Thinking allowed

a touch of Kent Treble Bob

Oh dear! I have been discovered! My ringing teacher said to me at Monday’s practice, ‘I was looking at your website…’. I shall have to be careful what I write!

His revenge was to tell me to learn a touch of Kent Treble Bob, the ‘blue line’ of which I learnt a few months ago, and I have had one attempt at ringing a plain course.

When ‘Bob’ is called, the treble is, of course, unaffected, and so are the two bells which are going into, or coming out of, the slow.

The bells which are dodging in 5-6 and above make two extra dodges — three dodges in all, rather than one.

One bell makes the bob: the bell which is making 3rds and 4ths places up the second time. It makes 3rds and 4ths up, and then immediately rings 4ths and 3rds down, and goes straight down to the lead. It has become the bell making 3rds and 4ths down the first time, so it will make 3rds and 4ths down again next time, and then go back into the slow.

The bells which triple dodge at the back continue in their treble bob course. Each of them is delayed in making 3rds and 4ths down by one lead end (because the bell which made the bob has pushed itself in, instead).

Remember that you know you will have to make 3rds and 4ths down for the first time in the next lead end — because you dodge 3-4 down with the treble. So you ‘just’ have to notice when you are dodging with the treble in that position.


calling ‘bob’

I had another go at calling a touch of bob doubles on Monday. I’ve now got to the point where I can remember the sequence of calls (e.g. ‘out’, ‘make’, ‘in’ to leave bell 2 unaffected), and I know pretty much when to make each call but actually making the calls in just the right place is a bit trickier. Time to look at this in a little more detail, perhaps.

First, let’s write out the first lead end of Bob Doubles, for a plain course, and then, next to it, what happens if a bob is called.

(plain) | (bob)

12345 | 12345

21435 | 21435
24153 | 24153
42513 | 42513
45231 | 45231
54321 | 54321
53412 | 53412
35142 | 35142
31524 | 31524 ‘bob!’ — called at backstroke before treble leads
13254 | 13254
13524 | 12354 3 runs out, 2 runs in, 5 makes the bob, 4 unaffected

31254 | 21534
32145 | 25143
23415 | 52413
24351 | 54231
42531 | 45321

The bob should be called, I think, at the backstroke before the treble leads, giving a whole pull’s notice of the bob. This means it is called when the treble is in 2nd place before leading.

Since it is not easy (not for me anyway) to always see when the treble is in 2nd place, we analyse where each of the other bells is at this point.

We can see from the above diagram that, that when the treble is in 2nd place, the other bells are as follows:

  • the bell that would have made 2nds place (but runs out), leads (backstroke),
  • the bell that would have dodged 3/4 up (but makes the bob) is in 3rd place
  • the bell that would have dodged 3/4 down (but runs in) is in 4th place
  • the bell that rings 4 blows behind (and is unaffected) makes its first blow at the back

In theory the call should be made with the leading bell, that is, when the bell that would make 2nds place makes its backstroke lead. If you are ringing that bell then the timing is easy, but if you are ringing one of the others then you need to make the call just before you pull your rope. This is more especially true for the bells at the back. Remember that each of these calls is made at backstroke.


another touch of bob doubles

Since first trying to call a touch of Bob Doubles back in August I have not had much opportunity to try this again.

Yesterday I had another go, or rather, several goes.

First time we had someone still learning Plain Bob on bell 2. She can just about ring a plain course reasonably well, and so it was suggested that I call a touch with bell 2 unaffected. This means that a bob is called just as bell 2 is ringing long 5ths (four blows in 5th place). As I was ringing bell 5, I knew that this meant that the first bob should be called as I was about to make 2nds, i.e. at the second lead end (starting on bell 5, at the first lead end you dodge 3-4 up with bell 2). You have to call a bob just before the treble leads, which when you are about to make 2nds is as you lead. I managed this, and then carried on ringing trying to work out when I should next call ‘bob’.

The cycle of ‘bob’ calls for Plain Bob is: In, Out, Make. So I had to work out that the bob I had just called was ‘Out’ (because instead of making 2nds I had run out to the back), and therefore the next bob should be ‘Make’, and then I had to work out what this meant — a bob which causes you to make 4ths place and you do that instead of dodging 3-4 up — and whilst trying to work this out I had to keep plain hunting, and keep dodging, remembering which dodge came next and doing it.

