Day 352: Grandsire Triples

The area known as the Cotswolds is a walker’s paradise. One of its most attractive features is its array of hundreds of miles of walking trails. Many of the trails are easements through private property, and the law requires that each trail needs to be traversed at least once a year to maintain its trail designation. Various hiking clubs throughout England cooperate to ensure that each trail is walked annually. Laetitia and her group spent the morning hiking the Macmillan Way through pastureland, small villages, and fields ablaze with the yellow flowers of the rapeseed plant. Afterward they visited some woolen shops and watched a silversmith at work.

Late that afternoon, they went to the parish church at Chipping Leghorn, where Laetitia had arranged a change-ringing demonstration with the ringing master. When they arrived, they were taken up a long spiral stone staircase to the uppermost chamber, which contained the bells. The ringers had had a practice the day before, and knowing they would do a demonstration today, had left the bells in the mouth-up position, ready to be rung. After looking at the bells, the group descended the spiral staircase and stopped briefly in the sound chamber, which also houses the church’s clock. They then descended further into the ringing chamber, where the ringers had assembled.

Each ringer was responsible for one of the eight bells. The ringers usually start by ringing the bells in sequence from treble to tenor, and then work their way through the combinations and permutations of the bell numbers in an orderly manner. There are a variety of methods of doing this. Today’s method was one called Grandsire Triples. The ringers were only going to do “a touch” to give Laetitia and her group an idea of how the process worked. The last time the group had rung a full peal was to commemorate the latest royal wedding.

As she and her group sat on benches along the walls of the ringing chamber, watching each of the eight ringers alternately pulling the sallie and the tail end of his or her rope, Laetitia noticed a picture frame on the wall behind her. Under its glass cover were listed Ten Commandments for the Bell Ringer. She read down the list until she came to the eighth and ninth commandments. They read:

Thou shalt not contemplate thy homework nor thy housework nor thy boyfriend nor any characteristic of thy fellow ringers, lest when the bob is called, thou be taken unawares and be utterly confounded.

Thou shalt not break any covenant with the band to follow after thy wife nor the best girl nor thy second best girl nor thy friend nor thy enemy, for the band will not hold him worthy that turneth his “yea” to “nay.”

Obviously, change ringing requires commitment and a great deal of focus. Thinking about the study she had seen on the Internet recently, claiming that men think about sex every seven seconds, Laetitia wondered whether such thoughts interfered with the concentration of the male ringers, considering that a full peal of Grandsire Triples takes around three hours to complete.

When the touch of Grandsire Triples was completed, the ringers rang down the bells and then went off to a nearby pub for a drink. Laetitia and her group went to their hotel, where she presented the limerick of the day.

When Mortimer rings Grandsire Triples
He tries not to think about nipples
Or buttocks and thighs
And when finished, he sighs
And goes off to a pub where he tipples.

Day 351: Tinkerbush Lane

Oxford is situated on the edge of that scenic range of hills called the Cotswolds, famous in the past as a wool-growing region, now a popular tourist destination. Laetitia took her group to Stanway, a small Cotswolds village. There they toured Stanway House, a Jacobean manor house built during the sixteenth century that, interestingly, has a small brewery on the premises. J. M. Barrie, a Scottish author and playwright who lived mostly in London, often stayed there during the 1920s. It is said that it was during one of his sojourns at Stanway House that he had the inspiration to write the plays and books about Peter Panthe Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. After the tour, Laetitia and her group sampled some of the brews from the Stanway House Brewery and then headed south to Wantage.

Wantage is southwest of Oxford, in an area formerly part of Berkshire, but now in Oxfordshire. It is the birthplace of King Alfred the Great (born in 849) and was home to John Betjeman, who was England’s poet Laureate from 1972 to 1984. Laetitia and her group visited a water-powered mill that dates from the days when Wantage was a prominent wool-trading center. However her primary reason for going to Wantage is the presence of a street there called Tinkerbush Lane, which is listed in Rude Britain. When the group went to a pub after the visit to the street, they had a lively conversation stimulated by the street name and their recent visit to Stanway House. The conversation inspired Laetitia’s limerick of the day.

As children, we thought they were swell
Those characters we knew so well
In the Peter Pan book
Smee, Wendy, and Hook
And Peter Pan’s Pal, Tinker Bell.

Was this book with its deeds astronomical
Source of a street name that is comical
Called Tinkerbush Lane
Derived, some think plain,
From a Tinker Bell part anatomical?