The plaque on the wall said it hadn’t been rung since July 1st 2002.
Well, that was about to change…
S and I stood in the car park and squinted up at where the town bell rested now, immutable, immoveable on a neat stone cairn, the great metal clapper still and soundless, suspended at eye-level.
A burly man with an impish glint and a jaunty gait joined us as I was peering at the underside of the dome and asked, “Does it still work?” Without waiting for an answer he reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a retractable steel tape measure. Pulling the whippy metal ribbon out to arms length he used it to push the clapper. Despite the tremulous strip buckling almost immediately, it was just enough to set it in motion and the ponderous momentum brought the arc of the clapper’s swing within his reach.
S and I watched, our faces a melee of alarm, curiosity and delight, as he tucked the tape measure back in his pocket and gave the orb a couple of awkward shoves – the chest height broad stone cairn preventing him from getting some body weight behind it. It was enough.
Our eyes locked in a brief conspiratorial glance before the bell tolled and the rich resonance broke forth, pouring into and over us like syrup through ears, nostrils and pores. It felt as though fine fur covered our insides and every hair tickled with the vibrations.
The sound saturated the space around us, rolling out across the parked cars and bouncing off the back walls of the buildings that lined the lot. I looked around mutely. It would easily have been heard in the main street on the other side.
Just as swiftly as it smothered us, it subsided; from a booming gong to a murmur, to just a thrum in our bones.
Laughing good-naturedly at our reactions, the man glanced goodbye and got into his car, parked just across from us. I just had time (and the wherewithal) enough to ask him what time it was before, with a final wave, he was gone. Leaving us alone in the frame.
Time to beat a retreat…
Visit the posts below to see what else we got up to in Paris:
Playing In Paris – a photo-commentary of our day