Handbells in the corners of our lives

I have been roadtesting our new set of amped-up Kidsplay handbells these past couple of weeks.

(We have gotten into the habit of calling these the 'toy handbells', but we really need a better name....any suggestions?

As I had hoped, these handbells have been very useful to the Handbell Club.  They are very quiet, compared to our sets made from bell metal, and believe me, in a classroom setting with several conflicting sets of bells going, quietness is an enormous virtue (I usually muffle our other sets for these sessions).  The eight extra bells is also always very helpful in our now very crowded sessions, and with them, I have been able to give all the pupils a lot more 'rope time'.  I am hoping to take advantage of the differently coloured bells to enhance some of our plain hunt practicing. (Purple lead!  How great is that?)

Change ringing on Kidsplay handbells before the judo class begins.

In addition to using them with the students in the Handbell Club, I have taken them along to Judo Day (which used to be Park Day), where we have been ringing Plain Hunt on 4 while waiting between sessions.  This is with some of last terms' handbell club learners, as well as a few of our more experienced ringers from the previous year.  Various children too young to join the Handbell Club have also had goes between judo sessions.

I have also taken them along to the Saturday music school, where there are now six Handbell Club members, and we have killed some waiting time there having goes at Plain Hunt on 6.  This has been especially useful on rainy days (a frequent occurrence) where everyone is stuck inside and can't run about.

I have had to do a little emergency maintenance to a clapper and re-position a couple of O-rings.  Other than that, the little set of bells has been super.  They are quiet and lightweight, and so are easy to just carry along.  I find, for little hands, they are easier to ring and get straight into striking at both strokes much more quickly.   I was happy to note, however, that this term's crop of Handbell Club Members got to grips with striking and handling very well without this help.

This is solving, in a small way, part of my resource problem with the Handbell Club.  Most of our after school activities include some Handbell Club graduates, and a five-minute one-on-one session is quite productive.  The only time it is taking up is time I would be hanging about waiting anyway.  Fabulous.

So, find a way to carry some handbells with you for those odd moments when you have some time to kill and an audience willing to have a go.  Trust me, it makes those after-school days go by that much better.

Of course we don't always ring the same bells...

... Jonathan has a lovely new Whitechapel set, which he brought with him yesterday evening. It's a 12, size 15 in C, with a flat 6th to give a light 8, size 12 in F. We christened the light 8 with a nice quarter of 8-spliced; usual band placing, we must admit.

Scottish Association
Glasgow
1 Albany Quadrant
Monday 4 March 2013
1280 Spliced Surprise Major (8m)
160 each Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, London, Pudsey, Rutland, Superlative, Yorkshire
1-2   Angela H Deakin
3-4   Tina R Stoecklin
5-6   Jonathan S Frye
7-8   Simon J Gay (C)
First quarter on the bells.

The Roger Bailey Memorial Peal Festival

After a tour de force of organisation by Tina, we have rung a total of four handbell peals in memory of Roger, involving nine different people who between them rang over 700 peals with him. All except the first were scored at the first attempt, and ringing three handbell peals in a week is unprecedented in my experience. We've established that it's possible to ring evening peals at our house from time to time (the children have had a film festival alongside our peal festival!), and we've extended our frontier by ringing Cambridge Royal. So we're pleased with our achievements, as well as feeling that we have paid appropriate tribute to Roger.

Scottish Association
Glasgow
1 Albany Quadrant
Monday 4 February 2013 in 2h28 (15C)
5152 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Composed: R Bailey
1-2   Angela H Deakin
3-4   Tina R Stoecklin
5-6   Jonathan S Frye
7-8   Simon J Gay (C)
In memory of Roger Bailey.

 

Scottish Association
Glasgow
1 Albany Quadrant
Monday 18 February 2013 in 2h28 (15C)
5056 Plain Bob Major
Composed: A S Hudson
1-2   Tina R Stoecklin
3-4   Jonathan S Frye
5-6   Marcus A Wheel
7-8   Simon J Gay (C)
In memory of Roger Bailey.

 

Scottish Association
Glasgow
1 Albany Quadrant
Thursday 21 February 2013 in 2h51 (15C)
5040 Cambridge Surprise Royal
Composed: CUG Collective
1-2   Tina R Stoecklin
3-4   Simon J Gay (C)
5-6   Nicholas W Jones
7-8   Julia R Cater
9-10   Michael J Clay
First of Surprise Royal in hand: 9-10, and as conductor.
In memory of Roger Bailey.

