Thinking allowed

Looking at Cambridge Surprise (again)

I’ve been ringing Cam­bridge Sur­prise for quite a few years now. I began with Minor (in 2005), learn­ing the vari­ous pieces of work by rote. Then when I could do that I moved on to Major (in 2006), again, learn­ing by rote the bits that were dif­fer­ent from Minor. Then I got to the point that I could barely remem­ber how to ring Minor, because I always for­got which bits of Major to leave out. I’ve got over that too, and recently have begun to ring Minor a bit more, because we have ringers who have moved on to learn­ing it.

All of which sparked an interest in learn­ing Cam­bridge Sur­prise Roy­al, i.e. on 10 bells. (Ringing it would be a rather dif­fer­ent mat­ter as I’m not a ten-bell ringer, and although I have rung Caters a hand­ful of times, I’ve nev­er rung Roy­al. But I want to stick with the the­ory for a bit.)

So I looked up the blue line for Cam­bridge Sur­prise Roy­al, and in search­ing for it I came instead across descrip­tions of Cam­bridge, and I real­ized I had been miss­ing some­thing about Cam­bridge all these years. The sort of thing that makes me won­der wheth­er I could have learnt the meth­od in a much bet­ter way — rather than learn­ing sec­tions by rote, and then re-learn­ing it by place bells, instead learn­ing it and ringing it from first prin­ciples. Because the prin­ciple behind Cam­bridge, on any num­ber of bells, is quite simple.

Here it is:

  • the treble always treble-bob hunts from the front, out to the back where it lies behind and then treble-bob hunts down to the front again; and it does this over and over again, (n‑1) times in a plain course, where n is the num­ber of bells (6 for Minor, 8 for Major, 10 for Roy­al, etc).
  • each of the oth­er bells also treble-bob hunts, but it does so “out of phase” with the treble. This means that whenev­er it meets the treble, it must change its pat­tern of treble-bob hunt­ing to fit around the treble.

What do we mean by treble-bob hunt­ing “out of phase”, and what are the con­sequences of this?


By treble-bob hunt­ing “out of phase” we mean that when the treble dodges the oth­er bells plain hunt, and when the treble plain hunts the oth­er bells dodge. Like this:

1-x-----
-1-x----
1---x---
-1---x--
--1-x---
---1-x--
--1---x-
---1---x

All dodges for all bells are con­fined to “dodging pos­i­tions” 1–2, 3–4, 5–6 etc, and nev­er in say 2–3 or 4–5. And all dodges are at backstroke.

The vari­ations from treble-bob hunt­ing, if you’re not on the front or at the back, are simple too:

  • if you haven’t yet dodged in this dodging pos­i­tion and the treble is imme­di­ately adja­cent to you (i.e. above you if you are hunt­ing up, or below you if you are hunt­ing down) then you plain hunt past the treble and out the oth­er side

    -1---x
    1---x-
    1----x
    -1--x-
    1--x--
    -1x--- meet the treble before dodging, so plain hunt through
    -x1---
    x--1--

  • or if you have already dodged with anoth­er bell in this dodging pos­i­tion and the treble is imme­di­ately adja­cent then you make places to get into phase with the treble, dodge with the treble, and then make places the oth­er side of the treble to get back into phase with the oth­er bells, and start treble-bob hunt­ing again
    1---vx-- dodging with anoth­er bell, v
    -1--xv--
    --1-vx--
    ---1xv-- meet the treble after dodging …
    --1-x--- so make places (far to wait for the treble …
    ---1-x--
    ----1x--
    ----x1--
    ----1x-- … and dodge with it
    ----x1--
    ----x-1- and make places again to wait for anoth­er bell …
    -----x-1
    ----yx1-
    ----xy-1
    ----yx-1 … and dodge with the oth­er bell, y
    This is, of course, the piece of work called “Cam­bridge places”.

This will work provided you aren’t at the front or back. It has to be mod­i­fied there because there is nowhere for anoth­er bell to go to or come from:

  • on the front you do a cur­tailed ver­sion of what has just been described: you start off doing exactly the same as if you had met the treble some­where else away from the front or back, but after dodging with the treble, it leads and (in a plain course) you make 2nd place over it, turn­ing around to do the work in reverse.This is the piece of work called “Cam­bridge front­work”, but looked at this way it is no dif­fer­ent from cur­tailed Cam­bridge places: you are treble-bob hunt­ing and find the treble imme­di­ately above you after a dodge, so you make places (2nd place and lead) to be in phase with the treble, which you now dodge with. Then comes the lead end which inter­rupts the places: you make 2nd place over the treble and turn around, dodge down with the treble and make places (lead and 2nds); you are now back in phase with the oth­er bells and resume treble-bob hunt­ing, back down to the lead and then up again.
    vx---- treble-bob­bing, dodge down with bell v
    xv----
    vx----
    xvy--- lead
    xyv---
    yx---- still treble-bob­bing, dodge up with bell y
    xy-1--
    yx1--- meet the treble after dodging …
    yx-1-- … so make places to wait for the treble …
    xy1---
    x1y---
    1x----
    x1---- … and dodge with it
    1x----
    1x---- lead end, so make 2nd place over the treble and become the 2nd place bell

So the only time you really have to do any­thing dif­fer­ent is when you meet the treble at the back.

