St Clements is a bell ringing method rung on 6 bells and if you read the blurb it is often described as St Simons doubles extended to 6 bells, and there is waffle about how once a bell comes off the front, whenever it hunts in from the back, it can only come as far as thirds place, until it can replace two bells dodging when the treble comes back from 3rds to 2nds place (or something like that). On paper this means little to me. I have to get down and dirty to even begin to understand what is going on, because as I keep trying to remind people, I am rather a blank sheet when it comes to understanding methods. As I do something, I learn it, but this involves me making loads of tiresome errors as I scrabble to grasp the pattern.
Last week we grasped the nettle and decided to ring St Clements. We knew it would be a tough call because it is early days for 2 of us, and the third has her hands full trying to work out which particular misunderstanding requires addressing at any particular moment. We had been warned of the impending lesson and, in my wisdom, I had decided to have a practice on Abel from the tenors. They looked easier than my beloved trebles, and there was a discernible pattern for me to latch on to. Unfortunately, it was not to be. On the day, the tenors were snatched from under my nose with the explanation that if we intended to eventually score a quarter peal, it would be called from the tenors. Did I intend to conduct? No? Then in that case it is the trebles for you.
Hence, I approached St Clements with no meaningful practice. It would have to be from first principles since sight reading in this context is frowned on and if I ever dare to produce a sneaky cheat sheet, my teacher arranges a strong wind to immediately blow it over so that the writing is hidden. She has that sort of power.
Off we went and the first lead was surprisingly graspable. Totally unfamiliar as a pattern, but not too bad at all. If you keep dodge,dodge,dodge uppermost in your head and your dodging partner nods now and then to confirm that all is well, it is not too awful. The lead end was announced and then some waspish criticism of my inability to pull in the backstroke lead. My defence that I was busy thinking about what came next was not accepted, which is fair enough because the way that I was approaching the task meant that nothing came next since the rhythm broke down and we ground to a halt. By the time I decided to comply and do as commanded, we had all got to grips with the first lead very nicely.
The second lead necessitated me “making thirds until the front bells shift out of the way” instruction, which took a little comprehending, but once understood on we plodded. Obviously, the treble backstroke lead caused more complaining, but the reward of the next lead was worth the bother and that pesky 3rds palava was now obvious. Lead 4 took a few go’s which was silly because it was only lead 2 repeated, but then the downfall, the last lead. Why ringing the same thing backwards can cause so much confusion is beyond me. But it did. Perhaps my brain had reached its tipping point and could do no more.
But eventually we completed St Clements. It took many attempts, some pointed waving of bells in my direction and frequent false turns in the path. Only once did we resort to consulting a line in order to resolve an argument as to who was in the wrong place, and the sense of shared satisfaction when we completed our first plain course of St Clements was palpable.
I recommend such a brain stretching activity if you have a spare hour on a wet Thursday morning. I am sure that many of you reading this will have rattled off St Clements on handbells on your first attempt, but for some of us it is more challenging. The good thing about a challenge is that once you conquer it you really feel quite good about yourself. Now for the bobs and singles. That will take a bit of thinking about.
(please do not reply that it “just” like Bob Minor. I assure you that it will take a bit of thinking about.)