 

Scottish Association
Edinburgh
1/8 Portland Gardens
Saturday 23 February 2013 in 2h39 (15C)
5152 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Composed: R Bailey
1-2   Robin R Churchill
3-4   Simon J Gay (C)
5-6   Tina R Stoecklin
7-8   Michael J Clay
In memory of Roger Bailey.

The News from Nutwood

Roger Bailey ringing handbells

The Bear has left us.  That prolific, amusing, travelled, entertaining, exasperating and sometimes grumpy one more often known as Roger Bailey has left us.  For us, it is an enormously personal loss, as it will be with so many other handbell ringers.

For Roger rang with just about everybody, and so each of us has our own memories and anecdotes, which are never the same as anyone else's.  These are mine.

I was not a graduate of the 'Imperial College Handbell School', the lunchtime sessions from which he taught over 50 ringers, including several who had had no previous ringing experience in the tower.  These sessions, paired with regular evening peal attempts, accelerated the progress of many other handbell ringers (see Simon's own tribute to Roger).  Instead I was one of the several Kalamazoo College handbell ringers who did the pilgrimage to Roger's office for a masterclass in handbell ringing, followed by a further 7 peals spread out over a number of years.

As is often the case, the peal ringing only tells part of the story.  I also got to know Roger through tower bell ringing, through being on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers together, through The Ringing World, and through a shared love of a good gossip.  His chattiness and natural curiosity about people in general made him the ideal choice to babysit my seven aunts (who could be overwhelming en masse) during our wedding.  They thought he was 'absolutely charming' and 'just wuuunderful'.

More latterly he was a reasonably frequent visitor to 1 Albany Quadrant, giving us a helping hand in 'getting people some peals', not all of which were successful.  There was one memorable afternoon with Roger, myself and Robin Churchill, when we absolultely could not get anything round.  Robin and Roger hadn't seen each other for years, and the breaks between ringing grew longer and longer as anecdotes and stories from the old days were dusted off and shown the light of day.  Quite a few ears must have been burning then.

Roger in grumpy mode was less fun, but still often a good fund of stories after the event.  I remember one walking holiday where he stalked off holding the map, leaving the rest of us to an exhilerating off-piste exploration.  He had stuck to the path and missed all the fun.  Another time, Simon recalls wandering down the streets of Paris in the company of a grumpy Roger, who got even grumpier when a pidgeon pooped on him.  He got no sympathy.

(Once Roger pointed out to me that 'my young man' had quite a talent for being grumpy, which was all the more effective as he generally kept it well hidden.  I am pretty sure it was a compliment.)

The Editor of The Ringing World has already made reference (albeit obliquely) to his status as 'resident awkward bugger' at the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and I was often never more entertained than when Roger was really annoying somebody (and it was especially entertaining when Roger turned out to be correct).

He was outwardly sardonic and this hid a very generous and painstaking nature.  When he brokered the purchase of a set of handbells for us, he also went to considerable trouble to locate some old-fashioned bankers cloth coin bags (which banks no longer use) in order to wrap the bells up.  He found and presented a farthing to Tom Farthing when he visited from Kalamazoo.  Despite his often pointed criticism of ringing associations, he was very loyal to those same organisations, and gave them tremendous support.

It was this attention to detail and stubbornness in following through with it that informed his approach to handbell ringing.  He was not one to give up, and not one to let you give up either.  The end result was ringing that you may not have thought you could do.   He often explained that his conducting style was to just say everything that occured to him in the hopes that something would be useful.  A nervous ringer was eased along by a stream of low voiced muttering.  When something just completely imploded, he would sometimes hold his head and giggle helplessly.

And then, there was the entertaining visits abroad to ring peals in new countries.  When we had a spell in Lisbon, Roger turned up with a pregnant Julia Cater and very young Bethany Cater Clarke in tow.  Julia and I took turns looking after all the various children and ringing handbells.  Tales from other journeys were filled with similar mad stories - the kind of madness that we need to stay sane.

The scene I want to leave you with, though, is this:  Roger visited us a second time in Lisbon, in company with his wife Susie.  We rang a handbell peal in the back room of our holiday flat at the Escadinhas do Marques de Ponte de Lima (possibly the longest address for a peal location?).   The ringing was very good, and therefore was unaccompanied by the usual Baileyesque monologue, just the handbells twinkling through one extent of Cambridge after the other.  Through the open door to the balcony came noises of people cooking suppers, dogs barking, a piano lesson and the bells ringing at the churches in the neighbourhood - completely out of sync or tune with our own set.  It should have been distracting, and another time it might have been terminally so.  That evening, though, the changes tumbled through, uninterrupted, steady, flowing out and mingling with the other noises of life beyond.  Farewell, old friend.

