Ringing Out the Old, Ringing in the New


Church bells. School bells. Sleigh bells. Cow bells. Dinner bells and bicycle bells.

Poe captured their variety and vibrancy perfectly: that tintinnabulation that rang and clanged through a different, non-digital world. Generations were introduced to onomatopoeia through his rollicking, unforgettable verse:

Hear the sledges with the bells,
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars, that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Sadly, even as our world grows increasingly cacophonous, bells are less and less a part of its clamor. Sleigh bells ring, but if you want to listen, you’d best be off to a living history farm. The teacher with her handbell is gone, as are those insistent playground bells calling free-roaming children to class.

While the Swiss battle over belling their cows, most people know the cowbell only as the punchline of a classic Saturday Night Live skit.  As for ringing a bell to call the family to dinner, the practice seems unbearably old-fashioned: perhaps even incomprehensible. Today, the call to dinner — if it’s made at all — is likely to be texted.

Even church bells and their associated traditions have been affected by modern life. London’s famous Bow Bells, sounding from the tower of Christopher Wren’s beautifully designed church of St Mary-le-Bow, have defined what it means to be Cockney for centuries; only those born within the sound of the bells can claim the designation.

Today, fewer of these “true Londoners” are being born, thanks to noise pollution. In 1851, noise levels in the capital were similar to those of today’s British countryside, but as London street and aviation noise increases, the area in which the pealing bells can be heard has decreased.

bowbellsCoverage of the Bow Bells’ sound in the past (green) and now (blue)

Around 150 years ago the bells could be heard in Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, and parts of Camden and Waltham Forest. Today, they’re heard only in a small area in the City and Shoreditch.

On the road from London to Lewes, mileage may be calculated from the church door of St Mary-le-Bow, and mileposts marked with cast-iron bows and bells, but her bells no longer are heard in Southwark, let alone Lewes. It’s a wonder, given their marvelous, musical clanging.

The bells of St Mary-le-Bow, captured in video by the son of a man who helped to install them in 1961 after the post-WWII rebuilding of the church

That slightly chaotic sound of St Mary-le-Bow’s bells is an example of “the peculiarly English art” of change-ringing. By the late 16th century:

A way of hanging church bells had been found which enabled ringers to control the speed at which they rang, making it possible to change the order in which the bells sounded.
As the 17th century progressed, some ringers began to further develop the range of changes which could be rung. [Fabian] Stedman was one of them. The son of a Herefordshire clergyman, he was apprenticed to a printer in London, where he became an active ringer.
In 1668 his professional and personal interests combined when he published the anonymous Tintinnalogia, or the Art of Ringing (attributed to ‘a lover of that art’), the first book on change-ringing.

Stedman’s “principle on five bells,” printed for the first time in Campanalogia (1677), continues to be rung today. Here are the Stedman Cinques being rung on twelve bells at St Mary-le-Bow.

Writing for the Simons Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing research in basic science and mathmatics, George Hart describes change ringing from a different perspective:

 The art or “exercise” of change ringing is a kind of mathematical team sport dating from the 1600s. It originated in England but now is found all over the world. A band of ringers plays long sequences of permutations on a set of peal bells. Understanding the patterns so they can be played quickly from memory is an exact mental exercise which takes months for ringers to perfect. 
Composers of new sequences must understand the combinatorics of permutations, the physical constraints of heavy bells, and the long history of the art and its specialized vocabulary. Change ringing is a little-known but surprisingly rich and beautiful acoustical application of mathematics.

This Simons Foundation video provides a clear and interesting explanation of the relationship of math and music in change ringing.

 Members of the Washington, D.C. Ringing Society ringing a long touch of Grandsire Caters.

Change ringing isn’t reserved for holidays or special occasions, but it is a wonderful way to ring out the old and ring in the new. At Eckington Church, Derbyshire, different patterns are rung before and after midnight: a discernible and delightful change in tone. The tolling of the single bell at midnight is especially effective — and you can hear the fireworks from the surrounding countryside.

It’s highly likely that Alfred, Lord Tennyson heard the bells of Waltham Abbey on some New Year’s Eve, and that he was influenced by their sound. In his elegiac poem, “In Memoriam A.H.H.,” written for his closest friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, who died at twenty-two, the section known as Ring Out Wild Bells beautifully captures the experience of standing between old and new:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Like Tennyson, we often find ourselves caught in the tension between old and new, and that tension can seem particularly sharp at the threshold of a new year. Some experience the year’s turning as a season for reflection on the past; others face the future with a flurry of resolutions. Most, I suspect, do both.

Here at The Task at Hand, the time for ringing out the old and ringing in the new has come. While my blog will continue — for a ninth year! — I’ll be changing its theme and format on New Year’s Day. I’ve hesitated for some time about making the change, since my current legacy theme, once given up, can’t be reclaimed. But the time is right, and move on I will: letting go of the past, and embracing the new.

During the transition, there surely will be some chaos and clanging as I experiment with fonts, colors, formatting, and new pages. But in the end, I hope the changes I ring here will be as pleasing to you as I imagine they will be for me. It is, after all, a new year, and as my dear T.S. Eliot says, “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

Happy New Year to you all!

Comments always are welcome.

150 thoughts on “Ringing Out the Old, Ringing in the New

  1. If your new blog is as well-designed as your posts, it will be brilliant!

    I enjoyed a fun chuckle ( resita-thanks Steve!) and thought about Mississippi State University and its cowbell tradition.. Hearing that syrupy Southern ‘Accent on this video made me chuckle again!

    Happy New Year, dear Linda!

    1. I was puzzled about the meaning of “resita.” When I tried to find a translation, I kept getting returns for Tagalog or Romanian.Then, the light bulb turned on, and I took a look at the Spanish translation of “chuckle.” Ah, ha! More fun with words!

      That video’s quite something. My favorite line? “Some families pass down jewelry. We pass down cowbells.” I’ve not known much about Mississippi State, even though I had a blog friend in Starkville — she went to games, but never mentioned cowbells. And yes, that accent is syrupy, sweet, and worth cherishing. It always makes me smile.

      For some reason, the cowbells and the accent make me think of another Mississippi institution: Jill Connor Browne, founder of the Sweet Potato Queens. You have to know them, but if you don’t, here’s a great piece from “Mississippi Roads”. Even if you do know her story, the piece is worth watching. What an antidote to some of the uptight foolishness abroad in the land! When I got done watching this time, I found myself thinking, “Third weekend in March, huh?”

      Whatever the new year brings, I hope it includes some fun for us all. We could use it, no?

      1. Ha, yes, there were lots of lines that made me chuckle in that video – all so very southern! Thanks for the link to the ‘Sweet Potato Queen..’ with the crowd here in Mindo, interent is very slow, so I’ll watch it, maybe tonight when the city folks have returned to Quito!

        The Youtube link-page opened, and there are many more interviews, and I suspect that I won’t stop with just one interview. I had also forgotten about “Mississippi Roads..” Wow, that’s been around for a long time!!!!

        Happy New Year, dear Linda! Yes, we definitely want an extra serving of fun for this year!

  2. I would love to hear bells everyday. In town there are some churches that still ring bells at noon, and I’m also amazed when I see an old school or church still with a bell.
    So looking forward to seeing your new format!! You have a wonderful blog!
    Wishing you a blessed 2017

    1. I just checked my photos, and sure enough: the Volland schoolhouse still has a bell. Some others, like Lower Fox Creek, might, but with the enclosed towers I can’t tell from my photos.

      Many of the old Iowa one-room schools didn’t have large bells. Instead, the teachers would stand on the front steps with a hand bell. I suppose the thought was that if children weren’t within earshot when the handbell was rung, they weren’t coming anyway, and a big bell wouldn’t make any difference.

      I’m looking forward to this new year. I hope it’s a peaceful one for us all, and a good one for your and yours. All my best, and a special hello to Wylie.

  3. I miss church bells. The new modern churches that surround me have none. One Sunday many years ago, while wandering around Durham, England, the cathedral bells began to ring, drawing me up the hill where the ancient church stood. I walked in with no intention of staying. The next thing I knew I was greeted and seated and the service started.

