I’ve come to the conclusion that the congregation at my usual church are stiff and pretty much up their own bottoms these days. Out of control, my lot. Ripping out old wooden doorways and installing glass abominations in their place, gripping the communion wine goblet so firmly, it’s virtually impossible to call it a first sabbath drink, and casting gems before pigs rather than pearls before swine, they can drive a man to the pub. Nice lot in the pub. Sometimes more saintly than those populating the pews. In fact, my boozing companion last week was a Roman Catholic chap, pretty high up in his church, a wonderful fellow, which is why the chat turned to the closing of Whitechapel Foundry, the makers of church bells for more than half a thousand years. One of the drinkers in our group had misheard, at least, I hope he misheard, a tv report that Bow Bells had been silenced. But no it is the closure of Whitechapel, one of the most famous bell making foundries in the world, with Big Ben and America’s Liberty Bell among its credits. Who will take its place? We didn’t have the answer. I have a friend who is a noted campanologist, ringing peels of church bells around Britain. He might know? But not in time for this Blog and perhaps just as well. Because my main concern is for the VERY famous Bow Bells themselves. Ringing out every fifteen minutes at Mary Le Bow church in East London and in case your memory is a little dusty, these are bells that summoned back to London Dick Whittington, four times Lord Mayor of London in the fourteenth century, who might never have got the job if he hadn’t heard the glorious bells booming at him, Turn again, Dick Whittington, Turn again. Consulting with his cat, because our Dick was returning home a bit of a failure, Dick did turn again. And look what happened. At this point, a young barman interrupted the conversation declaring he’d always thought Whittington, was a pantomime character with an actor gambolling around him as an amusing but quite frivolous cat. No indeed. Dick and his cat were real. But perhaps the most important function of Bow Bells was to determine who was a Cockney, those indestructible East Londoners who survived the blitz, eat jellied eels, ponce around in clothes to which thousands of pearls have been attached and make the pronunciation of ham sandwich sound like harm sonwish. The true Cockney must be born within the sound of the bells. And that’s the problem. Bow Bells might not have been totally silenced, but noise pollution has diminished their sound distance to half that of the time when they clearly rang out urging Dick W to turn again. That means the number of Cockneys in this world is shrinking. And because of the advent of dreadful and tasteless coffee chains now spreading like a rash through town and country, so are pubs. Cockneys, pubs. So what else is shrinking. Church buildings for one. Beautiful old churches with magnificent Norman architecture are being shut down almost as fast as pubs, while the church hierarchy does nothing to prevent it, instead focusing on vital matters such as gay marriage and women priests. Strange that the numbers of churchgoers is also shrinking and Christians have become so rare they are almost now a minority religion. But I digress. Bow Bells are for the moment under threat but safe. Pubs under threat and not safe. Cockneys virtually wiped out and jellied eels sinking to the rating of ‘delicacy’. At this point in our heated discussion a young man of some six feet four inches walked past, to the triumphal cry of one of our number that the human race was far from shrinking. True. But what sort of future is around the corner? Fewer pubs, fewer churches, fewer people eating a ‘full English’ Not to mention the limit put on Sunday’s gulp of wine at the altar. A land of Giants but with traditions long gone, pubs a thing of the past, the smell of bacon sizzling in the pan, as rare as someone kneeling at the altar. But worst of all, a muted Bow Bells still peeling out the call Turn again Dick Whittington. Sadly, just not enough Dicks to hear them, so the end of civilisation as we know it well and truly down the drain. ‘Another pint, please ‘Arry. I’ve just got time for one before I meet the Bishop in Costa to talk over the problems of the church and declining membership. I’m urging him to give half the collection to the Bow Bells fund. The bigger the reach of the sound of Bow Bells, , the more Cockneys there are. Then more beer drinkers there are, then more pubs being saved. Ahhhhh dont hold your breath. The new land of Giants may well be bigger and taller than us. And that’s great. But if the capacity to listen to Bow Bells has gone, then it will be more than my undershorts that shrink and poor old Dick won’t turn again, but head off to a land of milk and honey, or at least a land with thousands of pubs and people like me, short in the arse and short on worrying about the shrinkage of traditional Britain. Ah. Yes. You’re quite right. The sound of the landlord sounding a bell and calling Time Gentlemen, Please. Now that is a bell that isn’t missed.