Thinking allowed

singles in Stedman Doubles

On a good practice night we have enough ringers able to ring Stedman Doubles, and we are gradually getting better at it, and more people are able to cope with singles so that we can ring an extent of 120 changes, rather than just a plain course of 60.

Singles in Stedman Doubles seem to cause quite a bit of confusion. They also have a number of nicknames or mnemonics which aim to remind the ringer what to do. A common pair of nicknames is “cat’s ears” and “coathangers”, referring to the actions taken by the two bells affected by the call. I could never get used to these, especially “coathangers” and worked out my own way of dealing with singles.

The first thing to remember is that Stedman consists of three bells on the front which plain hunt for six blows, and then change direction, together with pairs of bells above third place which double dodge out to the back and then back down to the front again. In Stedman Doubles the only double dodging is in 4-5 up and 4-5 down. And the important thing to remember is that a single affects only the pair of bells double-dodging in 4-5 up and down. The three bells on the front are entirely unaffected by the call.

The effect of a single is to swap two bells over, and in Stedman Doubles it swaps over the two bells that are double-dodging 4-5 up and down. That’s really all you need to know. The ringer who started out thinking that they were going to double-dodge 4-5 up has to turn around swap places with the ringer who started out thinking they were going to double-dodge 4-5 down. And vice-versa.

Or to put that another way, if you are double-dodging 4-5 up and a single is called then you become the bell double-dodging 4-5 down. And if you are the bell double-dodging 4-5 down then you become the bell double-dodging 4-5 up. (Of course in both cases the double-dodges up and down are not really double-dodges because they are incomplete, but we can gloss over that complexity.)

What does this mean in practice? Let’s consider, first, the bell that would, if there were no single, double-dodge 4-5 up. The ringer will count their place something like this:

  • fourth, fifth, fourth, fifth, fourth, fifth

and then they will lie at the back and double dodge 4-5 down.

Meanwhile the ringer who would be double-dodging 4-5 down with them will count their place something like this:

  • fifth, fourth, fifth, fourth, fifth, fourth

and then go down to the front, either as a quick bell or a slow bell.

The effect of the single is to swap the two bells over at the fourth stroke (a handstroke) of these six changes, so that the bell that starts dodging up ends up dodging down:

  • fourth, fifth, fourth, fourth, fifth, fourth

This bells is now dodging down, so it must next go down to the front.

Meanwhile the bell that starts dodging down ends up dodging up

  • fifth, fourth, fifth, fifth, fourth, fifth

This bell is now dodging up, so it must lie in 5th place and double-dodge down before joining the front work, either as quick bell or as slow.

As for whether you go in quick or slow: if you are affected by one single (or by an odd number of singles) then you do the opposite of what you would otherwise have done. If you came out quick and would have gone in slow, then after a single you go in quick. Or if you came out slow and would have gone in quick, then instead you go in slow. (That’s because you have swapped places with the the other bell, and it becomes the bell that does what you would have done, and you become the bell that does what it would have done!)

For me, this is where blue lines explaining the single — helpful though blue lines generally are — here just complicate matters. In this instance I find it easier just to switch from ringing one place bell (4th’s place) to ringing another (5th’s). Or vice versa.

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