July 9, 2012

Sunday afternoon at the abbey


I rang Stedman Doubles at the abbey for service this afternoon.* 

            Now doubles is only six bells (five working bells and tenor-behind) so for service ring at an abbey with forty-nine bells and two accidentals** this is pretty pathetic.  But in the first place the abbey rings with what it can get on Sunday afternoon which often isn’t much, which is why they let me live and pretend to be glad to see me, and in the second place there are two local festivals going on plus Wimbledon, the Tour de France, the frelling mass-media run up to the frelling mass-media Olympics, the Inter Galactic Big Truck Rally***, and the finals of the Guess How Many Pears a Partridge Can Eat competition which they’re running in 3D this year at a cinema near you.  I was the third person through the door of the ringing chamber and when the fourth turned up he said lugubriously, we may be all there is:  it’s the men’s finals this afternoon.

            Gemma (who was not there) has said that the abbey, being an abbey and having face to maintain†, doesn’t ring at all if fewer than six rope-pullers show up.  This afternoon we had seven—which is six with one left over:  you mostly don’t ring on seven.††  So I rang some not-too-awful bob minor while Leandra stood out, and then I stood out while the rest of them rang Stedman Doubles.  The thing about Stedman, which long-term readers of this blog may remember, is that it’s a bit of a holy grail—it’s not the only holy grail of ringing, but it’s one of them.  If you can ring Stedman you can at least consider calling yourself a ringer.

            I can ring Stedman Doubles in other towers.  I can ring touches of Stedman Doubles . . . in other towers.  I’ve even been known to ring a plain course of Stedman Triples (seven bells plus tenor-behind) when it’s offered.  In other towers.  Gaaah.  Today Albert asked me what I wanted to ring††† and I, seizing my courage with both hands, said, there’s seven of us, give me a minder and let me try Stedman Doubles.  I could see Albert considering whether this was a good idea or not—it’s not just that I’m a shaky and unreliable ringer, you can read it all over me that I’m terrified—and then he said okay.  And then, bless him, gave me Wild Robert for a minder.  Yaay Wild Robert.  He comes to Sunday afternoons at the abbey when he’s not ringing at one of the frelling invitation-only towers in frelling London—but that doesn’t work out all that often in practise.  But he was there today and just having him there—he who taught me Stedman years ago at Ditherington—is a steadying influence.

            In terms of the method I rang it flawlessly.  Yaay me.  I can do this.  Even at the abbey.  I can.  The accuracy of my striking . . . not so much.  And Wild Robert nearly derailed me by having a pleasing but dangerous faith in my grasp of the method and therefore whispering sweet nothings about how to improve my striking.  My striking did improve—somewhat—and I didn’t go wrong.‡

            So then, of course, I came home and frolicked . . . and then Darkness didn’t eat his dinner.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH.‡‡ 

 * * *

* I have this vision of all the knitters going, Bellringing!  Aaaugh!, as all the bell ringers last night went, Knitting!  Aaaaugh!

            Sorry, you knitters.  You might want to go catch up on some other blog tonight.  I’m going to go on fizzing about Stedman Doubles at the abbey for paragraphs.  

** I have always liked, since my first gruesome, brief, sausage-fingered venture as a piano student when I was a kid, the concept of sharps and flats as accidentals.  They certainly were the way I played. 

*** The Cardassians are tipped to win. 

† How many months have I been toiling at the abbey rockface?  But I still, driving in, every time, look out over the town with the abbey looming majestically up in the middle of it, and think, I ring THERE?  You’ve got to be joking.  And struggle with the impulse to turn around and go home.    

†† Unless one of you is Wild Robert, who can ring two tower bells at the same time.^ 

^ And he doesn’t much like handbells.  How frustrating is that

††† A touch of Plastic Fantastic Ergonomic Quaternary Spliced Surprise.  In my dreams. 

‡ We finished with about five minutes of just ringing rounds on the back eight—with Wild Robert on the one and the two and me on the three.  I am only slowly getting over being deathly afraid of ringing rounds at the abbey.  The problem with rounds is that you have nothing to think about.  Ringing a method, you’re at least busy panicking about where your next blow goes.  Ringing rounds you’re standing there contemplating how paralysingly gigantic the space is and how you’re out in the middle of it^ and something really huge could be creeping up behind you^^ . . . and furthermore most of the bells are slightly oddstruck^^^ so following Wild Robert on two bells is even more confusing# than it is anyway.##

            Yes.  Since I quit New Arcadia I have spent rather too much time wondering why I do this to myself.  And even if I wanted to keep my hand in ringing a bit, I didn’t have to choose to pursue the frelling abbey.  Except . . . I did.  I’d be bored rigid by only ringing (say) call changes for weddings.  And the abbey remains pretty much the only tower in this area that can teach me stuff.  Unfortunately . . . it’s the abbey.

            I was talking to Southdowner about this—she also rings, she is also not hugely naturally gifted, she is also stubborn.  Really the downside of stubbornness is the way it makes you keep doing stuff.  Which is also the upside.  Eh.  

^ I am still trying to convince myself that this is irrelevant.  You don’t lean on a ringing chamber wall, and you wouldn’t like it if you could.  But somehow I feel all flimsy and vertiginous on any of the abbey bells except about three near the front which are decently close to a wall.  

^^ As I was driving in—as I was, in fact, belting 70 mph down the motorway—there was something tickling my wrist.  I glanced down and there was a GIGANTIC FRELLING SPIDER WALKING UP MY ARM.

            I didn’t run off the road.  I hope you’re impressed at my fortitude.  I can be brave when I HAAAAAAAAAVE TOOOOOOOOOOO. 

^^^ Which basically means that their bong doesn’t come at quite the usual place in the stroke.  The individual, unpredictable oddstruckness of bells is one of the things that makes ringing interesting.  

# and vertiginous 

##  The other thing I haven’t told you is how Darkness pulled me over a few days ago, going after a duckling.  AAAAUGH.  This was always going to happen some day—the frelling ducks on our frelling river are way too tame because people from all over Hampshire bring their stale rubbish bread here in vast quantities and lower the vitality levels of our waterfowl with it like they’re supporting wildlife diversity and doing the biosphere a favour.+  In this case I was preoccupied with a grandmother and her six-year-old who is afraid of dogs and was not paying attention to the path in front of me.  Darkness was paying attention.  And he never could resist birds.  Hellhounds haven’t pulled me over in YEARS.  There was (human) blood everywhere because the frelling river path is frelling gravel . . . and I’ve kind of done one shoulder in, or rather, Darkness did, dragging me down the path++, and I’m sure the kid who’s afraid of dogs will be needing additional years of psychotherapy as a result of this incident.  I just need a good sports medicine specialist to tie my shoulder back into place.  I can still ring, just about, but . . . 

+ Soapbox?  Rant?  Me? 

++ A dog that weighs slightly more than one third what you do should not be able to drag you, dead weight as you are, full length on the sodblasted path as you are, anywhere.  Tell that to Darkness. 

‡‡ He did.  Finally.  But only after my hair was several shades greyer than it was yesterday and I had chewed one of the legs of my chair nearly through.  Bleaugh.  Varnish tastes really nasty.



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