Barnes Winter Ringing Outing 2016
Barnes Winter Ringing Outing 2016
Thank you to Caroline Prescott for her very timely invitation to try a bit of ringing at Southwark Cathedral! This extraordinary opportunity came about on Wednesday, November 4, to mark the last opportunity for most of us to ring there in advance of the bells being taken down for a refurbishment and rehang early in 2016.
Twelve bells, oh my.
Our wonderful Tower Captain Trisha, full of enthusiasm, met us outside in the frosty darkness and we gathered with the other ringers – Charles and Richard from St Mary’s among the number. There were more than 80 of us, we heard later! We prepared to climb the many, many winding steps to the bell-chamber. Like St Paul’s, you climb and climb and then cross the nave to get to the chamber. This is the view from that crossover.
Then you walk essentially right under the roof:
The romance of it! These magical, secret places that most people, of course, will never see. And upwards to the ringing chamber, where we gathered with our hosts, were welcomed warmly by Cathedral Tower Captain Hannah Wilby, who was running the practice, and waited our turn to ring.
There was this rather ominous warning from Charles Dickens:
When it came to be my turn, my heart was absolutely pounding.
“Take several deep breaths,” my local helper told me kindly. “There’s no point in having the adrenaline make you crazy.” So I did, and ringing began. We achieved quite a good-sounding series of rounds, finally, after everyone adjusted to the challenge of their bells.
Surprising myself, I didn’t need any help! But my goodness, you have to ring that bell with massive control, because waiting your turn in a circle of twelve bells ringing one after the other requires quite some strategy! If you can bear it, listen to the video below, but don’t hit “play” if you have a sleeping baby next to you.
(Before you shout at me, yes, I do chew gum whilst ringing.)
Charles was able to have a go.
Since there were so many ringers waiting for their opportunity, we rang only briefly and then climbed up to the roof of the Cathedral for a heart-stopping experience. The bells along the way up were absolutely deafening, making us think of Lord Peter Wimsey in “The Nine Tailors” (but not as deadly).
Oh, the romance of the ancient door, opened to the sky.
We could see our building in the distance! It’s one of the two in the very centre, with vertical lines of lighted windows running up and down.
What an experience. Thank you to everyone who invited us, who helped us manage the bells, and who made us welcome. We will look forward to our next ring at Southwark after the bells are returned to their belfry.
This past Saturday saw the bell-ringers of St Mary’s simply crawling all over the church – it was our annual job of staffing (and baking for!) the Church Coffee Shop, when the Jumble Sale in Kitson Hall claims the usual rota of helpers. We do this enthusiastically every year, of course, enjoying the chance to show off our baking skills. I am no baker, but I persevered to produce an acceptable lemon polenta cake (which has the added benefit of being wheat-free, for those who need such things), and a chocolate chip layer cake.
There were walnut cakes, ginger cakes, Dundee cakes…
Trisha’s famous cherry almond beauties…
It is always a joy to stand behind the counter in the church Coffee Shop, greeting old friends and meeting new ones, pouring coffee and tea, explaining that the funds raised will go toward the eventual purchase of a “dumb bell,” a teaching aid made up of a rope to pull with no bell attached, just a mechanism up high to mimic the experience of ringing with no heavy and expensive bell, and no sound! Someday we will be able to afford one.
The morning wouldn’t be complete without the help of a visiting toddler, helping the church gardener.
A great deal of the enjoyment in the Coffee Morning is the fun of working together.
The lovely lady in the centre is our own learner Martha, flanked by helpers (her fellow learner Alex, a wonderful addition to our group, and our stalwart Tower Member Eddie). Martha needs a special shout-out because she volunteered to cook the lunch for all the participants in the second event of the day. Her biryani was authentic, delicious – filled with raisins, tiny lamb meatballs, and almonds – and was enough to feed the big group.
Thank you, Martha, for your biryani, your lovely cheesy pasta, and the best chopped salad in the world, but most of all for your wonderful, generous attitude.
This group Martha was there to feed was made up of the participants in the Association of Ringing Teachers’ Teaching Day. St Mary’s hosted this wonderful event, run by Graham Nabb and assisted by Paul Flavell.
The ringing chamber has never been so full.
Judging by the laughter, the learning process was greatly aided by a general sense of humour, and teamwork.
Thankfully for our memories, Michael played his usual intrepid role as chronicler. I give you his account:
We all know handling forms the basis of ringing and that mastering this basically divides the would-be ringers into those who go on to ring and those who clang along or just give up. It is absolutely crucial to bell ringing and probably governs whether there will be a next generation to continue the legacy of yesteryear. So this course is very much a call to the bell-ringing establishment and to be honest I did wonder why I had signed up for it. After all I have only been ringing for a few years, am on the wrong side of 60 and have still to ring a touch inside – BUT such is the power of persuasion of our Captain, I succumbed. So here I was learning how to teach “handling” surrounded by the ringing elite of the District, and masquerading as “one of them”. However, by the time Graham had got to the second or third slide of his presentation my anxiety at this pretence was relieved, for here was someone talking my language – the language of the beginner, the novice, the “old” novice too, the one who was told he should have started 40 years ago!
It was transformative; “Learners find various ingenious ways of getting it wrong”! Yes! “Adults are concerned about failure” YES! “You have to ensure learners know what you are talking about” YES! “If you can do something right once you can do it again with practice” YES! And so it began; I was hooked.
Graham divided the theory of teaching “Handling”, a huge subject, into three parts.
