Keith came to appreciate church bells after several weeks learning the basics of campanology.
THIS ISLAND LIFE I HAVE a fondness for church bells; their plangent clangour and the slightly ragged symmetry of the sound they make have always struck me as quintessentially English.
My appreciation of the bells themselves, and the people who work them, was enhanced last year when I spent several weeks learning the basics of campanology from the experts at All Saints’ Church, Ryde.
I’m sure they, like me, will have been dismayed to see the letter in last week’s County Press from someone called Broc Silva, who recently moved to Newport.
He or she (I’m sorry for being so vague but it is not a name with which I am familiar) got up quite a head of vituperative steam about some church bells, the existence of which appear to have taken him or her by surprise.
He/she described the chimes which ring out around the town on Sunday mornings as an "exercise in incompetent futility … the nonsensical, tuneless pealing of the church bells calling 15 pensioners and a couple of under-age innocents to worship of a Sunday morning."
He/she then asked whether "this unholy row was long overdue an update" and suggested "something more musical and a thousand decibels quieter".
He/she concluded, for good measure: "If any other business tried to entice customers with that god-awful noise, they’d soon be out of business."
Several questions immediately spring to mind in the aftermath of this perfectly splendid rant:
Was Broc’s letter written in the throes of an almighty hangover?
How can he/she be so specific about the demographics of the congregation? Was he/she counting them in and counting them back out again?
If he/she thinks bells are a dissonant imposition, has he/she never heard an imam calling the faithful to prayer?
But the venting of the Silva spleen (which sounds unnervingly like a flashy motor car) got me thinking about what other more mellifluous measures could be employed to attract the Godless back to the pews.
Perhaps some churches could install sturdy loudspeakers outside the main entrance to the nave, through which appropriate music could be piped with the intention of luring the elderly inside.
An assortment of tunes from SingalongaMax albums might do the trick, beginning with Pack Up Your Troubles and ending with Don’t Dilly Dally on the Way.
Or perhaps a selection from the musicals would help, beginning with Get Me to the Church on Time from My Fair Lady, and ending with Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.
The interest of potential middle-aged worshippers might be aroused if they heard I’m a Believer by The Monkees blasting out on a Sunday morning, or perhaps a few chords of Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum, God Only Knows by the Beach Boys or even Get Off of my Cloud by the Rolling Stones.
These tunes would not, of course, do much to arouse the attention of under-age innocents of the kind spotted by Broc Silva as he/she gazed bleary-eyed from his/her bedroom window the other day.
So the church would have to invest in some hip-hop, techno-funk (me neither), or perhaps commission a special rap in order to attract the faithful.
It would be my privilege to compose the opening verse:
'Hey dude, it’s like time for de bruvvas to stop takin’ all de selfies
Coz me muvva (got no favva) says such action just ain’t healfy.
Gotta get me off to God’s gaff, I can’t like waste annuva minute
Coz de church’s good for de soul man, you know it makes sense, innit.’
Translations available on request.
Customer service? Maybe this explains image problem
I’M told there is genuine bemusement among the powers-that-be at Wightlink as to why they are regarded with at best, suspicion, and at worst, hostility, by so many Island residents.
Perhaps I might be permitted to shed a little light on the subject.
Recently, a friend booked a return ticket on-line and, when the documentation turned up, he realised he had, in a senior moment, got the times right but transposed the departure and arrival destinations.
A simple but annoying mistake to have made but he went to the ticket office at Fishbourne to point it out and asked the chap behind the desk whether he would be kind enough to rectify the error.
In the old days this used to be called customer service. Nowadays it comes under the category of "how to filch even more money from your captive customer base by applying an administration fee".
My friend was charged £32 (yes that’s right, £32) for the error to be rectified and a fresh couple of tickets to be printed.
He had no option but to pay because his journey was an important one — but he contacted the company the next day to query the outrageous charge and request a refund.
He eventually received £24 back — and was relieved not to be charged another £32 "administration fee" for the privilege.
That, ladies and gentlemen of the Wightlink hierarchy, is why so many Islanders avert their nostrils when your company’s name is mentioned.