    1. That’s an amusing thought: cathedral bells as a means of entrapment. There certainly are worse things in the world. I heard my first change ringing in England, although I didn’t know the phrase “change ringing” at the time, and had no idea about its history. I didn’t realize that all that noise actually had a structure, either.

      Even though I lived inside the Houston loop for some years, and was very close, I didn’t realize that St. Paul’s Methodist, Palmer Episcopal, and St. Thomas Episcopal all have eight-bell towers and active change ringing groups. It would be fun to visit one of them and hear the bells live.

    1. The beauty of ringing bells is the same the world around, it seems. Whether it’s change ringing at a great cathedral, or a single bell marking the hours from a parish church steeple, they bring beauty to the world. I hope your 2017 is filled with beauty, both for you and for Bob.

  4. I generally look forward to a new year. It’s a chance to wash away the mistakes and miseries and come out of the gate fresh and determined to make it a better year. This is one year that I’m not feeling that. It’s not the effect of aging…because until I die I will get older…

    Earth is nothing more or less than a living thing and therefore subject to illness and declines as other living things; there is only so much earth can endure. This is a beautiful dream of bells ringing for peace, happiness and all things familial. We must not leave it to others. We must ring them at home and everywhere we go.


    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    1. You and Leonard Cohen are in agreement, I think. The lyrics to his song “Anthem” say, “Ring the bells that still can ring,” and that sounds much like your suggestion that we shouldn’t leave the ringing to others. Even if we only have a cow bell, or a jingle bell, or an apparently terminally cracked bell, we still can play our part.

      I do love that passage you quoted. It never fails to inspire. I think it’s the realism that gets to me, and the self-acceptance. “That which we are, we are” is, for me, the best phrase of all. It’s a good verse for the New Year, so thanks for adding it.

      It’s hard to believe it’s 2017, but so it is. I hope it’s a good year for you.

  5. Yes – it’s a much noisier place, this world, even than it was when we were kids. Or a few decades ago. In the early 70’s I chose a day to record, in writing, every sound I heard. I lived at the time in the suburbs and commuted that day to school in NYC, where my friends caught wind of what I was doing in my little notebook and tried to trip me up with peculiar, hard to describe noises. But even so, it was basically a doable task. I was exhausted by the end of the day,but I had a small book of sounds. I couldn’t do that today. Impossible.

    Bells…I love them. These change ringing videos are probably too chaotic for my taste, but if I were there in person, standing far enough away, I’d love it, I think. We bought a sweet bell from the Himalayas (no, I wasn’t there, damn, from a store!) with a mellow tone. Got to hang it up and listen!
    Wonderful Poe poem.
    It will be fun to see the new format! Why not?
    Glad to see 2016 go, though it wasn’t without its glories. But with that…guy…in charge here, 2017 could get very scary. We’ll see, but at least we’ll start with a fresh task at hand. ;-)

    1. What an interesting project — to record all of the sounds you heard. Right now, I hear keys clicking, fireworks exploding, a cat yowling for attention, a refrigerator humming, a siren in the distance, traffic from across the lake, and some unhappy nightbirds who wish the fireworks would stop. How you could possibly record all the sounds in a day, I don’t know. Even a minute’s worth of listening and recording requires some energy. No wonder you were exhausted.

      Change ringing does sound chaotic, but once I understood the underlying process, it seemed less so. As a matter of fact, when I stopped to really listen to the first video of the Bow Bells, it seemed to me that the pattern is the same as in the second video: the Stedman Cinques. I imagine change ringers can listen to patterns and identify them easily.

      I toyed with using your theme, since it works so beautifully for photos. If that were all I were doing, I might well have chosen it. But I stayed with a design similar to this one: double columned, although with a menu on top. It has the advantage of adding 225 px width for images, as well as being designed for mobile devices. And it has a white background, which I like. There’s a lot of work ahead, retagging, recategorizing, and generally cleaning up the archives, but I think it will be fun. We’ll see!

      The happiest of new years to you. What it will bring, I don’t think anyone can predict at this point. We’ll just have to live our way into the future, and see what it holds. However, finger-crossing is allowed.

  6. Great post, Linda! I am fortunate to be able to hear the bells ring at our local church, which resound through the village. A most beautiful, enchanting sound. Best wishes for 2017!

    1. You’re one of the lucky ones, Pete. I wish now that I’d understood more about the bells when I was in England, but I enjoyed them thoroughly, and the memories linger. Even here we’ve moved into 2017 — I hope this new year is filled with beauty and creativity for you.

  7. Well, Linda. You’ve done it again. I sat down with the intention of completing some task once I finished your post. As it has been many times before, your post got me distracted and searching for some additional information. This one on change ringing did it, too. I didn’t complete the original task.

    I found some articles to understand more about the ringing process and the music pattern. As a physicist, the mass and rotational dynamics of the large bells got my attention. Here is a nice video from the U of Chicago I liked and want to share. https://youtu.be/khc-iA0FZEY

    Looking forward to your new format. I will be watching.

    Thanks for the rich content, thoughtful comments, and friendship you offer.


    1. I liked the U of Chicago video, too. It was interesting to hear what brought different people to change ringing. One thing I’ve noticed in every video showing ringers is the mix of people. I think the toddler in this video is a little young to participate, but the time will come.

      Your mention of the rotational dynamics of the bells reminded me how surprised I was to learn that, at the beginning of a ring, the bells are facing upward. The process of getting them into that position is known as ringing up the bell. At the end, the process is reversed and the bell is rung down.

      I’d thought the math involved would interest you, but the physics of it all hadn’t occurred to me. I’m glad it intrigued you enough to send you looking for other articles.

      Discovering the order underlying apparent chaos always is intriguing, whether it’s change ringing patterns or the movement of stars and planets. From that perspective, the first line of Tennyson’s poem says more than he might have imagined: “Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky…”

      Here’s to another year of exploration and enjoyment, Jim. Funny, how those two things so often go together.

  8. Linda, I got a chuckle out of your first commentor’s Miss. State cowbell video. As an Ole Miss Rebel, we *hated* the sound of those deafening cowbells!!

    Our church bells here still ring. I imagine it’s more technologically advanced than in the past, but ring they do. It’s a great way to pause three times a day and be grateful for something.

    Looking forward to seeing your changes — you do an outstanding job here, and I can’t fathom how you’re going to make improvements, but my bet’s on you!

    Happy New Year to you, my friend!

    1. When Lisa mentioned Mississippi State, I had to take a minute to sort out the schools. I finally figured out that you’re the Old Miss fan, and probably none too fond of those bells.

      I know that some bells are recorded and “broadcast” rather than being rung, these days. When I stayed at Presidio La Bahia, their bells struck every quarter hour, but there wasn’t someone doing the ringing. And, in deference to the neighbors, they stopped at 10 p.m., and didn’t start again until morning. Whether they ring the actual bell for special occasions, I don’t know, but when I visited the mission across the road, I was able to actually ring that historic bell. But you only can ring it once — they don’t want the tourists wearing out the rope.

      As for the blog, the changes won’t affect the actual layout so much, but I think it will be a cleaner look, and it will allow for larger images. There are some other things that will be useful down the road, like a menu bar at the top. We’ll see. Once I make the switch, I’ll play with it a bit to get it “just right.” The previews are fine, but there are some things that can’t be done until a theme goes live.

      There’s nothing like a new project for a new year — here’s to success and satisfaction for you as you work on your own new projects!

  9. I got a thrill watching that first video and listening to the bells as they went round and round in glorious rhythm. Over the last ten years since becoming Orthodox, bells and their messages have become very meaningful to me, as we ring them before, during, and after services. My parish has a set of seven, which are played something like this at the end of a joyous liturgical celebration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ81u73nZOo but you have to get past 2 minutes into this video before the man starts ringing.

    This one is faster to the point and reminds me of our parish’s most athletic bell-ringer, who is also a drummer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_wkAl53-zs

    I had no idea about the permutations in English bell-ringing! Once I read a Peter Wimsey novel just to learn something about bells but even that was over my head.