Memories of Roger Bailey

We're very sad that Roger has gone. We failed to ring a peal in his memory yesterday evening, but we managed a quarter afterwards. We'll try again for the peal another day.

 

Roger had a huge influence on my handbell ringing. I first met him in October 1991, when I arrived at Imperial College to start my PhD. I knew about his lunchtime handbell practices, so I went along one day and joined the group. At that time I had rung a few peals of Bob Major, and I could manage Yorkshire with a lot of concentration, but it was ringing with Roger that gave me the chance to develop further. I rang my first peal of Yorkshire Major, then a couple of peals of Surprise Royal, and then came my big breakthrough.

We had planned an attempt for a peal of Spliced Surprise Minor with Roger and Lesley Belcher. During the day, Roger decided that going for Major would be more likely to succeed (he was undoubtedly correct, because my grasp of the standard Surprise Minor methods was pretty shaky) so he phoned David Brown on the off-chance that he would be free. David was free, so he came along and called a peal of 8-spliced. This led to further arrangements and we rang most of Crosland's Spliced Surprise Major series; later, with Mike Trimm replacing Lesley, we rang other exciting compositions including Horton's Four and Norman Smith's 23-spliced. That period was the high point of my ringing career, and it would never have happened without Roger.

Roger's handbell ringing at Imperial College had a big influence on many handbell ringers over a long period. While I was there we used to practise three times a week, at lunchtime in Roger's office, and there were often two evening peal attempts on top of that. These open practices were very unusual in handbell ringing and Roger taught many people to ring handbells, including a few who never learnt to ring tower bells. Roger firmly believed that teaching is an integral part of ringing, and often said that being a ringer entails a lifelong obligation to teach other ringers.

A few other memories of Roger, in no particular order:

  • In 1992 I had organised a peal of Spliced Surprise Royal at Isleworth on a Friday evening, to be my first on 10 as conductor. I foolishly arranged for another member of the band to give me and Roger a lift by car. The A4 in West London is not a good place to be at 5 o'clock on a Friday. We arrived an hour late. Roger persuaded the rest of the band to go up the tower and start for the peal, which was successful.
  • Roger was a film enthusiast. One evening he invited me to go with him to see a Belgian film called Man Bites Dog, at the Odeon in Tottenham Court Road if I remember correctly. The film was great, although rather disturbing at times, and it opened my eyes for the first time to the world of non-Hollywood films.
  • Roger was also keen on hillwalking. One day in 1995, after a peal in Roger's office that included Steve Mitchell, Steve mentioned that he still had a space on a hillwalking holiday in Scotland that he was organising, and which Roger was going on. Roger suggested that I might like to join them, which I did. Steve organised these holidays regularly, with other ringers, and Tina and I joined them on several more. That gave us a taste for Scottish hillwalking, which eventually was a factor in our move to Glasgow. A few of those trips involved handbell peals too.
  • At some point Roger got involved in the Keele ringing courses, and he became a regular part of the team of tutors right up until the final course in 2010. I have many good memories of ringing and socialising with Roger and the rest of the course group during those years. The last couple of courses were after he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but it didn't slow him down much at that stage.
  • Another of Roger's ringing sub-genres was the ringing of handbell peals in other countries, especially countries without any tower bells. I'm sure he has rung peals in more countries than anyone else. In 1996 I spent the summer working in Paris, and one weekend Roger and Susie, with Mike Trimm and Ruth Blackwell, came out to visit me. We rang a peal of a new Surprise Major method and called it Paris, and managed to fit in another of Roger's interests by finding a showing of the seldom-screened Peter Greenaway film The Falls.
  • We also rang two handbell peals in Lisbon, both of Cambridge Minor. The first was in 2007, when Tina and I and the children were there for the autumn during my sabbatical. Roger came for a visit, bringing Julia Cater (and her daughter Bethany) with him so that we would have four ringers to form a peal band plus babysitter. Unfortunately only one of our two attempts was successful, so Tina didn't get her Portuguese peal that time. But in 2008 we were in Lisbon again for a shorter visit, and Roger and Susie came out; we rang a peal in our flat, slightly distracted by what seemed to be a piano lesson wafting up from the flat below.
  • Most recently, Roger visited us in Glasgow a few times, when we were going for our first peal with Jonathan and Angela. In the end we didn't get Angela's first peal on any of those trips, but he helped us along and was always willing to go for another attempt.

I could go on, but I think that's enough for now. I'm glad I knew Roger, and I'm going to miss him.

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