Part 1. The skills needed to be an effective teacher, many of which had been explored and refined by physiotherapists, whose work involves co-ordination between mind and body. How many times do you have to do something before it becomes automatic? (Answer at the end of the article but have a guess). Ringing is a “big” task so break it down to its individual steps, to biteable bits that can be diagnosed intensively and practiced until accomplished; it is vital to get the muscular memory for correct ringing in place from the start, wrong habits being so difficult to correct. Remember, a beginner is like a blank canvas and whatever you put onto it as a teacher is difficult to remove.
Part 2. So how do you become a good teacher? How do people learn? How do you encourage and reward, for the modern way is for effort to be rewarded by achievement? New young ringers will expect this as their entire educational experience will have been within such a framework, “bangs for bucks”, and “old” learners will appreciate it too; no one resents a compliment and everyone wants to feel they are a useful part of the team. People want to enjoy their ringing and everyone wants to know why they cannot “do it” – so how do you help them? What sort of prompts can you provide for them; audible, visual, physical? See Part 3.
Part 3. How to solve common handling problems. There they all were, just as fresh as they were in our learning days; gravity doesn’t change, Newton’s Laws of motion operate regardless of how many times we attempt to break them and you still can’t push on a rope. Well the answer is to observe closely, analyse carefully, correct sympathetically, encourage appropriately, repeat patiently (i.e. practice) and keep going – onwards and upwards. The object is to prevent bad practice from becoming part of the ringers’ method, prevention being so much easier, and so much less painful, than cure.
But it wasn’t all talk as each of these Theory sessions were separated by a solid hour of practical hands-on teaching, and the methods were so clever and so simple. Have you any idea how much can be taught without a bell but just a length of rope, or with the bell safely below the balance? Attend the next course. Well I knew I wasn’t very good at ringing but as for teaching! Read on. Fortunately for this, my first teaching practice, I was teaching an accomplished ringer who kindly pointed out that I would probably have severely injured him if he had been a student and followed my advice! His mentor agreed. This was not a good start but, and this was the amazing thing, it clarified at a stroke how much more I had to think about my own ringing. I can think of no other way of crossing that threshold than of teaching someone else. I should have expected it, after all I taught for 40 years and there is nothing like teaching to show whether you know what you are talking about.
This was a day to remember and savour; it was a wonderful experience that every ringer should complete at some stage in their development. It was like holding a mirror up to yourself. I think it would make a super component of a ringer’s development and perhaps every new ringer should go through a teacher training course to hammer home what it is they have been taught and what it is they are attempting to do.
The class was immensely grateful to Graham for the enthusiasm and clarity he brought to the subject: these are sessions that should be filmed as they would make ideal videos. Graham is an excellent speaker and a natural communicator and works like a magician at the end of a bell with coils, tails and sallies just doing what they were supposed to do. The whole day was made possible thanks to Trisha Hawkins our Captain whose organisational skills leave us all in awe (reader you will not know that Trisha was also dealing with a coffee morning serving the annual mega-jumble sale in the Church Hall next door) and Eddie Hartley, and the wonderful services of those in our band who can produce refreshments and a hot mid-day meal fit for a king. Especial thanks must go to Martha Isho, Kristen Frederickson, Trisha (again) and those who helped, Monica Trow, Katharine Malvern, Giles Dimock, Alex Peake and Eddie Heath.
There are a number of attractive publications suitable for new ringers including Discover Bell Ringing and Teaching with Simulators available from ART. And the answer to how many times? 2000 to 10,000; you have been warned!
Thanks to the organizational talents of our Tower Captain Trisha, and the willing help of many other Tower members, the Coffee Shop and the ITTS training day were successfully juggled and a lovely day was had by all.
Barnes Summer Outing 2015
What a thrill, this summer, to be able to come along for two days and a night on the Summer Outing to Devon. What a treat, to get a glimpse, a taste as it were, of the atmosphere of warm summer days in novel towers, camaraderie and good humor!
I was lucky enough to share the train journey with Michael de Freitas, my partner in crime in many ringing adventures, from Paddington. There is something awe-inspiring, always, about the view from the bridge within the station. Adventures await, no doubt.
We spent the trip sharing a ham sandwich, and trying to work out Plain Bob “on an affected bell.” I’m not sure how much progress we made with this topic, as it was much more fun to discuss our hopes for the towers we would visit in the coming days.
We arrived very shortly at Newton Abbey train station, where we were picked up kindly by Jill Wigney, whose local patch it is. We were joined by young ringer Lucy, who showed us with her extraordinary skills over the next days how lucky she was to be born into a family of ringers! A real advantage over we who came to the sport later in life.
We made our first stop at St Bartholomew, Coffinswell.
After a bit of a kerfuffle over getting in, we climbed the stairs to a charming ringing chamber with crumbling pink walls.
We rang up the six bells, then rang a respectable few extents of Plain Bob, and rang down happily again. Such beautiful sallies.
I always notice sallies, since Eddie explained to me that the common red, white and blue is in fact the default setting for acquiring sallies. So any other colours you see have been specially chosen, which I find touching, and beautiful.
Onward to join our friends who had been ringing all morning, for lunch at a pub in Linney.
I decided I had time only for a bowl of mushroom soup (very delicious), and then tormented myself sitting with Sarah who was tucking into gorgeous pork belly, Andrew Harvey with a fabulous shepherd’s pie, and Andrew Howard-Smith with a delectable helping of fish and chips.
From here, we journeyed on to St Mary the Virgin, Marychurch, with ten bells.
We were greatly impressed with the beautiful sound of these bells, and under Eddie Hartley’s guidance rang some very respectable call changes.
How one must think, in this situations. Michael and Jackie were clearly deep in thought.
