The Tower Handbook

12.2 Standing behind [149]

a: Where is the best place to stand?

It depends on the space available, on the rope circle, and on how much taller you are than the ringer with whom you are standing. Don't get so close that you obstruct his or her natural movements or view of the other ropes. Stand so you can see all the ropes (including the one you are standing by). If possible stand so you can see part of the ringer's face, to be able to pick up clues like worried expressions, or eyes going in strange directions. The best place is to the side, and slightly behind. If you have a choice, choose the side that gives you the best view of the rope circle, or choose the side where you will feel most comfortable if you need to point.

b: Where should I stand for a learner's first attempt at rounds?

It depends. If your learner first rings rounds with a simulator during bell handling sessions (see section 11.5c) you will naturally stand in front where you can give advice. You may need to assist with the bell, but it is better not to, apart from safety, since at this stage it is less disruptive to change the speed of the simulator to fit your learner's natural speed. When your learner subsequently rings rounds with other ringers, it will be a smaller step, needing less support. You want him or her to look at the other ropes, not at you, so use the standard position. See section 12.2a.

If the learner's first experience of rounds is with other ringers, it will be a bigger step. You may need to be in front for confidence and in case you need to give assistance. But if you can use the standard position, it is less distracting. You may also need to intervene if the timing gets badly out, since you cannot easily stop and start a band of ringers to suit an erratic learner.

c: Should I say anything before ringing starts?

Find out what sort of help the ringer you are minding would like. He or she may be uncertain and want prompting, for example at calls, or may prefer to try to get through the touch unaided but with you as a safety net in case of trouble. It is important to find out, so you can give (or not give) the right sort of advice during the ringing.

You could break the ice with something like 'is there anything you are unsure about?' A shy ringer at this point might ask for a little last minute reminder. Alternatively, with someone who might feel belittled at having a minder provided, you could perhaps say 'you aren't going to need any help are you?' Use your judgement to ensure that the person you are standing by begins the touch in a relaxed and confident state of mind.

d: What should I look at while standing behind?

To be a real help you need to know exactly what is happening when anything goes wrong. That means being aware of the movement of all the bells, keeping a mental picture of how 'your' bell should fit in with them and knowing whether or not it is. Keep a wide view as if ringing yourself, but also to take in the position of 'your' rope (otherwise you won't know what it is doing since you are not holding it). If 'your' bell gets out of place, you must keep in your mind a picture of where it should be, as well as seeing where it is [150]. If you lose track, you are not likely to be able to help very much. Watch whether your protégé tends to over or under react. If things start going wrong, and you have to give advice, you need to gauge how much urgency to put into your voice to get the desired result.

e: What should I say?

You are there to provide missing information or to help correct mistakes, so what you need to say depends on what has gone wrong and why. Sometimes, but by no means always, saying which bell to follow will be the most useful. But pointing is better since it is visual and less likely to disrupt place counting. If the problem is a missed dodge, saying so is most useful since the immediate priority is to correct the over shoot, and then to get back on the blue line. If the problem is caused by handling, eg 'ploughing the leads' [151] then the first priority is to say 'hold up' (now) to compensate. The next would be to advise to 'hold up the handstroke leads' (for future leads), and (if the problem persists) you could pre-emptively warn to 'put the brakes on' when passing down through 2nds place.

f: What if it has no effect?

Don't fall into the trap of just repeating the same thing louder. It doesn't work when talking to foreigners and it is unlikely to work with a ringer who did not understand what you said the first time. There are two cases:

g: How much should I say?

Knowing how much to say is one of the most difficult aspects of standing behind. It is tempting to say too much.

If you judge that information is needed to avoid further error or de-stabilisation then give it. Otherwise refrain. Especially resist the temptation to keep on pouring out information once you have started.

You may have to continue to give advice after a trip if the person you are helping 'falls apart'. But try to wean him off your help as soon as possible to avoid creating dependence.

