This is the first Sunday morning that I haven't been woken at 9.00am sharp by the church bells across the road from my house. I thought it would be a blessed relief, as normally the bells reverberate around my hungover skull, and keep me suffering for an hour when I could be painlessly sleeping off a big Saturday night.
One morning fairly recently, it wasn't the bells that woke me up, but a persistent engine sound, following by loud banging at my front door. I'm a fairly heavy sleeper, so it took a little time for me to come to consciousness. I checked my watch, and saw that it was 5.15am. "That can't be good news," I thought. "If it was any of my friends, they have my phone number." I checked my phone, but it was blank too. I decided that I didn't want to answer the door to bad news, so I ignored the banging. Apparently both of my flatmates reached the same conclusion, because neither of them got up either.
I tried to go back to sleep, but slipped in and out of dozing as I could still hear the engine and the occasional knocking. At some stage, curiousity overcame sleepiness, and I peeked out the window. The street in front of our house was blocked full of fire engines and police cars. It turned out that someone had tried to burn the church down!
Let me just say that 5.45am is not the time I want to be confronted by firemen and policemen at the front door, as I don't look my best at that time of the morning. I hoped my giant, fuzzy, orange dressing gown and touselled hair made me look adorable rather than frightening, and opened the door. They only wanted to know if I had seen anything suspicious, which I hadn't, so the conversation was thankfully brief.
It turned out that the fire only damaged the old wooden doors of the church, and now, a few months later, it has closed those doors permanantly. It's a beautiful building which is crumbling away, and the church doesn't have the money to repair it. It has famous bells, but the tower is too structurally unsound to be able to ring them anymore.
But I must say, this morning I kind of missed the bells. I was awake anyway, and not hungover for a change, and it was quiet. And a bit sad.