Sarah and Trisha found a moment to smile.
Then we turned to the more ambitious (for me) Plain Hunt on Nine which I just about survived, with Trisha standing behind me! Why do I always look so terrified? Don’t answer that.
We were joined at this point by some very talented ringers, and the more advanced among us then went on to Cambridge Surprise Royal, and a touch of Stedman Triples. It was extremely inspiring to sit in that tower and listen to such complex methods rung so beautifully.
We went on to All Saints Babbacombe.
Our task was to ring their 8 bells up for an upcoming Quarter Peal of Grandsire Triples. We enjoyed the glorious sound of these bells and the feeling of performing a satisfying task for the benefit of others to come. Again, I revelled in their sallies.
What a dramatic interior, this glorious church.
From there we travelled to the Apostle Andrew, Tor Mohun, a most unusual Greek orthodox church.
I wish I knew more about a typical Anglican church becoming Greek.
The marriage seems entirely peaceful.
We rang their six lovely bells, and then departed through their graveyard, including a very moving section of simple white crosses, dedicated to war dead whose bodies are still abroad.
Eddie, Michael and Trisha and I decided to become tourists for a bit, and descended into the harbor at Torquay, site of so many Agatha Christie moments. A dream come true for me!
Then we indulged in a traditional experience I have read about in all my English novels, but never taken part in – tea and teacakes! What a warm, buttery treat, and one I can imagine indulging in many times to come.
I never normally drink tea, but somehow, on a ringing outing in Devon with all my English chums, it seemed the thing to do.
I wheedled Michael, Tricia and Eddie into posing for me, as if they were tourists and not rock-star bell-ringers. Because they are so sweet, they allowed me my moment.
After our refreshing break, we travelled to Bovey Tracy for a hilarious experiment at “Wobbly Bobs Campanile” – a mini-ring of eight! If you’ve never seen or heard of such a thing, you are in for a treat.
The largest bell weight just 10 pounds! They are housed in the gentleman’s garage and behave just as regular bells, but with only the tiniest and most subtle of movements required to bring them up to the balance and down again.
Can you see how small they are? This bellchamber hovers over Bob’s garage where the ringing chamber is. Bob was an amazing teacher.
As always, some of us learned much faster than others, and I spent an inordinate amount of time merely learning to handle the bells – that was task enough for me! Michael was a star.
Others, of course were able to create very respectable rounds and call changes, and even plain hunt!
The sallies are just like little dollshouse toys!
As usual, I was better at appreciating others’ talents than in exercising my own.
At this point, we thanked our host and felt it was high time for a welcome cocktail back at our hotel, the lovely Cromwell Arms in Bovey Tracey. The atmosphere of a convivial meal together, talking about the achievements of the day, reliving our favorite bells, wondering what tomorrow would bring, as the sun set in the garden of our hotel, made me glow with happiness and appreciation. Lovely food, lovely company. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
After a good night’s sleep and a Full English Breakfast for some of our number (I myself admit to a silly amount of bacon), we poured into cars and headed to All Saints Highweek, with its 8 bells.
I had a lovely time covering to Grandsire Triples, which I haven’t done in a very long time. It’s not as easy as it sounds by any means, being the last “bong” out of 8. What a charming and beautiful ringing chamber, with lovely evocations of the past, and gorgeous sallies.
This certificate took me straight into Dorothy L. Sayers’ “The Nine Tailors,” with Lord Peter on a snowy New Year’s Eve.
Then a band assembled for a Quarter Peal attempt and Michael bravely stepped into my shoes. The attempt did not come off, but not owing to any one person’s weakness. Sometimes these things just happen. I sat outside enjoying the sound, finding treasures.
I love it when the grasses blow in this way, in a beloved churchyard, where someone, or many people, have decided that nature knows best.
What a Dickensian name for an English gravestone, “Vicary.” I wonder if he was.
From there we went to a peculiar (unique?) location, a stand-alone tower in the city centre of Newton Abbey, called St Leonard’s.
Although the structure itself dates to the Victorian period, parts of the building are relics of the 13th century. As we approached, we could hear a Quarter Peal going wrong, so there must have been something in the air that particular morning. We said goodbye to the departing band and contented ourselves with Plain Hunt on Seven on their 8 lovely bells. Lovely sallies again!
“Here’s where you’re going, Kristen, if you don’t Plain Hunt well enough,” Andrew said.
Our next church was St Bartholomew, East Ogwell, set behind a little gate in a sunny enclave.
There we found ourselves with the unexpected addition – as we sat upon the stone wall and steps – of a prodigious number of industrious ants. Andrew in particular was stricken with the little creatures and we decided to give the sunshine a miss and go in to ring, upon their six bells. It should have been straightforward, especially with Charles kindly looking after our ringing and Eddie obviously not having any problem at all, unsurprisingly.
Even with Jill standing supportively behind me, I simply could not get my Number Four behind the Three. Sometimes, in ringing, there is a wonderful symmetry and congruence about the project, and just as possibly, there is a malign moment when nothing you do goes right. It’s best not to take it too seriously. We departed.
On our next journey, Eddie quizzed us all along the way about the method and madness of “Plain Bob Minimus” – “Now if you’re on the 2, Kristen…” I thought this a wonderful activity for a party game but it turned out the quiz was to prepare us for the next tower with only 4 bells! Holy Trinity, Torbryan, was a stupendous challenge.
Can you imagine a tower with no lights in the stairwell, no lights in the tower, no lights in the ringing chamber? Only little crosses cut into the ancient stone.
