A little aardvark never hurt anyone

Angela wants to ring a quarter of Aardvark Surprise Major. To answer the obvious question, it's to do with the fact that her sister is getting married soon. It seems that there was a discussion of ringing something as a wedding compliment, and Angela's sister's fiancé, who is not a ringer, saw a list of methods and spotted Aardvark (evidently he started at the top...). Apparently aardvarks also have some personal significance for the couple (I didn't probe any further) and now the plan is to take a break from Horton's Four and ring a quarter of Aardvark. A couple of years ago we did something similar and rang a quarter of Bushey Surprise Major for a wedding that was taking place in Bushey. So, we always like a challenge - let's go for Aardvark.

A quick look at the line for Aardvark, reproduced here from Don Morrison's web site, shows that it might be a trickier proposition than Bushey, which is a right-place method with nice stable blocks of dodging and several familiar-looking structures.

How do we go about learning this method, to maximise the chance of success? We don't want to spend weeks practising it, and we don't want to ring it weeks after the wedding. It looks spiky and intimidating, but surely our experience with Glasgow and Belfast must count for something. Here are my observations about the line and structure.

  • It has Plain Bob place bell order, the same as Glasgow (but with 2nds place at the lead end instead of 8ths place).
  • 6th, 7th and 8th place bells start in the same way as  Whalley, by wrong hunting to a point. Eventually we will have to ring Whalley as part of Norman Smith's 23-spliced, so maybe ringing Aardvark now will help with that. In fact there's more: these place bells ring Whalley until they dodge with or pass the treble.
  • 3rd and 5th place bells start like Glasgow.
  • There are points in the back four places before and after the lead end, and in the front four places before and after the half lead, but they are one blow further away from the lead end / half lead than the points in Bristol, and are therefore at the opposite stroke. Nevertheless, if we can get used to the positions of the points, they should be good synchronising opportunities.
  • Across the half lead there is a double wrong dodge in 1-2, and wrong places in 3-4. This is the same as Beverley Surprise Minor, even to the extent of the Stedman whole turn next to the double dodge.
  • The triple dodge in 5-6 across the half lead should be a stabilising feature, especially with the 5ths place joining it onto the 5-6 dodge with the treble. However, simultaneously doing a double wrong dodge in 1-2 and a triple right dodge in 5-6 might be tricky; this will occur in both the 3-4 course and the 5-6 course. I think it will be useful to think of the double wrong dodge as a point blow, then a right dodge at the half lead, then a point blow.
  • 2nd place bell starts with something like Cambridge frontwork, but with the dodge and 2nds place the other way around. 3rds place bell fits in with it by doing dodge and lead after passing the treble in 2-3.
  •  There is a 1236 in the place notation, when the treble hunts between 4th and 5th place. This means that at certain points, someone can make 2nds and 3rds simultaneously, or lead and make 3rds simultaneously, or 2nds and 6ths, and so on. These manoeuvres don't occur in any of the methods we usually ring; doing them for the first time might make the ringer assume that he or she is making a mistake.

Having looked at the line for long enough to notice all these points, I'm sure I would be able to ring the method in the tower without difficulty. But before ringing it on handbells I will need to do some practice with Mabel, and I expect the others will too.

The next question is the composition. In this method, starting at the treble's backstroke snap gives an initial coursing order of 53426, so there is a possibility of getting a composition in which 3-4 course throughout. Here's one:

1344 Aardvark Surprise Major
Simon J Gay

W  M  H   (43256)
-----------------
      s    42356
   s       62354
2  ss      25364
-  s  s    43256
-----------------
Snap start. Rounds 194 changes after the last sH.

Sure, it's a little complicated, but I think it's worth it for the benefit of two of the band only having to practise the coursing position. In this style of composition, with one pair coursing throughout, if the conductor manages to remember the coursing order then usually that more or less forces the next call in order to keep the appropriate pair coursing.

We're planning to go for the quarter on 27th April, so we'll report back afterwards.

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