    An alternative for Orthodox liturgical music is the Toaca or Semantron like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVaRuewjqoo

    I won’t be hearing any of these bells until Jan 1, when they are played not to ring in the New Year (it not being a liturgical feast day), but for St. Basil’s Day!

    One of the sweetest experiences I had of church chimes, not bells, was at a little Lutheran Church in the middle of orange groves, where they have automated recorded chimes on the hour, and it’s generally so quiet out there, the reminder of the church is impressive. I wonder how many miles away you can hear them… http://zionterrabella.org/

    Happy New Year! May the bells of hope be ringing in your heart.

    1. Every one of those videos was fascinating — thank you for adding them. The first two reminded me of the sound of carillons. I wonder if that method of playing bells came first, and then the carrillon? One of the predictable pleasures of being on the UC Berkeley campus always was the sound of the carillon. (The other was the scent of eucalyptus.)

      I think the recording of the semantron must show a competition. It seems clear who won, and received the medal. I’d never seen that instrument, either, and when I looked it up, I discovered that another word for it is xylon (ξύλον). That, I recognized. When I played my multi-colored xylophone in kindergarten, I knew nothing of etymology, but now I see that “xylon” means forest: the source of the wood for both instruments.

      Your mention of the little church with its chimes brought to mind Millet’s painting, “The Angelus”. There’s nothing more lovely, or more compelling, than reminders of a larger world floating across the landscape.

      Happy New Year to you, GJ. And, for your Christmas, here’s a little gift: one of the most beautiful Christmas songs I know. I used it here a few years ago, and listen to it often. Enjoy!

      1. That is a lovely Christmas song – I wasn’t familiar with it. But the production of it reminds me very much of a Greek Easter song that I have watched on video so many times – I will send it to you at Easter, which this year is the same day East and West!
        Your mention of the Cal campus and carillon and the eucalyptus all took my thoughts down other scenic mental roads….
        Thank you, Linda!

    1. I remember hearing his name on your blog. As for the changes here — I hope I’m happy with them. It’s hard to know, until the deed is done. But now I’m committed, aren’t I? The most amusing aspect of the change is that, by the end of January 1, I will have already kept one of my New Year’s resolutions, and be ready to take on the second!

  10. I grew up hearing church bells from four churches nearby. It took 40 years for someone to complain and the bells to stop. At the lake where I spent my summers my mom had a school house bell that could be heard from quite far. It was how many moms called us in for lunch and dinner.

    I was fascinated by the cow bell controversy.

    1. From what I gathered, the conclusions drawn about the cow bells were deemed questionable because of the bells they’d used: especially large and heavy ones that were for “dress” rather than for “working.” Since a bit of time has passed, it would be interesting to see how the story’s developed.

      The only complaints I remember hearing about in my home town came when one of the churches started broadcasting hymns from their tower. Granted, they were recorded from a carillon, but they were loud, and went for about fifteen minutes. People who were happy to have ringing bells in their lives weren’t so enthused about that, and I can’t say I blame them: especially those who lived practically next door.

      I have a friend in the hill country who has a large bell on a frame out in her garden. Her husband had a woodshop down the hill, and she’d ring that bell to call him for meals. It was big enough and loud enough that he could hear it above his table saws and sanders.

  11. A happy New year to you, Linda.
    While the ringing of bells do evoke memories of years gone by, all is not lost here in Bowral Australia, where I live. At least one church still ring bells each Sunday at Mass or at funerals.
    With loudspeakers it can become a noise issue. We spent some time on the Indonesian island of Lombok. The amplified call to prayer started at 4AM and would repeat itself another five times during the day. The sound would carry for many kilometres and at times even overlap from the different mosques. It was a trying time.
    I now remember Auden’s poem of ‘muffled drums, Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.’

    1. It’s true that recorded bells, amplified, aren’t nearly so satisfying as the real thing. For services, weddings, and funerals, I think bells are lovely, and the change ringing is both beautiful and interesting.

      When I lived in Liberia, the calls to prayer weren’t amplified: thanks in part to a lack of electricity. But I don’t remember hearing amplification even in Monrovia; perhaps it simply wasn’t the thing. It was a few decades ago, after all. What I can’t remember is whether there was a call to prayer at the hospital where I worked. The Muslim staff would pause for prayers during the day, but they may simply have been going by the clock, so to speak.

      That Auden poem is quite something. I’ve never read it before, and once was enough, at least for now. It’s a bit too depressing for the start of a new year. Loss, sorrow, and despondency will come soon enough. No sense inviting them in.

      1. I can’t say that reading Auden makes me despondent or depressed, Linda. I feel it opens up wonderful feelings each time I read his words. It soothes, even though a tear might well up.

        1. When it comes to Auden (as with many other poets) it depends on the poem, and it depends on the context in which I read it. The same poem that I set aside today may appeal later, and something that has been a long-time favorite occasionally loses favor, becoming dry and unappealing. The same’s true with books, of course, or films, or even music. It’s part of the mystery and magic of art — and the reason people can endlessly discuss whether something is “good” or “bad.”

          I’m just glad to be introduced to a new poem. Even though it doesn’t suit my mood, it’s better by far to know that it exists!

  12. I’ve always thought bells were cool. In high school I played in the drill team’s bell choir of Elegant/expensive Swiss Bells. (Yes, the football drill team. Only in TX, right? Bell chorus on the 50 yard line for special occassions. Any senior could be in it – and the slots were “honor” slots – but more important, we got to practice in AC during the summer during practices. Heat is bad for bells, you know.)

    Mom used to quote that Tennyson bell poem to us. The cadence always seems just right.
    Hope you ring in the new year with joy.
    (and can’t wait to see the new blogging ring in with full voice)

    1. I was surprised to find that change ringing is done with handbells, too. It really is beautiful. I suspect it’s a good introduction for beginners, and a great way to learn new patterns before heading over to the tower with the big bells. I’ve heard handbell choirs, of course, but they were playing songs and not patterns.

      We tried watching the Boardwalk fireworks last night, but no joy. We’ve always been able to see them from here, but they may have moved the barge, or set them off lower. No matter: 2017 arrived anyway. Even with the lingering fog, it’s a nice morning, and a mockingbird was singing well before dawn. I think it was singing “Auld Lang Syne,” but I can’t be sure.

      Happy New Year!

  13. It was a joy to hear the bells.

    My father was born within the sound of Bow Bells in 1900, so he was a true cockney, as is Her Majesty.

    There is a rival definition relating to Bow Church in the East End, but since Dick Whittington sat despondent with his cat on a stone on Highgate Hill and heard the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside telling him to “Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London,” and he was elected so in 1397, it is clearly the City sound that carries. London was always noisy.

    Have you read The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers’ novel woven round the changes rung in a village church in Norfolk?

    A Happy New Year to you from London!

    1. I’m delighted beyond words to hear about your father, Richard. There’s nothing like a personal connection to history, however tangential, to make things come alive.

      I found the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat while I was in the process of writing this.I suppose when I was in school all the emphasis was on kings, queens, and battles: not the Lord Mayor. In any event, it’s a delightful tale, in all its versions. If I’d known of it when I visited London, I would have sought out the cat’s statue and given it a pet: or at least admired it in its cage.

      I haven’t read “The Nine Tailors,” but, between your mention and this article, it’s on the list for early 2017. I’ve not read the entire article, in order to avoid the spoilers. I’ll give the book a go first, and then re-read the article.

      Happy New Year to you, and thanks so much for visiting. May we all have a peaceful and productive year!

      1. Thank you for having me.

        Between the ages of 6 and 11, Poe was educated in two London schools, so he would have heard the chimes from the many City churches. The school in Stoke Newington is described in his tale William Wilson.

        The curfew sounded by St Mary-le-Bow was a true curfew in the sense that it was a signal to extinguish all fires. It is said that the Great Fire of London, which destroyed the mediaeval St Paul’s Cathedral (one of the tallest in Europe) was caused when the baker in Pudding Lane failed to rake out his oven. The Old Cathedral was the fourth church on a site formerly occupied by the Roman temple to Diana. It was begun in 1087 after a fire that also destroyed much of London.

