Or to put it another way , “Your Bristol is someone else’s rounds”. What a lovely way of thinking. It appeared in a recent post on Bellringers – a plea for more experienced ringers to be patient with people as they hesitantly return to ringing. Apparently it is displayed on the wall in some towers, to remind people that we all have to start somewhere. What may seem trivial to one person who has been ringing since they were a teenager, may still be a challenge to a nervous beginner who struggles with bell control. I am not so far removed from my very first independent rounds that I have forgotten the thrill of being trusted to handle the bell and fit in with the band as if I were a “proper ringer”, rather than a liability, who might go seriously wrong at any moment. I love to ring alongside people, often children, who are experiencing that opportunity for the first time because it reminds me of the amazing buzz of achievement. I can relive my own launch into independent ringing and enjoy it all over again.
And each time we learn something new, we can experience the same pleasure. I am not in the habit of keeping a ringing journal. I suppose The Accidental Ringer is my journal – my stories of triumphs and disasters, but I still vividly remember the first time I covered for a method. It was Easter Saturday 2019, Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre, the rest of the band were some of the finest Norwich has to offer, me the lowly trainee. “What would you like to ring , Mary?” I could have said plain hunt from the 2 (I was probably expected to say plain hunt from the 2, or the 3, or the 4…), but I grandly requested the opportunity to take the tenor. “What method would you like, Mary?” I was probably expected to say Plain Bob or Grandsire, but as I pointed out to my experienced band, it was all the same to me because I had no intention of looking at anything except someone else’s shoe. The order of the ropes was a mystery to me. I would count. So they chose a touch of Stedman while I bonged at the back and as they were all rather good ringers, it was not half bad and if the tenor wandered off now and again someone would gently suggest that 6th place was traditional in a doubles method, if I could manage it. The first time I trebled to a method was Churchyard Bob, during a break from washing-up at a fund raising coffee morning for the MRDC, December 2018. The first time I rang inside to Grandsire – the practice before lockdown. I took the 3. The band were mostly older gentlemen, experienced enough to ring round my meanderings. The first time I rang on 12 bells was at The Minster,Great Yarmouth – for once I had to go heavier to stay in place and the first time I grabbed a tower without the support of a teacher was in April 2019, St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh – I like to think big. The first time our new band rang without an experienced ringer to help out was memorably on Christmas Day 2018. The first time I executed a bob (the ringingroom and not so long ago). The first time I called a simple touch (also the ringing room and not so long ago). All these firsts are stored away, and each of them, at the time, felt like “someone else’s Bristol”.
So I second that lovely sentiment. Your Bristol may be my rounds. We must never forget that everyone has something to offer and what may seem like a modest achievement to others, for some of us is actually a milestone. Let’s be kind to each other and give each other the time and space to ease back into ringing at our own paces and at our own levels. I may never ring Bristol in real life, but I will feel the same sense of satisfaction by learning to ring something much more modest.