I was reading a book recently which took place in medieval England. The character lived near a church & it seemed the bells were always chiming.

I thought for a few moments how many bells I’ve lived by. I thought for a longer time how it must have been for those people living under a tyranny of bells – there were many reasons to despise religious factions. Bells ringing at all hours 24/7.

The sounds of bells carry on down alleys, on cobblestones, around right-angled corners, over the fantasias of rooftops. Imagine:

You owe me five farthings say the bells of St. Martin’s

Or a bit farther along,

Oranges and lemons say the bells of St. Clement’s

Head sharp north for

Bullseyes & targets say the bells of St. Margaret’s

Everywhere you walked, a GPS network of church bells oriented you, served up the time of day, remanded you to prayer & endless alms.

And there is much to be made of bells, of chimes, of the attention they bring to the mind: the quickening clarity as they ring. My attention would be easily mislaid in a ringing city!

Yet didn’t I spend my childhood under the tyranny of the “Bells of St. Ann’s”, my elementary school in Wildwood? Indeed! The bells rang us into transition, one classroom for another; one personality for another, one normality for another. My nuns were brilliant & quirky from here (60 years into a future where they no longer are) but back then they were simply terrifying. They say stress learning sticks with you.

Look up the bells of Old London sometime.

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