Sunday, December 28, 2008

Of the 101 things I love about France...

#15 would have to be the village bells. It's not until I'm away from home that I really think about them, and then only because it's seems so strange not to hear them at least once throughout the day.

Lying awake last night in bed here in the English countryside, it was far too quiet to be able to sleep. I miss the comforting sound of the village clock bells, striking twice on the hour, every hour, and once on the half hour. All I hear here is silence. It's actually quite distracting, all this silence.

Friends are often concerned when they first arrive to stay, thinking that they will be kept awake all night by the sound of bells. And they probably are the first night, and possibly the second, but by the third night, they usually stop hearing them.

We also get the death bell toll, slow and ominious, which always reminds me of Donne and Hemingway. Sometimes if I'm walking through the old narrow streets when they ring, which is usually around 3 in the afternoon when there aren't many people or cars around, I'm immediately taken back in time, half expecting to see a horse-drawn carriage come trotting around the corner.

Maybe it's because they offer an abstract sense of life going on around me, or maybe it's simply the serene sound of bells echoing off the stone walls, I'm not sure. But subtracting the bells from a village in the south of France would be like removing the color yellow from Van Gogh's paint pallette.


Isabelle said...

When I was younger, I moved to a small village and was living opposite the church. The "angelus" was ringing at 6am and 6pm, and, of course, the bells would ring every hour too!
The first morning I wasn't at all expecting to be waken up by all the bells ringing...
But then I got used to it. I don't live there anymore, but it's comforting for me to hear a church bells ring :)

Anonymous said...

I live in a European city and have become addicted to the bells ringing each quarter of the hour. It's nice when you wake up in the middle of the night and know there's never more than fifteen minutes between now and knowing the time.