Thinking allowed

ringing in Philadelphia

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time in the USA. I had to be in Pennsylvania for a few days and took the oppor­tun­ity to do a couple of oth­er things too. One of them was to vis­it St Mark’s Church in Phil­adelphia. We stayed overnight a few miles out­side the city and drove in on Sunday morn­ing, find­ing a park­ing place just around the corner from the church (which is in Locust Street) — coin­cid­ent­ally right out­side the War­wick Hotel where I had stayed on my only pre­vi­ous vis­it to Phil­adelphia in Sum­mer 1976.

After the Sunday morn­ing ser­vice (very high-church Anglic­an, with excel­lent chor­al music) I was able to join in ringing the bells — St Mark’s is one of only 43 act­ive towers in North Amer­ica. It was a pleas­ure to ring these bells, and to enjoy the hos­pit­al­ity of the Phil­adelphia ringers. Although sev­er­al of their more exper­i­enced ringers were away we were able ring some call changes, as well as touches of bob doubles. The only tricky moment was when I pulled at hand­stroke and noth­ing happened, and then the rope bal­looned and shot up — the rope had slipped off the wheel. For­tu­nately I was able to con­trol the rope, which slipped back onto the wheel, and bring the bell back up and under con­trol. The touch of course was lost.

A nice set of bells — but I’m glad that I don’t have to ring in that heat every week!


Cambridge Major

Finally a Wed­nes­day night prac­tice at which there were enough exper­i­enced ringers to try Cam­bridge Major, with a reas­on­able expect­a­tion that we could man­age it. In fact there were even enough for one of them to stand behind and give guid­ance – not for me but for someone else who was not too sure about Cambridge.

So we set off, with me ringing the 3 — dodge 5–6 up, back­work, 5–6 down, 3–4 places down, and on we went, and even­tu­ally I got to 5–6 places up, dodge up and down and the back, down to the front, dodge down and up, and just about to start 3–4 places up, when the con­duct­or, a vis­it­or from anoth­er tower, called ‘go rounds’. I wasn’t sure what had gone wrong, and we were with­in about a dozen strokes of the end. How frustrating!

Later in the even­ing we had anoth­er go. This time I chose to ring the 2, just for a bit of vari­ation  — start by dodging down with the treble in the middle of the front­work, and then 3–4 up, double dodge up at the back and single dodge down, 5–6 down, 1–2 up, 3–4 up, places 5–6 up. And in the middle of 5–6 places up I got lost, won­der­ing wheth­er I had dodged with the treble or not. So I meandered up to the back, and hung around there a bit, and then wandered down to the front and dodge around there, and just about put myself right. Then 3–4 places up, and dodging with the treble in the middle con­firmed that I was now in the right place <phew>.

So on to the back­work (brack­et­ted by dodges up and down in 5–6), 3–4 places down, treble bob at the front, then at the back, places 5–6 down, dodge 3–4 down, 1–2 down, dodge 5–6 up, single and double dodges at the back, <nearly there now, just keep going>, 3–4 down, onto the front­work, and here we are dodging with the treble, <steady> and <c’mon con­duct­or> ‘that’s all’. Yes.

As usu­al, there’s a lot that I could do bet­ter — bet­ter strik­ing, bet­ter dodging, bet­ter ropesight, espe­cially in 5–6. And, espe­cially, not get­ting lost! But on the whole I was quite pleased with myself.


calling Bob Doubles

Two little bits of pro­gress to record, to do with call­ing touches of Bob Doubles.

A couple of weeks ago I called a 120 of Bob Doubles from the treble. When you do this you only have the basic frame­work of ringing to help you know where you have got to. You can­not call a 120 by simply call­ing ‘Bob’ whenev­er you are doing four blows behind, or by call­ing bobs at ‘in’, ‘out’ and ‘make’, because you nev­er do any of these things. Instead what I did was to count leads. I decided in advance that I wanted the 2 to be unaf­fected, so I called a bob just as I rang a back­stroke in 2nd place at the end of the second lead. Then I coun­ted 3 more leads and called a bob again (at my back­stroke in 2nd place); then 3 more leads and anoth­er bob, and finally when tak­ing the 2 from the lead, call ‘that’s all’ as the bells come into rounds.

The dif­fi­culty with this is the two lots of count­ing that must be done: count­ing your own place, and count­ing the num­ber of leads. It is all too easy to for­get how many leads have been rung by con­fus­ing the two lots of numbers.

