Do you remember the first time you tied your own shoe laces unaided? The first time you rode a bicycle without a steadying hand? The first time you had a visit from the tooth fairy? The first time you held a girl's hand? The first time you shaved PROPER? (The last two assuming you are of the male gender!) The list is endless….
As you grow older, you tend to reminisce regularly. For this article I thought it a good opportunity to review those 'FIRSTS' of my bell ringing career.
CHIMING: I was a ten year old. The thrill of being handed a bell rope to make the bell dong - I couldn't run home fast enough to tell my parents.
RINGING: my tutor (Roger Kinchin - no relative) had rung the bell up. No noise - he'd tied the clapper. He handed me a loose piece of noosed rope (which I still possess) and this was to be my first experience of learning to ring. For backstroke I stood on a box.
ON MY OWN: following a short probationary period I was to ring the second at St Lawrence on my own! It was the five-minute Parson's bell for the 11.00am Service. “I want you to stand the bell at hand and backstroke every time”, said Roger. “You control the bell, don't let the bell control you.”
CALL CHANGES: the five-minute Service bell brought just reward for my venture into call changes - holding the bell to maintain the right position at each call. IF you did happen to make a mistake, Roger visibly grimaced and uttered something in a very discerning tone!
CHANGE RINGING: I was introduced to change ringing, naturally on the treble - and at Mickleton it was always Grandsire Doubles (At Ebrington it was just 'method', which I found out later was Grandsire Doubles! Ed) Then came the bewilderment - 3rd's on the front and as you pass the treble, pass the next and dodge with the next.
BOBS & SINGLES: it took a time get to grips with these calls (always a slow learner….!). From that day to this, I prefer to learn from the practical side - say no more.
NEW YEAR's EVE: I cannot ever recall seeing a New Year in as a young boy. Tonight, I had joined a team of veteran's - to make up the eight, I think. Plain course of Grandsire commenced - I was on the second. Within a couple of minutes I shouted, “Roger, I'm lost.” “Don't worry , Jack,”, shouted his brother ringing the seventh. “I've been lost since we started!” At the time, I hadn't realised they's all been on the pop beforehand!
QUARTER PEAL: my first quarter peal was naturally at St Lawrence, Mickleton. I don't recall much about it except for a dry mouth and knocking knees. The records show it was a successful attempt.
PEAL: St Lawrence was my first peal attempt, and good it was. By this time I had become a so-called accomplished village ringer! This 'first' was so important to me, as I rang the bell my late father had rung in a peal at St Lawrence.
BROKEN ROPE: during 60-plus years ringing, I've had two ropes break on me. The first was 'startling'!
BROKEN STAY: I've never broken a stay - whoops, that's tempting providence! There's always a 'first' time.
RINGING ASSOCIATION MEETING: my first ringing association meeting was at Salford Priors - probably a Worcs & Dists Southern Branch meeting. Roger was to take me on the back of his BSA Bantam (green tank) motor bike. It was a bitterly cold day with snow falling furiously. By the time we reached Pebworth Halt, we resembled snowmen - and totally unsuitably clad. However, we made it there and back - despite no rear footrests - and I vaguely remember ringing the treble twice to a Triples method.
FIRING: Mickleton has maintained the FIRING tradition for weddings (it has been known on practice nights, too!). My first experience of this sent shivers down my back and I'm still affected by this 'Salute to the Bride and Groom' as they leave the Church.
HALF-MUFFLED: half-muffled ringing first came to me at Mickleton for a Remembrance Service. I do enjoy the echo ringing despite its sad association (open for me, please!).
Have these recollections given you food for thought?
The Mickleton Scribe
(Wow, they certainly have for me. I can recall many of your 'first' experiences as they happened to me just a little way up the hill from Mickleton. Nice to have them aired, John. Ed)
It's odd how some specific dates stick in one's memory - I shall always remember 19th March 2015.
I was watching a live TV debate from the Houses of Parliament on the previous day's budget (Heaven knows why….!). MPs from all parties consistently referred to percentages.
