Last night, had you been hovering in a balloon somewhere between Hobart’s city centre and the harbour, and had you been looking down on the scene below, you might have seen a small mole peeling off from the throngs of festively clad humans, moving purposefully towards the cathedral tower, key in paw, and quickly, silently slipping through its doors into the quite dark of the vestry. It was about ten o’clock.
At that point you would have seen no more except perhaps for the lights going on in the tower, but as I was that mole I can tell you that I climbed the spiral staircase, let myself into the ringing room, drew a rather rusty, faux Breuer chair to the round table in the middle and fossicked about for the contraption in my rucksack.
Ten o’clock was on the early side for midnight bell-ringing, but a dinner with chums had ended unexpectedly early, and here was a welcome little lull in a day that had been so full I hadn’t even had time to send my broadcast out to you.
And while I was tapping away the contraption suddenly pinged. A message came through from a dear neighbour of mine. She recalled bells in Edinburgh many decades ago and how the Papa of a friend of hers recited Tennyson’s Ring Out Wild Bells (otherwise known as In Memoriam). And this dear neighbour had carefully written it out in full for me.
Well, being a soul raised on diet of boxing day amateur dramatics (and having not had the opportunity to indulge in them since the boxing days of my youth at Great Uncle Mole’s burrow), I could not restrain myself. I rose up on the blue canvas seat and, drawing myself to my full (though not extensive) height, paw on heart, I proclaimed to the empty ringing room:
‘Ring out the old, ring in the new…’
I exhorted the ropes and sallies to let the old year go, to ring out grief that sapped the mind, the narrowing lust of gold, foul disease, the thousand wars of old, spite and the darkness of the land; and to ring in the larger heart, the fuller minstrel and the kindlier hand. I did the poem no justice but it so filled my small moleheart that when the others at last arrived; when we took our positions and began to ring, the words seeped up the ropes and into the bells and out into the night.
In the final days of the the Altjahrswoche, I had begun envisaging how I would prepare for the new year, so that when I awoke on the first of January it would be in crisp new sheets, to a clean and tidy house. I would leap up, fill my molelungs with early morning air on Knocklofty, return invigorated to breakfast, meditation and Qi Gong, and set myself to write. ‘Start as you mean to go on’, a voice, perhaps that of Mathilde had whispered.
Alas, ringing at midnight does not bode well for early rising; and the business of New Year’s Eve – all its shopping and preparing of food and wrapping of birthday presents leaves behind it a trail of chaos. I woke up late and I woke up to muddle and unfinished business.
And I woke up remembering the night and the ringing and the sense of farewelling the old and making space for the new, and I began to think that carrying this as an intention – as a way of being through 2016, was a much better idea for this clay-pawed mole.