This week it was back to the simulator. The CCCBR has issued guidance which acknowledges the importance of bellringing training centres, especially for less experienced ringers who are in danger of losing their hard won skills and for younger ringers who need to get started. The guidance allows those in Tier 1 areas to reopen their doors for some socially distanced, sanitised and masked ringing. At last, the opportunity to ring something approaching a real bell to some methods.
A couple of us, together with the manager at the MRDC had a try. What glitches might there be and how best to mitigate them? For the princely sum of £5 we had a sally in our hands, a perfect virtual band at our disposal and something approaching a bell on the end of the rope, rather than a button to push. Ringing up and down proved easy, after all, I first learnt to ring up and down on these bells. You can’t go wrong, although beware of thinking that this skill can be smoothly transferred to the tower without a few hiccups along the way. In the tower, you can and may go wrong
And then to the real lesson – can I still follow a pattern, changing speed as required and control a bell with enough finesse to fit in with a band? My first foray was rounds. No problem, as long as I don’t lead. Leading requires pulling off and then fiddling with the keyboard to press go with one hand whilst ringing with the other. One handed ringing is not advised on the first outing and social distancing means that you cannot ask a kind person to set you off. Covering also came back almost immediately, although the screen is small, my eyesight is poor, and I did try and cover to Bob Minor by mistake and then wondered why my lovely rounds descended into chaos so quickly. Not the first time that I have made this particular mistake, and probably not the last, but once I had sorted myself out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my ear has improved enormously and as long as I do not look at the screen, I can stay in the correct place quite nicely. If I do wander marginally, all those hours of playing in the virtual world means that I am now aware of whether I am too slow or too fast. Before I just knew I was wrong, but now I know what kind of wrong, so that is progress.
I then decided to plain hunt to a method, but my fiddlings with the settings to allow a decent number of rounds to settle in and my preferred ringing options (red, white and green sallies in a circle, please), must have woken some gremlin in the computer from his 7 month slumbers. It immediately went into a sulk and refused to cooperate – the band rang perfectly, but sadly, I was not in their number. My rope went up and down, but did not register. More fiddling, and then the band rang silently – I like to think that I was spot on throughout, but I doubt it. Some rebooting was required.
All in all, a good way to spend an hour. I may be a few quid lighter and have the beginnings of a blister, but in return I have the reassurance that I am in about the same position as I was back in March. My ear is undoubtedly improved, although my ability to manage the technology is not.
Nice hand sanitiser too – it smelt of leather and sandalwood. If you want a similar session get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to make a booking. I think that learners, like me, will find it boosts their confidence enormously. There is even a splendid new exhibition on the history of change ringing to enjoy and learn from, all at no extra charge.