Barnes Winter Outing 2016

first outing churchBarnes Winter Ringing Outing 2016

(by Andrew Howard-Smith, photographs by Trisha Hawkins and Kristen Frederickson)

It was the last Saturday in January 2016 and true to convention members of the Barnes tower with some ringing friends from other local towers ‘sallied’ forth into the hinterland of deepest Berkshire to start the day’s odyssey at the lovely church of All Saints , Binfield.
amanda eddie outing
This was a good choice of first tower of the day as it has a ground floor ring of six chunky bells (9.3 cwt) with easy parking and nice facilities.  The church itself had a beautiful interior and a very welcoming local ringer as our host.
first outing church
Being so cold and damp the ropes were rather stiff but with a lot of good old fashioned straight pulling they handled well and warmed up enough for some reasonable rounds and calls plus attempts at doubles and surprise minor.    Young Jack from Horsell, who hasn’t been ringing for much more than a year and who joined us for the day with his father Andrew, kicked off his day ringing inside to Kent Treble Bob Minor, putting many of us to shame.  I am sure that after another 19 years of ringing he will be up to my standard!!  Here is Jack ringing in the afternoon.
jack ockham
By the end of the ringing the whole group had arrived and we set off to our next tower on the other side of Bracknell (where nobody can hear you scream) at St Michael and St Mary Magdalene at Easthampstead.  This was an interesting tower with a very light 6 cwt eight.   After some lively ringing, which included triples and surprise major, it was time to leave the wilds of Berkshire for the pretty Surrey town of Chobham.
Our next church had a more familiar feel to our own.  St Lawrence, dating from 1080 with its c1400 tower, has eight bells and a 9 cwt tenor.  They felt quite light and went very nicely.  The earliest bell in the tower, dating from 1520, was cast by William Culverden ofLondon.   One of the many snippets of history at this church was that Archbishop Heath, who proclaimed Elizabeth 1st Queen, is buried under the Sanctuary steps.
Lunch had been arranged at The Four Horseshoes in Chobham.
four horsemen exterior
It was very nice to be able to sit straight down to our pre-ordered meals in such a lively but cosy atmosphere. Many thanks to Trisha Hawkins for her superb organisation in getting everything delivered so beautifully.
Our first tower of the afternoon, All Saints Ockham, was another very light 7 cwt six bell tower and was tucked away up a drive in the opposite direction to our route.
ockham all saints exterior
This pleasant little church was a long way from the actual  village  of  Ockham and in fact nearer to Ripley.  I should have been running the tower but I forgot that post codes for churches are not reliable and managed to arrive near the end of ringing!  Shame, as I had plans to call a touch of Bob Doubles starting from Queens as a wake-up call for the ‘Dog Watch’ tower of the day.  Some of us made a tour of the belfry – with fingers in our ears!
bells ringing2
The tower was made special by its very interesting stone interior stairway.
ockham stair stones
We gathered for a group photo.
ockham whole group
Our next tower at Oatlands, in the leafy suburbs of Weybridge, show-business people country, was a very nice chunky 12 cwt eight bell ring.
oatlands st mary exterior
Our final tower of the day was St Mary, Walton-on-Thames, a short drive away.
walton on thames st mary exterior
After taking afternoon tea and cake at the local Weatherspoons very conveniently situated opposite the church, we enjoyed the piece de resistance of the day, the re-hung 21 cwt eight.  Very few of the day’s ringers had rung there since the re-hang.  It was good to get to a nice heavy eight bell tower with a quirky tenor which was rather sensitive on the setting front.  The bells went really well and encouraged some decent ringing from a fairly tired bunch of ringers.
amanda barbara
walton bells up sign
We dispersed for our homes, or in some cases the Red Lion Barnes, at about 5.30 after a very enjoyable day’s ringing where there had been something for everyone including Bristol for some of the more experienced ringers.  Jack showed us how it’s possible for youngsters to learn to ring method competently in little over a year.
andrew jack
It was also nice to see Kristen who joined us for the lunch and afternoon’s ringing.    A huge thanks to Eddie Hartley for all his organisation of the day and of course to all the towers who welcomed us so warmly.
I think that the variety of bells, odd striking and tricky going, is one of the best parts of our outings.  I always find that when you get back to your home tower the bells which had seemed a bit tricky are now a piece of proverbial cake (apart from the 3rd at Chiswick).
oatlands peal board
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ringing at Southwark Cathedral!

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.

southwark view from passage

Then you walk essentially right under the roof:

southwark wooden walk

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:

dickens quote

When it came to be my turn, my heart was absolutely pounding.

kristen ringing

“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.

charles ringing

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.

southwark roof door

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.

southwark roof view

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.

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double-booked: Ringers Man the Coffee Shop, and ITTS training!

paul eddie

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.

bake sale cakes

There were walnut cakes, ginger cakes, Dundee cakes…

dundee cake

Trisha’s famous cherry almond beauties…

cherry almond

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.

freddie gardening2

A great deal of the enjoyment in the Coffee Morning is the fun of working together.

alex martha eddie

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.

biryani

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.

martha lunch

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.

paul1

The ringing chamber has never been so full.

crowded chamber2

Judging by the laughter, the learning process was greatly aided by a general sense of humour, and teamwork.

crowded chamber1

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.

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Barnes Summer Outing – a first for me!