        So The Great Fire was not by any means the first of London’s fires and we must not forget the destruction, devastation and loss of life caused by the Luftwaffe in the Blitz in 1941, before the bombing of Dresden (1945) and the RAF’s 1,000 bomber raid of Cologne (1942) .

        Church Bells were banned in WW2, except to warn of invasion, although the ban was removed in 1943, after America had entered the war and, with her involvement, the threat of invasion. (Thank you America!)

        In this wartime song of Bud Flanagan, you can just hear the true cockney accent, the progenitor of the Australian and South African accents, often confused with the East End accent.

        Research suggests Chaucer wrote in Cockney and that Spenser, Caxton and Milton spoke Cockney.


        “Cokenay” in the Reeves’s Tale apparently means a milksop.

        1. There’s so much fascinating history here, Richard — literary and otherwise. Thanks for taking the time to outline some of it. There are bits and pieces I knew: the history of the blitz, for example. I found some extraordinary photos of bells and collapsed towers while researching this post. The story of their restoration — and of the the churches, of course — is a marvel.

          I also knew about the silencing of the bells in wartime, but nothing of the fire in 1087, or the use of St.Mary-le-Bow’s bells as a curfew signal. The suggestion that an inattentive baker was the cause of the Great Fire reminded me of Mrs. O’Leary and her famous cow, who’ve been blamed, rightly or wrongly, for the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. In an interesting connection to this post, the Chicago History Museum has in its collections a few cowbells that supposedly were discovered on the site of the barn after the fire.

          The Flanagan song’s great. It brought to mind many of the Pathé newsreels I’ve seen from that time. And the journal article was especially interesting. There’s history, again. Not many of us considered when that initial “h” disappeared when we fell in love with Eliza Doolittle.

          Do you have any books about the history of London that you’d recommend? Another trip there isn’t in the cards, but I have enough memories that it would be enjoyable to return through books.

          1. Thank you for referring me to the website about the Chicago fire. I knew nothing of this and shall look forward to enlightening (!) myself.

            I was a little dismissive of the cause of the Great Fire of London. The Monument is a memorial to the fire designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke. It happens to be the tallest stand-alone stone pillar in the world (though the Washington Memorial is taller). Its height measures the distance from the culprit bakery.

            I have a number of books on London, some I consult much more than others. Here is a selection. The first two are outsize books, always difficult to accommodate:

            The London Encyclopaedia, ISBN978-1-4050-4924-5, a reference of over 1,000 pages of close print. It covers the whole of Greater London and includes the towns and villages it absorbed, themselves fascinating although largely overlaid by the modern metropolis.

            London the Biography by Peter Ackroyd, ISBN 9780099422587. It is beautifully written and readable like a novel.

            Also by Peter Ackroyd, London Under, ISBN 9780099287377. A Christmas present not yet read!

            On the same theme, Underground London, by Stephen Smith, ISBN 0-349-11565-6. A good, unusual read.

            Betjeman’s London, ISBN 0-71954494-7, an illustrated collection of essays and poems. The poet was a great, though only partially successful, campaigner for the preservation of historical, particularly Victorian London, which he saw disappearing under the sledgehammer of 60s developers. In the 18th century, some, if disputably, regarded London as the most beautiful city in Europe.

            If you are interested in 18th century London, there is London in the Eighteenth Century, a Great and Monstrous Thing, by Jerry White, ISBN 9781847921802.

            Lt . Col. NTP Murphy, founder of the PG Wodehouse Society and a senior civil servant who died last year, would take his guests for walks around central London and collected the walks in his “One Man’s London”, an updated edition of which is available on Kindle. My wife and I have traced a few of these walks, but the book is worth reading for its own sake. It might even lure you back!

            Ever wondered how the Victoria Embankment came into being? Then read The Great Stink, ISBN 0-7509-1975-2, the story of how the great engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, cleansed the Victorian metropolis. It may or not be to your taste!

            A good short book to dip into is Christopher Winn’s “I Never Knew That About London”, ISBN 9780091918576.

            1. What a rich list you’ve offered. I’m beginning with “London: A Biography.” I was happy to see that the physical book actually is less expensive than the Kindle version: strange, but nice.

              Your mention of Lt.Col.Murphy and his walks reminded me of another wonderful “walk” book: “Walks Through Lost Paris” by Leonard Pitt. The book includes many photos by Charles Marville, whose own history is interesting. A fine exhibition of his photos came to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and after seeing that, I purchased the book. If I ever make it to London, I’d surely make a side trip to Paris, and take some of those walks myself.

    1. I’m pretty sure I can master it. The question is, will I like it? I guess we’ll find out. I think the hardest part is going to be finding a new photo to put up on my About page. The one I have now is fine, but too old to be there. I’ve moved on from sailing, and I’m decades older, now. It’s a little like posting a high school photo in an obituary when the deceased is 90 years old!

      A happy new year to you, Oneta. May you be free of earthquakes, ice storms, and tornados, and surrounded by love.

    1. Creative, that’s me. Besides, once you go public about an upcoming change, there’s no going back: at least, there shouldn’t be.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the bells. Thinking about your time in Montana made me think about Iowa in winter, and that brought back another tinkling, bell-like sound: the falling and shattering of icicles. Even nature likes bells, I think.

      Happy New Year, and a happy news year!

  14. In the realm of music, bells, like drums, are meant to be FELT as well as HEARD. They resonate not only in our ears, but in our bones. Your posts of ringing styles is wonderful information, and at midnight tonight I just might go outside and clang a cowbell in your honor. Happy New Year.

    1. I can’t think of anything better than being honored with a clanging cowbell at midnight. Whether you did or whether you didn’t, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Bob. You’re right about the power of felt music, too. Maybe that helps to explain the number of cars out there that seem to have their audio system’s bass-to-treble ratio at a hundred to one.

      Here’s to another year of rolling through the world, one way or another.

    1. To paraphrase another well-known quotation from Tennyson’s elegy, “‘Tis better to have tried and messed up, than never to have tried at all.”

      Happy New Year to you, Deb. I hope life’s good to you, throughout.

  15. “A legacy theme” that can’t be reclaimed and does that mean that we’ll never be able to go through the years of your blog and read past posts? I had previously never heard of a legacy blog but hope you pick a theme with as much enjoyment as this one has given me.

    The parting of old ways, by the way has been one of the most enjoyable posts for me. I dearly love bells and love to hear beautiful bells. I use a very old wind chime which sort of sounds like bells ringing, to call my dogs back into the house. They are all trained and come running when I clang the chimes.

    Thank you for a great year, Linda, You are the best. May you be blessed with good health, wonderful trips, lovely friendships and great stories to write in 2017.


    1. “Legacy theme” is a phrase I picked up from the WordPress support people. In the computer world, legacy software is software that’s been superseded, but can’t be easily replaced because it’s widely used.

      For example, this theme I use was designed for desktop PCs, in the early days of WP. But today, we have smart phones and tablets, and new themes are designed to work on those, too. So, WordPress would like to get rid of their old, less responsive themes, but they can’t take them away from people who use them.

      What they can do is make them unavailable to new users, and make it impossible for current users to get them back if they give them up. If you seach for this theme among WP options, it no longer appears. If I give it up in favor of a newer theme, that’s it. I never can get it back.

      However, when we change themes, all of our content remains. It just looks different on the page. So, no worries there. If I were going to lose content by changing themes, I’d be sticking with what I have!

      I have some windchimes that are bell-like, too. They’re actually tuned to a scale, and are very, very pleasing. It’s time to put them back up. I only get west to north-northeast winds, so I often take them down during the summer, when southerlies predominate. I think it’s great that your dogs have learned to respond to your chimes. It makes life easier, no doubt.

      I hope you and yours have a wonderful 2017, Yvonne. There have been enough hurdles for a while. The upcoming year still will have its struggles, but it would be wonderful if you don’t have to face any new ones. Happy New Year!

      1. Thanks for the explanation. I know of at least two bloggers that changed themes and lost some of their content. But if you have all your posts on external hard drive that is complete assurance that nothing will be lost.

        Thanks for the good wishes, Linda.

