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Thursday 14th November 2019
Remembrance Sunday. It’s a special occasion in both civic and religious senses. For bell ringers it is one of the most significant ringing occasions of the year, when we ring half-muffled and to the very best of our ability. So far in my ringing career I have not come across anyone, ringer or otherwise, who doesn’t like the sound of half-muffled bells.
Like many towers we ring rounds only for Remembrance Sunday, as indeed we do when we occasionally ring for a funeral. This is only partly to try to get the best striking we can, as our collective feeling is that it just sounds better, particularly with bells like ours which lend themselves to being rung at a sedate pace.
We were going to be short of people, for all the standard reasons, but had the benefit of one of the Dereham ringers, who came to support us along with his daughter, who is visiting from the USA and is a good steady ringer. As you can imagine we were more than grateful for this help. The ringing went well, with the striking at handstroke really quite good. The backstrokes, as ever, had a tendency to be less accurate because it’s harder to hear. I have often suspected that when ringing half-muffled it’s not just that the backstrokes can be a bit uneven, the handstrokes tend to be better than normal. I think it’s because if you are only listening to one stroke out of two, which is what many do, and certainly those whose hearing is less good than it used to be, you tend to get super-accurate handstrokes and slightly random backstrokes. Be that as it may, it sounded good and we were complimented on our efforts. The part of our service which takes place outside at the war memorial consists of prayers, the reading of the names of the war dead and a two minutes silence, followed by the tenor bell striking eleven whole pulls. This always makes me slightly nervous. I have never yet done twelve but people do count and I know it would be noticed if I did. This time the bell teetered on the brink of setting and then decided it would, and I sighed with relief. Not long a go I fitted a block in the slider runner to make the tenor easier to pull off, but it is correspondingly harder to stand.
Our practice this week saw the smallest attendance I think we have ever had and we stuck to simulator ringing, which was perfectly fine for all of us. The neighbours may have wondered whether we had abandoned it but if they were close enough they would have heard the clicks and bangs from the sliders and the muffled boom from the clappers, with their rubber silencers on. We have these silencers, made from bits of motorcycle tyre, on the front three bells only, and when we have a silent practice ringing all six bells we tie the clappers off in the usual manner. But for simulator use and teaching, when we would only use the front three, it’s so much quicker using the rubber mufflers and the resulting sound is muted enough not to irritate anyone.
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