I learned to ring when I was eleven years old. Taught by my father at towers that jogged along quite nicely but weren’t particularly high fliers when it came to method ringing and conducting teaching. By the time I was eighteen and left home I could ring Plain Bob Double, Minor, Triples and Major, and Grandsire Doubles and Triples, and the occasional other Doubles/Minor method that we might have learned for a specific occasions such as All Saints Place Doubles for All Saints Day, at All Saints Church. It wasn’t until I left home that I started to venture into other methods like St Clements College Bob Minor, and after a couple of years away started to learn Cambridge Surprise Minor. I may have gone via Kent and Oxford Treble Bob, I can’t remember.
There was never any encouragement to learn how to conduct things. That’s not a gripe, that’s just the way it was at the towers I rang at. I did call Call Changes, but it was never discussed, supported or even suggested that I learn to call or conduct methods.
When I returned back to my home county, I took up ringing at some different towers and my Minor repertoire extended a little bit with St Simon’s, St Martin’s and others. Again, I was never invited to conduct, and it didn’t occur to me to pursue it as there were already those in the tower more experienced who just did it.
Then I met C and my method ringing sky rocketed. I recall one #bellringing holiday where he wrote the line for Stedman Doubles and Triples out on a napkin over lunch during the first day, then for the rest of the tour I rang Stedman at every tower, every day and by the end of the week was ringing touches of it as if I had known it for years. My methods started expanding into Surprise Minor, Major and now Royal and Maximus.
At some point I did learn how to call touches of Plain Bob Doubles. As most people probably do, I started with myself unaffected regardless of what bell I was ringing, then figured out the Make In Out method. I think this was around the time I was ringing St Simon’s et al. I did get as far as calling a few quarter peals of Plain Bob Doubles. I may have even called Go and That’s All for some other methods, but very rarely.
I’ve not really been too worried about conducting as there has always been more experience people around to do that for me. I also feel that I could Call but not Conduct. Me calling a quarter peal of Plain Bob Double relies on everyone doing as instructed and staying in the right place. I wouldn’t be able to sort them out if it went wrong.
I guess with the passage of time, I have more awareness of some methods and although I still don’t ring or learn by place bells, I can see where some of the other bells are and can put people right based on seeing where the treble is or knowing what piece of work I’m doing and whether they should be with me or somewhere else in the change.
In recent years it has become much more noticeable about the lack of female conductors. A piece of research undertaken shared stories on women’s experiences of being encouraged, and learning to conduct. The Women in Ringing research (www.womeninringing.info) explored the gender balance within #bellringing and the barriers to progression and untapped potential which may impact the longer-term sustainability of #bellringing.
Anyway, we had a district meeting earlier this week so I went along to support it. It was a great evening with lots of laughter and learners trying new things. One lady had only practiced Plain Bob Doubles on the simulator, so had her first goes at ringing it with “real people” and did really well. Others were stretched and moved away for their usual bell, and everyone got a go with a strong band around them and someone standing with them if needed. It was a fun practice and the locals really appreciated the support and enjoyed themselves, throwing themselves into whatever they were ringing.
I was asked to call Go and That’s All a couple of times either to Plain Bob Doubles or Minor, and a to a touch of Plain Bob Doubles. When it came to trying a touch of Plain Bob Minor a band caught hold and the ringing master asked several others if they would like to call the touch. Everyone declined citing inexperience. C was sitting this one out and was on the bench behind me. So I volunteered to have a go and he could poke me in the leg when a call was due just to make sure I got it in the right place. I called the very simple touch where a Bob was called every time the bell I was ringing was doing its 5/6 up or 5/6 down dodges. Four calls in total. C did poke me in the leg at the appropriate times, but I was already there, called the Bob and even managed some semblance of being able to see where the Treble was at the time.
That is the first time I have EVER called a touch of Plain Bob Minor. EVER. And I have to say I was rather chuffed.
I would like to call more, and I need to do more homework around that I understand, but there are opportunities on a Sunday morning or a practice night where I could at least say Go and That’s All to plain courses of things.
From the success of last week’s virtual #bellringing session where we all got to have a go at saying Go and That’s All to plain courses of the new method we were learning, and the invigoration from calling my first touch of Plain Bob Minor this week, I might well push to call more, even if I can’t fully conduct things yet. I’ll need to read some more chapters of Calling It Round (https://callingitround.cccbr.org.uk) then just put myself out there.
One thought on “It’s only taken 40 years”
Yay, good for you. 👏 It’s just opportunity isn’t it? I’ve called quarters of Grandsire doubles, Stedman doubles and Kent Minor, but a long time ago and at a tower where everyone calling was supported and encouraged. But I was taught parrot fashion, rather than knowing what everyone is doing so can relate to your statement about being a caller not a conductor. When you spend all your time helping others to learn, you don’t get much chance to learn yourself. Let’s hope you get lots more opportunity 🔔
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