And all this was too much to remember, too much to get my brain around, and I eventually missed a dodge and couldn’t work out how to get back into sync. Oh well.

Later I had another go, this time with an experienced ringer on bell 2 — in fact with more experienced ringers on each of the ‘inside’ bells, and I called another touch, this time ‘three Homes’, meaning that you call a bob each time you are ringing 4 blows behind, so that the caller is unaffected by the bobs. This is what I had called back in the summer, and I just about managed to call it right, though I forgot to call ‘that’s all’ at the end. This call comes a stroke or so after the last bob, when you are ringing bell 5 and calling three Homes.

Then we had another go at calling a touch with bell 2 unaffected. This time, of course, I was less taken by surprise, and had a better idea of what it was I was supposed to be doing. Still far from perfect, and occasionally not quite getting the calls of ‘bob’ in early enough, but getting better.

Just for the record, this is what should happen…

Starting on bell 5, ring an extra handstroke in 5th place and plain hunt down to the lead, then dodge 3-4 up, up to the back, plain hunt down to the lead again, and at the backstroke lead call ‘bob’. Then instead of making 2nds, plain hunt out to the back (an ‘out’ bob call) and down again, make 2nds and lead again. Hunt to the back and dodge 3-4 down, lead, hunt to the back and make long 5ths (four blows in 5th place). Hunt down to the lead, and back out, and as you ring in 2nd place call ‘bob’. Instead of dodging 3-4 up, make the bob (4ths place) (a ‘make’ bob call) and hunt down to the lead, then out to the back and make long 5ths again. Down to the lead and then dodge 3-4 up, up to the back, and plain hunt down to the lead again. Make 2nds, lead again, and hunt to the back, and as you ring the second blow in 5th place you need to have called ‘bob’ again, and instead of dodging 3-4 down run in to the lead (an ‘in’ bob call). Up to the back again, then dodge 3-4 down. Lead, hunt up to the back, and after 2 blows at the back call ‘that’s all’.


'oranges and lemons'

… say the bells of St Clement’s.

But ringing St Clement’s Major is another matter. There we were, ringing rounds, and about to ring a touch of something, when the conductor (on bell 7) turned to me (bell 6) and said, ‘We’ll ring St Clement’s’ and then proceeded to explain(!) ‘It’s the reverse dodging order of Bob Major. And you make reverse 3rds. And you do some dodging at the front.’ Or something like that.

So off we went, and starting from 6th place I hunted down to 3rd, made 3rds place and back up to the back, 2 blows at the back and then down towards the front, dodging 3-4 down on the way, and then start dodging at the front. Bell 4 seemed quite happy to be dodging with me, but the conductor at this point decided something had gone wrong and called rounds. But, even assuming that I had not already gone wrong, I don’t think there was any way that I could have managed to complete the plain course. A little homework is necessary…



Those who can, teach…

A long time ago, when I was at school, we used to recite a trite little aphorism: ‘those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’. Presumably our intention was to convince ourselves of our superiority over our teachers.

On Saturday, on a misty morning, I drove across the fens to Downham Market, to attend a training day, organized by the diocesan association of bellringers. The day was about teaching beginners to handle a bell, and to take their first steps at ringing backstrokes and then handstrokes.

Richard Pargeter, the association’s training officer, first led a dozen or so would-be teachers through the basics of learning to ring, handicapped only by the want of a cable to connect his laptop to the projector — although this lack of a Powerpoint accompaniment was no great handicap. As well as the basics of what the beginner needs to learn, the teacher must also be aware of what might go wrong, and be able to cope with potential disasters and put right lesser mistakes. After coffee we trooped over to the church, and Richard demonstrated these points with the aid of a complete and willing novice. After an hour of teaching her and demonstrating to us this brave soul was confident at ringing backstrokes, and able to try ringing handstroke and backstroke.

In the afternoon, we were ourselves let loose to supervise some volunteer novices and pseudo-novices. When you know how to ring, and are starting to teach then you realize how dangerous it can be for a beginner, and how ill-equipped you feel to cope. So I was quite pleased to stand in front of a novice and have her ring backstrokes while I rang the handstrokes; and then to have her ring a few handstrokes as well as backstrokes. She was quite good at this, but then I realized that she had no idea how to stand the bell, and I would have to do this. Lesson to be learnt — always have an exit strategy, preferably before you get going.

