I ring with a handbell group called the Clanging Belles. We Belles have a recurring debate. The other three are all Proper Peal Ringers. They have been ringing methods in towers since they were possibly in short socks. They merrily muck around on 4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12 bells. They dodge, double dodge, make places, hunt, are guided by the treble and generally know what they are doing. Whereas I don’t. They claim that it gives them little advantage when it comes to handbells because “it is different”. And I agree, it is different. I can no more ring Plain Bob Minor in the tower than I can ring Bristol, because I cannot control the bell sufficiently and fit into the pattern, but in theory I know how to. I can stab with my finger on the computer quite satisfactorily. When I ring something straightforward, I no longer work from a list of carefully and laboriously columns of pairs of telephone numbers. I hunt and then dodge, or dodge and then hunt, or make seconds if I am called to. I don’t need to know my next position because it will become clear. Furthermore, the possible pairs in any particularly lead are engraved somewhere that I can access easily. I do not follow a rigidly remembered line, rather I vaguely know the direction of travel, one bell follows the place notation if it can, and the other fits in. It is like learning to read – only certain letters can be combined to make a word – no word in the English language begins zp or rg, so I don’t even have to consider those combinations.
But, when they argue that it is just as hard for them to learn a new method on handbells than it is for me, I must disagree. I have no bare bones or circle of work to hang my bells on. Say “Double Norwich” and I do not see anything at all, except perhaps a Norwich skyline after too many glasses of white burgundy. There is no handy blue line for reference, no pattern, no inkling of what sort of method Double Norwich is. Does the treble bob or hunt? Is there a discernible relationship to any method that I might already know something about? Is it Norwich backwards and forwards with a twiddle at the half lead? Do certain familiar combinations of dance steps crop up? The other Belles know, I don’t. Therefore, it must be more challenging for me, because before I can learn Double Norwich on handbells, I have to learn it on one bell. Without a line, how can I hope to weave two lines together?
And that is why I selfishly demand the trebles at the start, because I am learning a new method and then doubling up. To go straight to two bells when I don’t know the path for one would be too much. I have realised that, by being permitted to ring the trebles in a method, I am effectively learning the method for one bell and letting the other one do whatever it has to do. I mistakenly thought I was learning the handbell pattern, until I actually tried to learn the pairs simultaneously for something I knew nothing of, and came to the conclusion that it really was a very difficult task indeed. Once I can manage the trebles, then is the time to try for a different pair, but not before. Overloading the brain never gets you anywhere very fast.
The others will still disagree with me, but then they have no idea just what a blank sheet my ringing brain is and the wealth of knowledge that they are not even aware that they have mastered.