        1. I just read through the support documents again, and they’re quite specific that everything switches over when themes are changed –except custom CSS. It may be that the other bloggers had made changes to their sites and the changes didn’t transfer. I guess we’ll find out!

  16. Looking forward to seeing your new look. Although I am very fond of the old one. :) Bells, wonderful bells, but one bell I miss is the bicycle bell. Hardly anyone here uses a bicycle bell.

    1. I’ve been digging around in a little box of “treasures” I have, wondering if I still have my bicycle bell. Apparently not. They were wonderful gadgets – big, and shiny, and really quite loud. With the thumb lever, you could ring them easily while pedaling along, warning everyone in sight that you were coming.

      Now that you mention it, I can’t remember the last time I heard one. Even the little kids don’t seem to have them on their bikes any more. Another one that’s disappearing is the “butler bell.” You still see them in some motels or shops, but they’re rare. Now, people just yell to get each others’ attention!

      I hope you New Year’s eve and day was a happy one. As I mentioned to someone else, we’re a few hours in and disaster hasn’t struck yet. It’s a good sign!

      1. I don’t think I have ever seen a butler bell but occasionally I come across a front desk bell. I like to ring those. New Year’s Day was very hot, but otherwise very pleasant.

        1. Well, look at this. Where I grew up, we called those front desk bells “butler bells.” I suppose, since no one within 300 miles had a butler, it made us feel a bit more sophisticated.

  17. The change ringing videos made me think of an old favorite book by an old favorite writer, Dorothy L. Sayers, the creator of the Lord Peter Wimsey books. The book in question is called “The Nine Tailors.” (While each book stands alone, the series is written with an internal chronology and “The Nine Tailors” is the 9th of 11 — If you’re compulsive about reading things in order, “Whose Body?” is the first in the series.) They’ve been dramatized a number of times by a number of actors, and the dramatizations are standard PBS fodder.

    As far as I know, the only bells in this town are a carillon on the Texas Tech campus. https://www.ttu.edu/traditions/carillon.php

    I’ll be looking forward to your new blog format and content. Happy 2017!

    1. As it happens, Richard (up above) mentioned “The Nine Tailors.” With two such recommendations, it not only goes on the to-be-read list, it goes on the to-be-read-sooner-than-later list. It looks interesting, and I’m glad for the recommendation. I noticed that there’s a BBC radio broadcast available, too. I generally prefer reading books first, and seeing films or listening to audio later, so I’ll start with the book, but I think a BBC broadcast might be fun.

      I noticed when I read about the Texas Tech carillon that some of the bells were cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in England. That’s a name I came across several times while reading about English bells. I remember reading about the number of bells that were saved by early Texians — even before statehood — and installed on ranches, too. It would be fun to track down some of those, and see if they’re still in use.

      Happy New Year to you and yours. Wish your mom a happy New year, too. I hope it’s a good one for us all.

    1. Clearly, everyone is hoping for a better year: an easier, more grace-filled year. If everyone’s who’s hoping does just a tiny bit to make it happen, perhaps it will. Happy New Year to you, Becca. Whatever happens, we’ll still have your trees.

  18. What an interesting post. I hadn’t thought about how few bells I hear these days, we have a few churches that still ring out, which is lovely.
    I am looking forward to seeing your new blog, here’s to it all going smoothly. All the very best for 2017.xxx

    1. It’s so nice that you still have bells ringing around you. It’s a lovely, peaceful sound, and we could use more of those. Now that I think of it, there’s another peaceful sound I suspect you hear and appreciate — the cooing of the pigeons and doves. I know they drive some people crazy, but I’m always happy to hear them.

      Thanks for the good wishes. I’m rather eager to get on with the new year, and I’m sure you are, too. I’m looking forward to another year of the “goings-on” at your place. I’m sometimes amused, but always appreciative of the work you do. Happy New Year!

  19. “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” Amen to that, Linda. I spent part of this morning listening to UK actor Jeremy Irons reading superbly from TS Eliot, beginning with “Prufrock”. What a melancholy, unsettling, nostalgic New Year treat…

    With every good wish for 2017, and looking forward to perusing your new site!

    1. I was listening to some Eliot read by an assortment of people this past week, and I decided that, however much I appreciate his poetry, Eliot isn’t the one I want to hear reading it. Isn’t that strange? or perhaps not. It may take a little detachment, a kind of professionalism a writer can’t summon, to do a good reading. And, of course, actors are actors for a reason. They know how to approach words and make them live.

      Here’s to a year marked by possibility and hope, Anne — a year of productive engagement. No measuring out life with coffee spoons for us!

    1. I was fascinated by the mix of people involved with the change ringing: teenagers (and apparently younger), women, old men. I could do it physically, I think, but the level of concentration required, and the mathematical skills needed probably would be beyond me.

      I’ll sign up for the teddy bear crew, instead. I could handle that — and what a fun event. The gargoyles are cute, too.

  20. New Year in Japan features the tolling, 108 times, of one, usually large and sonorous bell. Simple & solemn – nothing like the change ringing which is triumphant and joyous as I remember it from a summer spent at Oxford. I’m not close to a major temple so I only heard the one ring (more of a gonggggg, really) at midnight, from the not too distant hills across the river valley, a sound that greets the day at 6 every morning, ordinarily. It always gives me a thrill to catch the sound of it!
    Thanks for the poems, too – very much enjoyed them.
    All the best for a good new year, Linda.

    1. I learned a good bit about the Japanese New Year in the process of writing this post, even though it was entirely by accident.

      When I did a search using the terms “New Year’s bells,” I was astonished to find most of the entries referencing Japan. I had no idea. It’s lovely that you get to hear the temple bell, at least now and then. And I really have enjoyed the thought that bells are part of so many cultures.

      I’ve been lucky enough to hear every sort of bell on New Year’s Eve: change ringing in England, peals at Riverside Church in New York, a single parish bell in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Last night, it was a harbor full of ships’ bells being rung — a first time for that, and completely fun.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poems. It’s fun to reclaim some of them from time to time — they’re part of our heritage, after all. And thank you for the good wishes. Clearly, we’re all hoping for a little more peace and a little more rationality in 2017.

    1. Thanks, Terry, and a happy New Year to you. I hope it brings you plenty of snow, then plenty of wildflowers, then glorious larches — and no fires. A friend is in Whistler, BC, and when I saw him getting dumped on with snow over the holiday, I wondered if you were building up your base, too.

      When I make the change, I’ll have to spend a little time tweaking things, but the major change will be the colors and fonts. The best change will be that I can post slightly larger images — reason enough to begin really working on my photography. If we ever get some true winter weather, I’ll have plenty of projects to keep me busy!

  21. Excellent post –fascinating and a grand way to start the new year. And I liked the poems. I love church bells, even if for some of us, it’s “Ring them bells, ye heathen…”

    There’s a tech college in Rochester, NY for the deaf (NTID) and you’ll see some of the students at concerts or clubs, enjoying the vibrations of the music, even though they cannot hear it. And even if we aren’t always aware of the church bells, wandering amid the traffic racket with our earbuds in, the reverberations are still penetrating our bodies, and maybe doing us some good.

    Somewhere in Quebec province, east of the St. Lawrence, I think, (it’s a big province, and that’s as specific as my memory gets) I ran into a place where some folks gathered up the old school and church bells, from buildings that burned or were taken down, and mounted them on metal frameworks, and you can just walk around ringing them, using rubber mallets on the bigger ones. It’s a blast, I hope to find it again some time.

    Best wishes for the new year!!!!

    1. The wonderful thing about bells is that they’re completely non-discriminatory. Their job is to ring, not to determine who hears and appreciates them — or to judge those who don’t appreciate them, for that matter.

      What you say about the tech college students is something I’ve never thought about before, but it makes sense. I once had an upstairs neighbor who was quite a music fan, and even more a fan of heavy bass. When my glassware started vibrating on the shelves, we had a little talk, and he toned it down a bit. Actually, I suggested he tone it down until the glassware didn’t vibrate. He was good with that, and it worked out fine.

