It was Christmas Eve 2017 and I was walking through the Cathedral grounds in Carlisle. The bells were sounding out joyfully. It reminded me of my childhood and my two older brothers ringing at Christmas services. I was ‘the little girl’ and not allowed to learn to ring. I could join the choir. I related this charming memory to my strapping son, who replied “You’ve told me this before Mum. I don’t know why you don’t learn to ring now!”. At that very moment we passed a sign inviting people to Learn to Ring at the Cathedral. Carpe diem, or maybe it was just time to seize the rope. My first visit to the ringing room began by climbing up a narrow spiral staircase – goodness that was a long way…..and only got me to the Clerestory! Now this was really breathtaking – you could almost touch the immaculate ceiling; and the view of the aisle and organ below left you giddy. The next staircase up was even narrower. How tall is this building?
I was greeted in the ringing room by a sea of smiling faces, which was a relief as I was quite apprehensive about what ‘Cathedral Ringers’ would be like. I watched as the practice progressed and it all looked quite straightforward. Actually it looked easy. So I was quite surprised to be introduced to my one-to-one mentor whowould initially train me. Really? How difficult could it be – it’s only pulling a rope? Many, many hours of patience on the part of John Proudfoot saw me start to get to grips with handling a rope and exercising some control over my wayward bell. Sometimes progress would be made and the pleasure was immense; but oftentimes this would be followed by silly rookie mistakes. The different bells were taking on personalities –some I liked and some were to be avoided.The first time I rang with others was an eye-opener. They couldn’t keep time with me! There is no doubt that bell ringing is much easier if you ring on your own. Yes it’s boring for the ringer and the listener; but you don’t have to count, keep your place, watch the ropes, listen for the called change or remember the method. Oh, actually they are also all the things that make it fun. Armistice Day arrived and 24 ringers gathered at the Cathedral to play our part in paying tribute to those who served in the First World War. As I started to ring, my legs began to shake; I so wanted to do this properly as it was such an important occasion. I concentrated hard and simultaneously tried to relax –arghhh; “make the most of being part of this” and keep counting! What an amazing feeling to be part of this incredible group of people, who have helped me get to this point. So a year has passed now. I feel privileged to be part of the group who regularly ring at Sunday morning services on 12 bells; and enjoy the camaraderie of coffee afterwards in a local café. I feel confident with Called Changes and I am starting to get to grips with Plain Hunting.
Bell ringing has infiltrated into my life and takenover a large chunk of it; practices, training days, service ringing, going through methods in my mind as I drive. Whatever did I do with my time before?As with all learners, I could not have achieved all this without innumerable hours of effort from my Mentor and other Cathedral teachers, who share their time, knowledge and passion. Thank you –you’ve got me hooked.My son is coming home this weekend. Guess what I am going to make him do on Sunday morning?
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 edition of Tower Talk magazine – a free quarterly newsletter for new ringers, featuring articles by other new ringers. If you’d like to sign up to receive copies direct to your inbox, please fill out the form here