Triumph from the Jaws of Defeat So Assured It Wasn’t Bothering to Bite Down
What I didn’t tell you about the concert yesterday—and which is part of why I didn’t burble more*—is that, as you know,** folk music is all about sex and death, and about halfway through the second set there was one too many songs about death and I just bailed, quietly, sitting in my chair. The invisible bubble shuts down around you and you’re no longer there. Or not there there.*** I’m also assuming you’ve all had this experience: you’re not coping, and you just go away. It’s not a great place where you go away to—I always think of it as the bottom of a well—but it beats reality. Then I had a seriously bad night† and got up this morning [sic] feeling like, well, death. I have continued to feel like slime mould and old fish fingers all day and by second hellhound hurtle†† I had grimly decided that I was going to have to ring the treble tonight.
This was my last-line tease from last night’s blog: what I couldn’t bring myself to tell you about today is that we were supposed to be ringing another of my so-called practise quarters. Whose bloody idea was this practise quarter peal thing anyway.††† This one was specifically for Niall to call: he’s called several quarters in hand[bells] but never one in the tower. I had thrown my net a bit wider this time, finding ringers, partly because a few of my standards had the temerity to be otherwise occupied, but also because part of my self-declared brief is to make this practise quarter series available to other erratic nebbishes like me. You can’t afford to have too many dangerous variables in the same quarter if you want any kind of chance to get the thing, but two of my new ringers tonight were tower captains, and one of them—Amy: you’ve met her before—even said that she had a couple of beginners who might benefit from a low-stress quarter.
Both the best and worst of being the frelling organiser is that you get to ring. But I’m definitely on the dangerous-variable end of the range. I had said out loud to Colin and Niall a fortnight or so ago that despite my erratic-nebbish status, I did want to ring inside—but as the organiser, if there wasn’t a treble-only ringer‡, which in this case there wasn’t, and no one else wanted the treble I’d have to take it.
Then today happened, and at 5:45 I went drearily off to Ditherington resigned to my fate as the treble. Niall as conductor got to dispose us as he wished, but he just waved his hands and said we should ring where we liked. I headed for the treble, to be met by Colin’s basilisk stare. Colin is generally such a sweetie you would be forgiven for forgetting he has a basilisk stare.
I had a bad night, I said, and the ME has been gnawing on me all day. If you want to get this quarter, you’d better let me ring the treble.
Colin went on staring. Basilisk-like.
Er, I said. Unless you want to take responsibility for my going off the rails, in which case you can ring the treble.
Fine, he said, stopping basilisking immediately, and took the treble rope away from me.
Crumbs, this is such a bad idea, I said, finding myself on the four. Remind me where I start.‡‡ Amy, imperturbable on the three, told me. Treble’s going, she’s gone, said Colin, cheerfully, and we pulled off.
Clearly I wouldn’t be telling this story like this if we hadn’t got it, right? Right. We got the quarter.
WE GOT THE QUARTER.
Yaaaaaaaaay. We got the quarter, and I was ringing inside, despite having no brain and muscles made of jello. Also despite the fact that as mere luck would have it, the four, in the particular quarter Niall was calling‡‡‡, had about six Dreaded Three-Four Down Singles. How frelling unfair is that. The Dreaded Three-Four Down Bob Minor Single gives beginner, mediocre and erratic-nebbish ringers nightmares. One of the trickiest bits of learning to ring inside is the rhythm of the zigzags. A tower bell is a big heavy thing and you are dependent on its inertia to keep it ringing—you on your rope are only adjusting it slightly. Some adjustments are easier to make than others. The Dreaded Three-Four Down Bob Minor Single is an especially nasty piece of adjustment where your inertia is sending you amiably down to the front till the single is called, whereupon you have to hang around where you are for two blows (two dongs of your bell) and then turn around and head back up to the back again. Three of the other inside bells didn’t have any three-four down singles and one of them had two. How did I get so lucky? GAAAAAH.
