Thinking allowed

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!