      Your recycled bells reminded me of a fellow who goes by “Cast in Bronze.” He had his portable carillon out at the Texas Renaissance Festival a few years ago. He puts on quite a show with his own bells in a metal frame. Sometimes he has a backing track, but sometimes he plays the bells straight, and it’s something to see. Why the mask? There’s a little history about that here.

      A happy and productive 2017 to you. Who knows what surprises the year will hold?

  22. Let the bells’ music tinkle and ring. “Ring, happy bells,” to bring forth “a world of merriment” this 2017! Linda, a wonderful New Year to you and your loved ones!

    1. Thanks for your kind wishes, M.R. All of us know that, in one way or another, the new year will offer up its own share of ambiguities and errors, but a fresh start, a pause to appreciate one another and the world, is to be welcomed.

      Best wishes to you and yours as we move into 2017.

      1. Despite the many uncertainties ahead, we have much to be appreciative of. A pause for reflection and celebration to all the small but wonderful things in life. All the best to you for the New Year!

  23. Looking forward to a New Year and your new format.
    One of my nephews has a side business making cowbells with handles for people to ring at bike races. He does quite well with them. There is a pic of them on https://brighidsplace.blogspot.com/2016/11/coming-in-hot.html. Dad has one and since his voice is going, he uses it at times to get my attention.

    Our church bells still ring here in our small western town. I am usually seat, when the bells are rung for mass, so it’s a treat to hear them up close.

    We always had a bell cow, when we ran cows, and I have a small old French/Canadian bell that was made for the bell sheep of my late husband’s grandmother’s family.
    Ringing in a New Year!

    1. As soon as I opened that post, Brig, I realized that I’d read it, but missed the cowbells entirely. I was too impressed with your granddaughter to pay much attention to anything else.

      It’s funny that you mention how your dad uses his. A friend was telling me last night that, during her youth, she had terrible asthma for a few years. They lived in a two story house, and if she was on a different floor than everyone else and needed help, she’d just ring the bell.

      Your mention of the Mass reminds me of another bell I missed. it used to be that, during the Catholic liturgy, they would ring a small bell during the consecration. Do they still do that?

      I had no idea there was a “bell sheep,” too. I assumed sheep just wandered at will: hence, the need for shepherds and sheep dogs. Or do all the sheep here have a bell, as in some flocks in Switzerland? So many questions! It’s a good thing we have a fresh new year to answer them all!

    1. The post was delightful. Of course I know the film, and the song. My favorite photo was of the bells after they arrived at the docks, — well, and the video of their ringing. I must say, the bells have a lovely church to live in — I’m so glad you took the time to link your post.

      Are you in the market for a new theme, or might you be starting a fresh blog once your new life commences? Whichever, it will be fun to follow. It’s going to be an interesting year for you.

      1. Yes I’ll be having a break and then when we move to Dorset (if contracts go through okay) it will be about being there – as it is very beautiful. Perhaps “Far From the Madding Crowd” which writer Thomas Hardy set there.

  24. Excellent post! I have a friend (computer nerd & church “secretary”) who set up his church’s bells to play on a computerized schedule. Next time we’re in NC I’ll have to go by & give them a listen.

    When you talked about London’s bells I couldn’t help remembering Pete Seeger’s song “The Bells of Rhymney” (based on a poem by Welsh poet Idris Davies).

    1. I didn’t know that Seeger song, but the lyrics sounded vaguely familiar. When I did a little exploring, I discovered they follow the pattern of another famous song and nursery rhyme about bells: “Oranges and Lemons, which involves references to several famous London bells.

      Ask your friend to record his bells and put them on youtube. Then we can link them here, and make him famous.

    1. I was looking for the name of one of Arvo Pärt’s compositions when I came across this bit of information about the compositional technique he calls “tintinnabulation.” I’d never heard the word applied to his work, and went looking. An article in “The Guardian” included this:

      “In 1976 [Pärt] succeded in his quest, and the result sounds as if it had existed all along, music of the “little bells”, the so-called “tintinnabuli”, which you hear for the first time in this two-and-a-half minute piano miniature, Für Alina. This little piece is the seed from which the rest of Pärt’s musical life has grown: in the space of just a couple of years, Pärt composed the pieces that are still among his most popular today, including Fratres, the concerto for two violins, Tabula Rasa, Summa, and the Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten.”

      “The power of the “tintinnabulation” he discovered comes from its combination of ascetic rigour and the apparent simplicity of its materials. And there are mysteries here. Pärt designed strict rules to control how the harmonic voices move with the melodic lines in his music, diktats which are as strict as serialism; ironically, given his rejection of his previous avant garde obsessions, the success of his new musical language is dependent on precisely the objectivity of thinking that serial composition demands.”

      “That austerity of process makes Pärt’s tintinnabulation a new use of tonality, even a new kind of tonality, and it explains why his music sounds simultaneously ancient and modern, and why it embodies a genuine expressivity rather than a rehearsal of second-hand conventions.”

      I’m eager to spend some time listening, to hear Pärt’s version of tintinnabulation — quite different from Poe’s.

  25. You changed your layout! It’s very elegant, as always, but slightly easier to read. I love it!

    Also, the bell videos were really interesting. I used to go to school at Cal, where there is a campanile, and because of it, always assumed the bell ringing to be mechanical in this day and age…. it’s cool to see that it’s actually a group of people sometimes, still. :)

    Happy New Year!

    1. I surely did change, didn’t I? I’m happy with it, too. I still have to re-do my About page, but I can get that tidied up this week. This new theme has what I was looking for: space for larger photos, a menu in the header where a new page or two can be added, and the ability to scale for phones and tablets. Now, I just need to go through everything, recategorize, get rid of dead links, and generally tidy up. Then, it’s on to the next project.

      Were you at UC Berkeley? Their campanile has a carillon which is played by a live person — I didn’t know that for the longest time. I used to think all carillons played recorded music, but here’s what’s really happening.

      Happy New Year to you, Ariel. I’m still reading all your blog entries, even though much of it’s over my head. Still, I did learn with this change how to match my link text color to the color in the site title. One step at a time — but still onward!

  26. I should have visited this on New Year’s Eve but as you know, I save your posts for moments when I can sit down and sink in and really have the time to digest the info, fall into the words and listen to the videos!

    Simply put, this post really speaks to me. I have always loved the sounds of bells — large and small. Every now and then on Sundays (in the summer when windows are open) I can hear the bells from the church a few blocks away but they don’t go on very long. I remember, as a kid, going to a large church in downtown Lansing. It was on one side of the capitol building, several others were on the other side, all very old churches. And on Sunday the bells would ring out. So beautiful. You’re right — we don’t hear many anymore. More likely, if we do, it is someone’s cell phone ring.

    As for the blog, I like what I’m seeing today — beigy and easy to read. I especially love that you are finally going to a wider column so you can really max out the photos you share. They are always so good, very interesting but not always big enough to capture some of the remarkable detail you get. I will really love that!

    I like your about page, too. I don’t remember the other, the info may have been the same but since I was checking out a new layout, I thought I’d check it all — and this works so nicely. I even learned things about you I didn’t know from the past — how many? Seven? Eight? Nine years? Anyway, good for you. It’s a big leap to change template and all — good for you!

    1. Now you know why I smiled when I saw your photo of the bell hanging in the woods. There’s something about them that seems to appeal to most people. Even when we don’t have bells, wind chimes provide some of the same delight.

      The few church bells that sounded in my childhood town weren’t very extravagant. As I recall, most churches had only one bell that would ring for services. It made it all the more magical when I found myself in places with bell towers and multiple bells.

      You’re right about the advantages of this template for photographs. When I began blogging, I didn’t even have a camera, and thought of images mostly as a way to break up or illustrate text. Even after I got my own camera, it took a while for me to begin thinking I might have something worth posting, so I still wasn’t moved to make the change. But, it’s been in the back of my mind, and after this last trip, there was no question I had to do it. It’s going to take a while to go back and insert larger images in some of my posts — like the grain piles in Kansas, for instance — but i’m eager to see how things look. And I still have some photo-heavy entries to post from that trip, so it will be fun to see them in the new format.

