I’m sure all of you are wondering just what it’s like to go bell ringing with Robin. (And if you weren’t, why on earth weren’t you?) I’ve done this before, mind you. But I’ve never visited Robin’s home tower—and certainly not when Robin’s been deputy-ringing-master-temporarily-in-charge-while-Niall’s-away. I had the pleasure of having beginning How To Pull A Rope Without Killing Oneself instruction (again—it might almost be sticking a bit) but I figure you all can find out about the basic mechanics of ringing from any number of sources. Rope + bell + sheer terror = beginning ringing.
Instead, I thought I’d let you all know that Robin’s an excellent deputy-ringing-master.* No lie! Here, see for yourselves**:
As you can see, she’s got the whole thing well in hand. But I’m sure any number of people can ring the hell out of…..erm….Double Gloucester Sudden Astonishment, or whatever it was.*** The thing that struck me this evening was more to do with the things that make one a good leader, whether one’s leading an evening tower practice or an Away mission on Omicron Ceti III. Here’s what I noticed.
A good leader pays attention. We had a larger band this evening than was expected#, even without my somewhat lackluster presence on the floor. Robin made sure that everyone got involved without being overbearing about it, looked out for the beginners to ensure that they all got a chance to ring a variety of stuff, and kept an eye on the clock to ensure that we were done on the dot of nine. This was (I think) no mean feat.
A good leader rolls with the unexpected. One of the reasons we had a larger group than expected was because two ringers from a tower in Upper Thighweld## happened to be in town and dropped in about halfway through practice—a gent who’s obviously a crack ringer###, and his son who looked to be about 10 or 11. So suddenly our group grew by 2 people who hit both ends of the ringing skill scale (though the kid was I gather a decent ringer for being 10 or 11.) They were of course instantly welcomed by all, and Robin adjusted whatever the existing evening plan% had been to accommodate them with nary a blink.
A good leader is nice to beginners/kids. We had three kids there this evening. Working in a children’s museum as I do, I get to see a lot of how adults behave with kids under the age of 15, and most folks, when talking to kids not their own, are frankly either a) patronizing, or b) indifferent. Robin talks to kids as if they’re perfectly intelligent and worthwhile human beings—which should come as a surprise to no one, of course. But she made sure that each one of the kids got to do something more than just call changes%%, and she looked them in the eye when she asked them if they were up for it. Believe me when I say that’s a rare thing in adults who help teach kids to do difficult stuff like bell ringing.
While I know Robin is going to be flooded with relief when Niall returns this coming week,%%% I just wanted to let all of you know that New Arcadia has been in good hands during his absence. And also that this beginner had a marvelous time again. If you’ve never tried ringing, I highly recommend it; it’s absolutely fascinatingly weird, and I’m always thrilled to get the opportunity to try it.=
PS. Good Leaders also manage to utterly destroy Oakville, with some practice. She’s been playing Fingerzilla while I write this. ==
* * *
* Blah eh erg gleep gah glory. Tremble tremble tremble.
** We’re ringing plain hunt for one of our beginners. A beginner who happened never to have rung plain hunt before. Want to give it a try? I said, with my best evil-ratbag-in-training grin. He said something closely resembling ‘blah eh erg gleep gah’ but agreed to have a go. In the video I’m on the two^; Roger, on my right standing with the poor beginner on the treble, has just said to me, in a doomy sort of voice, that I may have just overreached myself, and Edward^^, on my left, said, no, no, what’s the point of power if you can’t use it?, and I am replying in finest mwa ha ha ha way, misuse it, yes, absolutely.
The beginner did fine. I think Roger had to have a second pint at the pub later to regain his nerve.
^ And my form is bloody terrible. Any real ringers out there will despise me forever. Cathy has had to resort to threats of violence to make me let her hang the thing in public. I will say in my defense that I was REVERTING slightly tonight under stress of circumstance.
^^ Edward, our retired ringing master, the ratbag, who, when he showed up late this evening and I said hopefully, would you like to take over? replied smiling, Not particularly.
*** This is PLAIN HUNT. It’s not even a method: it’s the practise thingy before the real methods start. Cathy did take one other video of us ringing Grandsire, which is a method, which bit of video also has the advantage that I am conducting and you see me bellow, Go Grandsire. Fortunately she turned the camera off before the realisation hit that by saying go I am going to have to say stop which means I’m going to have to . . . figure . . . out . . . when . . . to . . . say . . . stop. For some reason Cathy voted for the plain hunt clip . . . because she says I look like I’m actually having a good time.^
^ My t shirt, in case you can’t read it on your screen, says ‘Just hand me the chocolate, and no-one gets hurt’. Sadly Cathy’s attempts to film my really excellent black and orange tiger striped sequinned All Stars failed. Maybe I’ll take a still photo tomorrow. To go with the photos of Cathy pulling on a bell rope. Heh heh heh heh.
## It’s a funny thing, we’d just been discussing the rich cultural heritage of Upper Thighweld with Oisin earlier in the day.
###He could ring Double Gloucester Sudden Astonishment, no problem.
% Plan? Plan?
%% We need them to keep coming. Median age of bell ringers is something terrifying like over 50. Yes, I said median.
%%% Flooded! Tsunamied! Medium-sized-asteroid-annihilated! The thing I confess that’s worrying me now is that by not totally buggering it up tonight, I’m liable to have more people sidling up to me and making provocative suggestions about other situations where a Deputy Ringing Master who doesn’t set fire to the bell chamber or make anyone cry could be of service.
= Cathy lives within reasonable commuting distance of a change ringing bell tower at home in America. If Southdowner, B_Twin and Ajlr have all taken up bell ringing . . . I see no excuse for Black Bear not following their admirable lead.
== Are you kidding? I’ve been promoted. I don’t just smash weeny level-one Oakville to smithereens any more.