My main ringing ambition is to be able to ring on handbells everything that I can ring on tower bells. I don't suppose I'll ever get there, although it's made a tiny bit easier by the fact that there are some things that I'll probably never be able to ring on tower bells either.
I rang a tower bell peal of Spliced Surprise Royal recently, of London, Bristol, Clyde and Lockington, so afterwards I spent some time trying to ring it on handbells with Abel (at least it keeps me off the streets...). To my surprise, after a bit of practice I was able to ring the methods fairly well. I have been thinking about the mental strategies that I use to ring more difficult methods. They also apply to the methods that we are actually ringing on handbells at the moment, such as London and Bristol. Here are some observations, in no particular order.
- I have to know the methods much more thoroughly than I do for tower bell ringing. On tower bells there's time to work out a place bell from its reverse, or by thinking about which place bell it will become and how it will get there. On handbells I don't have enough thinking time for that, so I have to make sure that I can get straight onto the work of each pair of place bells as they arise. Ringing spliced on tower bells is quite good practice for learning methods well enough to ring them on handbells.
- In methods that have a regular backwork, for example based on treble bob hunting, if one of my bells is at the back I can let it waft along while concentrating mainly on the other bell. If both bells are in a regular backwork then that's a bonus which allows a bit of relaxation or thinking time. Regular backworks can often be rung in a rule-based style: treble bob until the treble is in a certain position, and so on. This is one reason why the "Kent Apprenticeship" is useful.
- Sometimes, if both bells are doing tricky wrong-place work, I find myself consciously switching my attention back and forth between them, very carefully advancing each bell along its line by one blow at a time. This takes a lot of concentration. The most difficult methods are the ones in which there isn't much easy work to relax in.
- It's good to take advantage of easy sections, and often I can see them coming in advance even if I am not familiar enough with the method to remember where all the easy sections come. For example, little blocks of coursing pop up even within non-coursing pairs, such as below the treble in the 7-8 position for Cambridge Royal. A more exotic example is 5th and 7th place bells in Glasgow, when the 7th runs through as the 5th makes 3rds and 4ths; it's a little block of work that's very familiar from right-place methods, and when I see it coming, I know I have a few changes without much thinking, which provides a rest.