Ringers’ dinner II

Last weekend I threw the house open to the lovely people in my tower for our now annual Christmas social. We initially decided we ought to have a Christmas social but that everyone’s diary in December is too hectic, so we have ours in February instead.

I like cooking for people and having people in my house but I actually don’t do it very often, so it’s nice to have an excuse.

Ringers' supper 2018

(Laid the table before counting properly AGAIN! and had to put an extra place setting in at the last minute.)

I thought that the menu had not evolved much from last year, but looking back it seems I did simplify quite a bit.  I did the mulled apple juice again and offered some of the crab apple vodka to those who were both not driving and suitably aged.

Ringers' supper 2018

It’s been cold this year, so I didn’t want to do cold starters and desserts again, and so went for a slightly ambitious three cooked courses.  Crudités were still the main feature of the starter, then I was initially thinking fondue… but it would be hard to put the pot where everyone could reach it, so went for two separate baked camemberts so that each half of the table could reach. I was planning for 8 but one of us was ill on the night and we were 7 instead.  Two vegetarians amongst our numbers and I was conscious that anything properly called camembert is by AOC definition not vegetarian, so there was some hummus available instead.

The mains as last year were baked potatoes with beans, cheese (veggie cheddar), sausages and Quorn sausages and homemade coleslaw.

I actually took hardly any photos this year, but I did take quite a lot of the dessert. I was making Simon Hopkinson’s sticky toffee pudding – I blogged about it before in 2013 and the recipe is still on the BBC, and it’s still decadent and delicious. The basic recipe says serves 4, and the only way that is true is if you don’t eat anything else for an entire weekend.  I still doubled it and cooked it in a disposable foil roasting tin for a dessert that fed 7 people on the night, did doggy bags to take for absent partners, fed my neighbours who liked the photo on Facebook, and did me and T the following day.  I still have spare ingredients and I’m making it again today for half term pudding club tomorrow 🙂

In its doubled up form you end up needing to buy over a litre of cream!

Ringers' supper 2018

The basic date sponge cooked the night before.

Ringers' supper 2018

With the first sticky toffee sauce poured over the top then put back under the grill.

Ringers' supper 2018

Loads of leftovers!

I also made fudge – this Nigella recipe ish. There weren’t shelled pistachios available when I went shopping and I didn’t fancy shelling 150 grams myself, so I just used chopped hazelnuts. And glacé cherries, because why not?  And then, having made fudge, and having been given two boxes of After Eights… I forgot to bring either of them out with the tea and coffee! So there were loads leftover which made nice end of term gifts at school for colleagues instead as well as satisfying my own chocolate craving whenever I walk past the fridge.

Ringers' supper 2018




Bells out!

Daybrook bells

I did manage to pop along to church on Monday night for a brief look see of the bells out of the tower before they were taken to the foundry for attention.

There were a few other ringers there including our youngest recruit who had been there since (primary) school kicking out time and had been having a whale of a time having a hands-on go at the heavy engineering, and actually got to help lower the bells from the tower.

Now they are out, they look tiny to me. I have seen them a few times as I have done some basic maintenance on them in situ, including botch repairing to shrouding and fitting muffles. In their frame, when they are hard to access and you have to do a lot of clambering to get to them, they seemed much more imposing than when they sat, mute and clapperless, on sheets on the church floor.

The 10cwt tenor (and the bells have handled so badly for so long it is always surprising to see the tenor is only 10cwt!) is barely waist high when removed from its person-sized wheel.

As the bells were being worked on, the wheels showed just what poor condition they were in, almost collapsing as they were removed. It really was probably only months before one of them broke whilst being used.

A few other things: these bells are surprisingly cracked around the rims.

We were there during choir practice, and the choir was getting going on Christmas carols, which made the evening a little surreal.

And the musicians were also keen to hear the bells when they were down. Whacking the 8 bells with a big spanner in sequence leaves you in no doubt at all just how out of tune they are with each other!

The bells of Daybrook fall silent

Yesterday we rang for a service at Daybrook St Pauls for the last time for a good few months.

Our tower captain’s decades of fundraising have finally paid off and the bells are due a big renovation, including some tuning work, and a new frame, lower in the tower.

They have been getting steadily worse over the few years I have been ringing them, and some, in particular the 5, have something seriously wrong with them.

Yesterday afternoon, bellhangers were doing preparatory work and today, the bells will be lowered down the tower.

Tonight from 7pm there will be an opportunity to see the bells as they will be in the nave of the church on display to the public. If you can pop along to see them you will be very welcome.

Tomorrow, Frank Key Builders Merchants are very kindly loaning the use of a flat bed lorry and crane to take the bells to Loughborough where they will be serviced by Taylors.

The band has been growing in recent months and there are some keen new ringers who are learning the ropes, if you will excuse the pun. Whilst our own bells are out being spruced up, we are relocating for practice nights to Basford St Leodegarious, 7.30-9pm on Friday nights. If you’d like to come along and have a go, we’d be happy to see you.

The bells are due back just before Christmas, although that is a slightly ambitious time frame and it may take a little longer than that.

How does the Olympics make you feel?

