Thinking allowed

Cambridge Major

It’s quite a while since I began to learn Cambridge Minor, and my teacher asks me each week whether I have looked at Cambridge Major. I keep replying (truthfully) that I haven’t had any time. So this week he had me ring Cambridge Major with another ringer standing behind me and telling me what to do. This is not ideal, but it works tolerably well, since the extensions from Cambridge Minor are not too complicated — it’s just a question of knowing when to do them. Later in the practice we did the same thing again. Neither time did we quite complete a plain course, and that was partly because I managed to lose my place. Not having the big picture of the method, so to speak, does make it harder to ring.

However, having done this, and having briefly glanced at the blue line and Coleman a couple of times, it began to impress the method in my head, and I found that as I drove home from the practice I could just about remember and/or reconstruct the method. So now I am at that state of learning a new method: when over and over again, at the interstices of routine, I find myself reciting the different pieces of work involved — when stuck in a traffic jam, or brushing my teeth, or sitting in a not-too-exciting meeting. This is an important part of learning a new method — committing the pieces of work to memory, so that they can be recalled without effort when ringing it.

Previously I have also committed to memory the actual position at each pull. This time, I have not (yet) tried to do so, partly because just remembering the order of work is sufficiently complicated without adding anything else, and partly because the difficult bits of work (frontwork, backwork, and Cambridge places up and down) are essentially identical to those of Cambridge Minor, and therefore already reasonably well known. The differences are the obvious ones when ringing on 8, rather than 6, bells — the backwork is done on 7 and 8, not 5 and 6; and places up and down must be rung in 5-6 as well as in 3-4.

So, from memory, this is the order of work in a plain course of Cambridge Major:

dodge 3-4 up

dodge 2-and-1 at the back
dodge 5-6 down

lead and dodge
dodge 3-4 up

5-6 places up
treble bob at the back

treble bob at the front
3-4 places up

dodge 5-6 up
dodge 5-6 down

3-4 places down
treble bob at the front

treble bob at the back
5-6 places down

dodge 3-4 down
dodge and lead

dodge 5-6 up
dodge 1-and-2 at the back

dodge 3-4 down

And we can use this information to construct a nice table showing a single lead end of Cambridge Surprise Major. This table is constructed by selecting a bell, e.g. the 2, and tracing its course through a lead. The 2 begins in the middle of the frontwork (having just made 2nds over the treble, so to speak), just as in Cambridge Minor. At the end of the lead the 2 ends up in 6th place, and so we continue by tracing the work from the top again as bell 6. At the end of the lead bell 6 becomes the 7th place bell and we continue from the top, becoming successively the 3rd place bell, 4th place bell, 8th place bell, and finally the 5th place bell, which ends by making 2nds over the treble in the middle of the frontwork, which is where, as the 2nd place bell, we started.



No doubt I shall find myself continually repeating the order of work over the next week or so, and we shall see next week whether I have learnt it well enough to ring a plain course.

Not that that’s the only difficulty with ringing Cambridge Major. Another problem I found last week was ropesight, especially when dodging in 5-6. It’s not easy to see 4 or 5 bells below you at this point. Hopefully, this too is something that will improve with practise.

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