Make mine a small one, please

A tower practice, 5 ringers, 45 minutes and I was in charge.

Not wanting to do anything so dangerous as actually ring some real bells, it was time to delve into the box and see what could be achieved with one diminutive bell each.  People used to do it all the time, but it has fallen out of favour. It seems that modern ringers are adrenaline junkies who are attracted to the physicality of the tower bells and fail to see the charms of the delicate weave of patterns that are methods. Yet some of us are more excited by the mathematical possibilities of how to combine 6 separate sounds in such a way that there is no hesitation, no deviation and no repetition. We thrill to something other than ruddy great things swinging on bits of string. The band would have to humour me and put up with what was being offered. We would learn to plain hunt – all of us together, not one or two at a time, carefully separated by experienced ringers to provide some stability, as is our usual habit.

At first it was tricky. People had to learn to ring the handbell – up and down for handstroke and backstroke.  Nice relaxed movements and tip at the end.  I am the most unlikely person to teach such a thing, but I was all they had and it was more a matter of “do what I say, not what I do”.  I know the theory well enough.

That hurdle overcome we started to hunt.  Each sat under the big bell that they were pretending to be.  I sat under the 1 and the 2.  On a bucket.  I am not sure why I ended up on an upturned bucket whilst everyone else had a comfy chair, but sometimes you have to suffer for your art.  It took a few attempts and much laughter, primarily because one person (who shall remain nameless) was “having problems”.  Each time it started well enough, but despite ringing every row, he got further and further behind.  Eventually we traced the problem to the fact that he was only moving position at handstroke. He had my sympathy. The first time I ever attempted to plain hunt on tower bells, I also only changed at handstroke. I did not know that you were “allowed” to change at backstroke and had no idea how to to so. He thought I was being funny when I said that we changed every stroke. We don’t normally do anything so ambitious.  We like to settle into any change before attempting another one.  In a perfect world we would only ever change on a handstroke and we usually welcome a few whole pulls while we think about what to do next.

Eventually, after much merriment by 4 of us and a degree of puzzlement by the fifth, we made it.  Plain hunt on 6 by an all-Reedham band.  A first , but not one likely  to make it on to BellBoard.

I think that it was a useful exercise and if we could replicate that on the big bells we would be right chuffed, even if we only ever changed at handstroke.

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