I’ve been ringing Stedman for about a year now, and can generally keep my place — even in touches of Triples. I was quite pleased with myself last night because I was able to put right another ringer. I had dodged 6–7 up with him, and then when I started to dodge 6–7 down he was still hanging around in 6–7. ‘4–5 down now, M,’ I called, and then a dodge or so later, since I thought he still wasn’t sure where he was, ‘Down to the front, now.’ I had to phrase it that way because I had no idea whether he should have gone in quick or slow. But at least it kept the ringing going, and we managed to complete the touch.
That got me thinking, however, about how to know whether to go in quick or slow in Stedman, a perennial problem for Stedman ringers. Steve Coleman calls it Stedman’s Greatest Problem, and offers a number of tips for remembering or working out whether, after you have dodged 4–5 down, you should go in as a slow bell or a quick bell.
One of the suggested tips is to use your feet, moving one foot forward if you go out quick, and then when you are about to go in, looking at your feet and remembering that this foot (or is it the other foot?) means something or other. And if a bob is called you have to remember to swap which foot is forward.
But if you are going to put another bell right then you want to know whether each six is a quick six or a slow six, not just the one where you go down to the front three. What you need to do, then, is to keep track of each six as you ring, or at least as you double-dodge your way to the back and down again.
My first idea was that as you do each double dodge you think, as a background thought: ‘this is a quick six’ or ‘this is a slow six’. But it can be quite hard to keep this in mind — you need to keep it rather nearer the front than the back.
So, this is what I came up with, though I haven’t had a chance to put it into practice yet. I don’t claim any great originality for it, but it seems to me to be sufficiently simple to cope with all cases, and with as many bobs as may be called.
All it entails is that as you count your place when double-dodging up to the back and down again, you append to each position the word ‘quick or ‘slow’. The same word will apply throughout the six blows of a double dodge, and when you move to the next double dodge you swap to the other word.
So, if you have gone out slow, then you would count:
4th quick, 5th quick; 4th quick, 5th quick; 4th quick, 5th quick;
6th slow, 7th slow; 6th slow, 7th slow; 6th slow, 7th slow;
7th quick, 6th quick; 7th quick, 6th quick; 7th quick, 6th quick;
5th slow, 4th slow; 5th slow, 4th slow; 5th slow, 4th slow;
and so go in quick.
If a bob (or a single) is called then you simply move onto the next six:
6th slow, 7th slow; 6th slow, 7th slow; ‘BOB!’ 6th slow, 7th slow;
6th quick, 7th quick; 6th quick, 7th quick; 6th quick, 7th quick;
7th slow, 6th slow; 7th slow, 6th slow; 7th slow, 6th slow;
and you have automatically kept track of what’s going on.
And not only have you kept track so that you will know what to do when you arrive at the front, but you also at any stage know whether a bell going in should go in quick or slow too. So you have more chance of being able to put them right.
Whether this works in practice remains to be seen. One possible difficulty is the tongue-twisting nature of some of these phrases. But you don’t actually have to say them aloud or particularly accurately — just good enough not to get lost. Stay tuned!