They must, in the old days, have rung either only in daylight hours, or by feel and sound. Mike guided us in the Devon practice of looping the tail of the rope up with a rubber band around one’s upper arm, for those of us incomers who don’t like the feeling of ringing whilst holding a coil all the time. The deep, sonorous sound was deafening in the ancient stone tower. Just beautiful, but a bit scary too. Everyone was a bit solemn, contemplating the task at hand, feeling the past all around us.
It was comforting to see tall Andrew on the massive tenor.
How the past loomed all around us. Although difficult to ring, these bells and the whole experience were my favorite of the outing.
Mike explained that the tower had been almost abandoned because of the local custom of ringing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for striking competitions. The neighborhood quite naturally objected to this clamorous hobby and virtually moved all the ringing to the nearby church of Ipplepen, our after-lunch destination. We had lunch at The Old Church House, whose landlord expressed his happiness upon hearing the bells. “We miss them, sometimes.”
After quite a bit of drama involving an enormous lorry, a narrow car park and an even narrower lane, we repaired to St Andrew, Ipplepen, and its eight bells. What a beautiful tracery roof, inside.
Our host was a true Devon ringer, who agreed upon request to call some “Devon Call Changes,” which mean both that they are called very quickly, and by calling “down,” for example, “3 to treble” rather than “2 to 3.” He was the exact Devon bell-ringing counterpart to my favorite Connecticut farmer friend, “back home.” Gruff, shyly friendly, completely in command of the situation. It is a type of man who cuts over national boundaries.
It was an adventure, and again we had to choose between the rubber band method and holding coils. I found that each made me nervous in a different way! I’m sure it’s merely a matter of getting used to it. To calm my nerves, I stopped to appreciate the screens to the vestry, stolen years ago and just recently recovered.
We arrived at St Mary the Virgin, Denbury.
There we were introduced to a ring of five bells, on the ground floor, in a plain, white-washed room. These were relatively small bells, and we found ourselves feeling a bit as if we were back in Wobbly Bob’s mini ring! We tried Plain Bob Minimus, but without a great deal of success (due to me, no doubt). There was a rush around to “get a grab” at the very end, with people turning up really just to pull a bit and put the tower on their lists. We managed a group photo on the springy graveyard turf.
For our last ring of the day, and my last ring of the trip, we appeared at The Blessed Virgin Mary, Abbottskerswell.
We all agreed afterward that it was the most beautiful ring of the day: Martin called changes to Queen’s, and there were gorgeous acoustics where you could hear everything, there were no odd struck bells, everyone simply rang beautifully without apparent effort, just following happily whatever instructions we were given, and enjoying the soaring sound.
And appreciating their sallies.
And a first for me – painted benches on which to seat ourselves between pulls at ropes.
The gorgeous Lucy was at her best, not a bit fatigued.
With one last, longing look at the treasures we were leaving behind, we went.
Eddie and Trisha bundled Michael and me with all our bags to the train station where we had disembarked only the day before, but this time our heads and ears and hearts were filled with the experiences of those dozens of bells, those dozen sets of ropes and sallies, the companionship of the ringers, the joy of the Devon countryside, those dozens of irreplaceable churches.
We talked contentedly for the entire journey, going over these photos, remembering what we had achieved, feeling grateful for all the ringers, but especially for each other’s company on the journey back to Real Life.
And there, dear readers, are my memories of my first Summer Outing, my first overnight on a ringing trip. You can only imagine – as can I – the delights that were in store for those who were able to stay on three more days, for 25 more churches. Oh, to be in England!
This steamy summer in St Mary’s, Barnes, we have been feeding, watering, weeding and generally nurturing several new learners in our midst, like dewy roses.
I say “we,” but since I’ve been away for these two months’ time, I really mean Eddie, Trisha and Katharine, primarily, and other helpers as they were available. There have been practices that were notable mostly for their incredibly early hour – this one taking place with (left to right) Martha, Jimmy, Alex and Barbara, assisted by Eddie, at 7:30 in the morning! Bless them, they are conscientious. What a wonderfully evocative photograph by Trisha.
We want to celebrate Jimmy’s fantastic achievement of this Sunday – his very first ringing for Sunday services! As Trisha pointed in her congratulatory email to him that afternoon, “It’s a great landmark, I think, when you first ring for service, which is of course our primary remit as bell-ringers.” In the rush to learn methods and race around in the thrilling business of ringing in as many churches as we can, I think it’s all too easy to lose sight of this basic truth – “May the sound of these bells summon the faithful to worship.”
Jimmy’s friend Sam was on hand to take the first photograph in this post, which shows us all in the heat of battle – rounds on all eight bells, and without Jimmy, we’d have been only seven. He made us an octave, which is always a grand feeling for a ringer. Afterward we all felt rather splendid!
Onward and upward to all our learners’ making progress and turning up for their first Sunday service ringing. Every ringer counts!
Now, you’ll remember that the last time I popped over here to our bell-ringing blog it was to assure you that as ringers, daily, ordinary life is just as important to record as special occasions. Just a simple summer day in our beloved churchyard is reason enough to celebrate.
And then sometimes we get a visit from someone so supremely important, so all-round inspiring, that it moves us to celebrate. That is how we felt on June 15, when on a warm summer evening, Rowan Williams, the most recently-retired Archbishop of Canterbury, came to preach. You remember; he married the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!
The occasion was, as has been so much celebration at St Mary’s this year, to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. This event took place, of course, at Runnymede in 1215, and then the pilgrims and the then-Archbishop Langton of Canterbury, walked to Barnes, there for Langton to sanctify St Mary’s new chapel, thereafter the Langton Chapel. There have been many events, and floral tributes, to observe the anniversary this summer.