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!

coffinswell eddie trisha

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.

paddington ringing outing

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.

lucy michael adrian

We made our first stop at St Bartholomew, Coffinswell.

coffinswell exterior

After a bit of a kerfuffle over getting in, we climbed the stairs to a charming ringing chamber with crumbling pink walls.

coffinswell chamber

We rang up the six bells, then rang a respectable few extents of Plain Bob, and rang down happily again.  Such beautiful sallies.

coffinswell sally

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.

linney lunch

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.

st marychurch exterior

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.

michael jackie thinking st marychurch

Sarah and Trisha found a moment to smile.

sarah trisha st marychurch

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.

me st marychurch

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.

babbacombe exterior

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.

babbacombe sally

What a dramatic interior, this glorious church.

babbaombe interior

From there we travelled to the Apostle Andrew, Tor Mohun, a most unusual Greek orthodox church.

tor mohun exterior

I wish I knew more about a typical Anglican church becoming Greek.

tor mohun dedication

The marriage seems entirely peaceful.

tor mohun icons

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.

tor mohun white gravecross

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!

torquay

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.

teacake

I never normally drink tea, but somehow, on a ringing outing in Devon with all my English chums, it seemed the thing to do.

cuppa

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.

michael trisha eddie torquay

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.

wobbly bob

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.

mini bells

Can you see how small they are?  This bellchamber hovers over Bob’s garage where the ringing chamber is.  Bob was an amazing teacher.

wobbly bob teaching

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.

michael bob

Others, of course were able to create very respectable rounds and call changes, and even plain hunt!

wobbly bobs plain hunt

The sallies are just like little dollshouse toys!

bob sally

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.

highweek best

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.

highweek peal board sally

This certificate took me straight into Dorothy L. Sayers’ “The Nine Tailors,” with Lord Peter on a snowy New Year’s Eve.

highweek certificate

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.

perfect angel

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.

highweek grassy churchyard

What a Dickensian name for an English gravestone, “Vicary.”  I wonder if he was.

sacred gravestone

From there we went to a peculiar (unique?) location, a stand-alone tower in the city centre of Newton Abbey, called St Leonard’s.

st leonard's tower

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!

st leonards sally

“Here’s where you’re going, Kristen, if you don’t Plain Hunt well enough,” Andrew said.

stocks

Our next church was St Bartholomew, East Ogwell, set behind a little gate in a sunny enclave.

East Ogwell

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.

charles eddie

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.

torbryan with wire

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.

torbryan staircase light

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.

andrew jackiemartin torbryan

It was comforting to see tall Andrew on the massive tenor.

andrew torbryan

How the past loomed all around us.  Although difficult to ring, these bells and the whole experience were my favorite of the outing.

torbryan date sally

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.”

coach house sign

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.

ipplepen ceiling tracery

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.

ipplepen call changer

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.

ipplepen screen

We arrived at St Mary the Virgin, Denbury.

denbury exterior

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.

whole group best

For our last ring of the day, and my last ring of the trip, we appeared at The Blessed Virgin Mary, Abbottskerswell.

abbotskerswell exterior

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.

abbotskerwell sally

And a first for me – painted benches on which to seat ourselves between pulls at ropes.

michael painting

The gorgeous Lucy was at her best, not a bit fatigued.

lucy best

With one last, longing look at the treasures we were leaving behind, we went.

abbotskerswell statue

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.

screen

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!

scout

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Jimmy’s First Service Ringing

jimmy ringing2

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.

2015 earlybird training

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!

jimmy ringing1

Onward and upward to all our learners’ making progress and turning up for their first Sunday service ringing.  Every ringer counts!

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Ringing for the Archbishop of Canterbury!

whole group archbishop

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.

yews archbishop

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!

royal-wedding-23

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.

shield

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.

ringing for archbishop

The pilgrims who had walked the walk this summer, in commemoration of that walk 800 years ago, gathered with the Archbishop as we rang.

pilgrims

Everyone felt in a celebratory mood, most especially our lovely curate, Ann.

anne alice archbishop2

Finally it was time to enter the church for the service.

richard and archbishop

The beautiful choir gave it their all.

alice and choir

And afterward, the celebrations!  Here is our lovely Vicar’s wife.

julieann

And our own Eddie, ringer extraordinaire, raising a glass.

eddie archbishop better

One of our erstwhile ringers, when she was a younger girl, India, with delicious canapes!

india with canapes

All in all, an unforgettable occasion, and beautifully photographed by our Trisha.  Thank you for memoralising such a momentous evening!

archbishop1

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everyday adventures in the Tower

Michael Uphill Andrew

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!

ringing with Michael Uphill

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.

Michael Uphill and me

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…

tricia1

…being taught and supported by our Trisha!

tricia2

And Michele, looking on with enthusiasm…

michelle watching

And then joining in with great courage!  She says it was a breakthrough lesson.  There are so many of those.

michelle ringing2

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.

Giles trisha ladder

There was Hoovering and spider patrol.  Oh, the webs and nests inside these boxes!

ringing signs 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…

things from cupboard

And this beautiful little teaching tool.  I love its homely sweetness.

ringing threads

Sunday prayers…

prayer1

Finally we heartlessly abandoned Trisha, our intrepid Tower Captain, to finish the task.  She looked quite cheerful about it!

lovely trisha

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.

AGM ringers

A lovely dinner afterward with all hands on deck to make the tables beautiful.

AGM table

Ringer Charles and Churchwarden Patty got up close and personal with the Beadle’s Bell.

patty beadle's bell

Trisha was presented with a beautiful and much-deserved posey.

trisha flowers

Michael, eloquent as always, expressed what we all feel: that Trisha is the glue that holds us all together.

Michael's speech

Life in St Mary’s, Barnes, in the Bell Tower.  A tradition well worth preserving, week by week!

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