I remember sitting on the bus from London to Winchester on my way back home after a busy day sucking up art exhibitions in various museums and galleries around London. It was part of the studies for my MA in art. It was late in the evening usually I would had taken the train back home, but this time it was the bus. I was sitting up front and a woman older than I sat beside me. We started talking. She was a part of a gang. A ringer gangs. Us ringers. I had never encountered anybody who was a real living RINGER. But she was. She rang church bells in various churches in some gangs. Depending on the church the number in a gang varied as each church had different numbers of bells.
She had just been ringing somewhere in London where they had been short of a member and she had stood in to help them ring this day. Usually she had a certain number of churches that she rang with her ringer gangs in Hampshire and in other counties nearby.
I find this fascinating. To be a ringer.
My lonely work in the loom doesn't include a gang. Only when I am warping, which happens once or twice a year, I summon a gang. Some of them are experienced others are novices but they have to do the work properly and they always do.
Their task is to hold to the warp, with an even tension while I warp the loom. They sit on the floor, and of course I allow pillows under their sensitive bums, and they have to keep an even tension in spite of being of different build and strength.
The are like the gang of ringers. They have to be in tune.
When I was studying weaving in Finland decades ago, we the students at the weaving school had to help each other with the warping. The person who owned the warp had to provide cake or biscuits with that day's coffee brakes. We drank a lot of coffee and being in Finland that was a serious matter the coffee drinking.
I have continued the custom of paying my gang with coffee, tea and cakes of various kinds. Not beer as somebody suggested to me yesterday.
I like this custom of mine. It reminds me of some of the best times in my life when I lived in a small Swedish speaking town in Finland and studied weaving. I experienced one of the coldest winters for decades, drank a lot of beer and knitted in the disco because it was warmer there than in the little apartment I rented.
Anna María Lind, MA Textile Art Winchester School of Art.