Warning: this level of swearing shouldn’t be used lightly. It would have completely infuriated my father. Then again, so would “Jesus H Christ” and “Ruddy Nora.” Even “Heavens to Betsy”would have irritated him. But “Hell’s Bells” alone would have been totally unacceptable to him. He felt he had the monopoly on images of lakes of fire, and the Devil punishing sinners,and that the only place that they could be put to proper use was in his pulpit at the Non-Conformist Chapel, and certainly not for use by a member of the fairer sex who has dropped a stitch in her knitting. Adding “and buckets of blood” at the end of it would have rendered it completely blasphemous. If he had ever caught me saying anything like that, he would have nipped my legs so hard that he would have probably done lasting damage to my anterior tibial arteries or something.
To understand where the phrase “Hell’s Bells and Buckets of Blood” comes from, you have to imagine the scene in Britain in the first hundred years or so after William the Conqueror invaded. Psychological and chemical warfare was rife and used by the Norman invaders to break the spirit of the Saxon, Danish and Celtic populations and convert them to the English way of life we know and love today, where our population is famed the world over for getting too drunk, and either laying by the side of the road spuking up, or disrupting football matches.
If a British settlement resisted, the Normans would first use the psychological method, building churches in all the surrounding settlements, and ringing the bells all day and all night for weeks on end. Usually the inhabitants of the target settlement either gave themselves up, or fled to Scotland, Wales, or even Ireland, all of which were well out of earshot. The Americans used the same idea to force the Dictator, General Noriega to surrender after they had invaded Panama in 1989, but rather than use bells, they used loud pop music, including Bananarama, the Fun Boy Three, and Kim Wilde. When he gave himself up: Noriega uttered the words “Las campanas del infierno! Cedo!” ( Hell’s bells! I give up!)
However, back in early Norman Britain, there were some tough so and sos who were resistant to that kind of treatment. Maybe they were deaf, maybe they liked bell music. Whatever it was, they stayed put. So the Normans started chemical warfare. What they would do was murder somebody, probably one of the ones who had given themselves up because of the bells, and throw him down the village well, late at night. Next morning, when they came to draw water, the bucket would come up full of blood. Eventually the whole villages water supply would be contaminated with blood, rotting flesh and ruddy maggots. And while all this was going on, the rotten so and sos would still be ringing them ruddy bells. No wonder that when Eadric the Wild finally stumbled out of Stafford in 1070, he cried “Höllenglocke und Eimer Blut” or something.
Some situations where “Hell’s Bells and Buckets of blood may come in handy.
(i) When you can’t think straight because there’s a ruddy car alert going off outside and you accidentally cut your finger whilst opening a tin of sardines.
(ii) When you have gone for a quiet weekend away at the seaside, but the people in the next caravan are playing ruddy pop music every minute God Sends
(iii) When your ruddy stupid other half has got out of his bed without his glasses on, and trodden on your beloved little doggie, and caused its eyeballs to pop out of one end, and it’s innards to pop out of the other. (In this instance the phrase should be shrieked at the top of your voice and accompanied by a range of other cuss words, all delivered whilst beating him over the head with the nearest available blunt instrument – in my case, the hardback edition of “The Bedside Book of British Garden Birds”