      The About page is going to change: a new photo, and some light tweaking here and there. After all, nine years is a lot of time, and my life has changed in certain ways. Re-doing the page is a good way to think about where I’ve been, and where I want to go. It’s a very new-year-ish sort of exercise.

      1. I admire your discipline in going back to your old posts to resize the photos. I don’t think I’d have that patience! (Hopefully I would still have the photos!) You know, your camera is a terrific — but it isn’t just the camera that makes a great photo. It’s the eye, how you see and what you see — and you have that in spades.

        I need to revisit my “about” — I haven’t done that in eons and you’re right — it’s good to take a look again as things change. I also have to look at the Gypsy Caravan page again and see how to make it a little better. I’m not thrilled with it but wanted to get it up before the holidays. Which happened, but barely!

        I do think the pix break up big chunks of text. And I think people are drawn in by them — and may go back to read what they might have skimmed over in the blog-feasting!

        Well, kudos to you is all I can say. Looks great!

  27. Wow what a remarkable change! I like this minimal, clean and fresh look. All ready for a brand new year! So maybe this will be the year we see a collection of essays in book form, or more magazine articles published, or both? Anyway I look forward to your posts on this new ‘platform’, Linda!

    1. I’m glad you like it, Arti. Now that I’ve made the change, I wish I’d done it sooner, but that’s only an indication that I managed to achieve what I’d hoped for. It’s nice to have no regrets.

      The next step is fixing up the About page. Then, it’s on to the next thing — which will show up here, relatively soon. Some people like to choose a word for their new year. Others choose a quotation. If I were to pick a quotation for 2017, I think it would be from Leonard Bernstein: “To achieve great things, two things are needed ~ a plan, and not quite enough time.” I’ve got the plan, and I clearly don’t have enough time, so we’ll see what happens!

  28. I learned so much from this post…bell ringing isn’t really a thing where I live. It is rare to hear them (and occasionally, the sound is just a recording). I love the mathematical connection to the change ringing – fascinating!

    1. I learned a good bit myself, Sheryl. Like you, I was intrigued by the mathematics of it all, and the more I studied the patterns, the less chaotic the bells sounded. I can’t say I really understand it, but at least I grasp the concept, now.

      In a related note, there’s an intriguing quotation from John Steinbeck, who said, “Poetry is the mathematics of writing and closely kin to music.” I’m not entirely sure what he meant by that, but it sounds as clearly as a bell, doesn’t it?

  29. I think you know more about my country than I do! A fascinating article and so much interesting information. Lewes is a place that we have not yet visited since we moved down here, although we did visit it a few years back when our daughter had a flat in Brighton.
    My father worked in the City of London not far from St Mary-le-Bow and he was a great lover of the Wren churches, and their organs. Not all of them survived WW2, but many did.
    A very Happy New Year, Linda. I like the changes I see here today, but so far haven’t found the ‘Like’ button.

    1. That made me laugh, Andy. I hardly know more about your country than you, but I do have a much better grasp of this aspect of its culture now, and very much enjoyed gaining the knowledge.

      I may have mentioned that I visited many of the Wren parish churches during a stay in London. St. Paul’s is wonderful, of course, but when I think of the smaller churches, what I most remember is the light. St. Martin Ludgate was a favorite. Unfortunately, many have faded from memory, and I wasn’t much given to taking photographs in those days.

      I’m glad you like this lighter, airier theme. As it happens, you haven’t found the “like” button because there isn’t one. When I first started this blog, I decided to forego adding one, and I’ve never seen any reason to change. I do think the “like” button has its place; photography blogs come to mind. If I ever were to start a blog devoted primarily to photos, I’d probably include one, but on this blog, I enjoy the comments, and would take one comment over a hundred “likes” any day. We all have our quirks!

  30. I thought I replied to this post but I can’t find it! The new look for your blog is probably throwing me off so I won’t re-post my admiration for your talent as a writer and researcher.

    1. You remind me of me, when I leave a comment on your blog and find it missing. Then I dither around, trying to decide whether I left a comment that you haven’t yet approved, or whether I only thought my comment, and didn’t actually write it down. Life’s little travails!

      But, yes: your first comment’s up there, on December 31, at 3:13 p.m., along with my response. I’m not sure if the little box down below that says “notify me of new comments via email” works for Blogger folks, but it ought to. That would take care of the problem of you not having the WordPress notification tab. In any event, the comment and my response are up there.

      I’m not entirely happy with the layout of the comments section, but it could just be that it’s different. I’d prefer that the original comment not be indented — I think that makes it harder to follow the threads. I’m going to see if it’s possible to change the comment format. I suspect it would require a CSS upgrade, which may or may not be worth the expense. We’ll see!

  31. Fascinating read…as always.

    I like the new theme and fonts but won’t really be able to appreciate it until I have my computer and wifi again, which may not be until next week.

    Unless I upgrade to a different theme on my new blog I’m stuck with it. I’m already frustrated with how it deals with comments. So far I see no way to change it. Someone emailed me today and said she couldn’t see where to comment but several people already had. Maybe you can let me know what you see.

    I also realized I had somehow become unsubscribed. I re-upped.

  32. I suspect I know what the problem was for your reader who couldn’t find a place to comment. It wasn’t a bug, but a feature. If you land on the home page, you’ll not be able to comment on a specific post. But if you click on a post title, the comment box shows up. When I followed the URL to your new blog, I landed on the home page — and there was nowhere to comment. But, when I clicked on the post title, all was well. I just checked, and this blog functions the same way.

    I liked your layout, and didn’t notice anything particularly off-putting about the comments format. Everything worked smoothly with the signup, too. I’ll take a closer look when I come back over.

    Best wishes for the New Year. I hope California gets plenty of rain, and you stay dry and comfortable!

  33. This is amazing post, especially in the beginning of the New Year. I love bells… all bells. And they impress me so much, I remember old days in many places, and memories… I enjoyed reading you dear Linda, but as always, it is great to know you and being here. Thank you, Happy New Year, Blessing, Happiness and Peace, Love, nia

    1. Bells do seem to suit the New Year, don’t they? Even in hard circumstances, their ringing can bring comfort, and a smile. I’m so glad you enjoyed this, and I’m glad to have you here. I hope everything is working well for you now, and that you can move into the new year without any unnecessary frustrations or fears. Best wishes to you and your whole family — including that precious little boy!

      1. Thank you dear Linda, bells remind me my childhood days, :) I love them so much. By the way, have you received my invitation notification from word press beaucuse I change my blog to private. Please let me know, technically it was complicated for me I hope you didn’t miss or I didn’t miss. Have a nice day, Love, nia

        1. Yes, I did receive your notification, and signed up. I left a comment on a post or two, to let you know I was around, but you may have missed it. I know I left a comment on your first post after the invitation, so you can look to see if it showed up. I saw it, so I think all is well. I know it’s complicated, but from my end, it looks as if everything is working just fine.

            1. Of course you’re confused, Nia. It will be easier. And remember — if someone tries to come to your blog, they will see a notice that it is private, and they should contact you to get permission. So, you haven’t just disappeared. The people you might have missed will see the notice eventually.

    1. Kayti, everyone’s forgotten another great one that came to mind while I was reading your comment. We’re probably among the few who remember that bells were ringing for Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in “Me and My Gal”. I’d forgotten how wonderful the film is. And in the dance number, look how expressive their faces are. It’s a real treat. For that matter, so is the little “here is the church, here is the steeple” finger game. We used to play it all the time, but I didn’t remember it in the movie.

  34. Glad to learn more about bell ringing. My wife plays hand bells at church, and at the seminary our bell tower rings on the hour. People comment on it, with thanks. I didn’t grow up with a bell in church, but we had one at the last parish I served, and we have one at our current church as well. They really are lovely, I think, and help us to mark time together. I like your new layout, by the way! Happy New Year to you Linda!

  35. I found it interesting that change ringers often practice with handbells. It makes sense. You really wouldn’t want people clanging bells from a tower at all hours of the day and night!

