13 Sep, 2020

Sound as a bell …?

A little thing to keep the blog going.  On the mantelpiece above my fireplace is this:

It’s obviously a bell.  In September 2010 I was in my Cambridge College taking part in the annual reunion of all St Catharine’s people.  It’s a major event that has been held almost every year since 1923 when the St Catharine’s College Society – for all around the world who have studied at the college – was founded.  It normally includes a talk by a college academic, tea, the Society’s AGM, Evensong, a drinks reception and a black tie dinner with speeches.  Many then go to the bar, and there’s often a live jazz band.

One of the features of the Society is that at the AGM it elects a new President each year.  That afternoon, in September 2010, the AGM agenda included one David Peace to be the Society President for 2010-2011.  And so it proved: the next morning I embarked on my presidential year.

The weather was good that afternoon, warm and bright.  Before the AGM I wandered round the College and noticed someone I vaguely knew sitting on a bench in Main Court.  He was an American in his 70’s, an old College alumnus, and he was wearing his College gown.  He was also a Buddhist monk and head of a West Hampstead commune.  Given the College and University connection we’d met a few times in London.

For reasons that he didn’t explain he had travelled from London to see me and to give me the bell.  Curiously, he hadn’t booked to join the Reunion: all he wanted to do was to give me the bell at the start of my presidential year.  That he did; we had a chat; and he departed back to London.  Odd.

Anyway, here it is.  It has no clapper, and it’s not supposed to have a clapper.  Next to it is a wooden baton.  My Buddhist friend, sitting on the bench in Main Court, held the bell by the handle and ran the baton gently round the outside of the rim.  The result: a low continuous hum rising in volume as the baton circumnavigated a few times.  I’ve just done it again: for those who know about musical pitch, it’s G.

Well, that’s the whole story.  We’re now ten years on; I’ve not seen him again; it’s nice to have it here; and so I’m grateful.

………………..

That was written yesterday.   Today to hospital; tomorrow the PEG operation; and all being well I’ll be back at home on Wednesday or Thursday.  Normal service will be resumed thereafter.

7 Comments

  1. It’s a beautiful bell and another great story. Am glad you’ve still got the bell, I know that Malc was at that reunion and I know that you had a hugely successful year. You gave it your all, as you did for St Cats, for so many other years!

    Dave, if you’re reading this now in hospital, I’m sure that I speak for all your blog readers, in sending you love and very best wishes for the op and the days to come. I’m sure we’ll all be thinking of you tomorrow xx

    Reply
    • Hear hear.

      Reply
  2. Ditto to all of Janet’s above!

    What an amazing story and gift from him! I’ve long loved the sound and practice of similar (if less exquisite!) ‘singing bowls’, which also of course need some gentle input to reverberate and enable beautiful sound (om or a-u-m to some) – but not too much or they rattle and lose tone/flow… It strikes me that, similarly, you’ve caressed just the right levels throughout this blog!

    Maybe a-u-m continue to resonate and bring delicious peace in the next few days in hospital, and afterwards in the next challenging phase beyond, without food by mouth. Thinking of you x

    Reply
  3. What a lovely story and beautiful bell. Thinking of you today and beyond and I hope all goes really well and you are in very good hands. Lots of love from all of us xxxx

    Reply
  4. It’s curious how such a brief encounter can make such a lasting impression, leaving us with a little mystery and a feeling of connectedness that’s somehow out of the ordinary. The soft sound of the bell must be very soothing. God bless you today, and all those who care for you in the hospital and as you adjust to this new situation.

    Reply
  5. Thinking of you my love always xxx

    Reply
  6. Hoping with all my heart that the op is successful and that you are able to sail through the readjustment phase. You cannot be in any doubt About how much we are all rooting for you. Feel the force! Catch you on the ‘other side’ 😊

    Reply

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