We ringers gathered to do our very best to “ring in” the retired Archbishop. We gave him some very nice rounds and call changed, some lovely Plain Hunt on Seven.
The pilgrims who had walked the walk this summer, in commemoration of that walk 800 years ago, gathered with the Archbishop as we rang.
Everyone felt in a celebratory mood, most especially our lovely curate, Ann.
Finally it was time to enter the church for the service.
The beautiful choir gave it their all.
And afterward, the celebrations! Here is our lovely Vicar’s wife.
And our own Eddie, ringer extraordinaire, raising a glass.
One of our erstwhile ringers, when she was a younger girl, India, with delicious canapes!
All in all, an unforgettable occasion, and beautifully photographed by our Trisha. Thank you for memoralising such a momentous evening!
As you know, I usually write here on the blog about special events: weddings, outings and the like. But it’s just as important to remember how memorable our everyday lives and activities are in the Tower at St Mary’s Barnes. Ringing isn’t just about ringing, after all: it’s about the community we build. Whether it’s Friday night practices, Saturday morning theory with markers and and paper, work on the simulators and Able, or ringing for Sunday services, the wonderful thing is our relationships, and the teamwork involved. No matter how hard the work, it’s all fun, and builds up the memories we hold dear.
When I first began learning to ring nearly four years ago, I decided to go on a “Training Day,” one of those long days full of excitement and pressure, meeting strangers and ringing with them in strange towers with strange teachers. The mornings are spent getting to know fellow students and teachers – all prepared to spend the day on one particular skill level – and the afternoons consolidating what we’ve learned.
Except that on my first Training Day I hadn’t learned anything nearly well enough to be going along with real ringers! I got a bit ahead of myself, and as a result, spent a long, stressful day trying to keep up with ringers who were “consolidating” Plain Hunt, when I couldn’t even count to 7 and back again. And my poor, unsuspecting teacher? Only one of the most significant and talented ringers in the world, Michael Uphill. I think I was his Waterloo. The poor man – one of the great teachers whom plenty of students had reason to thank – was frustrated terribly by my lack of skill, although he was warmth itself to me, and patient beyond belief. But I came home having greatly enjoyed the day, but felt awful about my slowness, with one of the greats.
And one Saturday not too long ago, as we were happily practicing Plain Bob, who should turn up but Michael Uphill himself! He rang with our “real” ringers, as you can see in the photo above, while I stood outside the chamber full of memories. Then, you can imagine my pleasure when I was able to join in, on Plain Hunt on Seven, my bugaboo from years ago!
Afterward, I screwed up my courage and introduced myself, and do you know what? For all I’d thought about that Training Day a hundred times in my memory, dear Mr Uphill had no unpleasant memories of it at all! “I’m sure you did your best,” he said kindly, and even posed for a photo with me. I was thrilled, as you can imagine. A scary memory replaced with a lovely, supportive one. That’s what ringing is all about.
We are excited to have several new ringers in our midst, the lovely Tricia, Julia and Michele. I wasn’t lucky enough to get photographs of Julia in her lesson as I arrived shamefully late, but I did get these wonderful images of Tricia…
…being taught and supported by our Trisha!
And Michele, looking on with enthusiasm…
And then joining in with great courage! She says it was a breakthrough lesson. There are so many of those.
The new ringers looked on with amazement at our diagrams from theory, looking for all the world like EKG records. One of the unique things about ringing: you can do it simply, at the most basic level and still be a massive support to the band, or you can continue along the spectrum of skills, at each stage gaining more experience. It’s all useful.
But even the most active band sometimes needs to step back and… clean the Tower. And if you gather the right people around you, it can be fun! Two people at the ladder, to be sure, at all times. Giles and Trisha teamed up.
There was Hoovering and spider patrol. Oh, the webs and nests inside these boxes!
Who knew it required quite so much clobber to run a Tower? Back issues of the Ringing World and Surrey Association newsletter, thumbtacks and Blu-tack, endless J-cloths and markers…
And this beautiful little teaching tool. I love its homely sweetness.
Finally we heartlessly abandoned Trisha, our intrepid Tower Captain, to finish the task. She looked quite cheerful about it!
Before we knew it, it was the AGM. Much business was accomplished with plans for the 800th Anniversary celebrations, our part in the Barnes Fair, future outings, Christmas ringing. There was a record turnout, and we were terribly efficient.
A lovely dinner afterward with all hands on deck to make the tables beautiful.
Ringer Charles and Churchwarden Patty got up close and personal with the Beadle’s Bell.
Trisha was presented with a beautiful and much-deserved posey.
Michael, eloquent as always, expressed what we all feel: that Trisha is the glue that holds us all together.
Life in St Mary’s, Barnes, in the Bell Tower. A tradition well worth preserving, week by week!
A bunch of us recently spent a dirty, exhausting and productive day cleaning the bell chamber, the clock room, the belfry itself, at our beloved St Mary’s. Nothing was safe from our organising fingers. And then Katharine and I approached the bell chamber cupboard, home as we thought to nothing more exciting than instant coffee and thumbtacks. We found, in addition to all those homely items, an envelope of photographs marked “Devon Ringing.”
The first photo, above, is not Devon after all, but the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Eddie Hartley provides the following identifications – pending some reinforcement from his daughter Vanessa!
“The young girls starting from the left with Vanessa were, I think, Vanessa, “can’t quite remember”, Jenny Fry? Helen Kelsall , Catherine Kelsall and then I reckon it is Mathew Turk… At the back over Nick’ shoulder next to Colin is Alan Marchbank. I have sent this to Vanessa for some help with the one name which escapes me and confirmation of one or two others! I reckon the date of the photo was 24th February 1990.”