    Bells are a lovely way to bring us back to attention when they mark the hour: if we hear them, of course. I have my parents’ grandmother clock, which chimes on the quarter hour. I rarely hear it chime, even at night. On the other hand, if I forget to pull the weights, and it stops chiming, I hear the silence. Isn’t that funny? The absence of sound seems louder than the sound itself.

    I’m glad you like the new look. I’m still experimenting with the available fonts, looking for the one that seems most readable both in the body of the post and in the comments. Some of the sans serif are darker, and a bit bolder, but I really do like a serif font. It’s been fun and refreshing to rearrange things a bit.

  36. Your post made me smile as I am – by the usual definition of ‘born within the sound of Bow Bells’ – a ‘true cockney’! However, of course, things are never that simple. London was full of the sounds of church bells, from all over the place, not just from St Mary-le-Bow, and when I was a kid it was almost impossible to tell which church they were from. Things were not helped by the – higher than now – level of pollution from all the domestic and commercial chimneys (amongst other things). The ‘Clean Air Act’ sorted out most of that, eventually – then of course things started getting bad again. So the area boundry, such as it was, was defined by where the bells were heard, from times much further back than my own lifetime. And even then – cockneys tend to be a ‘type’ of Londoner, with their own accent and culture. I’m not really a cockney, despite where I was born. The best-known ones are from East London, but did you know there are ones from other parts of London? (And I’ve naughtily been referring, for years, to those in North London as coming from ‘F’Lund’n’ because that’s how ‘North London’ sounds when they say it!)

    As for my own accent, it was rather ‘posh’ when I was a small child then I deliberately roughened it up when I went to school, to avoid being bullied. I’ve a trace of that left even now in my mid-sixties.

    As for the bells themselves, I like hearing them now I live in a rurtal environment but didn’t feel strongly about them when I was a city-dweller.

    1. Val, I do remember from my time in London how many churches there were. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to their bells, but I can imagine that on some occasions, like a Sunday morning, they would have created a great, clanging cacophony.

      It sounds like trying to define cockney is akin to defining a southerner. The broad outlines are clear, but the details aren’t always as precise as some people would like. And perspective counts, too. My mother believed Texans were southerners, but people in Alabama would beg to differ. (So would many Texans, for that matter.) And when I think of Eliza Doolittle, I don’t think of her as a resident of a particular place in London, but as a representative of a class, or at least as a particular group of people: as you say, with their own accent and culture.

      Your tale of changing your accent is interesting. I know some people who are wonderful, and sometimes unconscious, mimics. Their accent changes depending on who’s about. They aren’t really trying; it just happens. Picking up words and phrases is one thing: we all do that. But being able to replicate different pronunciations and rhythms is a gift.

      Best wishes to you for a happy New Year!

  37. Ringing bells (and ringing in the new years) have such a long, rich history. I can remember hearing church bells when I was a child – but it seems like that is no longer done in the area where I live.

    1. Don’t those sounds from childhood linger? I was trying to remember other sounds from those days, and you know what came to mind? The scrape of a snow shovel, the sounds of different kinds of snow, and the sound of breaking ice during the spring thaw. I’m just as happy not to be hearing snow shovels, but bells would be nice. We don’t hear them very often, either. I suppose there are many reasons, but I wish they still rang.

      1. I grew up on a farm so I miss the farm sounds – cows mooing, roosters crowing, etc. (I know that crowing roosters are supposed to be annoying, but to me they seem to saying “All is well.”)

        1. I enjoy a crowing rooster, too. I rarely hear one around here — the neighborhood associations would have apoplexy — but every now and then I’m in a place where they’re roaming, and it’s great.
          Oddly, the place where I most commonly heard them was in Liberia.I’m not sure how many roosters there were per square mile, but it seemed like a lot.

          1. That’s interesting that Liberia was where you most commonly heard roosters, for me it was Malawi! There seemed to be roosters everywhere! We sometimes hear them here in the middle of Edinburgh too as we live quite close to the city farm.


            1. Never mind the roosters. There were chickens everywhere, too: scratching, roosting, getting carried in taxis. It sometimes seemed as though the chickens outnumbered the people. I had a pet rooster for a while. He’d roost on the bicycle handlebars at night. Eventually, his habit of crowing in the middle of the night led to his demise. I lived next to a surgeon who guarded his sleep pretty jealously, and we eventually struck a deal — he bought Mr. McBawk, and put an end to his crowing.

    1. I always enjoy hearing from people who’ve experienced what I write about. I think being in the actual neighborhood of change ringing would be wonderful: especially now that I can hear it as more than just a lot of noisy bells.

      Happy New Year to you, Juliet. I hope it’s a year filled with more musical bells and less clanging rhetoric.

  38. Bells have a special resonance with most people, don’t they. And, yes, they do ring in and out. I like you new design. It feels more elegant and more open. Very nice. I wish you all the best for the new year, Linda.

  39. I think they do. Even very young children respond to bells, and even very busy, very preoccupied adults will pause now and then to listen. For me, one of their most interesting characteristics is that, even when they’re ringing, they don’t seem to break the silence; they only complement it.

    I’m glad you like the new design. Change was needed. It allows for larger images, for one thing, and it certainly does feel more open. A friend pointed out something I hadn’t noticed. The old themes, both WP and Blogger, consistently had a much narrower central column. I suppose there are fashions in blog themes as much as in anything else — and I’ve never paid much attention to fashion. I’m glad I finally did in this instance.

  40. Great analysis of onomatopoeia by Poe. There must definitely be a relationship to math (as far as bells go or even music), as multiple tones are similar to beats which count as tempo, like equations are and the process of equating things with one another, and the variables. I love the St Mary-le-Bow’s bells, which I interpret more like tonal rhythms, but I also love the handbells. Handbell choirs are really melodies, but I just love them. I saw my first one two years ago at a Christmas church festival.
    Here’s an interesting video you might like with all of the techniques: (https://youtu.be/6zOGjgVygSg)

    1. That’s a wonderful video. I especially liked seeing the various techniques. I didn’t realize that some of these groups use mallets, too, or that some of the bells are so large. It’s clear that the groups have moved far beyond Christmas services, too. It wa very interesting to see how much contemporary music is being played on handbells.

      As so often happens, I discovered that there’s a group here called Houston Bronze. Their website is quite elegant, and on this page, there are examples of their playing. Give a listen to “Prism.” It’s quite beautiful — I think you’ll like it.

  41. I recall a wonderful book by Dorothy Sayers that involved the ringing of the bells. Now I feel I should go back and reread it. I do love church bells. There are 2 churches in my area that ring their bells and it is such a treat to hear them. I am looking forward to you experiments coming up in your blog!

  42. A couple of people mentioned that book: “The Nine Tailors.” Now, it’s on my list to read, especially since I do like a mystery, and I haven’t read any of her Lord Peter Wimsey books. Having been introduced to change ringing now, it seems a natural.

    You’re lucky to live within the sound of bells. I’ve never found them distracting. They’re like bird song — just a part of the world, and immensely cheering.

    I’ve had fun making the template change, and cleaning things up a bit. I like to think of it as blog de-cluttering — tossing out some of the old, to make room for the new.

  43. I don’t think I ever hear any bells where we live although within a few miles there are a few church bells towers that, I am sure, peal on Sunday mornings. I’d much rather hear them than the echoing sounds from the local firing range atop the mountain to our south. Of course, my tinnitus does keep a steady ringing in my ears, so there is that. lol

    I am sorry the change causes you to lose your theme, but I am really liking the new design. Nice, clean and easy to read.

    1. I’d never thought about the connection between Poe’s “tintinnabulation” and “tinnitus” — etymologically, anyway. I’m sorry you have to cope with it. I have a couple of other friends who suffer from the condition. One says it’s annoying, while the other says it’s crazy-making. I think I know which one has the more severe case. I wonder what the incidence of tinnitus is among change-ringers?

      You know what’s funny? I had to stop and figure out what you meant about losing my theme. It feels like I’ve been using this one forever; it’s already “mine,” and feels just right. There’s just enough similarity to make it feel like home, but I’m loving the extra space for photos, and the clean look. Truth to tell, I wouldn’t go back to that other theme even if I could. I guess that’s an indication that the change was a good decision.

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