Of course sometimes you will say too much (we are all human) but if you are aware of the danger it should not happen very often.

h: When should I say it?

There is nothing worse than being told what to do when it is too late to do it. This is a common problem with minders and it causes a lot of trouble for the hapless ringers on the receiving end. Try to avoid this trap by thinking ahead. Some advice is less time critical than other. If the bell is too low, saying 'higher' is likely to be good for a few blows, whereas saying which bell to follow becomes stale within half a blow. Of course explanatory information (like 'you should have dodged there') can help to reorient your protégé's thinking, even after the event, whereas instructional information (like 'hold up' or 'dodge with Fred') is positively damaging a blow late.

i: How should I say it?

Some minders speak softly, others bark. Which is best? Neither. Some people don't respond unless you are very emphatic while others are prone to over correct as soon as you open your mouth. Try to work out which sort you are standing next to and adapt your style accordingly. Ideally you would only make quiet suggestions so as not to disrupt your protégé's concentration. But if he or she is still heading rapidly in the wrong direction after your quiet suggestion, you have to get the message through somehow. That may mean giving a command quite sharply, perhaps repeated. Nothing is learnt when someone is allowed to get hopelessly lost.

j: Should I point?

Yes, providing it helps and does not get in the way. Pointing is the most immediate way of directing the ringer's attention in a particular direction, and it cuts down on the amount of speech. It is therefore most appropriate when it is ropesight that has failed. Pointing can be used in combination, eg just say 'dodge' and point at the bell being dodged with.

k: Are there times when I should hold back?

When standing with someone, be a safety net, not a crutch. Taking advice from you needs concentration and distracts from the aim of becoming self reliant. Let people correct their own errors if they can. Only jump in if you think uncorrected errors will lead to a mix up. Otherwise, bite your tongue. You may find this holding back takes more effort than ringing the bell!

Saying too much is the biggest danger for most of us. However, there are some occasions when the person you are standing with loses confidence and then you will need to give more active support. But try to back off again if you can when things have settled down. If panic sets in, you may have no choice but to talk him or her through it. But in such circumstances it is often better to catch the conductor's eye and hope he will call the touch round.

l: Should I comment on handling and striking?

Yes, selectively. In the early stages of method ringing, and certainly at the rounds stage, most of the problems ringers have are to do with handling in one way or another. So if your advice is going to help with the real problems, it must include handling advice. Some of this is best kept for after the touch, but some is only really useful at the time. Perhaps the most common reminders needed while ringing relate to rope length, reaching up, timing of the sally catch, over pulling and over correction.

Later on, when the main focus is on method ringing, you should need to comment less on handling (if you gave it attention earlier), but handling problems may still hinder progress. Use your judgement whether advice will make a significant improvement to the prospects for the rest of the touch. If the rope is too short causing the bell to drop continually then the touch will not fare well unless something is done. Saying 'let out a couple of inches of rope' should fix the problem fairly quickly. On the other hand, messy ringing with a flying rope needs attention, but is unlikely to be solved during the touch.

m: Should I say anything afterwards?

Yes. It would be inconsiderate to walk away without saying anything. With luck you can say 'Well done'. If there were problems, you could say 'Was there anything you didn't see?' or 'How did you think that went?'

After hearing (and answering) his or her concerns, offer any comments about consistent problems you have noticed. For example, 'You seemed to have problems with all your down dodges. Do you know the rule for working out which strokes of a dodge should be over and under?' (see section 13.8f) or 'You seem to work very hard. Try to relax a little and it will get easier'.

You can try to get a point over in a light hearted way. For example, many ringers over-pull. Asking 'Who was on the other end of the rope pulling so hard and making it difficult for you?' will often bring a telling smile to the face.

If the touch was a real disaster, you can at least break the tension with something like 'Don't worry, even the best of us have off days. Better luck next time.' On some occasions it may be more appropriate to say something like 'You didn't do badly considering what the others were doing round you'.

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