They let me near some bells, part one – guest post by Catherine
I wore a pretty grey top* with white lotus flowers that had been batiked or tie-dyed or bleached down the left side of it and has been in my wardrobe for months** because I’d been saving it for something special. It hadn’t made it to the theatre yet, but first bell ringing outing seemed absolutely special enough, so, that Thursday night I took it out and built an outfit. It included my amethyst earrings from my mum, she’s got so much encouraging, positive energy for me so I always wear them when I want a little boost of that, and my pink kate spade bangle. I didn’t realise until I put it on Friday morning how apt the choice was, the inscription inside is: COME FULL CIRCLE***
The day had been a mix of excitement and anticipation and slightly surreal moments**** and curiosities† and eeep because new people and finding out I was writing this blog post(!). So, after walking Chloe and having dinner†† I set off to the church:
We shall call it St Square, as my brain isn’t feeling overly clever and it is rather square in shape. I picked St Square for two very practical reasons 1-accessible without car, as I don’t drive, and 2-a practise night I had free. Hurrah that there was a tower to meet these requirements! Anyone who followed the discussion of how I got this far on the forum will know I went for handbells (which are new for the group) and then tower bells as they were offered together.
So I arrived and took some photos for you and the handbells teacher (and her daughter) arrived while I was trying to take nice pictures and not stand on any graves. I’m not going to give any one an alias because I am going to have enough trouble learning their names without giving them second ones, so we’ll use initials. G is the teacher and C is her daughter. She seemed very pleased with a new student and drafted me into setting up the bells. There were going to be enough of us to ring on twelve, so that’s what we took out.
Handbells are rung up near the altar, inside the rood screen, where there is space for all of us to line up in a row. By the time we’d finished setting up other people were arriving so I got to meet the tower captain, J, and a few other women. One of them was S‡ and they all seemed rather pleased to meet me. I’m not sure quite how much of it was genuine pleasure to meet someone who was interested in bells and how much was the maniacal glint at the prospect of fresh blood. There were definitely both in several people (who turned out to be the tower crowd). Handbells is all female, or at least it was tonight.
It was only the second lesson for everyone else, so I’m not far behind, as I am, obviously, in the tower. We’re not doing methods on handbells, it’s tunes. I’m not sure if this is because everyone is beginning and you have to start somewhere relatively easy or if it’s what G knows. I found I don’t care about the reason; it was fun and surprisingly straightforward. We wound up not doing all twelve because some weren’t up to two bells, which worked fine to start and then got very complicated later!
We warmed up with a bit of Queens (well rounds to start, then 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, repeat‡‡). I actually found myself struggling more with the foot-tapping (to keep the beat) G wanted us to do to keep time‡‡‡ than I did with the bells. I rang the three-four pair and cheerfully settled in. I will need to watch the weight of the bells I work with and the carpal tunnel in my left hand; there is a noticeable difference in what I can do between hands. To me anyway. But I did it, and we rang Happy Birthday and I did that, too. And enjoyed it! Then we swapped around and, somehow, I wound up with eight-nine. That was when it got complicated. I was glad to notice that swapping wrong-footed everyone a little but I felt like I was thinking backwards, especially in Queens, which I suppose I was. Still, we carried on and were sounding good by the end of practice. D, who had arrived for tower practise, said so. I have signed up to carry on every week.
The evening continues in part two, where we head into the tower!
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* Yes, I’m a bit of a fashionista. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Costume Design and a Masters in Fashion Curation and, for me, the clothes really matter. They contribute significantly to how I experience life and are part of expressing not only who I am, but how I am who I am on any given day, so that’s why they’re here.
** Three, at least. Long enough for me to have bought it full price at Anthropologie and it to have then gone into the sale room, through further reductions and disappeared completely a month or two ago.
*** http://www.polyvore.com/kate_spade_new_york_come/thing?id=50104110 I have a slight… addiction to kate spade. But that’s a whole other topic. I didn’t wear it while ringing, it went in my pocket, but I wear several (see: slight addiction) on a daily basis and kept the one I don’t take off on, firmly wedged up my arm where it obligingly stays.
**** Like ordering Steve Coleman’s Bellringer’s Early and Bedside Companions, as CathyR had recommended to me, and when I phoned up having the man himself answer. He was lovely and pleased and I was slightly startled (you just don’t expect things like that), but I should have them in Saturday’s post.^
^ I’m now about halfway through the Early Companion and I am finding it interesting reading. The style is a bit too conversational for me and I wouldn’t mind more practical/technical geekery and less casual chat, but I am sifting useful things out of it. I do suspect some of it will make more sense when my ringing catches up with my reading.
† I finally picked up the Victorian gilt picture frame that is going to have some art woven into it and then be hung in my sitting room.
†† The Giant Chocolate Meringue is for after.
††† I’m still glad I’ll have time to get used to the place before I have to start turning up in the dark, though.
‡ And I can’t remember the rest, alas. I used to tell my students I can only learn so many names at once, wait your turn. Remembering six names in total is a record for me.
‡‡ While in handbells we’re using Queens as a warm up, like scales with other kinds of music, it is (as our esteemed hellgoddess has explained to me, and would like me to explain to you^) actually a call-change pattern used by method ringers in the tower. I have no idea why we’re doing it in handbells, other than in place of scales (and we’re not calling any changes to get into the pattern, we’re just doing it) to warm up, and I’m not far enough along to have rung it in the tower yet (where the calls into it will exist).
^ Perhaps to check I’ve understood? I think I have…
‡‡‡ This is directly related to the fact that I did colour guard^ in high school, the flag spinning (not twirling, twirling is a dirty word in colour guard) that goes along with the marching band. All of that counting (usually in sets of eight, according to the tempo of the music) is done by marking time (how you move your feet, with a slight rocking in the heels, to keep in time if you’re not marching) your left foot counts all the odd-numbered beats, so you start with the left as one, and the right foot on the even-numbered beats. If you’ve ever heard someone shouting left-right-left-right-left at a group of people marching it’s the same principle. I did guard for four years and could probably still mark time in my sleep. Marking time is easy; I don’t have to think about it. One foot tapping completely threw me off, because I’m used to using both.
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