News reaches me that the authorities plan to use the London Eye to project a Twitter snapshot of how the nation feels about the Olympics every night the games are on.

What colour the wheel changes to and how much of it is lit up will reflect an analysis of millions of UK tweets for whether they are broadly positive or broadly negative.

Which strikes me as a bit of a gamble. Presumably the object is to show that people are enjoying the endeavour, but my own sense is that most aren’t. There are two people in particular in my Facebook timeline who are enthusiastic about the Olympics, but then they both have jobs at the games and so Mandy Rice Davies applies. Everyone else is spectacularly Eeyorish about it, as this wonderful New York Times piece explains:

LONDON — While the world’s athletes limber up at the Olympic Park, Londoners are practicing some of their own favorite sports: complaining, expecting the worst and cursing the authorities.

Asked “What do you feel about the Olympics?” the other day, a random sampling of people here gave answers that included bitter laughter; the words “fiasco,” “disaster” and “police state”; and detailed explanations of how they usually get to work, how that is no longer possible and how very unhappy that makes them.

The piece goes on to describe the Daily Mail as having the unofficial motto “What Fresh Hell is This?”

One of the main reasons for emulating the anhedonic donkey is there are just so many reasons why the Olympics might make you feel grumpy: the London focus; the cost to the taxpayer; the militarisation; the sponsors (“some of the worst corporations in the world“; the stuff about brand protection – whether or not true; and the exhortation only to write nice things about the Olympic website.

I am hardly the person to be objective on the issue of the Olympics as I don’t actually like sport of any kind at all – and yet even I have been a little tempted to try and get tickets to something to see what all the fuss is about. Far less to actually watch any sport happening – I really don’t give a rat’s ass – but I am quite keen to see what all the fuss is and see the Olympic Park from a urban planning perspective. It featured on Gardener’s Question Time and sounded interesting. I’ve visited, for example, Munich’s Olympic Park, mainly to climb the Olympiaturm, and that piqued my interest. How long will it be – if ever – before London’s Olympic Park is opened to a wider public? Will anyone ever be able to climb the crumpled rollercoaster without an event ticket, or will the whole thing be dismantled and boarded up as soon as the Paralympics wheel out of town? (Loads of tickets left for the Paralympics, if you wanted to get to see the site and/or experience the Arabfly Dangleway.)

When the torch came to town, I did sort of go and see what all the fuss was about – by being a bellringer for the occasion as the torch came past one of the churches I ring at regularly anyway. I was grudgingly impressed by the huge number of people who turned out to see it, and the city was incredibly fortunate with the weather – just hours before, rain had beaten the torch back into the van in Mansfield, soaking dozens of the kids I taught a few months ago, and yet in Nottingham the glorified cigarette lighter got blazing sunshine.

It’s just my abiding thought about all of the trappings of the Olympics – the torch parade, the park, the building projects, the precision of the planning, which has taken hundreds of people to do, the faffing in the regions – is that this is all something of a huge waste of human endeavour. What could be achieved if all this money and good will could be put to use for something more worthwhile?

But then that is what I think about sport more generally, so perhaps I’m not the best placed person to judge. And it’s not as if I have any actual suggestions as to what that more productive thing might be, so perhaps I should just shut up and let the enthusiasts get on with it all.

Apostates for Evensong

Some interesting things have been happening on the Facebook group for fans of Choral Evensong in the last few days.

Firstly, people from some fairly major cathedrals have been highlighting when they have spare days for visiting choirs – and there has even been some suggestion of setting up a Facebook Scratch Choir. Which would be hugely fun, even if only to get some po-faced precentor to thank the Facebook Singers at the end of evensong.

Secondly, there was this rather good article from an Australian atheist called Apostates for Evensong that ticks rather a lot of boxes for things I have been pondering lately.

I’m fairly ambivalent about things Godly these days, but I maintain pretty strong links with the church through bellringing. Somehow I’m more into that than now than I have been for years and even my Sunday morning attendance – for ringing if not for services – is now hugely more than it has been for years.

How do you square a fairly strong agnostic position on the whole God front and still turn up week after week to ring the bells? I think bellringing and choral singing, especially evensong, are huge parts of the English cultural heritage. It may be that the church has the monopoly on all the equipment and costumes, but it’s culturally important that evensong and bellringing continue, whether or not it’s to do it just because it’s beautiful or to the glory of God. If God is there and listening, then it’s an expression of human worship. But there’s a purely humanist dimension as well. Hearing the bells and the choirs as an expression of human skill and talent, with no spiritual dimension, is just as uplifting.

I spend a week every year singing choral evensong with a touring choir, and every year think to myself I should a) sing routinely and not just in August and b) I should make a greater effort to go and hear other choirs singing evensong. Heck, on at least two nights a month I ring for evensong in St Peters but never stay for the service. St Peters and St Marys in Nottingham both have strong choirs and it’s not that far from Southwell Minster, which has a choral foundation. And yet in almost every year since I started singing over the summer, thirteen years this year, I don’t think I’ve been to evensong for the rest of the year more than once or twice. (I do remember one particular year taking P to evensong at St Mary’s, only to get lumbered with a Surprise Eucharist, and overly keen meeters and greeters on the door who wouldn’t let us leave afterwards…)