Leaving your safety net without noticing

Last night we had a casual handbell session with Josy, which we organised completely at the last minute (the idea of organising anything at the last minute is an immense novelty in our household).

It was a good thing to do because Simon was getting antsy for lack of handbell ringing, all our plans to take advantage of available babysitting last week falling foul of holidays (how dare they) and illness (not ours for a change).

It had been a while so we started with some Plain Bob and then moved on to a few courses of Cambridge.  This is coming on very well and Josy was shortly ringing with good confidence and with more speed and rhythm than previously.  Then came the question of 'what next?'  "Primrose" I joked.  "Ok" said Simon, not joking.  Josy picked up her handbells with alacrity.

A successful course of Primrose followed, followed then, inevitably by Ipswich and Norfolk.  Attempts at a 2-course touch of the four of them spliced fell at various hurdles until we surrendered to the late hour and inevitable brain death.

We were enjoying ourselves pushing the boundaries out for Josy, but feeling pretty comfortable about it, and it wasn't until we finished that I realised I had been pushing my own boundaries too.  It was the first time I had rung these methods off the trebles.  Go figure.  Possibly I am getting to grips with this stuff after all.

Final performance of the handbell club

Yesterday was the school awards ceremony, and the handbell club were asked to provide some ringing about halfway along.  So, for the last few weeks of the Club sessions, we have been rehearsing a demonstration for this.  The children planned an ambitious one, including plain hunting on 4, table lapping, and plain hunting on 6 (!!).

It doesn't sound like much until you remember that they will be in front of a pretty big audience and without their 'cheat sheets' (actually the children have all confessed that it is easier to ring without the cheat sheets now - hurrah!).

I am always of two minds about these performances:  on the one hand, it is great to have a goal like that and to show off a little, on the other, the preparation takes a few weeks potential training and progress away.

Well, the day came and they pulled it off with great verve, and rang straight past the very few mistakes they made.  Much of the audience had been at the Easter service for their first performance (rounds and queens), and from the comments I got afterwards, they noticed the improvement.

Running the club has been quite a lot of work, but really worth the result.  Now I have to think of how to organise next year's club - so far the children are keen to carry on.


Apparently there is now a psychometric test to measure 'tough-mindedness' or resilience (a term which my informant prefers, and I agree with her).  Although long known in sports coaching, it is a concept which has, I am told, recently entered general employment in, er, employment.

It is the ability to keep going when things get hard, to ignore those difficulties and focus on the desired outcome, and achieve it in the face of those difficulties.  It is, also, the ability to recover from what might otherwise be a disaster.

We are familiar with this concept in bellringing, only as bellringers we don't bother with the amped up language and call it 'keeping your bell ringing'.  As in, 'when can you stop ringing?  You can stop ringing when you are dead, and even then try to keep moving long enough so we can finish around you.'  A little extreme?  Perhaps, but 'not quitting' is built into the normal experience of ringing.

Shortly after discussing this, we had a magnificent demonstration of resilience.  Simon and I were tempted down Penrith-ways again and managed to squeeze in a quarter peal of Yorkshire.  This, due to various circumstances (mostly involving a large cheese plate), didn't get started until about 9pm.  So tiredness was already a factor.

We started off fantastic, and then some trips started, and the recovery from each trip was a bit slower and then there was a bit of a serious method mistake, and Sally, who was working a little beyond her confidence zone, lost her way and reached that place where you hear the words but can't actually process them in any way.

All was not lost!  Sally kept ringing, the rest of us closed everything else out and concentrated on not going wrong, and after a little time, Sally remembered that she actually knew the method pretty well, and finished the quarter with some good ringing.

Don't give up, keep ringing, and and you may find yourself leaving the panic behind.  Plus, it turns out to be a transferable skill.  Handbells as a team-building exercise?

Penrith, Cumbria
17 Wordsworth St
Saturday 16 June 2012 in 45 mins (15 in C)
1344 Yorkshire Surprise Major
1-2   Tina Stoecklin
3-4   Sally Walker
5-6   Nick Tithecott
7-8   Simon Gay (C)

(or view it on Campanophile)

Maximum punishment (Scottish Handbell Day part 2)

After successfully sending our Handbell Club students away happy with their accomplishments, we turned to the more challenging part of the day, which consisted of satisfying various Surprise Major requests, and filling in the rest of the bands appropriately around them.  We had a small number of attenders, but a good level of experience, and we had created a good schedule of mixed 6, 8 and 10 bell attempts.


A last minute change in the lineup for the day blew that schedule, and we had to create a new timetable from scratch, and packed the afternoon with three (yes, three) separate attempts at Kent Maximus.  While the Surprise Major attempts trundled along with a reasonable mixture of success (the highlight being a quarter of 4-spliced) and good opportunities for practice, we had open rebellion in the Kent bands, and eventually dropped one session back to a Cambridge Royal practice instead.

Feedback was mixed: some people felt that they were not yet ready for 12-bell ringing, and that it was too hard; others thought it was the best opportunity to practice 12-bell ringing in a sustained way that we had ever had.  Goes to show.  The next handbell day is the first Saturday in October, so we will see what lessons we take to that one.

In the meantime, we managed to yet again not ring a peal of 41 Minor, and now have no further opportunities for it until later summer.  Trying to start a handbell peal after 8pm just doesn't work.  We knew it didn't work years ago, having tried it before, but a lack of free Saturdays pushed us into trying it again - and again - and again.  And with a naive, Carlisle-induced fog of faith, we believed.....

More Plain Hunting (and some Stedman too)

Wednesdays are the day that I run the Handbell Club over the lunch period, and after our success with the students at the Scottish Handbell Day, I was thinking about ways to keep that momentum.  I was also thinking about how to catch the other pupils up.

The bad news is that we seem to have lost two pupils to the nice weather (and possibly to opportunities to gossip about boys).  The good news is that everyone who attended the handbell day still remembers how to plain hunt on 6.

For this session I took four of our Kidsplay handbells along with our usual set of 12.  I printed out a Plain Hunt on 4 grid, and then used markers to colour-code it to match the Kidsplay bells.  Then I could divide the children into the following groups:

  • a plain hunting on six group, with one pupil each on trebles and tenors and me ringing 3-4.
  • a Kidsplay plain hunting on 4 group, where two pupils used the colour coding to work through plain hunt by themselves
  • a plain hunt on 4 intensive session, using Thomas as the second ringer to steady things.

The remaining pupils were set to a quiz and some drawing.  I rotated them all through in 10-minute intervals and in different combinations.  The colour-coding of the Kidsplay bells really helped the DIY hunting; but they are so much more piercing in tone than our change ringing set that within the confines of the classroom it was almost unbearable.

We have three more weeks to practice before our next public performance: I feel really encouraged that we might have a small plain hunt demo ready for then.

Later that same day, we had another evening session with Josy, and attempted a quarter peal of spliced plain methods.  As is typical of minor, it was going really well until suddenly it wasn't.  It was definitely gettable.  Then we did some practice, going over courses of Cambridge (which is coming along quite well), and some courses of Kent, with some goes at Forward to practice the place-making (wasn't coming along quite so well).

Finally, like moths to a flame, we had to try this Stedman Doubles again.  It was still really really hard!  We opted for an extent putting the singles with either 1-2 or 3-4, which eliminated the whole 'one bell at the front and one bell at the back' problem.  And really, it was much easier, and it still took us quite a few attempts to get a couple of different extents round.  It has a hypnotic allure.


RSS feed Subscribe to Blog feed