Handbell day, with some old friends

Yesterday was the Scottish Handbell Day. Jonathan and Angela were away, but we were reinforced by a visit from Ruth, Richard and Lesley, who we used to do a lot of ringing with before moving to Glasgow. We had the usual mixture of practice sessions and quarters, and everyone made good progress. There were two quarters of Yorkshire Major, one of Cambridge Major, and a couple of attempts at Plain Bob Minor that didn't quite go.

I wanted to ring something with Nick, Ruth, Richard and Lesley, as a reunion from the days of ringing with Roger Bailey at Imperial College. My idea was to ring a short touch, then someone suggested a quarter, then Nick suggested spliced Cambridge, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. So that's what we rang - Richard is very good at quickly learning compositions.

1,282 Spliced Surprise Royal (2–3 methods)
Donald F Morrison (no. 2348)

 23456   W  H   2m           3m           3m  
 45236   -  -   YCYCY.CCYC.  NCYCY.NCYN.  YCCYY.R.
(32456)  s      CYCCY.(Y)    CYNCY.(Y)    CYRCYRCY.(Y)
Rounds two blows after the single.

Scottish Association
1 Albany Quadrant
Saturday, 5 October 2019
1282 Spliced Surprise Royal (3m) 
442 Yorkshire, 440 Cambridge, 400 Lincolnshire, 28 c.o.m., a.t.w.
Composed by Donald F Morrison
1–2 Lesley J Belcher
3–4 Ruth Blackwell
5–6 Richard A Pearce (C)
7–8 Simon J Gay
9–10 Nicholas W Jones

Rung at the Scottish Handbell Day by former members of the Imperial College handbell band, remembering Roger Bailey. Spot the connection behind the band in the photo.

We also rang a course of Bristol Royal (Simon, Tina, Nick, Richard, James), three leads of Littleport Maximus and almost a course of Cambridge Maximus (Simon, Tina, Nick, Ruth, Richard, Lesley). We've got another date with Nick for Bristol Royal at the end of October, so we should have a good chance of a quarter.

Bristol Royal

On Monday we were joined by Nick for another Bristol Royal session, without the distraction of ringing London first. We agreed that we would set out for a plain course, and if we got to the end, I would call a wrong and keep going for a quarter.

It started very well - a complete transformation in comparison with last time. As I remember, we got past the lead end where all the pairs cross. I remember thinking "wow, we're going to have to continue for a quarter - but I don't know whether I can keep up this concentration for long enough!" It didn't last though - we broke down a couple of leads later. Nevertheless, it was so much better than our first attempt, that it suddenly seemed possible.

We followed the usual technique of restarting at problematic leads, and practising until we had rung the whole course in sections. Then we managed a whole plain course at the end of the evening. It felt like a real breakthrough. Unfortunately it will be a while before we can get together again - probably November - but Tina and I might have a chance to ring it next week on our ringers' group holiday.

We had particular difficulty with the lead in which the tenors are 4th and 6th place bells. I then realised that this is the lead in which the first half lead has all the pairs ringing rotationally symmetric patterns (I wrote about this when we were working on 23 spliced). As I said before, it can feel quite awkward to be doing the same work with both bells, but turned upside down and backwards. Strangely, the lead in which the second half lead is rotationally symmetric, which is when the tenors are 7th and 9th place bells and occurs earlier in the course, seemed much easier. Nick suggested that it's easier to get through a difficult second half lead, because we have a better idea of which place bells we are aiming for, instead of aiming for the half lead as a landmark.

Here are the rotationally symmetric pieces of work for each pair. From left to right: 9-10, 7-8, 5-6, 3-4.


They do look rather tricky!

Another tricky aspect of Bristol Royal, which doesn't occur in Major, is the wrong dodges. In particular, it's possible to do a wrong dodge with one bell and a right dodge (dodging with the treble) with the other bell. An example is the relationship between 9th place bell, in the diagram above, and the treble. The bells move in parallel for two changes, but for one of them it's a right hunting step followed by a right dodge, and for the other it's a wrong dodge followed by a wrong hunting step. This is different from moving in parallel in a coursing position, because there are two bells between, instead of one.

When writing blogs about the methods we are ringing, I usually focus more on the inside pairs, because that's what I ring. But let's spare a thought for Angela and have a look at the trebles.

Most place bells have the right/wrong dodging feature. It occurs when the treble is in 5-6, so the other bell can be adjacent (3-4 or 7-8) or further away (1-2 or 9-10). Also distinctive, and tricky, are the sections where the trebles are almost coursing, but two bells apart instead of one bell apart, with the treble right hunting and the second wrong hunting. This is in 9th, 7th, 4th and 6th place bells. The offset dodging causes them to ring adjacently, then separate again to two apart. Angela said that this took some getting used to. The same thing happens in Bristol Maximus, but continues for longer. 