Back to that old jibe about teachers. Nasty little boys that we were, we added another clause: ‘and those who can’t teach, teach teachers’. And that was certainly not true on Saturday. Richard Pargeter is not only a very experienced ringer, but has taught many others to ring over a period of 20 years or so. His booklet One Way to teach Bell Handling, published by the Central Council, summarizes his approach to teaching novice ringers, and his comments on theory and practice made him an excellent teacher of novice teachers. I and others came away with knowledge and confidence to begin to teach our own beginners — all in all a good day’s work.


a quarter peal of bob doubles

This afternoon was the wedding of the daughter of one of our bellringers. As the mother of the bride, she was otherwise occupied, but to celebrate the occasion we rang a quarter peal of 1260 changes of Bob Doubles, lasting about 45 minutes. This was the first time I have rung a quarter peal on an ‘inside’ bell – my previous quarter peal was ringing the cover bell. This time I rang bell 5, one of the working bells. I’ve been ringing Bob Doubles for about a year now, and it’s pretty much second nature to cope with the plain course and with bobs.

What’s new with a quarter peal are two things: first, the stamina required to keep ringing the bell for 45 minutes without resting; and secondly, the mental concentration required. For me, both these things kick in after 25-30 minutes. The legs begin to ache a little and you wish you could stretch them; shifting your weight a little is some relief but you still have to concentrate on what you are doing. And my brain begins to get tired at about the same point. Although touches of bob doubles have become second nature and you set out confidently on the quarter peal, after half an hour you find yourself almost forgetting what you are doing. Still counting your place (that really has become ingrained), still alert enough to dodge in the right place, and follow the bobs when they are called. But each time, trying to remember what dodge you did last time and therefore what dodge it must be next time.

This is when you realize the advantage of knowing what you do by when you cross the treble: pass the treble in 1-2 up and you must make 2nds and lead again; pass the treble in 4-5 up and you must dodge 3-4 down; pass the treble in 3-4 up and you make long 5ths; pass the treble in 2-3 up and dodge 3-4 up. Ringing for a long time like this really makes you aware of these crossing points – if you know where you are supposed to be then you can help an inexperienced treble because you implictly know where they should be; and if your mind is wandering as to what you should be doing then you can pick up your place again from the treble. Of course, if the treble is in need of help as well then you’re in trouble. Fortunately my concentration didn’t quite go, although I had a couple of shaky moments when I wondered what I was supposed to be doing – but never quite actually lost my place.

On Saturday afternoon, 16 October 2004, at the Church of All Saints, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, a Quarter Peal of 1260 Plain Bob Doubles was rung in 46 minutes.
Weight of Tenor: 12-0-4 in G
*Carrie-Anne Armes Treble Simon Kershaw 5
Bridget White 2 Ray Hart 6
Richard C Smith 3 Robin Safford 7
Michael V White 4 John Marlow Tenor
Conducted by Michael V White
* First Quarter Peal. Rung with 7,6,8 covering.
Rung to celebrate the wedding of Miss Elaine Bates and Mr Gavin Midgley

Y Cymun Bendigaid

A package containing a new book landed through my letter box a couple of days ago. It was a copy of the newly-authorized version of the Eucharist of the Church in Wales, published just in time for a meeting of the Church’s Governing Body in September.

(The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Barry Morgan, can be seen at the meeting using what looks like a copy of the altar edition of the book in this picture.)

The arrival of this book was a significant moment for me — because I had designed and typeset it. Having laboured long and hard over the text and layout, over page breaks and line breaks, vertical and horizontal spacing, typeface, kerns and ligatures, page numbers and goodness knows what else, here at last was the finished product.

This is always an exciting event: to hold in your hands the result of your own craftsmanship, your own hard work, and to be able to see for the first time whether it has actually worked, whether you have achieved the effect that you wanted — in this case clarity and beauty combining tradition and modernity.

