Grappling with the Bristol family

This week we have been on our annual "Hulliday", a holiday with a group of ringing friends. It was a smaller group than usual, and there was a bit more ringing, with two afternoon mini-outings for the benefit of the youngsters. We have also done a lot of handbell ringing: some plain hunting and Plain Bob Minor; some Cambridge Minor; some Stedman Triples; and intensive Bristol.

Early in the week, the idea came up of trying to ring a course of Bristol Maximus. It has usually been rung on previous Hullidays, including a peal attempt last year, but this year's band was less experienced with only two people who have rung a peal of it on handbells. We worked on it nearly every evening, and by yesterday we managed to get to the end of a plain course, although the last lead wasn't completely convincing. Today we sat down to ring earlier, with high hopes of mastering it, but it was not to be...we seemed to be doing much worse than before. That's the way it goes sometimes. We all made good progress though, and Tina and I enjoyed trying something that we can't do during the rest of the year.

One evening, after firing out the Bristol Maximus, we rang a course of Bristol Royal. It was ever so much easier! It made me feel that we could have a chance of ringing it at home when we can get five people together, perhaps after we have managed to ring our peal of London Royal.

We also rang an excellent peal of Bristol Major, which was extremely satisfying. I called David Maynard's composition again, and with the band we had, I was able to ring the tenors, which always enables me to ring slightly better. That makes seven handbell peals this year, with no losses, which is almost unbelievable.

We're back!

It's a while since we've written a blog, and a while since we've rung anything to write about. This is partly because of the usual summer disruption, and partly because of losing a couple of quarters. However, yesterday we got back in business with a quarter of spliced Jersey, Cassiobury and Cray. Yes, that is a strange combination of methods - we are practising for something, and all will be revealed in due course. We deliberately rang a tricky composition: a cyclic 7-part with lots of bobs. We found it quite difficult, especially Cray.

What I find hard about Cray is ringing the long places simultaneously in 3-4 and 5-6; one bell dodging while the other makes a place, alternately through half a lead. In the end I have decided to ring it by place notation, stepping carefully through the sequence of places as we work through the lead. It works, but it means I can't think about anything else during a lead of Cray.

It was the 100th quarter together for me, Tina, Jonathan and Angela - that includes some of Royal and Maximus. The 100th quarter with just the four of us will be a future landmark. That's nearly 10 years of ringing together, which have taken us from Angela's first handbell quarter up to peals of 23-spliced and Horton's Four. Here's to many future challenges!

A curious new method

A year or two ago, the Central Council decisions (often known as "rules") were amended to allow the naming of methods that are false in the plain course. The issue came up in relation to methods used in peals of cyclic spliced maximus, where the methods were designed to produce musical changes in a cyclic composition, with no intention of ever ringing a plain course. The argument for changing the decisions was that we should only be interested in the truth of a performance that is actually rung, not the truth of a course of an individual method.

This week my eye was caught by a handbell quarter that took advantage of the new decisions to name "Plain Treble Bob Minor". It's Plain Bob Minor but with treble bob hunting instead of plain hunting. A plain course is false, but the standard calling gives a 1440 in which every row occurs twice. It could be an interesting way of practising treble bob hunting, so I will keep it in mind next time we have learners at that stage.

The method is not only false in the plain course, it's false within a lead. The only way to name the major version would be to ring a double extent!

A small and successful handbell day

On Saturday we had the Scottish Handbell Day, unusually on a bank holiday weekend because of a diary mix-up. Perhaps because of the holiday, we had fewer people than usual: just two or three groups in each session.

In the morning, we included two of our tower-bell learners from Glasgow, who hadn't tried handbells before. They both made progress with the plain hunting positions, and we got Dorothy involved too.

The rest of the day was devoted to Plain Bob and Kent. I had been worried that we didn't have enough experienced ringers, and when planning the programme I was more conservative than usual. As things turned out, the new participants - Susannah and Phyllida, who have been ringing regularly with Ian and Barbara Bell in Edinburgh - were confident with Plain Bob Minor and were able to progress to Plain Bob Major and Kent Minor. We rang four quarters altogether: one of Kent Minor and three of Plain Bob Major.

After dinner we had the obligatory attempt at Plain Hunting on 16, taking advantage of the fact that Adam's bells are still in our living room. Plain Hunting on 16 was too difficult, of course, but we had more success with a method that Jonathan suggested. The trebles course up in the same way as in Plain Hunting, and every other pair waits until the treble passes them and then starts to course after all the smaller bells. The result is that everyone is coursing, which makes it much easier to keep to a rhythm and count the places.

Finally, we rang some Plain Hunting on 10 with Susannah, Phyllida and Al, and then rang a course of Plain Bob Royal with each of then in turn.

So, in the end, everyone rang a quarter, and all of the less experienced people were able to try something new. Success all round. 

200 quarters at 1 Albany Quadrant

Angela is away this week, but Jenny came over instead and we rang a quarter of spliced Cambridge, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, which was her first of spliced surprise on handbells. It went smoothly with good steady ringing throughout. It was the 200th quarter in the house, which has taken a bit longer than we might have expected - we only rang 6 quarters last year, and only 2 so far this year. Here are some statistics.

  • Timespan: 11 years
  • Number of people involved: 48
  • Number of conductors: 14
  • Number of different titles (Yorkshire, 3-spliced, 4-spliced etc): 47
  • Number of methods rung (including in spliced): 80
  • Leading methods: Plain Bob Major (24), Yorkshire Major (23)
  • Number of "firsts" of any kind: 50
  • Numbers of bells: 40 Minor, 137 Major, 20 Royal, 3 Maximus
  • Number of quarters with all of Simon, Tina, Angela and Jonathan in the band: 91

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