There was a lot of announcing of points going on, mostly by me. I have always found it slightly more difficult to announce the points if I'm not doing one myself. During the evening, I realised that when ringing 7-8 (which I was), or 5-6, every time there's a point, one or both of my bells is involved in it. That made it easier. It's only the coursing or 3-4 pairs that can be outside the points, at the same end of the change as the treble.

When considering which composition to call for a quarter peal (if we had got that far), there were a few reasonable options. For ringing in the tower, W H W H is a standard favourite, which I have called from the 5th a couple of times (it's just like calling Plain Bob Minor: 4ths and out twice, then home). It also has the advantage of ringing the whole plain course before the first bob, which is what I wanted for our session. However, 3-4 have to ring three positions (3-4, 7-8 and coursing) and 5-6 also have to ring three positions (5-6, 3-4 and 7-8).

Another possibility is H sH H sH, which can be massaged into starting at the snap and calling W sW W sW, which keeps 5-6 coursing throughout and only has the coursing and 3-4 positions for 3-4. But it's four 8-lead courses, so it isn't all-the-work, which seems undesirable.

After a while I realised that sW sH sW sH is also true, and it keeps 3-4 in the 3-4 position throughout. 5-6 ring 5-6 and 3-4. I haven't seen this composition written down before for Bristol Royal. It has fewer 4-bell runs than some of the others. But I think it's the best calling for our first quarter, when we get the chance to try again.

August's method: Ytterbium

The next method of the month is Ytterbium. Let's have a look at it now, although I don't think we'll be able to ring it until a bit later in August.

It's a D lead end, i.e. "alternate Cambridge" place bell order. We've had this place bell order a few times - it's the same as Jovium, Dunster, Ashtead and Ipswich. The composition that we rang for Jovium should be good again, although with only 91 runs instead of 106.

1344 Ytterbium Surprise Major
Comp. Elf

I W H  2345678
- -   (3462785)
-   2  2348765
2 part.
91 4-bell runs (43f, 48b)

The method is Uxbridge (or Lessness) above the treble, but it doesn't have the full Uxbridge backwork because of different work when the treble is in 7-8. The symmetrical place bell is 5th, and it's actually the same as Ashtead.

There's some work on the front around the half lead which is reminiscent of Surfleet Surprise Minor. 4th place bell does Stedman followed by 2nd place and lead. There's a double wrong dodge in 3-4 and 5-6. Below the 3-4 dodge it's a bit like Surfleet, in the sense that there's frontwork starting or finishing with a point lead. The frontwork has an extra 2nd place and lead to fill in the space required for surprise major. Above the 5-6 dodge is a bit like Surfleet, in the sense that there's a place adjacent to passing the treble. The remaining work is a fishtail in 3-4.

I've always found it awkward to ring the places on the front and the dodges in 3-4, in Surfleet, so I expect the corresponding work in Ytterbium will also require care. Overall, though, I don't think it's any more difficult than Frodsham, so we should be able to ring a quarter.

July's method: Frodsham

Continuing with the monthly methods from the Ringing World Diary, we rang a quarter of Frodsham on 1st July. I have to say that the method isn't very far up our favourites list. It's Bristol above the treble - even more than that, it's completely Bristol until the treble gets above 6th place. On the front there's a far dodge near in 3-4 across the half lead, with an awkward 3rd place below it. There's a wrong 4-pull dodge in 1-2 across the half lead, which requires careful ringing to synchronise with other pieces of work. Overall, it's the kind of method we can ring well if we go carefully and not too fast, but it would take a lot more practice (which it's not going to get) to become really fluent.

The composition was a neat two-part by Don Morrison:

1280 Frodsham Surprise Major
Donald F. Morrison

B  H  23456
   -  42356
2  -  25634
2 part.

London and Bristol Royal

We had planned a session with Nick today, as he was going to be passing through central Scotland. It could have been a Cambridge Maximus session, but we didn't manage to find a sixth person, so we decided to work on London and Bristol Royal. We were fairly confident that we would be able to ring a quarter of London, as we have reached the halfway point of a peal a couple of times in the past - and indeed we did ring a quarter at the second attempt (I miscalled the first one). So that's our first publishable performance of London Royal. It still takes a lot of concentration, which was the problem with our peal attempts. Maximum concentration isn't sustainable for a whole peal, so it's a question of practising until we can ring the method with less concentration.

After a short break, we had a go at Bristol. We found it much harder. By practising leads again and again, and restarting at suitable points each time we fired out, we eventually rang every lead of the plain course, just not all joined together. It was a huge advance though. We've gone from never having tried it with this band (Nick and I have rung it in the distant past, but the other three haven't) to seeing that if we practise a bit more we should be able to do it.

Jonathan commented that he found London easier with people than with Abel, but he found Bristol easier with Abel. I think that's because we were all better at ringing London. If the band can basically ring the method, then ringing with the band enables one to benefit from the collective help and comments on the treble's position and so on. But if the whole band is struggling with the method, then it's much more difficult than ringing with the computer.

We're hoping to get Nick back for another session at the end of July. If we all manage to fit in some Abel practice in the meantime, we should have a good chance of ringing a clean plain course. 


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