  • if you have just lain at the back and are dodging down, and the treble is below you after the dodge, then add anoth­er dodge (i.e. double-dodge) to wait for the treble, and plain hunt past it. This is what the 5th-place bell does. The effect of the extra dodge at the back fol­lowed by the missed dodge is to leave you in phase with the oth­er bells and still out of phase with the treble.
    -----x
    1----x lie and dodge down
    -1--x-
    --1--x
    ---1x- meet the treble after dodging …
    --1--x … so add anoth­er dodge …
    ---1x-
    ---x1- … and pass the treble
    --x--1
    -x--1-
    x----1
    -x----
    x-----
  • if you passed through the treble in (n‑3)-(n‑2) up, e.g. in 5–6 in Major, then double-dodge up in (n‑1)-n, e.g. in 7–8 in Major, to get back into phase with the oth­er bells, and begin treble-bob hunt­ing again. This is what the 2nd-place bell does, passing the treble at the back and double-dodging up, and of course is just the mir­ror of what the 5th-place bell does.
    x----1
    -x--1-
    --x--1
    ---x1- meet the treble before dodging …
    ---1x-
    --1--x … so pass through …
    ---1x-
    --1--x
    -1--x- … and double dodge to compensate
    1----x
    -1---x
    1---x-
    1----x
    ----x-
  • the 3rd-place bell also does an extra dodge in (n‑1)-n up, so that it is ready to dodge down with the treble which comes up to meet it; it then makes (n‑1)th place under the treble. This is the half-lead, so it turns around and does the mir­ror of what it has just done: it dodges up with the treble and lies and double-dodges down to get back into phase with the oth­er bells; and then it treble-bob hunts down.
    1-x---
    -1-x--
    1---x- treble-bob­bing up; the treble is com­ing up to the back after you …
    -1---x
    --1-x-
    ---1-x
    --1-x- … so add an extra dodge to wait for the treble
    ---1-x … lie, and …
    ----1x
    ----x1
    ----1x … dodge down with the treble
    ----x1
    ----x1 half-lead, so make (n‑1)th place …
    ----1x
    ----x1 … and dodge back up with the treble …
    ----1x
    ---1-x … lie, and …
    --1-x-
    ---1-x … double-dodge down to get back in phase …
    --1-x-
    -1---x
    1---x-
    -1-x-- … and resume treble-bob­bing down
    1-x---
    1--x--
    The double-dodge up is with the 5th-place bell double-dodging down; and the double dodge down is with the 2nd-place bell which is double dodging up. This is the only situ­ation in which you have to do some­thing dif­fer­ent from treble-bob hunt­ing even though the treble is not imme­di­ately adja­cent to you. As this is always con­fined to the 3rd-place bell it’s not too dif­fi­cult to remember.

And that is all there is to Cam­bridge Sur­prise on any num­ber of bells.

(With acknow­ledge­ment to Chan­geringing Wiki.)

1 comment

  • Hi Simon,
    It’s great to find you blog­ging about approaches to mem­or­ising and ringing meth­ods. No point every­one re-invent­ing the wheel on this problem.

    Like you, I am try­ing to dig down into Sur­prise Meth­ods and come up with some­thing fun­da­ment­al to under­stand, rather than an ever-grow­ing list of blue lines to mem­or­ise and, inev­it­ably, to muddle up. 

    I’m try­ing to find new ways to mem­or­ise, and focus­ing on Super­lat­ive. Fas­cin­at­ing to read your post on the first efforts with Super­lat­ive – moments of muddle, try­ing to find where you are, “[hanging] around in 5–6 try­ing to work out just where I should be”.. I have had so many of those moments!

    So is there a way of learn­ing a new meth­od that enables us to actu­ally just stand up and *ring* it, and at least to be con­fid­ent that we won’t be the first to go wrong? And to be able to then re-ring a meth­od we mem­or­ised 6 months ago without for­get­ting key dodges or places? I would­n’t mind if it took sev­er­al weeks to really mas­ter a meth­od this way before I could ring it – it would just be nice not to have a habit of mess­ing things up the first dozen times I ring them (or sev­er­al dozen, if I am honest!)

    I think this is some­thing of a Holy Grail, for many of us.

    Kind Regards etc.

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