we are “sans ting”

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2015
    • Sans ting – love it! We don’t ding, ting or bong after 10 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      October 18, 2015
  9. Wonderful thought provoking post. We actually flocked to Paris last year (I think, time flies) to hear the bells of Notre damn actually ring for the first time in 150 years (the original bells – Esmeralda)
    We have 4 clocks in our apartment and they all tell a different time – it is only the church bells ringing the half hour that tells me to get a move on or I will be late for work – never realised how much influence they actually have on the rhythm of my day………
    P.S. I stayed at a place in the Dordogne where they bing bonged every 15 minutes all the night!

    Like

    October 18, 2015
    • Oh wow! That must have been amazing … I love Notre Dame probably due to a teenaged addiction to Victor Hugo. The Bells, the bells – they are very influential indeed but I am certain I would rather they did not exert that influence quarter hourly 24/7!!

      Liked by 1 person

      October 19, 2015
  10. Bell comb, how lovely to learn that. Much prefer it to the tower. And as for cacophony – seems to be a fact of French life! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    October 22, 2015
  11. Wonderful post Osyth. Catching up on my reading as you can see. This reminds me of the bells outside our room in the youth hostel in Cortona: http://wp.me/p3gSod-sD Warmest wishes…A

    Liked by 1 person

    October 31, 2015
    • Thank you Andrew … I’m glad it brought back some happy memories and what a stunning view from the window framed by the tour a peigne!

      Liked by 1 person

      October 31, 2015
  12. The mizzle was the biggest gift. A birthday shower makes happy hour. Ok, just made that up. What a nice choice of words, when we do, and are, simply divine.

    Like

    November 7, 2015
  13. Beautiful capture of a slice of life. Lovely use of words, and of course, I love the pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    November 12, 2015
  14. I like it when the bells in my village ring out the Quarter Peal. I love the names of the peals, especially the one called ‘Old Bob’!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 9, 2017
    • When I first published this post a couple of years ago a follower explained the reason that British church bells are so much more melodic. It’s to do with stoppers, apparently. I’ve always rather fancied being a bell-ringer and I’m with you on the names of the peals – Old Bob’s a cracker!

      Liked by 1 person

      October 9, 2017
  15. Lovely thoughts about bells, and a beautiful photograph. I don’t hear bells where I live but in the city nearby there is a church that marks time with bells and I always stop to listen. It is like a mini-moment of meditation.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 9, 2017
    • Thanks you so much, that is a generous and kind comment and I am glad that you have opportunity for those lovely pauses when passing the church whose bells ring 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      October 9, 2017
  16. You had me hooked from the start Osyth with your post title. I am a big fan of bells as you now know, and your writing was such a beautiful tribute. The bells of Sainte Anastasie are quite stunning. God bless Clarence and “Its A Wonderful Life.”

    Liked by 1 person

    October 9, 2017
    • I think if I had to name one film hero it would be Clarence. I adore him. I do know you love bells and I am flattered that you enjoyed my little homage. I may do a follow up focussing on some of the churches here in Grenoble which are quite different in style but I do so love walking through Place Saint André when the Mass is ending or better still when it is a wedding Mass. It is so enriching!

      Liked by 1 person

      October 10, 2017
      • I would love to read another post on the bells of Grenoble. You bring everything to life. 🌼

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • Brigid, that is such a beautiful thing to say. You have made my day and made it a certainty that I must write about les cloches Grenoblois – I have exams this week (will let the wide wide world know what I have been up to if I pass!) and three posts in my head and a request to write about my experience of post partum depression and ante natal teaching which might be a bit of a departure from my normal so I would have to think about how to position it, and the bells. Hurrah – lots to do!!! 🌸

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • Good luck with those exams. Wondering what you are studying. I would also love to hear more about your experience of post partum depression. A family member had a very tough time with it 🌼

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • All shall be revealed … I’m a bit funny about talking about things before they happen. The post partum thing – it can be absolutely devastating as you clearly know from your family member and like so many illnesses there is nothing you can wear to ward it off. So I will write about it. The invitation has come from the most delightful Danish woman – so gentle and kind but very bright and switched on. She reminds me somewhat of you.

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017
      • Thank you. I look forward to the reveal. 🌼

        Liked by 1 person

        October 10, 2017

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