London on a good day

Having dedicated September to mastering Bristol Surprise Major, our regular band is now focussed on getting to grips with London.  We have limped to the end of a plain course a few times, but last night we attempted our first quarter.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t go.  It didn’t go about six times.  However, each time we got a little further, and rang a little better.  Frankly, I felt pretty good about it.  It was miles better than our first attempts at Bristol, which must mean something. Given that I had only managed to rehearse one pair beforehand, and the composition exposed me to all three pairs, I was feeling not too bad.  Well, I was pretty bad – but not irretrievably bad.   This feels within our reach.

Afterwards, we had a discussion about ringing speeds, and about how we tended to ring more slowly than, say, our esteemed colleagues in Penrith.  So, we did some speed trials ringing Yorkshire, using both a stopwatch, and comparing our speed with the ‘ideal’ peal speed on Abel (2 hours 20 minutes).

Our conclusions?  Well, we didn’t find the Abel pace too hard to match: it didn’t feel impossibly speedy.  However, the overall time was slowed down by mistakes (we didn’t manage the transition to London to Yorkshire very quickly), and our habit of waiting when one of us was a bit late striking.  However, we agreed that we couldn’t ring that fast in a method we were all trying to learn at the same time. And because we had been spending a lot of time pushing our method boundaries, we had gotten into the habit of a fairly stately pace even when we knew the method well.

Getting to know your pairs

After the last Scottish Handbell Day, we had a bit of a rest from our labours, but managed to meet with Josy for some more ringing practice last week.

Josy had a great handbell day.  Not only did she ring her first quarter peal (Plain Bob Minor of course), but she also got some extensive practice ringing on eight, and several goes at ringing Kent (due in part to a doomed quarter attempt – out of every cloud etc etc).

So when we met to ring again, it was clear she was ringing with greater confidence.  We rang some Plain Bob with her on an inside pair, some more Kent, and then rattled off some Little Bob, first on the trebles and then inside.  She’s reaching a stage where she is confident enough to try things without having to rehearse them extensively beforehand, and with little enough discussion.  It was great fun.

This is when the time spent repeating plain courses of plain bob over and over again, and the boring repititve project of embedding those classic handbell pairs really pays off.  It doesn’t tell you a lot about how to ring new methods, but it adds familiarity.

Embedding those pairs means that you don’t have to think too hard about the shape of the next few changes.  For example, say you come down at backstroke in 2nd and 5th places. Having your pairs well-embedded means that you instantly know a lot of information:  you know you are in opposites, you know that your next positition is first and last, and you know you will cross with yourself in 3-4.

If you know this instantly, then you don’t have to slow down and have a think or a panic when there is a bob.  Or, like we did with Josy, you can start to play around with other plain or simple treble bob methods.  You can start to take those pairs apart and put them together in new ways, on the fly.  It allows you to find the familiar parts of an unfamiliar method, and use those sections to rest your brain a bit, and save the hard processing for when you need it.

A successful handbell day

Saturday was the Fourth Scottish Handbell Day. It went well. We scored a total of six quarter peals, including a first (the traditional Plain Bob Minor), a first of Surprise Major (the traditional Yorkshire), a first on ten (Kent Royal) and two firsts of Surprise Royal (Yorkshire. Is that traditional? Not sure. I find Cambridge easier.)

 

We didn’t quite achieve the goal of a quarter for everyone, but it wasn’t for want of trying, and everyone seemed happy in the end.

It’s always difficult to plan the programme for the handbell day. Like most ringing events, a few more experienced people would make things easier, although perhaps it would just shift the same difficulties to different goals: we might be puzzling over how to get two simultaneous 10-bell quarters, instead of how to get two simultaneous 8-bell quarters. However, I think we managed a good balance between trying to extend our frontiers and ringing things that we could achieve confidently.

Something we’ve started doing for the last couple of handbell days is including practice sessions, usually with more people than a single band, and often with the aim of preparing for a quarter in the subsequent session. This time, some of these practice sessions worked very well, and others less so. One of them seemed to involve too much sitting out (not for me, but for others) –  a sign of too many people, I suppose, or it could be because it often takes more than one attempt to ring a given touch.

To round off the weekend, on Sunday we rang another quarter of Yorkshire Royal with our regular band plus Nick, who wasn’t able to come to the handbell day this time.

Nowhere near a peal attempt

Now that the children are well-versed in the allowable interruption protocol during handbell ringing, we have started to increase the number of peal attempts and to broaden our pool of handbell ringers.  Anyone who looked at the calendar will realised there was supposed to be such an attempt last Saturday.

 

Due to non-ringing circumstances completely beyond our control, the attempt had to be cancelled about two hours before we were scheduled to start.  Hopefully some other attempts might actually get attempted.

Plain Bob, Bristol, and a bit of London

Last night was altogether more successful.  First, our son rang his first plain course of Plain Bob from the trebles.   Then we knocked off another quarter of Bristol, and then a plain course of London.

Not exactly ‘knocked off’:  it was the hardest composition we had rung thus far, no hiding in lots of coursing for the inside pairs.  It was hard, and trippy, and teeth-grittingly determined, but it also had some really nice sections.  Days like that I think we are really getting there.

The London needs a lot of work, and frankly suffered from a bit too much wine after ringing the Bristol.  But London is October’s project.  I still need to rehears the pairs, locate the obvious milestones, and really, learn the line better.  But I am starting to see how it fits together more than I was last month.

The Plain Bob?  That needs some work too.  The first two leads were pretty confident though, and he enjoyed it.

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