There were a few crunchy moments. The two zoned out, as will happen sometimes, and missed a dodge, and we spent an entire lead going CLANG CLANG CLANG with Colin shouting directions. But we got right again. Niall made one rogue call but Colin, Amy and Gillian all bellowed No single! No single! so we recovered from that too. I never quite lost my way but I got a little wandery once or twice and Colin yelled at me too in a preventative manner. §
The funny thing is that we came round long before I had any idea we were anywhere near the end. Niall shouted, That’s all!, and I was like, What? What? What? Which means not only that I survived but that one of the reasons for trying to get myself ringing quarters again is working: that by ringing them they will become less monumental, you know? The sheer terror has been so debilitating I’m defeated before I begin—especially with the ME riding me. Even with the ME—since as I keep saying I have a mild case as ME goes—I probably can ring quarters, if I could stop driving myself to a state of collapse before I grab the bell rope. So double yaaaaay.
. . . And then Niall and I had to go to normal tower practise and be particularly bright and sharp to prove that our practise quarters are not a bad idea (there has been some anxiety expressed on this point) which was pretty frelling challenging in my case. Colin, who rings full peals pretty much every other day and for whom an extra quarter is about as stressful as a cup of tea, came too, and Anthea, who doesn’t ring long stuff but said we sounded very nice from the churchyard. We’d got New Arcadia’s first six (bells) up in peal, and then as more people streamed in Niall and I got the seven and eight up and while this is no big thing for Niall I was thinking, yo, is overcompensation necessary? I rang bob major inside for the first time–in the tower. Niall said, bob major, Robin, you ring inside. I don’t know how! I squeaked. Sure you do, said Niall. You ring it on handbells. Oh. Well. I also rang our frelling tenor§§, which as I’ve said before is actually a very nice, cooperative bell, it’s just big, and it scares me, and . . . I have blisters. No, really. How embarrassing.
But . . . yaaaaaaay.§§§
* * *
* Mainly I was just falling out of my chair with post-overstimulation and yarn-fumes exhaustion
** Anyone who reads this blog had better have at least basic acquaintance with folk music or I will lecture you unmercifully. I don’t lecture well. You don’t want this.
*** Note that this is not poor Steeleye’s fault. And no way I wasn’t going to go to the concert (also Fiona had bought the tickets last autumn when the schedule came out. When you go with Fiona, you sit in the front row). No way I won’t go next time either. Supposing Fiona is around with her poking stick. And her car.
† Not at all assisted by a phone call at a normal human post-breakfast settling-down-to-work o’clock from one of my ringers wanting to check the time tonight.
†† Hellhounds are beginning to forgive me for Extreme Absence yesterday. That they got a chickeny plate to lick after supper tonight I think confirmed my return to favour.
††† Mine. Totally mine. I talked to Niall about it first and then Colin, and both of them steadfastly^ refused to save me from my insanity. So there I was. And am.
^ I keep trying to spell ‘steadfast’ without the first ‘a’ because the bell method Stedman does not have that ‘a’ and all things bell rule, you know?
‡ Long-time readers of this blog pick up a few of the essentials of method bell ringing whether they want to or not. One of the simpler facts is that the treble in most standard methods is the easiest.^ Its line on the page is straight out to the back and straight down to the front again. There are no zigzags. Inside bells have zigzags. Beginners ring their first quarters on the treble because they can’t ring inside yet.
^ Shut up about the tenor, you clever-clogs. We were ringing minor tonight, so we were all working bells. Standard even bell methods if you insist.
‡‡ This is not quite as pathetic as it sounds. Remember that method ringing is a kind of relay race, where you’re all on the same track but you start at different places. The shorthand for the bob minor ‘work’ is: three-four down, five-six down, five-six up, three-four up, seconds. The four, at the start, has just done three-four down, so its starting place in the pattern means its first work is five-six down. All the bells just all keep going around the same track from their individual starting places.
‡‡‡ There are lots and lots and lots of quarter compositions. Speaking of things that don’t bear thinking about.
§ Generally speaking I’d much rather be yelled at than not. If I think I’ve figured out what I’m doing after all it’s support and confirmation, and if I haven’t, it’s rescue.
§§ I rang tenor behind. I did not ring our tenor for major, where it would be an inside bell. I have NO IDEA how anyone manages to zigzag something the size of our tenor. And there are lots of even bigger bells out there.
§§§ And no, this is not April Fool.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.