Ring dem bells …

This is how it happens! Watch and listen! North Creake new bells

I learnt to ring bells as a teenager in the 1950’s (but hey, that’s ages ago), and then more or less forgot about it for 60 years. In 2014 I was travelling with my daughter on her first visit to England (there now, that’s set you thinking, hasn’t it?) and we happened to be in Worcester. As we walked up Friar Street into New Street, making for the station to continue our journey westwards towards Malvern and Hereford, the sound of bells insinuated itself above the sounds of town life and traffic. Lots of bells! We turned towards the source – Old St. Martin in the Cornmarket: could we go in? Opened the door to the ringing chamber – warning fingers, but smiling – we stood entranced, watching 10 ringers concentrating on their work. I was hooked again.

There’s nothing like it in Finland. Nowadays I visit England more often. Thanks to the great friendliness of the local ringers, I have now been accepted as a newoldlearner at a Dorset tower. Coming back to ringing was like getting on a bike again after a long time: wobbly at first, but little by little regaining confidence. As a boy, I never got as far as real change ringing, but now I am truly engrossed in methods: course bell, after bell, coursing order, bobs and singles, as well as ringing up and down – all the fascinating intricacies of the permutations of six (or eight, or …) bells.

Physically, it demands accurate control of one’s muscles (which can only come with regular practice) rather than strength. But the mental processes! To remember several important (changing) sequences simultaneously in real-time and to follow what is going on around one, both visibly and audibly, the ropes falling and rising: it’s almost too much. Perhaps it would be easier for a younger person. Waking in the small hours to a problem: “Bob at Home, run in to lead, after bell has changed, who is it now? Ah, yes, it’s the bob bell. New coursing order – got it! But what was my next work now? ..”. Put the light on, make a cup of tea, check the facts, write out the changes on squared paper (thank you, W.H. Smith!), back to bed …

When will I ever learn?

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