I hate percentages. I suppose they are important to emphasise certain points but I prefer factual figures. (I sold two oranges in February and three in March - a 50% increase month on month!)
However, when perusing the recently published Annual Report of the Gloucester & Bristol Diocesan Association (a booklet that contains various facts and figures about the towers within its area) I actually came upon one certain and startling set of - yes- percentages!
There are twelve Branches in the G&B (Mickleton is in the most northerly, appropriately called the North Cotswolds Branch). Each on the Branches had figures appropriate to the classes of membership: Junior, Senior & Retired.
In recent years I've bewailed the lack of young ringers at St Lawrence - you're probably fed up to the teeth with it. Not only Mickleton suffers lack of youngsters. The whole of the North Cotswold Branch suffers this shameful 0%. Ideally I want to recruit more young people to the Art (yes it is an art, despite the ringing monks, etc). One, two, three, OR MORE.
To hell with percentages.
The Mickleton Scribe
I imagine the majority of towers across the length and breadth of the country are crying out for new ringers - as indeed are most in the Guild's area. How do we recruit new members, particularly the younger generation? It shouldn't be too difficult surely - my newspaper today talks of the need for tackling obesity, and young people are bored!
Well, I thought I'd exhausted all attempts in my recruitment efforts in the Mickleton area. But NO! I've had an inspiration - something that has occurred to me on this cold, wet, windy day when I've nothing better to do.
What is this ingenious idea and why hasn't someone come up with it before? Is it because we've lived with the same old traditional ways for generations past? Is it because we're all reluctant to change?
Well, money influences - we've got to become 'professional'. Here is THE PLAN:-
The Four Shires area would be split into the Worcs/Warks/Glos/Oxon areas. We should run a six-bell competition on the basis, for example, of the football league. Each area representative (elected) would encourage as many towers as possible to participate. Each area would have their own league with each team playing (sorry, 'competing') against each other on a home and away basis. A neutral judge would be appointed for each league, scoring exactly as Guild competitions. The frequency of these competitions would depend on the number of teams entered in each area.
When each team has played each other, the Guild President will publish the final league tables. The top team from each area will then participate in the 'finals' league, viz, Worcs v Warks, Worcs v Glos, Worcs v Oxon, Warks v Glos, Warks v Oxon, Glos v Oxon. All will take place in a neutral tower, with the same judging principles being employed. Obviously the team with the most points is the winner.
However, it doesn't stop here! We could have a Cup Knockout Competition - again run on the basis of the present FA & League Cup Competitions, ie all teams get put in the hat for each round. And, we could have an under-18 competition (assuming our drive for new recruits is still working!!!). And, what about giving all paid-up members the opportunity of voting for 'Ringer of the Year'?
Ah! I hear you asking - 'Where does all the professionalism come in?' Simple. Sponsorship! We convince potential sponsors of unlimited publicity. Regional and local press, country magazines, local radio, Guild newsletters, parish magazines …. And we could personally promote and 'sell the story' via T-shirts and sweater logos. Our respective clergy could read out the results from the pulpit every Sunday!
So, we've convinced the sponsors. How are we to utilise the monies and entice recruits? We give monetary prizes for each competition - that's the PROFESSIONALISM:
Winning League Team £120
Winning Cup Team £150
New Under-18 Team £120
Ringer of the Year £75
Wow! I can see the new recruits queuing up to join us - young and old! Obviously certain rules would have to be made; for example, how many 'loan' ringers would be permitted per team; and what about transfers half-way through the season? (Now that could lead to trophy-hunting - and we wouldn't want that, would we?!!)
The Mickleton Scribe
PS: as the headline suggests, it's pure DAY DREAMING!
(Is it really just Day Dreaming? This is true, 'outside the box' thinking. It might actually work - and give ringing a well-needed boost. Does anybody fancy taking on the organisation of this, even for a trial run? The results might be very surprising. Ed)