How to successfully ring a handbell quarter peal when, on paper, it looks most unlikely

Success when ringing is not just about each person’s ability to follow a pattern in a particular order. Like most things involving humans, there are emotional factors that come in to play. We are not machines and it would be very dull if we acted like machines.

  • Relax.  Above all, you must be able to relax with your band.   No one shouty or hyper-critical.  No one who rolls their eyes or tuts. No one who takes up too much space or for whom the scoring is too important. I need a group of people who approach the attempt in the same manner as I do – begin at the beginning and keep going for as long as we can all manage. A yoga class might help.
  • Enjoy the experience. Relish the journey and let the destination take care of itself. If things collapse, then we are not yet ready. One day we may be. Don’t put pressure on yourself or anyone else. It is self-defeating.
  • Laugh. There will be funny moments – odd noises off, the occasional biblical thunderstorm, perhaps a constipated chicken.  Nothing is so important that one cannot giggle when the dog appears to be pleasuring himself behind your chair.
  • Be kind to each other. There will inevitably be a squeaky wheel – someone with less confidence/less experience/having a bad day.  There but for the grace of God go any of us. Often, but not always, I have been the squeaky wheel. If we all make allowances, support and encourage then we have more chance of success.
  • Be kind to yourself. Admit your errors and then let go of them. If you make a mistake and recover then do not dwell. You may have done something idiotic and put the whole enterprise in peril, but the band survived and worrying about it for the next 25 minutes is not going to make it better. Just try not to do it again.
  • Focus.  Oh dear – my nemesis.  My mind tends to wander even when I am thinking very hard. You must bring it sternly back to the task in hand and abandon inappropriate musings.
  • Learn the line and then learn it again.  You must be solid else when someone else wobbles, you will wobble along with them.  Try to be the corner stone that others can rely on. When ringing the trebles I think of myself as a lighthouse, sending out a regular signal that protects the band.  If I flash my light at the wrong time, someone could crash on the rocks and sink. Some ringers avoid ringing the trebles for this reason.  I love them.
  • Look the part. Look confident even if you are quaking inside.  It helps anyone who is thinking “We can’t do this…”  If they see someone else similarly afflicted, then it may magnify their own lack of confidence.
  • Try to be helpful. The band is one instrument so if another ringer is struggling through a patch, slow down, leave them a little space, tip them the nod. Do what you can to keep it going and usually they can slot back in. Do not stick doggedly to the pace when to do so will overload another ringer. Better a slower rhythm for a time, than a lurching one which helps no-one.
  • Keep  going. A lesson learnt through experience.  DO NOT STOP unless you are told to stop.  If you are doing the telling, then do not be too quick to admit defeat because, especially if the others are more experienced than you, they can find a way back to solid ground remarkably quickly, even though all looks hopeless to you.
  • Be brave. If you are absolutely sure that you are correct then have the courage to stick to your guns, even if the person who disagrees with you has decades more experience.  Even excellent ringers make mistakes sometimes. Nb: If you are the least bit unsure, then defer to their greater knowledge else you will look arrogant.
  • Take risks.  If you score every time then you are not really challenging yourself, are you?
  • Above all, it is meant to be enjoyable. No-one is making you do it.  If it is not fun, then find someone else to ring with who knows how to savour the experience.

This probably also applies to tower quarters. I wouldn’t know.

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