They let me near some bells, part two – guest post by Catherine
So while handbells practise finished the rest of the band rang up the tower bells and we went off to the other side of the church and into the ringing chamber.
The handbells-only ladies left and we were joined by two chaps, D and R. G and her daughter C are also learning in the tower, so I’m not the only newbie. We had seven members of the band plus the three beginners. There was now no question that they were smelling new blood and wanting to keep it, which was not as creepy as it sounds and actually rather welcoming. I did get asked how I’d wound up at their practise and explained about this blog and the forum crowd enabling me into it, so they’re probably all reading this.‡‡‡ No pressure then.
I do have to say I’m thankful for this blog and the bit of research I’ve done already because knowing some basic theory is good. The bells were rung up and throughout the practise we alternated between the band doing some proper ringing and us beginners having one-on-one learning half the stroke. C is the best of us learners. I’m struggling with anticipating the bell taking the rope up but was reassured that it’s an instinct everyone has to learn to control. This would be why I got a little tap on the nose from the rope and pretty decent bop from the sally, there’s actually a little red mark on my left collarbone from it. By the end of my last go I was starting to get the hang of it, at this point concentrating really hard on not moving my arms until the bell moves them for me is what’s working. But it is working.
When everyone else was ringing plain hunt R talked G and I through the method a bit, then had us stand behind him and try to follow along while he rang the treble. ‡‡‡‡ I’m fairly certain it’s the wrong way to learn but I had the easiest time following by listening and counting each bell through the pattern of the method. That’s probably a relic of colour guard, following hits in the music (whatever you do, you do on the beats and when you’re counting ‘one’ is the down-beat [if you’ve ever watched a conductor it’s the bit where the baton goes straight down] so my brain automatically makes the ‘down-beat’ the first bell in the row of the method) makes sense to me. It’s funny, but the bells are using the same bit of my brain colour guard did. I am not complaining about this because it means I definitely can learn it.§
At the end J asked if they’d scared me off and I said no, I’d like to come back next week and it was agreed that I will. Yay! We’re going to attempt teacher-less handbells next week as G will be away for her mum’s birthday and J suggested it might be a good way to teach me plain hunt§§. I am irrationally excited by this.
All in all, I really enjoyed myself. I know it’s going to be a long and tricky road§§§ before I’m actually good at anything, but I like learning and this is going to be a fun challenge. And it felt right, like this is something that should be a part of my life and how has it taken so long for me to notice and get it in.
Sorry, CathyR, no gore.
Now, where’s that Giant Chocolate Meringue?±
Update: I’ve had three more practises since I first wrote this and it’s going very well. Everyone is really nice and encouraging and M, who is captain at another tower and visiting St Square to help teach, has been working with me. We are making good progress, under his guidance I’m ringing almost entirely on my own and two weeks ago began learning how to lead (ring the treble) in rounds and stand my bell (balance it back up on its frame). I’ve met more of the band, which has quite a few more learners in it, and I’m really enjoying it.
We added a learners’ hour before handbells this past week so I was excited about having even more time on a rope! And it was entirely worthwhile, that extra time ringing made a world of difference. I’ve now got a better handle on standing, improved my technique a little, seen a very low-key stay break and that was all in the first hour! I’m still getting myself into trouble from time to time, but at least I’m getting myself out of it now, too. After handbells, when I went back into the tower for regular practice with the band, M had me ringing rounds on the two. At which point, without warning and only a tiny bit of instruction for me in practically the same sentence he called a change. Which I didn’t handle gracefully, but at least I handled (eventually). Later in the evening he gave me a choice, be smug in rounds or make it challenging (at least I knew this time he was going to start calling changes!). Of course I chose challenging! And it was better than the first time. Bells promote happiness.±±
* * * * *
‡‡‡ It’s a really good thing I genuinely enjoyed myself and on first impressions liked everyone I met, otherwise this would be really awkward. And I hope they all liked me (well, I didn’t get shoved out the door!) and are enjoying reading this.
‡‡‡‡ At this point, from the slightly further along point at which I’m writing this particular footnote, I’m watching everyone (the more people I can see, the better) as often as I can, trying to match what I can hear with what I can see. So far I get the sense that I’m going to learn through ears and eyes, or at the very least, that is what is going to help it come together for me, right before ringing whatever it is myself.
§ My friend who works across the road from me totally predicted that it would help. And, in proof that ringing is a small world, she’s friends with my tower captain’s daughter and a few others in the band know the family, too. There really will be no escape (not that I was planning one).
§§ Plain hunt is one of the first methods (okay, more like crawling in the baby steps of learning methods, but still, a step beyond staring at feet and wondering what they’re for) you learn, as I understand it. I’m hoping that if I can explain this right I’m understanding it well enough! I’ll talk through what the treble, the first bell, does (although all the bells do the same thing, they just start in a different place in the pattern). So the treble ‘hunts’ by moving through the places each bell takes, it starts in first as it’s one, then in the next row it rings two, then three, four, twice in five and then it goes back to one for two blows, by the second of which you’re back in rounds. Erm, I have no idea if that makes sense to any of you!
In the end we didn’t do it on handbells, but I have tower homework to learn it on Mobel.^
^ This is the bellringing app for iPhones and whatnots, the mobile version of Abel, and it’s a simulator for ringing. It’s not the same as being in the tower by a long shot, but it’s a good way to increase familiarity with how things sound and the patterns they follow. For me anyway.
§§§ There is a day in my future where I will be hiding under a piece of furniture, whimpering down the phone at my mother that I can’t do this. I will then crawl out and do it. At least I know this pattern of behaviour.
± This is the smallest one I have in the house. After all, it’s about midnight and Chloe and I are walking to the wool shop tomorrow, just to see what they have. Really. I have plenty of wool left over from the slippers to knit her a jumper and already bought what I need for the shawl.^
^ This is not going to end well, is it?+
+ You don’t want to know.
±± Probably even when you’re cursing them out.
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