Then at last night’s prac­tice I called a 120 of Bob Doubles while ringing the ten­or cov­er. Here, there is even less fram­we­work to help you as you are ringing in sixth place at every blow. Instead, you have to watch anoth­er bell. I chose to count the place of bell 2, and to call a 120 which affected that bell (make, in, and out), and then as it was about to make 2nds place the bells come into rounds. In order to do this you have to be able to con­tin­ue ringing the cov­er bell whilst watch­ing and count­ing what some oth­er bell is doing. Ringing the cov­er bell (to doubles, at least) has become an almost totally auto­mat­ic or sub-con­scious pro­cess: my eyes and hands can get on with doing this while I fol­low anoth­er bell and call the 120. It’s nice to have reached this state: it’s not so long ago that ringing the cov­er bell itself was hard and not always accurate!


calling Bob Minor, and other progress

I finally got to call a touch of Bob Minor last night. Every fourth week a group of oth­er ringers attends our prac­tice, and this extra exper­i­ence is just what a novice caller needs! With a less exper­i­enced ringer on 2, able to ring a plain course but not com­fort­able with bobs, I was able to ring the 5 and call a 120 – home and wrong with 2 as the obser­va­tion bell; or from my own point of view, out, out, wrong, make. And it all worked. No one got ter­ribly lost, and I remembered when to call the bobs, and was even able to tell anoth­er ringer to make the bob and then to dodge 5–6 down with the 2, and then to dodge 5–6 up with me.

Else­where, I went to a Fri­day prac­tice at ten-bell St Neots a week or so ago. I had rung there once before, at a dis­trict meet­ing, and went this time because I had a friend stay­ing overnight and he’s a ringer. We watched them ring a course of Glas­gow on 8 – way bey­ond my cap­ab­il­it­ies! But I did get to ring Grand­sire Caters (i.e. on 9 bells with a ten­or cov­er) and did not dis­grace myself. My ropesight could just about man­age with the extra bells, and I am just about com­fort­able enough with Grand­sire to man­age being affected by the bobs and singles.

Still not had anoth­er chance to ring Cam­bridge Major though. 


calling other touches

I’ve been call­ing Bob Doubles for some time now, and have become reas­on­ably com­pet­ent at it, espe­cially if the oth­er ringers are com­pet­ent too. But my own band is not always as good as that, and so I have found myself try­ing to see what oth­er bells are doing or should be doing, so that I can try to put them right. One of the side effects of this is that, if you are not care­ful, you start ringing what the bell you are think­ing of is doing, rather than what you should be doing! That’s almost guar­an­teed to ruin a touch that you are try­ing to call. Still, it is good prac­tice to be able to observe anoth­er ringer, and obvi­ously help­ful to a band if I can help anoth­er ringer com­plete a touch.

I have also been think­ing about learn­ing to call oth­er touches. At our own tower on a Sunday morn­ing we mostly get to ring Bob Doubles, but we are almost at the stage of hav­ing enough Plain Bob ringers to be able to ring Bob Minor, and it might be help­ful to be able to call touches of that.

In Bob Minor, the vari­ations from plain hunt­ing are: dodge 3–4 down, 5–6 down, 5–6 up, 3–4 up, and make 2nds. A bob is like a bob in Doubles: run out, run in, or make the bob. If you make the bob, then next time you dodge 5–6 down and carry on from there (where­as in Doubles you would do four blows behind next time, but of course that doesn’t occur in Minor). If you are dodging 5–6 down or 5–6 up then you are unaf­fected by a bob.

In Bob Doubles there are four call­ing pos­i­tions. i.e. places at which you can call a bob:

  • ‘out’ when you run out, rather than mak­ing 2nds place
  • ‘in’ when you run in, rather than dodging 3–4 down
  • ‘make’ or ‘bob’ when you make the bob, rather than dodging 3–4 up
  • ‘home’ when you are mak­ing four blows at the back, and you are unaffected

In Bob Minor there are five call­ing pos­i­tions: ‘out’, ‘in’ and ‘make’ are the same as in Doubles. The two new ones are:

  • ‘home’ when you are about to dodge 5–6 down, and are unaffected
  • ‘wrong’ when you are about to dodge 5–6 up, and are unaffected

A simple touch in Bob Minor is to call bobs when you are dodging 5–6 down or 5–6 up and are there­fore unaf­fected. If you do this four times, then it should come back to rounds at the appro­pri­ate point. If you are ringing the 6, then this means call­ing the fol­low­ing: wrong, home, wrong, home (and imme­di­ately that is rounds after the last bob). On 2, 3, 4 or 5 it is: home, wrong, home, wrong (which on the 5 is rounds imme­di­ately after the last bob, but on 2, 3 or 4 there are more leads before get­ting back to rounds). The dif­fer­ence is because on the 6 you reach the 5–6 up dodging pos­i­tion before the 5–6 down, where­as on the oth­er bells you reach 5–6 down first.

