don't worry my dear there'll still be bells this Christmas some things never change * * *
Living in Switzerland, one cannot fail to be confronted by the ubiquitous nature of the bell. From the big brassy cowbells, bambling around the necks of Brown Swiss in the fields below our first home, keeping us awake on summer nights, to the peal of the church bells in the village, calling farmers home from the fields at 11am for lunch and reminding them to pray at vespers. All remnants of a not so distant, agricultural past and perhaps one that was a little more in tune with nature.
There are the bells jingling from horse-drawn sledges: Those winter holidays in Davos, and a sledge drawn by two dappled greys, ‘Lucky’ and ‘Index’. Lined with fur and with woolen blankets to cover our knees, we sailed silently across the snow, like a boat on wings, heralded solely by the festive sound of the bells and the gurgling river alongside the track. A fine barley broth awaiting us at the end of the Dischma Valley.
As well as the tinny tinkering of the elongated silver bells, emerging from under the string-like hair of the Saanen goat’s neck, there are also sheep bells and even cat bells (to ward off unsuspecting birds).
Then there is this little bell. This one hung on the front of the wooden sledge we used to transport our children across many country paths and down very snowy slopes. The sledge was also used to transport visitors’ luggage when the road to the house, (with a gradient of 24%), was too icy and precarious to attempt collecting them from the station by car. Unlike the high-pitched sound of the other little brass bell, kept in a red velvet pouch amongst the Christmas decorations and only used by Santa, this one has been well worn by wind and weather, is a bit rusty in places and has already let go of its sledge. The string is frayed and stiff, the colour lack-luster but this little bell holds as much magic as Proust’s madeleine. Its tiny tinkle will always let us relive peaceful, fun-filled moments ‘far from the madding crowd’, building snow mammoths in the wonders of the white and glorious garden, reminding us that certain things still ring true, no matter what. It is the moments spent with those we love that count the most. This year we can’t all be together so it is good to remember the times we were, bathe in the warmth of those memories and let’s keep in touch in other ways.
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