London Landmarks

Sometimes you are really ready for a handbell session:  you have done your homework, you managed somehow to leave work on time, you feel fed, relaxed and focused.  When does that ever happen?

Certainly not last night: one of those slightly crazed evenings where nothing quite went to plan, and the ringing was preceeded by a frenzied session of getting the children to bed a lot earlier than they wanted.  I closed the door on the waiting circle of chairs, realising that I had not spared a thought for ringing London.  This was going to be bad, and it would all be my fault.

We rang it.  And it wasn't bad.  No one swapped their pair, no one got irretrievably lost, and no one repeated a lead.   It was slow and a bit hesitant, and that wrong leading needs more practice - a lot more practice.  And, yours truly had a jolly good go of trying to lose it in the last lead (these habits can be hard to break), which was the most serious error of the evening.

It took a year, which encompassed quite a long break of not ringing it, but we are definitely winning:

Scottish Association
1 Albany Quadrant
Thursday 23 August 2012
1280 London Surprise Major
1-2   Angela H Deakin
3-4   Tina R Stoecklin
5-6   Jonathan S Frye
7-8   Simon J Gay (C)

Then we finished off the evening with a touch of 8-spliced.  Our first!  That definitely needs more practice, but tonight we all felt it was achievable.

Handbells bring you down and pick you up

After our successful and unproblematic peal of 4-spliced with Julia, we had a sharp reminder that we really do have a lot of ground to cover to be as competent as we want to be.  Frankly, there is nothing like a bit of minor ringing to really bring the ego to heel.

Yes, we had yet another go at ringing 41 Surprise Minor, and we were really pretty bad at it - worse, actually than our last, late evening, attempt in June.  We didn't just fail to get it, we really failed to get reasonably started.  Simon took it very hard.  He confessed later that he felt we had turned a corner with one peal and were going to ride a wave of handbell success forever more.  So, reality hurt a bit.  Plus, we are going to have to schedule another whole day to try for it again.

To add insult to this, we reunited our weekly band, and resumed our quest for a quarter of London.   We nearly got it, and had a huge fail IN THE LAST LEAD.  How can you not recover the last lead, you might wonder?  Especially as we had recovered from me being swapped more than once (ahem) and ringing the same lead twice in a row.  Well, possibly the answer lies in there somewhere.

Next stop, Cambridge Royal.  This is a little treat, as Nick Jones was passing through on his way back to Fort William.  Off we start, and keep ringing until it is finished:

1 Albany Quadrant
Sunday 19 August 2012
1440 Cambridge Surprise Royal
1-2   Angela H Deakin
3-4   Simon J Gay (C)
5-6   Nicholas W Jones
7-8   Jonathan S Frye
9-10   Tina R Stoecklin

It was a bit hard for most of us, and it was not without mistakes, but everyone held to their lines and didn't get distracted by someone else getting out of sync with themselves.  It was a good effort.  Afterwards we had a go at some Stedman Caters and 8-spliced Major.  We are the basically-ok-although-not-quite-perfect-Champions......

So, we can't really ring minor and London is still a bit of a stretch.  But we can ring better than we could last year.  We should keep remembering that.

Remembering Alison Regan

The whole of the ringing community has been coming to terms in various ways to the untimely death of Alison Regan.  As the ringing tributes come in, it is clear that she was one of those people who 'influenced a generation', even those who hardly knew her.

She is perhaps most renowned for her exploits on big bells, which showed her immaculate style and high standards to best advantage.  Of course, as with all ringers worthy of emulation, she applied these standards to all aspects of her ringing, including handbell ringing.

One of my earliest memories of ringing was as a very novice handbell ringer on her first trip to the UK, where I rang a peal of Plain Bob  with Roger Bailey and Alison Surry (as she then was).  Alison at the time was wearing a long blue skirt which had two faded arcs just above the knees - exactly at the point where her handbells rested.  It appeared on other occasions as well - it was the handbell skirt.

Absurdly, I thought that what I needed to be a good ringer was a skirt like that.  Or more to the point, once I became a good ringer, I would end up with my own handbell skirt, marked by the accumulation of change after change, rung with absolute consistency.

Well, I don't have a handbell skirt.  The consistency is still a bit hit or miss, frankly.  But every once in a while, I can conjure up its image, especially when we step up a gear and do something like this:

Scottish Association
1 Albany Quadrant
Thursday 9 August 2012 in 2h37 (15C)
5120 Spliced Surprise Major (4m)
1440 Lincolnshire; 1280 Cambridge, Yorkshire; 1120 Rutland; 74 c.o.m.; a.t.w.
Composed: John S Warboys
1-2   Tina R Stoecklin
3-4   Julia R Cater
5-6   Jonathan S Frye
7-8   Simon J Gay (C)
Remembering Alison Regan, who would have been pleased.

Getting started

Some activities are much easier than others to start learning. On holiday in the Isles of Scilly with my sister and her family, the children tried various watersports. Kayaking and sailing are easy to get started on, because you sit in a stable boat and if you do absolutely nothing, nothing bad happens immediately. Windsurfing is much harder, because the first thing you have to do is balance on the board and pull up the sail, which are both quite difficult; you are then in a dynamic situation requiring active balance and control immediately.


On a more topical note, I imagine that starting as a 100m sprinter is relatively easy (you just run as fast as you can, right?) but starting as a pole vaulter must be very difficult.

I think tower bell ringing is in the same category as windsurfing. You have to get to grips with the dynamic control of the bell before you can even ring rounds, and this usually takes several lessons. Learning on smaller bells can shorten the process (many people have reported success in teaching basic handling very quickly on mini-rings, although possibly with an over-the-balance style which, to my mind, is not really tower bell ringing as we know it) but it still takes a while to be able to ring rounds unaided.

Handbell ringing, in contrast, is much easier at the beginning. Striking the bell is almost trivial and nearly anyone can ring decent rounds with only a little practice. Our experience with the Mount Vernon Handbell Club has shown that children can get as far as plain hunting a coursing pair fairly quickly, and this lets them see what change ringing is all about.

Maybe teaching handbells can be an effective way of recruiting tower bell ringers too; if people find the mental challenge of ringing methods interesting enough then they might want to move on to the physical challenge of ringing tower bells.

It's Mobel from here for a while

A perfect afternoon for handbells

Two things happen during Simon's family reunions:  handbells and croquet (and latterly, some yoga).  We thought we'd share this bucolic image of just about our last handbell ringing before we disappear on holiday, with some rare sunshine.

It's Mobel for us for a spell then, or maybe we just won't do any ringing at all.  Might depend on the weather.

Happy holidays!


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