Handbells in the Bush
Christmas 2005 ... Card arrives from Andrew Hudson. Not the usual reindeers or the snow scene, but a pride of lions basking in the sunshine. "I've just bought a house in Africa," said Andrew. "It needs a handbell peal".
This obviously needed to be remedied, so some 18 months later ... complete with a set of handbells but minus my luggage, still somewhere between Vic Falls and Jo'burg ... John and I arrived at Nelspruit airport. This must surely be a candidate for the world's top airport ... thatched roof and a departure lounge that seemed to consist of a few tables and chairs outside in the sunshine.
Andrew's lovely holiday home is located next to the Crocodile River, just outside the Kruger National Park, and completely surrounded by bush. During the next few days several handbell practices were fitted in amongst wildlife spotting from the shade of the veranda; trips to Swaziland and the Kruger where we spotted The Big Five and noted lots of references to the South African classic "Jock of the Bushveld", a true story about a dog and his master who lived in this area in the late 19th century; and not forgetting a memorable half-day trip to the local car wash in the nearest town of Malalene (surprisingly not highlighted in my Lonely Planet) and the odd braai or two.
A week later we decided that the time had come and we settled ourselves down for The Peal Attempt. The first two extents passed without incident. During extent 3 a passing herd of zebras stopped to check that the Oxford TB was up to standard. During extent 4, Linda's luggage arrived on the veranda. Unfortunately in extent 5, whilst trying to identify a hitherto unseen antelopey-type animal, the conductor missed a bob at home.
Although this did give us all a new excuse for losing a peal - "Conductor distracted by passing bushbuck" - it did mean that after lunch we were faced with a tough decision. No-one wanted to be the one to actually say that they wanted an afternoon-nap on the veranda with a good book and a few beers - so another peal attempt it was!
Again, some of the locals came to see what was going on ... an army of banded mongeese, a few warthogs, lots of impala ... but this time Jake of the Bushveldt masterfully put in all the calls and 2hrs 2mins later the last extent came into rounds.
Celebrating Andrew's first handbell peal for a very long time ("decades"!) and Linda's first for quite a long time (a couple of years), it was time for a sundowner and a braai. The bushbabies and fruit bats appeared for their evening bananas and to congratulate us, most disappointed that they hadn't arrive in time for the end of the peal.
Apart from the car-wash, the peal was a highlight of our holiday to South Africa! Thank you, Andrew, for your hospitality and we hope to be back!
SOCIETY OF ROYAL CUMBERLAND YOUTHS
Marloth Park, Mpumalanga, SA
Te Do Khaya, Nyala Straat
Friday, 10 August 2007 in 2h 2 (11 in G)
5040 MINOR (4 methods)
1 extent each Double Bob, Kent T.B., Oxford T.B., 4 extents Plain Bob
1-2 Linda M Garton
3-4 John P Loveless (c)
5-6 Andrew S Hudson