Once upon a time in the land of Eboracum there lived a wicked witch called Vicious Viv Foul. Vicious Viv lived in a magnificent castle with a very high tower. In the same land were a merry band of bell-ringing minstrels who rang the bells in the tower of the castle in which the wicked witch lived.
The bell-ringers had rung the castle bells for centuries. The bells had pealed announcing seasons of joy; the bells had tolled mourning times of woe. “Ding dong merrily on high,” rang the bells on Christmas Day. “Ding-dong the bells are gonna chime,” sang the bells for many a wedding.
“Here’s the castle with the bells, a world of merriment their melody foretells!” visitors to the happy land would sing as their carriages crossed the River Ouse and entered the gates of Eboracum. “How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, while the stars that oversprinkle, all the heavens, seem to twinkle,” lovers in the happy land would croon while they nestled amid the gardens of Eboracum. “Hear the loud alarm bells, what a tale of terror, now, their tolling tells,” soldiers would shout in victory as invaders were repulsed and fled from the walls of Eboracum.
Vicious Viv was a tone-deaf witch. She hated music and detested that merry band of bell-ringers.
But Vicious Viv was a tone-deaf witch. She hated music and detested that merry band of bell-ringers. One day in the holy season of Trinity, she summoned her Coven of Chapter Canons, and shrieked before them in agony. ‘Hell’s bells! The bongs of the gongs are as piercing prongs to my ears. How they clang, and clash, and roar! What a horror they outpour. They are neither man nor woman; they are neither brute nor human. They are Ghouls: And their king it is who tolls; and he rolls, rolls, rolls. I can bear no longer the sound of their songs; take from me their dings and their dongs. Find me a spell that will make ye merry band of bell-ringing minstrels disappear forever. Cleanse my castle of these creeps, let them be as chimney sweeps.’
The Coven of Canons trembled with terror in the presence of their Head Witch. Then, shivering with fear, Canon Pretender Peter Mugger rose to suggest a solution. ‘We know the Grand Wizard of Eboracum Johannes Sent-to-moo who rules this castle from his palace in Misanthrope has a great and wondrous spell. It is said that Grand Wizard Sent-to-moo has a magic white collar. When he takes a pair of scissors and cuts his collar on the national witches box called television, evil giants in Africa known as Mugabes surrender in fear and stop oppressing their people.’ ‘Never!’ screeched Vicious Viv. ‘Sent-to-moo’s spells don’t work. His crosier wand has lost its power. His collar is not worth a dollar.’
The Coven of Canons sank deeper in their stalls. Finally, Canon Christopher “Zen” Collingwood stood to his feet. ‘Om, Shanti, Om! Praise Buddha! As you were speaking, I was in deep meditation. Our new practice of chanting mantras in our castle is working. I have a solution. Bring out the great cauldron. Bring in our Book of Spells. Pick the scroll labelled Elf’ and Safety Spells and the scroll labelled Management Spells for the Church edited by Grand Wizard Justin Wobbly and Reform and Renewal Under-Wizard Mike Eastwood.’
‘Here’s a recipe. Pour in four litres of liquid obfuscation and boil for four hours. Add 500 grams of fair trade alphabet pasta of Jargon and Gobbledegook to the boiling soup. While stirring, chant this spell: Mumbo jumbo, bumbo rumbo, arise and render the bell-ringers dumbo.’ Vicious Viv and her Coven of Chapter Canons applauded in approval. They gathered around the cauldron of foul-smelling liquid obfuscation that had been brought in by the castle serfs. They threw in the pasta of Jargon and Gobbledegook. They stirred the magic potion and chanted the magic spells. Then they watched in wonder. For the alphabets had begun to rearrange themselves and spell out the solution they needed to sack the bell-ringers. Canon Pretender Peter Mugger pulled out his I-Scroll and began to copy the magic message that the Coven would use to get rid of the bell-ringers.
“It is critically important to ensure that there is a consistent approach to health and safety, governance and risk management across all of our volunteer teams. In order to make these changes, we sometimes need to close existing volunteering roles so that we can move forward with the new processes. This is what has happened with our bellringers.”
(Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe)
(Originally published in The Conservative Woman)