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”
There are plenty of stories about Jesus that you don’t find in the Bible, and not all of them are as bad as you might think. I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t, I have still never met him, and I have been dead for the best part of twenty years. But there’s plenty of people on the other side that still believe in him, and think that they will see him some day. and who am I to argue with them? Any road, there is one story about him coming to England when he was a lad with his uncle, Joseph of Arithmea, or whatever they called him. It’s such a well known story that Sexton Blake wrote a song about it, and it’s one that you will have heard an’all, unless your head is completely filled up with ruddy pop music. “Jerusalem” … “And did those feet, in ancient times walk upon England’s mountains green…” Apparently they went to the Glastonbury festival, but they wouldn’t have thought much to it, because it was all Celtic pan pipe music in those days, and no one likes that except for vegetarians and hippies.
Joseph would have been alright, because he had a good English name, but if anyone had asked the lad what he was called, and he had said “Jesus” it might have caused some trouble with the racialists and the immigration control. So he used his middle name, which was Henry.
Back in the olden days, Henry was a well respected name, that posh people, such as kings and the like had. No one would ever have thought that it would one day be the name of a funny looking vacuum cleaner with a face that sucked up dirt through its nose. It was a perfectly acceptable middle name for the Messiah.
So that’s how you get the swearword “Jesus H Christ” which comes in handy as an expression of extreme surprise.
But there is another story of Jesus which takes this a stage further. As a youngster he visited England, but later on, after the crucifixion and before the resurrection, he is said to have visited Hell itself. The Catholics have it in their catechisms and whatnots. “Jesus descended into Hell” they say. The Catholic Vicars all get into a right fuss about what he did that for. Whether he had gone down there to have a go at the devil, or to save the souls who had died before his time on earth, or just as an extension of his suffering and dying to save us lot. Any road, I reckon it was a bit hot for him down there, and I expect the ruddy Devil had a go at sticking his trident into his bum, and there would have been plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth going on.
It’s meant to be horrible and chaotic and terrible in hell, and Jesus was an innocent and straightforward person, who didn’t deserve to have to suffer that. So the swearword “Flaming Henry” is used by innocent people who find themselves in terrible chaotic situations. Such as when you open the pantry door and all tins of soup and yard brushes and bags of sugar and bottles of juice fall out and you get broken glass on the floor.
Other situations where “Jesus H Christ” or “Flaming Henry” may come in handy.
(i) When you accidentally tread in some dog mess and it makes one of your feet slide forward really quickly whilst the other one doesn’t move at all: “Jesus H Christ: What filthy so and so let their dog do that there!”
(ii) When you are baby sitting for your nephew and niece and they have been banging around upstairs when they should have been fast asleep over an hour ago “Flaming Henry, if you two little so and sos don’t give over, I’ll be coming up there and knocking your ruddy heads together”
(iii) When you have almost finished a 1500 piece jigsaw of a rural scene in Scotland, like one of those off the cover of the “Peoples Friend” magazine, and your ruddy nephew charges into the room pretending to be Batman and knocks it all over the floor. “Jesus H Christ! Flaming Henry! Ruddy, Ruddy Nora!”