Traditionally, St Giles church in Oxford is open during the St Giles Fair in early September. It provides a quiet place where people may take refuge from the noise and crowds of the fairground outside. The church has laid on tea and cakes for their visitors and this year these were expertly provided and served by ladies from the WI.
John Pusey likes to take the opportunity to invite visitors to the church to try ringing handbells with him, hoping that he may draw in some new learners for his team. And he likes to ring a quarter on handbells before the evening service. This year John was away on holiday so he asked me to organise it.
I had been away myself and was feeling very guilty that so far I had not organised anything for the young ringers. John’s request triggered the idea of taking the young ringers to St Giles – they would love being so close to the Fair. And ringing couldn’t possibly be accused of disturbing the neighbourhood whilst there was so much noise from the Fair!
We met at 2 pm with eight young ringers and nine adults. (Sadly some of our usual young ringers had already started school that day). The standard of ringing was quite high, including some rounds and call changes, plain hunt on seven, plain bob triples and Cambridge Surprise Major.
An excellent tea was provided by the ladies of the WI. I had prepared a quiz of questions about the church, but there really wasn’t time to do it justice. But two of the boys had a go at it. They recognised the painting of Didcot Power Station. And the animal in the stained glass window of St Giles was identified as a sheep. I confess I wasn’t sure if it was a sheep or a goat when I looked. I found out later it was supposed to be a hind!
With John’s permission, we used the twelve handbells from the tower, firstly to demonstrate how change ringing works by walking through plain hunt on eight, then to do it again by lapping, involving some of the young ringers. And then we rang some simple tunes on the handbells.
All too soon, it was 4 pm and we said goodbye to the young people. But in honour of John’s tradition four of us stayed on and rang a quarter peal of Plain Bob Major on the handbells before the evening service.
The next outing will be in the October half term holiday. Venue and date yet to be decided!