I thought, today, I would repost that old favourite What Dobson Did On Boxing Day and have done with it. But another matter has barged in on my attention, and must be addressed. Here is a letter received from moany reader Tim Thurn. It begins pleasantly enough:
Dear Mr Key. Thank you so much for sending me Christmas greetings in the form of a black and white photograph of some old bells. If I am not mistaken, they look very much like the bells removed from the tower of St Wulfram‘s church in Grantham, Lincolnshire, in 1946/47, and subsequently recast in Loughborough.
Tim then starts in on his complaint:
Though I like the photograph very much, I cannot say the same for the caption you have added to it. “Never send to ask for whom the jingle bell tolls; It tolls for thee” is, of course, a doctored quotation from John Donne’s Meditation XVII, Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris from the Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. You have inserted the word “jingle”, presumably in a hare-brained attempt to lend a Christmassy air to what is in fact a more sombre sentiment. That might be excused, or even chuckled at, mildly, were you not doing violence to sheer sense. The point is, Mr Key, while the bells shown may well have tolled, when in their tower, they would never jingle, for they are not jingle bells. Even if we strip away the picture and consider the caption in isolation, it remains nonsensical, for a jingle bell, by definition, does not toll. It jingles. That is the point of it. A jingle bell is similar, if not identical, to a sleigh bell, as deployed in legend by Santa and in fact by the Russians, who for reasons of their own attached such bells to their sleighs as they hurtled across the freezing desolate steppes, bent upon some mission authorised by the Tsar, in the old days. Other inhabitants of cold climes, like Finns and Lapps, would also go a-jingling ‘cross the snowy wastes from time to time. None of them, not the Russians nor the Finns nor the Lapps, would ever think to weigh down their sleighs with a big, tolling bell, for to do so would be insane. Might I suggest either that you amend your Christmas greeting or withdraw it entirely and replace it with something less stupid?
Tim then provides a list of what he considers suitable subjects, including robins, puddings, or a Victorian pater familias placing a bauble upon a fir tree. He is, of course, quite right about jingling and tolling, and I really ought to have thought more carefully before messing about with the quotation from Dr Donne. But for crying out loud, Tim, have you nothing better to do?