Everyone feels nervous when ringing in a striking competition – even when you intend to ring Bob Doubles – and nerves result in all sorts of strange afflictions. I was in the Epsom Band on Saturday at Dunsfold, and we drew 6th and last place to ring. Undoubtedly it’s best not to be first to ring, but being last gives you time to see that the bells are not that easy to ring well, having a long draft and long ropes. We saw sallies being missed and method mistakes being made. There was also the risk of getting cold, although hot air billowing up from ‘Marilyn Monroe’ gratings was effective in curing both cold hands and cold feet!
Ringing just before us were our District neighbours Leatherhead, who rang Grandsire Doubles, quite a bit faster than the previous bands – the judges called it ‘pacey’. Indeed, I was told afterwards that they were worried it might have been miscalled as it seemed to be over too quickly, although I’d observed the calling from the other end of the church and was able to reassure them. It was clear that this was the piece that we would have to beat, and I was glad that they’d taken it a fair bit faster than the other bands, because we prefer to go quickly and we find it difficult to get a rhythm going at a more stately speed.
After our ten whole pulls to test the ropes, we spent some time fiddling with the knots to get them to a better length, and rang for the two minutes try-out. A bit more rope adjusting, and then off we went at a fair old lick, much helped by the tenor, who kept it close and set a great speed and rhythm. We had a slight hiccup at the first lead-end, but this was immediately corrected and didn’t disrupt the rhythm.
So we finished the 240 in 7 minutes 57 seconds, 48 seconds faster than Leatherhead, our closest competitor. It didn’t seem blisteringly fast to me, although at the same time any further hesitations could have lead to chaos.
I think the judges were quite lenient to award us only 6 faults, not that we had time to count them for ourselves! Leatherhead had 14 faults, so if we’d had another hiccup, they’d have overtaken us. That made it a real competition.
I’m looking forward to next year, if they’ll still have me …