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