Big and small matters

Anyone who has been following this blog will have some idea of how enthusiastic I am about handbells. They are the reason that I still ring. Tower bells I can take or leave (IMHO many are best left). I enjoy the camaraderie, the locations, the tradition and understand the service that we provide, but I do not always much enjoy the act of ringing. Occasionally, I am in the zone, the band members are all experienced enough to support me and it feels  truly wonderful, but most of the time I am quite pleased when it stops because  I am either scared, frustrated  or disappointed in my own efforts.  Although I know what I should be doing, I do not seem able to do it.

Handbells are entirely different. Of course I can get frustrated, but I am never scared  or disappointed because whatever happens, however soon the touch collapses, I always believe that the next try I will be better. I keep moving forward and learning, Sometimes I misunderstand, sometimes progress is slow, sometimes I am over-ambitious, but always I can see the path that needs to be followed. If I put in the effort, I can achieve, whereas however much work I put into tower bells, I seem to be stuck and cannot see how it will ever be easier. What others seem to do with little effort, has me floundering. If I was told that I would never be allowed to ring tower bells again I would not be horribly upset, but if the same ban was imposed on handbells, I would be gutted. 

Therefore, I am always pleased to introduce others to my passion because I wish everyone could see what I see in little bells. Also I need others to join in because we handbell  enthusiasts are few and far between. We need more converts.

Thus on Monday, when certain band members preferred to attend a local football match rather than ringing practice (in their defence it was a Bank Holiday so different rules applied), there were only 3 of us available to ring. 3 ringers is OK if you have only 3 bells, but we have 6 so I invited the other 2 to come round to tea and ring 6 bells in the comfort of my home, where the heating is efficient and the bathroom facilities excellent. Obviously, the bells would be somewhat smaller than they are used to but we could have fun.

They agreed to come for an hour of plain hunting. Well over an hour later we were at the “just one more go and then we will stop” stage. Those who love handbells will recognise the scenario. You are working on something, you know that you can achieve it if only one more try is allowed, and then another, and another until it is indecently late and you realise that dinner will not be produced at the normal time because you have wasted an entire afternoon mucking about. Except you have not been “mucking about”. You have been inching your way to an understanding of whatever it is that you are attempting to learn.  You stop, you start, you discuss, you start again, you laugh, you dance  and high five your success, you congratulate each other, you try to repeat the success and something different goes wrong. You start again. And so it continues – this groping and refining and encouraging each other. Tower bells rarely feel like that to me. You do not worry away at the same touch for an hour or more until it is grasped. There are usually others waiting to try something else; even when it is a targeted practice people are at different stages.

 I think perhaps this is a big reason why I prefer the little bells. There is the opportunity to try, try and try again which seems not to happen with big bells.  If there are more people than required for handbells, then you can set another band going, or try some Royal or even Maximus if you are feeling very silly. The opportunities to practise are not limited to the particular tower, the number and weight of the bells (I might be happy to bong behind in a tower for triples or even caters but not on something that weighs that much), the ease of the handling or any physical constraints. You do not require ropesight other than an ability to watch for the treble and even then some helpful person can mutter “treble leading/ treble in 4th place” or whatever is required for a rule to be followed.

We enjoyed a very convivial afternoon and by the end  of our session there were 2 more ringers capable of ringing plain hunt coursing pairs and opposites patterns.  I hope they come back another day to crack the 2-3/4-5 combo and then Plain Bob’s your uncle.

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