The Tower Handbook

3.3: Pride and standards

a: Need I come on time, if others are often late?

Yes! Setting a good example may change the attitude of your fellow ringers.

b: Can I skip ringing to watch a favourite TV programme?

I cannot believe we have asked this question! If you are a true and loyal ringer, nothing will induce you to miss any opportunity to ring! Even if you are a half hearted ringer, you should turn out to avoid letting down the rest of the band.

c: Can I try my bell on my own before starting to ring?

This depends on local lore. In some places it is absolutely forbidden. You should not need to do this unless there is some special problem. In your own tower, you should have a pretty good idea how long the different ropes are. You certainly should try to avoid testing rope length during service ringing. You may be permitted to try the bell on a practice night, but ask permission first.

d: If I get tired when ringing, can I stop when I feel like it?

No. Standing your bell unilaterally is discourteous to the rest of the band and the resulting confusion will not sound very good outside. If you are feeling unwell and think you might not last the duration of the touch, let the conductor know of your indisposition. If you can last a short while he or she may be able to call the bells round tidily, or at least call the bells round before standing them. Of course if you are on the point of falling over, then it is better to set your bell first rather than fall over and leave your rope flailing.

e: Does it matter what sort of noise we make when we ring?

Yes, it is very important. You are producing some powerful sound, which people outside cannot turn off. That sound should be fit for public consumption at all times. Service ringing should be the best you are capable of.

Please check your changes since mistakes cannot be rectified afterwards.

You can set a lower standard on practice night, providing you mix the good with the less good. After all, practice night is for practising, but you will not benefit very much from prolonged bad striking anyway.

Things are easier if your tower is well away from houses or if you have sound control. But always try to finish your practice with some good ringing. It is good for morale to 'go out on a high'. Perhaps you could end with a 'show piece', something your most competent ringers can ring really well. This will be satisfying for them (helping to retain them), and encouraging for the others (helping to inspire them).

fWhat should I do when I am not ringing?

It depends on your experience. Revise the method you are currently learning. Look up the next touch you might want to call. Read The Ringing World or the association or district newsletter. Dip into this Handbook and discover the answers to your unanswered questions (or just browse). Stand behind someone else and watch what they are doing, either to learn or in case they need help (depending how experienced you are). Listen critically to the striking. Decide how good it is. See whether you can identify which bells are striking out of place. Whatever you do, do not distract those who are ringing. Do not make a noise. Even a conversation in hushed voices can be distracting if it is audible to the ringers [7], as is rustling sweet papers. Do not use anything in the tower that makes a noise while ringing, like electronic games or cassette recorders [8].

g: Does it matter if I don't stand my bell when we stop?

A couple of extra dongs after everyone else stops sounds very sloppy. If it was a good touch and ended with well struck rounds you will completely spoil the effect and you are letting down the rest of the band.

h: How can we encourage everyone to stand when required?

Anyone who is good enough to ring for services should be able to set the bell when required. Make it clear that you expect each other to finish each touch properly, including standing at the end. Of course, occasionally you will not live up to this ideal, but you should all strive for it.

Some bands find a fines box helpful. Rattling it in the direction of the miscreant is a reminder that you expect better. The amount put in the box should be immaterial. With the right attitude your real penalty is just a reminder that you have let the side down. A good rule is 'the smallest coin in your pocket'.

If you don't already do this, don't impose it on your band without their willing consent. Many people think the idea of fines for ringing misdemeanours belongs in the 19th century, and your objective is to motivate people to do better not to humiliate them and drive them away. In any case, you should use discretion with beginners, young children and anyone obviously under the weather. That said, the scheme works in towers that use it. It is only a means to an end and what matters is the attitude of the band to sloppy ringing.

Some ringers who consider themselves good make a point of standing after one blow only, at backstroke, to demonstrate that they really have control of the bell. They then ring a further single blow to return the bell to handstroke. Does this provide exoneration, or is carelessness worse than incompetence? You must judge for yourself. It is certainly a challenging target to set yourself for those (we hope) rare occasions when you fail to set your own bell.


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