Message from the Master – July 2020

Four months have passed since lockdown silenced our towers, four months in which much has happened and, simultaneously, very little.

We are making small steps to returning to ringing, but certainly not as before. There are still copious guidelines to be followed including restricting the number of ringers in a tower to comply with social distancing requirements, the length of time we can ring and the need to take many precautions to keep other ringers safe from viral contamination. All the details can be found on the Latest News drop down on our website home page. Please read the information, consult with the priest in charge too, because they may not be familiar with the guidance for bell ringers and it is their responsibility to ensure the safety of church workers.

Enough of the gloom! For, as we expected, ringers are energetic, enthusiastic and inventive. The plethora of handbells and Ringing Room activity has honed skills and continues to develop an eclectic range of entertainment. These are the ringers who will return to church bell ringing with the energy and probably enhanced skills – well done to everyone!

There are also many ringers who, for different reasons have not embarked upon such projects and are waiting, quietly, until they can return to the ringing room to take hold of the sally and be rewarded by that glorious, resonant sound that has summoned worshippers for centuries and cannot ever be confused with handbells or simulation. (Yes, I am putting my hand up and admitting my preferences; this will come as no surprise to those of you reading this who know me well – please do not resort to grumpy emails because I support you all and remain in considerable awe of everyone who can ring two bells at once. And my mobile ring tone is Little Bob 20 in hand, so it can’t all be bad.)

Sadly, and inevitably, there will be bands where ringers will not return; the habit may be broken, interest declined, other activities prioritised. The ODG has an ageing membership and many weeks of inactivity may have an impact on physical abilities and so prohibit further ringing.

The future for the Church and State remains unclear; we have unknown obstacles to overcome, ringing will return to different towers at different rates. I believe some good must come out of these exceptional circumstances; so, let us make sure we provide support, encouragement and guidance to one another as we work together to rebuild our ancient art and historic culture. There will come a time when we can reunite and I am certainly looking forward to that day.

Katie Lane

Message from the Guild Master – March 2020

How quiet everywhere has become, not just the absence of our beloved bells, there are far fewer vehicles on our roads, no shrill playground noise, no one stopping for a gossip on the streets, no happy camaraderie at closing time, even the houses seem shut up and silent.

Many ringers are highly inventive and are trying to keep their skills alive in a variety of ways, some more curious than others.  There is plenty that can be done; learning methods is an obvious diversion, planning a virtual outing including pubs could be another, having a go at composition or simply doing certain Pilates exercises to keep the right muscles trim!

It’s early days; even now I can see how we are looking out for our ringing friends.  There are up-lifting newsletters, Facebook amusements, Facetime conversations, emails and text messages and, most of all, welcome, friendly phone calls which do much to lift the spirits and to hear another voice, especially for those who are self-isolating on their own.

These challenging times have left us stunned and quiet, giving us unexpected time for reflection. How often do we wonder, when was the last time …. I cut the grass, called auntie, had a haircut, dusted the house, tidied up the shed and so on?  And of course, we can’t quite remember.  But I expect every ringer would be able to say exactly the last time they rang a bell and enjoyed the company of other ringers.  We have to hold on to the memory of those more carefree days.

I have a friend who has decided to learn a poem every day; John Betjeman’s Uffington seems to suit the time and mood:

Uffington

Tonight we feel the muffled peal

Hang on the village like a pall;

It overwhelms the towering elms –

That death-reminding dying fall;

The very sky no longer high

Comes down within the reach of all.

Imprisoned in a cage of sound

Even the trivial seeks profound.

It would be amazing if we had been allowed to ring during this curfew, we would have been heard, and noticed, far and wide!  That is just a dream, but hopefully when we come away from these distressing days, we WILL be able to celebrate and ring out loud and clear for all the world to hear!

 

The best of wishes to you all.

Katie Lane, March 2020

November message from the Guild Master

For a long time, I have marked the passing years by the amount of daylight at practice nights. After the long summer evenings when it is warm and light at nine o’clock, we now have the winter months when we arrive in darkness to a dimly lit church, and possibly chilly ringing room. What a contrast to the heat of the summer when sandals and shorts are the preferred dress code and a ringing room with a fan is a positive blessing.

The summer brings a plethora of wedding ringing, tower outings, fetes, barbeques and a general air of celebration. We have had much to celebrate with the ODG Team winning the Ringing World National Youth Striking Competition in July at St Francis Xavier, Liverpool. It was a superb achievement for everyone involved in the preparation and the successful outcome and, again, I am delighted to congratulate Izzy (South Oxon), Daniel (Reading), Corey (Central Bucks), Ben (EBSB), Thomas (Reading), Sophie (Old North Berks), Dougie (North Bucks) and Josh (Old North Berks) not forgetting the adults who, nurtured, coached, persuaded and supported all the team, especially Colin Newman and Jenny Page. Thank you all for putting our younger ringers right in the spotlight.

The success of the ODG young ringers neatly takes me to our more mature ringers – of which I am one! From time to time I overhear comments which can be translated to something like ‘There are an awful lot of old ringers and we need to do something about it’. Yes, we do need to recruit, retain, encourage and support young recruits and there is much going on in many parts of the ODG to achieve this. More needs to be done and more will be done.

We also value our stalwart ringers; older, maybe wiser, often hugely experienced, sometimes just taking first steps into their ringing journey. In my travels around the guild territory, especially away from the city and larger town centres, these are the ringers who keep the small churches and village bells sounding out across the local communities; communities who most appreciate hearing their bells being rung for services and practices. The more skilful the rounds, call changes or doubles, the more pleasure our ringing brings to many non-ringers and worshippers alike; the music is a resonant comfort and an echo of centuries.

So, let us make all young ringers feel excited about developing their ringing knowledge and skills, welcome them on every occasion and cherish the loyal, steadfast members too.

And finally, by the time the next Odd Bob edition is in the towers, Christmas will just be just a few weeks away. At this time ringing comes to the fore, congregations will expect to hear the bells at carol services, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, ringing out the old year and bringing in 2020. Enjoy the festivities and recognise how important our ringing is to so many people who never see us, but they hear our message.

Winter is nearly over

Winter seems almost to be over; the birds are beginning to shout at one another in the mornings and very soon ringers will be able to get to practice nights in daylight, what a joy that will be rather than negotiating a dark and sometimes treacherous route to the ringers’ door!

It is the season for Branch AGMs and the officers and stewards have tried to attend as many as possible; the ones that I didn’t manage to get to this year will be top of my list in 2020. It has been a real pleasure to catch up with many people at the Branch meetings, I have enjoyed finding out about topics of importance and made the most of delicious teas; thank you all for making me feel welcome.

We are fast heading for the busy summer ringing schedule with weddings and other special occasions which call for our skills. For some new bands this will be a new, and perhaps, daunting experience but I am sure that you will be well supported by neighbouring towers with more experienced ringers.

The Guild AGM will be held at Great Missenden on 18th May. Please try to attend, we need everyone’s enthusiasm and support, and all ringers are welcome.

Between now and then I will be moving home – for a few years I considered Orkney but there are too few bells up there to keep me busy – so I am only going a few yards down the road in Wheatley. It is highly likely that BT will cut off my contact with the ODG (and the rest of the world) for one to two weeks while they decide who is going to connect the wire, or flick the switch, or whatever manoeuvre it requires, so if you email me and I do not reply you will realise that I am in the throes of unpacking boxes grumbling at the engineers.