That’s all very well if you are going to be the bell unaf­fected by the bobs. But in a band which has only just reached the num­ber of ringers to try Bob Minor rather than Bob Doubles, it is bet­ter for the most inex­per­i­enced ringer to be the one who is unaf­fected by the bobs, rather than the caller. This ringer is quite likely to be ringing bell 2, so we need to call this touch (home, wrong, home, wrong) from the point of view of bell 2, whichever bell the caller is ringing; i.e., we must make bell 2 the obser­va­tion bell.

We can do this by watch­ing bell 2 and call­ing a bob whenev­er it is about to dodge 5–6 down or 5–6 up; but it is prob­ably easi­er for the novice caller to work out in advance when this ought to occur and remem­ber what their own pos­i­tion is at the cor­res­pond­ing point.

So, this is the order of work that bell 2 will do:

  1. dodge 3–4 down
  2. dodge 5–6 down
  3. dodge 5–6 up
  4. dodge 3–4 up
  5. make seconds
    and repeat.

So we need to call a bob at the end of the second lead, and the end of the third lead, and then again at the end of the sev­enth lead and the end of the eighth lead.

Now we need to work out what our own bell will be doing. Sup­pose we are ringing bell 5. Then we will do the fol­low­ing work:

  1. dodge 3–4 up
  2. BOB: run out (rather than mak­ing seconds)
  3. BOB: run out (rather than mak­ing seconds)
  4. make seconds
  5. dodge 3–4 down
  6. dodge 5–6 down
  7. BOB: dodge 5–6 up (unaf­fected)
  8. BOB: make the bob (rather than dodge 3–4 up)
  9. dodge 5–6 down
  10. dodge 5–6 up (which is rounds)

What you have to remem­ber is the touch: out, out, wrong, make.

There is one fur­ther issue that comes to mind — when to actu­ally say the word ‘bob’. This should be done at the back­stroke lead before the treble leads, a whole pull’s notice of the dodge itself. For an out bob, this is when you are ringing the back­stroke as you lead, and for make it is as you ring a back­stroke in 3rd place (or just frac­tion­ally before). But for home it needs to be called at the back­stroke lead before your own back­stroke in 6th place, which is imme­di­ately after you have rung your pre­vi­ous blow, the hand­stroke in 6th place. For the wrong bob, the call should be between your hand­stroke in 4th place and the back­stroke in 5th place — a little earli­er rather than later, since that is when the bell which will run out is mak­ing its back­stroke lead.

That’s enough to keep us busy for a while I think, espe­cially if the caller is try­ing to ensure that anoth­er bell is in the right place. On that top­ic, more anon.


Ringing Cambridge Major

It’s four weeks since I star­ted try­ing to learn Cam­bridge Sur­prise Major. I reck­on I have the ‘blue line’ fairly well mem­or­ized — in the­ory. But put­ting it into prac­tice is not so easy.

In the first place, actu­ally get­ting enough oth­ers who can ring Cam­bridge Major is itself quite hard. Of the four prac­tices since I began, at two of them there have not been enough exper­i­enced ringers to even try Cam­bridge Major. At the oth­er two it has just about been pos­sible to find 6 oth­er ringers cap­able of Cam­bridge plus one who can treble bob on the treble.

But on each of these two occa­sions we have man­aged to get about half way through a plain course before it goes hor­ribly wrong. The annoy­ing thing from my per­spect­ive is that this has not been my fault, but mis­takes by oth­er ringers. Both times, I have been ringing bell 2, the first time with anoth­er ringer stand­ing behind me, and each time, as I was com­plet­ing the back­work some of those ringing in front of me have got mixed up. Sigh. I’m not blam­ing them — it’s a reas­on­ably hard meth­od after all. But it is frus­trat­ing when I am try­ing to learn the meth­od myself.

Next week is Ash Wed­nes­day, so it’ll be anoth­er couple of weeks before I can try again.


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.