Jill adds, “Hiding behind Eddie is John Sealy. The next adult along is Rod Chamberlain, then Liz Stanley… Stuart Aitken is in the doorway, then Colin and Mike. In front of Mike is Nick Ley (obituary on our web site) and between Nick and Liz is Patricia Chapman. I am on the other side of Nick… The person behind Patricia is Cathy Bonsall (now Beany). Not sure who the guy is behind Nick but the redhead just has to be Siobhan Chapman – although it doesn’t look much like her.”
Most important, the treasure trove has inspired us to take much better photographs of all of us who are ringers now. Not just the rather blurry ones of us at the end of a rope, but proper portraits, as these are. Beautiful, precious images of our ringing community: we need more of them, so that we remember.
I know these photos brought back lovely memories for lots of people. The lovely thing is that such images underscore not just the ringing we do, but the fun and community we share!
31 January 2015
St Mary’s Barnes
Saturday, 31 January saw me awake and alert much earlier in the morning than I normally get up, ready and waiting with my laptop and camera in hand, for my chariot to arrive at 8:15. I was picked up by Trisha and Eddie in the dark grey slush that is London’s version of “snow,” and Eddie bravely negotiated the motorway and small back roads, on our way to South Cambridgeshire to begin our Winter Outing. We stopped at a service centre to buy coffee and resolutely resist the bacon sandwiches, only to meet Eddie at the car again and find that he had felt no such resolution! Is there any aroma more enticing than someone else’s bacon sandwich? Trisha and I decided that there was not, but we resisted the temptation to wrest the last bites from Eddie’s hand.
Then we were on to collect the lovely Christine Northeast – who had generously organized the whole Outing for us – coming in from Cambridge at a small station town called Baldock. And we were on our way, to begin our tour of ground-floor bellchambers for the day.
We arrived at Guilden Morden.
This was a sober and beautiful church.
We were warmly welcomed by Jane and Alan Boyd with tea, coffee, cake and biscuits, most welcome. As always, there were the touching and beautiful tributes throughout the church that really bring home to one the history contained in each and every one we visit on such a day.
The church has a ring of 8 bells, and a bellchamber that is glassed in, so the sound did not travel outside the chamber to any great degree. Everyone had a chance on a rope, with some respectable call changes, Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Doubles.
In between rings, we were able to tour the church and find such details as make each unique.
We stopped for a photo, before anyone had a chance to scatter.
We were off to our second church, St Catherine’s Litlington.
We were warmly welcomed by Paul Newman. We rang their six bells with gusto, and believe we may have achieved a first: a touch of Plain Bob Doubles with half the ringers in wheelchairs!
Accomplishing this astonishing feat were Jem Finch from Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, our own Mike Wigney from Chiswick, and Tony Crowther, from Broxbourne, Herfordshire. Their ringing was recorded for posterity, and as soon as I receive the video, I shall upload it here.
At Litlington, I tried Plain Bob for the first time in a church other than St Mary’s Barnes and found it surprisingly difficult in an unfamiliar tower! If only I could master the 3-4 down. It is an important point to realize how much one tends to rely on familiarity – not just the tower itself, or even the bells themselves, but also the very people with whom one rings, and something amorphous that is “the home tower feeling.” Outings like ours are a great lesson in the excitement to be found in introducing the unfamiliar into the already challenging activity of ringing.
I found this gorgeous window, a memorial to a keen ringer. Encouragement to go on!
And on a wall, this lovely, old-fashioned poem about the purpose of bells, and of ringing. There is something in this description for absolutely every ringer, really.
“Bells have many voices, some are grim and some are gay…”
To the next church. We emerged from St Catherine’s to find SNOW! It was too warm to last, but we all lifted our faces to the lovely snowfall and took photographs of the flakes with the dignified old church and its graves in the background.
And then it was time for a most welcome lunch at the British Queen in Meldreth, which Christine and Trisha had kindly organized for us, arranging in particular for a delicious vat of potato and leek soup. Everyone went back for seconds (and possibly third!). The warmth and comfort was just what everyone needed to recharge our batteries for the afternoon’s efforts.
We were then onto Meldreth Holy Trinity, a glorious structurewe were met by Sarah and Peter Hinton, who would like to extend their thanks for the generous donations made by our party to their bell restoration appeal. Meldreth is distinguished by having had rung in its tower the most peals in any church in the world!
One peal board detailed a peal that was the 1500th for a particular ringer! He was praised as having “circled the tower,” having rung every bell 150 times!
I was glad that there was no need for me to climb this particular staircase, a visual challenge even for someone with no fear of heights.
As I mentioned, the church is currently supporting an appeal to rehang the bells, but many of us felt that they were really our favorite bells of the day so far, just in their current condition. They were not particularly easy to ring, especially the 7 (some reported with a sort of heroic survivalist echo), but the sound was simply lovely, and all in all it was a beautiful atmosphere and a most positive ring.
I found this tiny treasure, a reminder that these places are much, much more than a container for our beloved bells. They are living history.
I learned something about sallies on this Outing. Having observed to Eddie and Trisha and Christine on one of our inter-church journeys that so far, all the sallies had been red, white and blue – as distinguished from the multi-coloured sallies that have popped up in other outings (green and yellow, purple and yellow, just plain blue), Eddie explained that red, white and blue is the standard design for sallies. That is, if one buys a sally “off the rack” as it were, it comes red, white and blue. Any other colours, therefore, have been custom-ordered for that bellchamber. All the more reason to notice them when they appear!
