Back in pre COVID times I was commissioning a series of articles for our branch newsletter on learning to ring throughout the decades. The idea sprang from a chance conversation in the pub one night after practice. I can still see us all gathered around a table next to the open fire, thawing out and having the usual wandering discussion so familiar to anyone who goes to the pub after practice night. Wouldn’t it be interesting to compare the experience of learning to ring over the past century or so? At the table we had the 1950s, 60s and 70s covered and we knew of others to represent other decades. The one rule would be that you must have learnt as a child/teenager. How did the experiences differ? What path did your ringing career then take? Have there been huge gaps or have you continued to ring through school, college, relationships with non-ringers, children, jobs, house moves etc.
My three decades at the table all agreed to write something and perhaps even dig out an appropriate photograph, and then I set about filling in the missing years. The 1940s required a trawl of the older generation, one of whom came up trumps with his story of chiming for VE Day and then going on to learn to ring properly. My teacher filled in the late 70s, and the first part of the series was published in The Striking Example in early March, with later generations to follow. I was fascinated to learn how experiences had differed but also remained fundamentally the same through the first 40 years of the sample.
I had intended to complete the series in the Summer edition of the newsletter, but there was not much point in producing a summer newsletter, because not much was going on in the local ringing world. But come the autumn I felt that we needed some cheering up so planned a new edition. Where were my representative ringers? I knew that I had lined up the 80s to 2020, but could not remember who they were. I set about trying to work out who I know that falls in the correct age band and found a large and gaping hole. Where are the ringers, now aged late 30s to 50 who learnt as teenagers from mid 1980s onwards? I could cover 2000 onwards (people now aged 30 -10) fairly easily, but the others were hard to recall. The reason that they are hard to find is that there are not many of them that qualify and the few that there are, are very busy living hectic lives and have no time to write about how/why/where and with whom they learnt to ring.
Perhaps they will all eventually return to ringing, like some of the older cohort did, but for the moment I am left scratching my head wondering which particular arm to gently twist. If you are a member of the NDA, in your 40s and have been ringing for around 25 years, don’t be surprised if you hear from me soon. I only need 100-200 words and a photograph.