Always new dranglefabbing challenges
I rang at a new tower tonight.
The main problem with the frelling abbey, aside from the fact that it scares me to death and I ring accordingly, is that ringing, especially ringing for the low-level ordinary grind like myself, keeps getting cancelled. If the United Pipe Fittings Orchestra and All Girl Guttering Ukulele Band aren’t having a concert in the cloisters, then the ringers who actually know what they’re doing and can count to forty-eight while they’re doing it* are ringing a quarter peal of Cantankerous Saturnalia Quadruple Maximus, as they did this past Sunday.** And I need time on a rope, because I am a SLOW LEARNER and TWITCHY*** with it.
I think I told you, a few weeks ago, my first Sunday back on the job at the abbey after the August break, when I tied Grandsire Triples in a knot and then broke it, and was having one of my regular attacks of I AM GIVING UP RINGING FOREVER, AND FURTHERMORE I AM DONATING ALL MY ORGANS TO SCIENCE THIS AFTERNOON, one of the women who lives locally and often comes Sunday afternoons when she knows the abbey is short-handed but is a member of the Extremely Scary† and High Level Fustian band, told me that Fustian had extra practises. For stupid . . . I mean, for less advanced ringers,†† on Tuesdays. She said, it’s for anyone, you can just come along. And we ring lots of Grandsire Triples. Will you be there? I asked, doing my pathetic thing again†††, and she said that she was there most weeks.
Open practises are the first and third Tuesdays of the month. As I recall Fiona and I were up to no good a fortnight ago, but I had written ‘Fustian’ in my diary for tonight . . . and spent all day trying to bottle out.
I left New Arcadia early so I would have time to get lost and fail to find a parking space and so on and then had no trouble whatsoever so I had to sit in Wolfgang for about ten minutes knitting frantically‡ before I crept out to lurk in the churchyard. I took a lap around the church itself and it has something like twenty six doors so how am I supposed to guess which one to loiter at? I chose what I thought was a promising tomb for leaning against (and knitting), where I could keep an eye on both the main door (despite being fairly sure that wherever the ringers entered it would not be the main door) and the door to the actual, you know, tower.
Naturally it was neither of these. Furthermore on Tuesdays they ring on the simulator so if you’re hanging around in the churchyard waiting for symptoms of ringing practise to manifest, the sound of the bells going up is not going to be one of them.
I might have eventually crept away defeated but fortunately I took another lap around the church and met someone striding purposefully toward the twenty seventh door which is almost frelling invisible in its dark and shadowed niche, and I squeaked, Bell ringing? And she said yes, yes, right this way.
It was not too bad. The first thing was that I was sure the simulator would completely derail me. Physically you ring as usual, but the real bells in the belfrey are all muffled and the sound you hear in the ringing chamber is off a computer hitched up to go ‘dong’ when the bell ropes are pulled.‡‡ It is disconcerting—but the disconcertingness wears off pretty quickly. The second thing was that I never do well at new towers because I am an easily panicked twit. The third thing was . . . what if Melinda was WRONG?
But Melinda doesn’t seem to have been wrong. I was greeted with a disarmingly convincing display of cordiality, and asked what I ring: Grandsire Triples, I said humbly, Melinda said you ring lots of Grandsire Triples. Certainly, said the ringing master, anything else? Oh—well, I said, daring greatly, maybe a plain course of Stedman Triples?
There were also a couple of learners even learnier than me, and you really don’t want to be the least and worst in a tower you’re visiting for the first time, so that was good too. And the two known-by-me Fustian Scary People went out of their way to say something friendly to me‡‡‡. I got out of the tricky ‘where do you ring’ question by saying that I was trying to ring at the abbey and finding it an uphill struggle, and everyone rolled their eyes and said, oh, the abbey. Even one of the Scary People said that the business of ringing in a queue in the middle of a ballroom-sized space (the Fustian ringing chamber is relatively small and the circle of ropes is circular) is not ideal.
And not only did I get my Stedman Triples . . . it was a touch, not a plain course. I was ‘unaffected’—which meant that the other bells changed places while I kept my plain-course line—so I was getting off easy. But the ‘unaffected’ racket is an old teaching trick to make sure the learner is ringing the line and not just slacking off by learning where she’s going to meet which bell: which is to say has done her homework properly. I have done my homework properly. Yaaaay.
And everyone said, please come again.§ So I will.
I am making no predictions about my brilliance at the abbey tomorrow however.
* * *
* And back down again. I can usually go up while pathetically ringing plain hunt on too dragonfired many bells. It’s coming down where I am liable to come unstuck. NO FRELLING BODY WHO HAS BEEN RINGING AS MANY YEARS AS I HAVE HAS ANY EXCUSE WHATSOEVER FOR EVER COMING UNSTUCK ON PLAIN SODBLASTED HUNT ON ANY NUMBER OF BELLS, UP TO AND INCLUDING 1,000,000,000,000. ARRRRGH.
** One of the women at tonight’s practise had rung in it and told me in an off hand manner, like you might say ‘nice day’ or ‘I like your leg warmers’^ that it was enjoyable. She would probably enjoy strolling over Niagara Falls on a tightrope. She would probably enjoy the view and the bracing air.
^ I am wearing my leg warmers. They are performing their function. KNITTING IS USEFUL. Pass it on.+
+ I know, I know. You sock people have known that forever.
*** Twitchy is bad on the end of a bell rope.
† I rang a wedding at Ditherington on Saturday.^ Ditherington doesn’t have its own band any more, so a band ringing a wedding there is always a jumble. One of the women whom I had not met before learnt at the abbey, and knows Scary Man (who has been there forever) and referred to him as Scary Man. Not even ‘the scary man’ but Scary Man. I only didn’t fall down laughing because I didn’t want to stab myself with my knitting needles.
^ The bride was thirty five minutes late. Just saying. Fortunately I had my KNITTING.
†† I wouldn’t go to a proper Fustian practise unless someone held a gun to my head and I might just tell them to shoot me.
††† Going ALONE to a NEW TOWER is VERY DAUNTING. You don’t even have to be pathetic to think so. Melinda is also a very good ringer and very nice, the kind of person you’d always be more inclined to say ‘yes’ to an invitation to ring if it included her.
‡ I also realised that I was sweating with terror and therefore removed my leg warmers.
‡‡ I’m not sure what is happening in the belfry—whether you’re pulling the bells or the simulator. Next time I’ll ask.
‡‡‡ Granted there’s going to be some self-selection for niceness at a practise specifically aimed at the lacking and the lousy.^ Still. There are some seriously grim and intimidating people who feel it is their duty to put in time bringing beginners on, but they aren’t enjoying it and you can see them not enjoying it.
^ When I was discussing the possibility of going to the extra Fustian practise with some other ringing friends we were sniggering over the names of certain Fustian ringers who would not be there. And they weren’t.
§ This is good ringing manners. But they wouldn’t have had to sound like they meant it.
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