February 26, 2011

The Quarter That Wasn’t


Nope.  We didn’t get it.  We didn’t get our quarter.



It was Colin.  He called it wrong. 

I did actually know this was a risk:   he doesn’t love Grandsire (the method, I mean) and he’s usually ringing and calling Fortinbras Curmudgeon Gadzooks Surprise and—Bronwen and I were just talking about this—it’s often hard for these superheroes to come back down to ground level to play in the sandbox with the likes of us.  If we’d wanted a full peal of Fortinbras Curmudgeon on fifteen, he could have done that.  A quarter of Grandsire on five . . . well.

I’m less disappointed than you might expect because it was still fabulous practise, which is what these PRACTISE QUARTER PEALS are supposed to be about.  Forty-five minutes nonstop (more or less) on the end of a rope.  And we still had that.  Although after we failed our quarter we swapped around and let Bronwen and Leo ring inside, and stopped torturing Colin with Grandsire and rang bob minor instead.  But both touches—of Grandsire and bob minor—were long, about twenty minutes each, which is way longer than you ever get on an ordinary practise night because there’s too much—too many people and too many varying levels of skill—to fit in, to allow any one touch to go on for more than five or ten minutes. 

So, modified yaay but still yaay.  My idea is a success.  And we’re going to do this again next month.* 

The day had been somewhat overshadowed by WORRYING.  I was on the treble last Sunday;  all I had to do was keep counting up to five, and back down again.  The treble is crucial** but it still only goes straight out to the back and straight down to the front again.  There are no twiddly bits and the calls don’t affect it.  I was ringing inside today, which meant I had the twiddly bits, and the calls would further jumble me up like clothes in a dryer—something with lots of sleeves, so you get a detergent-smelling rat king when you try to haul the result into your laundry basket.  I thought we had about a 60/40 chance against*** getting this quarter and was only keeping myself on the ground instead of plastered against the ceiling wailing like a banshee with the thought that it’s a practise quarter.  This is why I’m doing this frelling practise quarter gig.  So I can maybe ring quarters without the wailing like a banshee part.  I was also aware that I was not the only weak link:  in the first place, anyone can have a split second’s inattention—and I’ve told you before that you have approximately one third of a second to make your bell go ‘dong’ in the right tiny niche of the row of bells going dong;  in the second place I knew that Colin doesn’t like Grandsire and was only agreeing to call it as a favour, because he likes to prop up and encourage us strugglers as well as the Fortinbras Curmudgeon ringers.

            Meanwhile, Bronwen was coming down from Skye to ring in my quarter.   Since what was supposed to be my first practise quarter had been somehow exploded into double of what you fancy, I was already a bit short of ringers for this second one, and I’d been telling Bronwen about my trials by email and said to her jokingly, want to come down and ring the treble?  And she replied by return electron:  yes, I’d love to.  —Oh.  Okay.  So there’s my sixth ringer.†

            It’s been a rather gloomy, suspicious day when the overcast looks like it’s in a bad mood and the heavy air and superfluity of grey makes you sure that there’s someone in a trenchcoat and a pulled-down hat brim taking notes of your activities and drawing ill conclusions.††  I did have my usual cup of tea with Oisin, who is feeling a little oppressed himself, and the Octopus isn’t halfway through its run yet.†††  I told him that the Days in the Life forum was fomenting unrest and that a riot on the subject of Oisin’s undelivered guest blogs was due to break out on Sunday and he was . . . delighted.  I swore I had nothing to do with this, the forum had come up with it on its own and that I had merely freely and energetically fanned flames already kindled.  As I was leaving he said, Don’t forget to start that blog thread on Sunday.  —So.  You guys.  You have forty-eight hours to polish up your invective and hone your diatribes.  Don’t let me down here.

            Then I pelted back to the mews for the hellhounds’ evening hurtle.  Bronwen was due to arrive at the cottage at about five, and I’d left her keys because I knew I wouldn’t be back yet. 

            I got back to the cottage at 6 o’clock.  And Bronwen wasn’t there. 

            The quarter was supposed to start at 6:30.  There was a message from her:  there had been an outbreak of sea monsters‡ and the ferry to the mainland had been delayed.  AAAAAUGH.  The only mobile number I had for the other four ringers was Niall’s, and it didn’t work.  Bronwen arrived at about 6:29 and I pressed Wolfgang’s tardis button and we were at Ditherington twenty seconds later which gave us forty seconds to figure out which keys went in which doors and where the light switches were.  It was very nice to be back at Ditherington, even if the rope on the three does still run away from you, giggling madly.

            And quarter or no quarter, the adrenaline was going and most of us piled back to New Arcadia for normal practise—which had been part of the plan, so that’s something else that worked the way it was supposed to—and we rang more stuff‡‡ and at least Bronwen and I thought it went really well.  By the time we got back to the mews (where there is more food in the refrigerator than there is at the cottage) I for one felt that I had been well and thoroughly belled—and, in fact, my hands are sore.

            So, as above.  Modified yaay, but still yaay. 

* * *

* Truth is I’m wondering if we might conceivably try again sooner than a month.  After all, we didn’t get this one . . . and this is my second in a week, and it didn’t kill me.  The immediate problem is that I have a somewhat limited good-support-ringer supply and I can’t afford to alienate any of them.  Niall said tonight, hey, we could do this every week  . . . but that’s Niall.  

** I personally think the treble is particularly crucial in Grandsire.  The structure of Grandsire is bizarre, even within the bizarre reaches of method bell ringing, and while a plain course  is no big deal, I come out of any of the calls pretty much having no frelling clue where I am, and figure it out (. . . usually) by where I meet the treble.  

***I gave last Sunday’s quarter 80/20 against, and we did get that one. 

† Our line up was Bronwen, me, Niall, Colin, Leo and Flora, whom you haven’t heard about before.  Flora is a South Desuetude-East Persnickety ringer, tower captain at Lesser Gaberdine, and another of these good natured buttresses of the feeble and hysterical.  She also can ring Fortinbras Curmudgeon.  I was kind of amazed when she said ‘yes’ to my timid request to ring in a quarter of Grandsire doubles:  I repressed the urge to say, you will?  Are you sure?  Don’t you have to sieve your compost or watch some paint dry or something? 

†† ‘No normal dogs behave the way these two do, therefore they must have been specially trained to distract.  The hanging from trees by their tails while barking arias from Handel is especially impressive.  But the woman with them clearly must be in the plot—whatever the plot is.’ 

††† He says we were a better audience than the one last night. 

‡ They were all coming south for the bang-up performance of The Octopus and the Chandelier that they have heard so much about by oceanic wire service. 

‡‡ Including another touch of bob minor in which I had to negotiate the Evil Three-Four Down Bob Minor Single.  I was going to answer claning-on-the-forum’s query about bobs and singles tonight but I am too tired.  Unless some other clever person remembers or can find where I’ve described bobs and singles before I’ll do it next bell entry. . . .


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