Thinking allowed

finally ringing Cambridge Surprise

So finally, some two months after it was suggested that I go away and learn Cambridge Surprise Minor, my chance to try ringing it arrives.

After several months away, my ringing teacher is now back, and Wednesday practices at Hemingford Grey (which we sometimes struggled to maintain in his absence) are once again more complex evenings.

Tonight I walked into the ringing chamber: there were 6 other ringers, about to ring Bob Doubles for someone still learning the method. ‘Right, we’ll ring Bob Minor instead,’ the captain said, and proceeded to call a touch. I was slightly taken by surprise at the first lead end, because I had been expecting a plain course, when he called a Bob. Another ringer arrived, and with eight present we rang a touch of Grandsire Triples. This went quite well, but somewhere along the line the captain and I swapped places, presumably when we were dodging and he was telling me what to do.

Then, after some other ringing, ‘We’ll ring a touch of Kent next.’ Hasty revision of what happens at a bob in Kent. If you’re coming out of the slow or going into the slow you are unaffected; if you are just making 3rds & 4ths up for the second time, then immediately add 4ths and 3rds (so you make 4 blows in 4ths) — this is places down the first time. And if you are at the back then add another double dodge in the place where you are already dodging. I rang bell 4, so made an extra blow in 4th place and 2 in 3rds — 4ths & 3rds down the first time. Then at the next lead end: ‘Bob!’. I was just making places down the second time, so I was unaffected and went into the slow work at the front. And as I came out of the slow, dodging with the treble, another bob was called, and again I was unaffected, making places up. So we carried on, making places up the second time, and then ‘Bob!’, so just about to immediately do places down, but instead ‘That’s all!’ and we had rung three leads of Kent.

Again after a bit more ringing, we turned to Cambridge. I offered to ring the treble, and then added ‘I’d like to have a go ringing inside afterwards’. And so it came to my turn to try Cambridge Surprise. I chose to ring the 3, and the treble was rung by someone just learning to treble bob. We set off: I did the backwork, and Cambridge places down, dodged in 1-2, up to the back, dodge 5-6 up and double-dodge 5-6 down, and down to the frontwork. And as I made 2nds in the middle of the frontwork, it was clear that something had gone wrong, and the treble was lost, and ‘rounds’ was called. We tried again, this time putting an experienced ringer on the treble, and the person who had been standing behind the treble came and stood behind me, but we went wrong even quicker this time. Again it hadn’t been my fault, and we tried again. Backwork, places down, dodge and lead, one and two at the back, frontwork (concentrate, concentrate), two and one at the back, lead and dodge, places up (is he going to call a bob?!), ‘That’s all!’. We had made it, and I had rung Cambridge Surprise Minor at essentially the first attempt.

My minder made two comments: that clearly, I had learnt the method; and that it was a good job I had not missed the sally or I would surely have broken the stay. This was a comment on the brute force with which I had been ringing and controlling the rope. And it was true, I had been pulling hard and checking the rope at slmost every stroke in order to keep my place. I can remember that when I first learnt to ring I would use this brute force technique to ring the tenor, but it’s not something I have done much since acquiring better bell control. Must try and do better next time.

All in all a pretty action-packed practice night.