Of course, many people had contributed to this volume, in ways significantly more important than I had. Liturgists had worked on drafts, revision committees and the Governing Body had considered it, and altered it to produce the final authorized text; others had created the cover (by Leigh Hurlock) and the calligraphy (by Shirley Norman); and the printer (Biddles) had produced the printed and bound books. But I shall remember the time spent designing a layout that works, selecting typefaces, playing with type size, and different combinations of bold and italic and roman, caps and small caps, creating custom ligatures (Welsh requires an ‘fh’ ligature which did not exist in the selected face, so I had to design one myself in roman, italic, bold and bold italic), and of course proofreading the text over and over again. Proofreading, especially of the parallel Welsh text, was also done by people at the provincial office of the Church in Wales. All in all, the result is a book to be very pleased with, I think.

And then after all that, despite all the care that has gone into its production, you begin to notice the mistakes. Here and there, dotted around, are little glitches that have escaped the proofreading. It’s amazing that you can proofread a text so many times, both on screen and on paper proofs, and yet the minute you pick up the finished product you find a few more mistakes.

I suppose life is like that — you cannot produce the perfect work, there are always a few little things wrong. At least with a book there is a chance to correct any errors at the next printing! Mistakes in life, on the other hand, very often have to be lived with.


Kent Treble Bob Major

A few weeks ago, as part of an on-line discussion of Dorothy L Sayer’s Nine Tailors, I sat down and taught myself Kent Treble Bob (and Oxford Treble Bob for good measure, though that doesn’t appear in the book). On Wednesday I finally got a chance to try this out, at practice at Hemingford Grey. We set out to ring a plain course of Kent Treble Bob Major. I chose to ring bell 6 (because I reckoned that bell 6 or bell 4 would be easiest to keep my place — see below), but there were a number of complications. First, the ringer of the treble had never done any treble bob hunting before, but she did have an experienced ringer standing behind her to help; secondly, at least two of the other ringers were not entirely comfortable with Kent.

Why did I choose bell 6? Because, at the start, after dodging with bell 5, bell 6 next dodges in 3-4 down with the treble, and this means that next two times you find yourself in 3-4 down you have to make places (4ths then 3rds) rather than dodging, and after this second time you immediately dodge with the treble in 1-2 and go ‘into the slow’. All the bells have to do this, but 4 goes straight into the slow from the start, and 6 next time; the other bells have to wait longer for this to happen — more time for a beginner to miss this important work.

So, off we went, and I was pleased that I managed to keep my place throughout, and so did the treble. One of the other ringers was a bit wobbly, but what really threw us was that the conductor — naturally trying to keep track of what these inexperienced ringers were doing — himself went wrong, telling me, for example, to dodge with him in 5-6 when I was in the slow (but I was sure I was right and ignored him). Still, we managed some 5 or so leads of a plain course (which would be 7 leads in total, I think). During those 5 leads I had done all my ‘hard’ work — making places down, doing the slow work at the front, making places up — and was into the ‘ordinary’ work — dodging in 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8 up and down. We immediately had another go at a plain course, but — for the same reasons — this was less successful than the first.

So I was quite pleased with myself: I had rung most of a plain course of Kent Treble Bob Major, and it wasn’t my fault that it had gone wrong!


connecting with culture

If you’re not familiar with the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity then I suggest you take a look. Amongst other things they have a weekly comment column entitled Connecting with Culture which is always worth a read.

This week Nick Spencer writes about an infamous advertising slogan and the marketing of a fashion chain, with important lessons about the limits of self-expression in a free society.


a touch of bob doubles

At the end of practice at St Ives tonight we rang a touch of Bob Doubles, and I volunteered to call it. I rang the 5 bell and called three ‘Homes’, i.e., called ‘Bob’ each time I came back to do my 4 blows in 5th place. The third time brought us straight back to rounds. This is the first time I have called a touch, and it was reasonably successful. I probably should have called ‘Bob’ fractionally earlier — when the treble was at backstroke before leading, rather than when I was about to pull at backstroke. And although I was unaffected by the bobs, I still managed to get slightly muddled in between so that I half missed a dodge. Fortunately I was able to recover and hadn’t lost my place. Of course, I could have chosen any of the inside bells (2,3,4 or 5) and still called three Homes. Must try and remember that next time — a disadvantage of ringing 5 with this touch is that the final bob brings the bells immediately to rounds, which doesn’t give much time for saying ‘That’s all’.

Next time!