Then we were onto Little Eversden, St Helen’s.
We were met by Clive Dalton. The small, simple white chamber echoed with perhaps the greatest din of the day – the 6 bells were unusually loud, though pleasantly so.
I absolutely could not do anything right at Little Eversden (possibly getting tired?), and clanked my way through a terrible attempt at Plain Bob Doubles. It seemed like a good idea to take a break and play photographer. What a beautiful organ.
And the lovely, carved font.
My American churchgoing friends would just clap their hands at the beautiful, royal seat cushions.
There was an intriguing sally-heating mechanism which would have been fun to see in action. There is a definite point to such a thing in some of these churches that are super cold and super damp and the ropes feel almost wet to the touch.
Some fine, fine ringing was accomplished, but not by me.
In what seemed like the sixth or seventh weather system of the day, chinks of blue sky showed briefly through the chamber window. At one point, all six ringers in the chamber were men! Amanda, Christine, Barbara, Trisha and Jackie and I toyed with the idea of an all-female band to follow, but decided that discretion was the better part of valour.
I was able, finally, to ring down with adequate skill, and then it was time to leave. The churchyard was ringed with grand old trees, with wind whistling through them. They were like a kind of Christmas tree. Species, anyone?
We skirted Cambridge with Christine telling us which were the university buildings we could see on the horizon: among them, St John’s College looking like a cathedral in the distance. With the sun just setting, it was a beautiful sight, but not to be photographed from a moving car, sadly. You’ll just have to imagine.
In the gathering dusk, we stopped for tea and cakes at the lovely Shelford delicatessen in Great Shelford, where I could not resist purchasing some of their triple crème goat cheeses, French ham and spiced nuts.
As we rested, Eddie gradually began smiling a smile that we ringers all recognise as heralding a particularly challenging task ahead. “I didn’t want to give you too much time to think about it, but the bells at the next church are… anti-clockwise.” I could only sit in amazed silence. “What on earth do you mean?” “Simply that they ring in an anti-clockwise fashion, instead of a clockwise fashion.” What on earth?
On the walk to the car, Christine and I discussed the many reasons why we ring. Obviously for natural, talented and experienced ringers, the sheer joy of accomplishment at a difficult and specialized job is a great inducement. I also simply love the unutterably enjoyable experience of seeing and appreciating so many beautiful churches and churchyards. I often reflect that to my American friends back home, seeing even one such gorgeous, and historic, English treasure would make their day a memorable one, and a whole day such as ours would be the trip of a lifetime. It’s so important never to take these opportunities for granted.
But Christine and I agreed that as much as anything, ringing offers us a community, and one whose warmth, support and generosity simply cannot be found anywhere else.
We arrived at the church at Great Shelford, which sported a Madonna above the entrance, cradling a broken baby in her arms, apparently headless at one point, but now with a head but armless.
How beautiful the graveyard was in the gathering dusk.
And the most heavenly stained glass, which photo sent my American friends into ecstasies of envy. We who are lucky enough to live in this beautiful country must not become complacent!
We were welcomed by J Ann Smith and Paul Seaman. And I discovered what it means to ring on bells that are “anti-clockwise.” For those of you readers who are musical, you will understand that eight bells ring an “octave,” the bells being rung in order from highest sound (smallest bell) to lowest sound (largest bell). In every other tower I have experienced, this means that one looks to one’s right in order to ring in order, in “rounds.” This has become such an ingrained habit, at least for me, that it seemed absolutely unbelievable to ring, this time, looking to my left! I just had to smile, at the funny joy of turning the ringing world into a mirror image of itself! But in a surprisingly short time, it felt quite natural just to look the “wrong” way. What a thrill!
And the sallies were not red, white and blue.
It was a fitting end – exciting, challenging, satisfying – to our wonderful day. We rang some wonderful rounds and call changes, some lovely Plain Bob, and some Grandsire Doubles. There was even a hint of Stedman, rumour has it! Altogether a triumph of teamwork. Many thanks to Christine and Trisha for organising it so beautifully.
(written by Michael de Freitas, photographs by Kristen Frederickson)
Reflections on a Training Day with John Harrison (29th November 2014 at St Mary’s in Barnes)
Those who have not met John must picture a tall and spritely man of mature frame, retired but in good shape and full of vigour, sporting a thatch of greying springy hair and a beard to boot. Bright alert eyes and wonderfully expressive hands, with long fingers which open wide when a point has to be made, impart a warm and sympathetic glow that heralds the presence of a good teacher and a natural leader. By training and qualification John is an engineer but it seemed to me there was a fair component of “the artist” mixed in with this. John said little of his bell ringing but suffice it to say that his undergraduate project involved listening to and recording bells; John is clearly a man who has been ringing for many years, and it is also quite clear that his interest in listening accompanied him from an early stage. Indeed it was that interest in listening that brought him to study the subject further, to write on it and to describe to others what he had found; and what a discovery this has turned out to be.
To begin with John asked us to consider the difference between hearing and listening; subtle but absolutely essential to comprehend, for listening is that part of our response to what we hear and the initiator of that amazing and complex response we initiate as ringers to strike the bell at its correct moment; not too soon and not too late, but just-so.
But what are we hearing? Here John displayed his marvellous oscilloscope trace of the sound of real bells; it looks like the seismic trace of a bad earthquake; thump, thump, thump with lots of wiggles in between. How do we hear that? How does our brain sort all this out? Well the wonder of it is that it does and the role of the brain in all this is something we came back to later; we never discussed it, but it sounded to me like left brain stuff – goes on without us knowing.
