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The Carol of the Bells


But first some statistical housekeeping. This is a sock on a plane.

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It is making sure that the wings are still there.

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They were. If anyone is collecting information about knitting needles and aeroplanes I’ll add this to the mix. In the last month I flew Birmingham to Edinburgh with BMI Baby with a sock in progress on 2.5mm bamboo DPNs and a few spare DPNs loose in my handbag with the spare pens and the needle gauge. No problems with security at either end. I didn’t knit on the plane because we were a little bit too like sardines for that to be strictly comfortable.

The same kit and caboodle flew from Gatwick to Orlando and back, again no problems with security. I knit the sock you can see on the way out (and the stewards correctly identified it as a sock) and I slept on the way home. Bamboo DPNs at least do not seem to be a problem for airlines – hurray!

Now then, how about a little sunshine to brighten up those winter days? Well sadly the Sunshine State could produce nothing more than an English squib of a summer’s day the first few days we were there (cue much searching for jumpers in suitcases). Although we were staying near Orlando we weren’t much for the Disney and our first proper trip out was to a really unusual place – Bok Sanctuary, based on Iron Mountain which is the tallest ‘mountain’ in Florida.
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I say ‘mountain’ loosely because, to be honest, I hadn’t realised that we’d gone up one until I read the sign telling me. It is I believe the highest point in Florida. Florida is kind of flat. And largely below sea level if the diagrams are to be believed. Having flown in over the Kennedy Space Centre and its surrounding ponds, I believe it.

The flowers however, were beautiful and the whole garden had a very serene atmosphere.

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There were enormous grapefruit trees with a wonderful citrus scent,

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Stripy butterflies (on the bottom of the pink flower), that make you stop to wonder how on earth something chocolate and lime stripes ever hides. And then you see it on a palm tree. It works.

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We found a red nose tree.

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And the most enormous lily pads – the sort that you’re always half tempted to sit on, just to see if they could take your weight.

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The biggest attraction of all though (literally) was this:

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This is a Carillon, or rather, within this tower is a Carillon; a series of bells played by a keyboard, not unlike an organ console. Rather than using the English system of swinging the bell, with the clapper ‘loose’ within it to sound the note, the Carilloneur presses the pedals for a little clapper to hit the bell, sounding the note.

It produces beautiful, haunting melodies because the Carilloneurs play chords and tunes, rather than the peculiarly English trait of using bells to make mathematical patterns, and when we were there the lunchtime concert was all Christmas carols – it sounded like the tower was singing.

The architecture was also impressive, H was rather taken with this balcony as his college emblem is a Pelican.

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The traceries at the top, rather than simply being carved stone as they would be in England, are ceramic tile mosaics, something that could never endure the English winter, but which seems perfectly at home here. Colourful too.

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So if you feel in need of a little Christmas peace, close your eyes, smell a grapefruit, imagine you are in a garden on a soft breezy day, and listen to the bells. They have a sample here (scroll down)

The irony? The bells for this Carillon were cast by John Taylor of Loughborough, about 50 miles from where I live. In England.