This soon led to a review of our response to such stimuli and the essential difference between speed of ringing and spacing of bells; oh if only I had understood this during those early days when hacking my way into a round. The point was well made that Trainers should watch what they say; “speed up” is not the advice to give someone who needs to close the gap. Mind you – it’s not that straight forward; 4 ringers complete their round in 12 seconds and then 4 more join them but the round is still completed in 12 seconds – surely they have to speed up; no? Oh! At this point John “the engineer” appears; it’s the gap between them that shortens.
But that round still has a pace of its own which the ringers need to settle down to; from where does it come? Back to the left brain – rhythm; rhythm is the fundamental governor and when it comes from the round, for the combination of bells and their ringers, the pace settles and a foundation for ringing is laid.
So where does listening come in? John laboured the point –“you cannot ring just on the basis of listening as listening is about an event that just past” – gone for ever; so how do you predict what to do based on listening? Answer – you have to set it within the context of rhythm – rhythm provides the big cycle; somehow we learn to fit into it, and listening can make the fit much more accurate.
How accurate? Well at this point John introduced us to his first instrument of torture, specially brought along to put us through our paces; a fiendishly clever piece of software that enables ringing that contains errors to be heard with the object of identifying which bell (or bells) is/are wrong and what should be done to correct it/them. The listener can decide to make a particular bell sooner or later. All pretty humbling stuff when the results of our recommendations are actioned but amazingly instructive; you could see we were all listening! This was a brilliant exercise and something I could spend time on each week, to considerable advantage. This practical also demonstrated the limits of our hearing; very interesting in itself; errors have to reach a few hundredths of a second before most of us can hear them; hundredths of a second! Yes – that’s it; when we get it right most of us are ringing to hundredths of a second.
A second point to come from this was the nature of the error. What sounds like pretty good ringing (well I thought it sounded very good ringing) can be stuffed full of errors at the hundredth of a second scale but what really jars is the half second or more gap which makes the ringing sound rough. So the lesson here is that perfection is all very well and good but in practice get it smooth to impress the listener and kid yourself it’s OK.
The second practical showed that, of course, we don’t always get it right. The “dong” test has the simplicity of thumb screws – all you need is a bell; pull the hand stroke and say “dong” when you think the bell should strike and do the same for the back stroke. A dong – and a bong, and a dong – and a bong later makes you realise you’re not too good at this; the rest of the group stand around and you can see they are thinking “can do better than that”, but pride comes before a fall and all found it more challenging than they thought. Try it for yourself – it’s very instructive.
Simulators were then brought into action and everyone felt that here was a very helpful tool used at the right point in training. There was a question raised at the end of the day about the use of simulators and the answer was intriguing (keep reading).
Finally we were exposed to the last “test” – this time quite gentle by comparison to what had gone before; listening to real ringing by real ringers and deciphering the number of bells involved and the errors contained in the ring. By this time you could see the group had sharpened up its listening skills, which was quite amazing considering we had only been at it for a couple of hours. But for our Group (we had been divided up into 3 small Groups so as to benefit from individual attention) the “laugh of the day” came during this exercise. After listening to some pretty impressive performances we came of a sudden to a fairly basic “Sunday morning” rendition as might be presented after “the night before”. “What was wrong with that” asked our Leader “No one was shouting” came a reply, which caught the moment beautifully.
The day ended with John answering questions of a general kind and two are mentioned here.
What do you do if you are “out”? By this time we were all aware of speed and spacing. “Check you can hear your bell – alter it a little to see if you think it is in the right place – adjust if it’s not – stay put if you think you are right” Well that’s OK if you are not a “learner” in which case assume you are wrong and do something about it. All this is easier to do if there is good rhythm in the round so don’t be put off if sometimes you find it is not easy.
“How helpful have you found practicing on simulators where you strike the bell by pressing a key on the keyboard?” John couldn’t get used to it but he knew others who found it perfectly OK; so it depends on the person. The reason John found it awkward was very interesting; his ringing was deeply linked to his body movements and he could not undo the subconscious links between these two (back to the left brain). I found this interesting because my “response”, even at its rudimentary level and although nowhere near as deeply embedded as John’s must be, nevertheless prevented me from pressing the keys at the right time – I thought it was just me (and of course it is!) but not in the way I imagined. Obviously you soon pick up reactions; I had never really noticed.
What a day; it really was an eye –opener, or perhaps more correctly an ear-opener, and made all the more pleasant by the organisation that had quietly gone on behind the scenes. Reader, if you envy missing the day then eat your heart out at the thought the splendid food we enjoyed at lunch and at tea; homemade potato soup and carrot soup par-excellence with homemade bread, salad, dressing, pate (various), olives and gherkins, and every delight of confection for tea. All provided with love and enthusiasm by the crew at Barnes.
Each of our Groups had been allocated a leader (Steve Jakeman, Linda Foddering, and David Jackson) who shepherded us, their flock, safely through the various hazards provided by John, never letting us lose confidence as our ability (or lack of it) was so sharply exposed, and moving us gently into a greater awareness of the listening skills we can develop from now on.
It was of course John’s day and to him our warmest thanks must go together with our gratitude to those from the Tower at Barnes who ensured the day went well, especially to her Captain Trisha Hawkins and to Eddie Hartley who did so much to bring the technology required to life (and everything worked – first time!) not to mention the humping and heaving to get the day ready, and last, but by no means least, to Eddie Heath who master minded the whole event.
*If having read this account of “listening” you want to know more go to John’s website here