Service ringing · 2013May31Fr

This evening we rang for an ordination service.  We rang for almost 30 minutes without pause, except for the ringers that use knots who stood their bells to put their knots in and take them out.

Six ringers:  Anne, Judy, Ken, Marguerite, Nancy, Thomas.  Three ringers arrived promptly at 6:20 and two more within a minute or two.  We had given up on the sixth and had assigned ringers to bells, talked our plans through, and were 30 seconds from beginning to raise at 6:30pm when the sixth ringer arrived after all and made us all late;  we rearranged, talked the sixth ringer through the plans, and started to raise.

  • Raised in grand cacophony (or rough peal), transitioning to rounds as each ringer’s bell was up.  Two ringers who prefer to ring with a knot raised and then set their bells for a moment while putting in their knots;  ringing with a knot weakens the rope slightly at that point due to the concentration of tension in small cross-sections of the rope by the bends of the knot, but when concentrated by a knot the higher forces of raising and lowering do greater damage.
  • Once everyone was ringing again we lined up into Rounds and rang until the rhythm was steady.
  • For the next twenty-odd minutes we rang a lead of Plain Hunt on Five with tenor behind, returned to Rounds until the rhythm steadied, then rang a lead of Plain Hunt again, then Rounds until we steadied, and so on over and over.  For much of the time we rang three or four pulls of Rounds before beginning Plain Hunt again, but when needed (particularly later in the session when ringers began to tire) we rang more extended sequences of Rounds to settle everyone before returning to Plain Hunt.
  • At four minutes before the hour the conductor asked the ringers with knots to set and remove them.  There was some back and forth with one ringer who just wanted to set the bell rather than ring down, but it was resolved just in time for us to start ringing down in peal.  We finished the lowering with our last chime as the clock reached 7:00pm.

This was some fine ringing that the band should be proud of.

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Recent steeplekeeping

The tower’s steeplekeepers have been busy lately.  Here is a summary of activity over the past few weeks.

The 6’s slider replaced

2013-05-14.6slider_4266The 6’s slider was cracked some years back and repaired by Ken.  A new slider was obtained later from Whitechapel but had never been installed.  Someone there had marked directions for drilling and cutting on it in ballpoint pen.

2013-05-14.6slider_42712013-05-14.6sliderI drilled the hole for the pivot pin, filed it to the right size, cut the far end off to the right length, and installed it.  You can’t slip the slider off the pin ordinarily, since the bell is in the way (that’s a good thing).  The trick is to unbolt the bracket for the pin, exchange sliders while the bracket is off and there’s plenty of room, then bolt the bracket with slider in place back onto the frame.

The repaired slider is sitting on the ledge above the 6, where the replacement had sat for so long, in case it is needed in the future.

Chains to hold upper hatch when it is open

2013-05-14.HatchChains_42692013-05-14.HatchChains_4270The upper hatch had been held by a plywood bracket on the back side of the raised sill around the ladder head.  This bracket had gradually worked itself loose so that the hatch was at risk of swinging too far and damaging the 4’s wheel.

Two chains now run from the inside of the hatch to the inside of the sill, and stop the hatch just beyond its balance point.  I couldn’t find stainless steel chains, so they may have to be replaced some years in the future, but the mounting hardware is stainless steel.

The chains display a tendency to kink, so each one has a wire bracket that lines them up so they usually don’t kink any more.

Sound absorbing panel fell in intermediate chamber

2013-05-14.soundPanel_4282 2013-05-14.soundPanel_4283I got a tube of construction adhesive and put it back in place, bracing it with ladders (that’s what was available) until the adhesive set.

Loose plies in the 7’s rope box finally all removed

2013-05-28.7ropeBox_4301 2013-05-28.7ropeBox_4309The 7’s rope box was the one most severely damaged by water in the bad old days when the ringers left the bells mouth-up and they filled with rain water, dumping enough onto the bell chamber floor that damaging quantities came down through the rope bosses and holes and soaked the rope boxes, bosses, and everything else.  The 7’s box had the most separated plies, and due to its height it was the most difficult to remove them from.  The last ones were pulled and pushed out at last.  A few of the larger ones are shown in the lower photo.

Loose rope class · 2013May29We

Three ringers:  Carroll (second time), Judy, and Thomas (instructing).  The three of us muffled the treble, lifted the other ropes and half-sheepshanked them in the intermediate chamber, and safed the ringing chamber with tarps and by moving everything out of the corner by the treble.

Carroll helped by talking Judy through each task and by observing what Judy was doing while Thomas was managing the rope and spotting her.  Carroll was also able to relate this training to her annual safety certification training as a flight attendant;  there were notable parallels.

As in the first class (2013May25Sa) we divided the work into four stages:

  1. Approaching the ringer and getting permission to help (“Do You Need Help?”).
  2. Reaching in and helping on specific strokes (“I’m Helping with This Stroke”), being sure not to inadvertently cue the ringer to give you the rope.
  3. Taking the rope from a ringer in serious trouble (“Give Me the Rope!”).
  4. Getting a loose rope back under control.

As in the first class, each stage (except the fourth) had both interaction skills (looking into the ringer’s eyes, speaking concisely and clearly) and rope skills (reaching in, vertical pulls with clean release at the bottom, taking a definite grip of the rope and taking control of it, and moving in and corralling a loose rope).  By the end of the class we were taking ropes cleanly from each other at about every other stroke, and dropping the rope on one stroke, picking it up on the next or second-next stroke, then after a few firm strokes to get the bell under control taking the rope cleanly and starting again on the next stroke.  As a result the students took the rope dozens of times and corralled the loose rope dozens of times too.

We put everything back in order after the class was over.

Early Practice / Practice · 2013May28Tu

Early Practice · Bobbie, Carroll, Nancy, Thomas.  In keeping with the Cathedral’s new reduced-ringing policy we muffled the bells from 5:00pm to 6:00pm with some grumbling about the extra trouble and the time it took away from ringing.

  • Bobbie raised the 4 and worked on getting all her good habits back after weeks away from the tower, guided by Thomas.
  • Carroll and Nancy worked on their skills.

When we lowered the bells and climbed back up the ladders to remove the muffles, we found that the staple bolts of #1 (which had been muffled) and #8 were loose.  We quickly organized into a crew to align each clapper, tighten the lower nuts, check and realign if necessary, then tighten the upper nut to lock them in place.  The treble’s (#1’s) staple bolt had also been found to be loose at the Equinoctial Tower Cleanup on 2013Mar23Sa, only two months ago.

Practice · Seven ringers, eventually:  Carroll, Jim (arriving after his meeting ended), Judy, Ken, Marguerite, Nancy, Thomas.

  • We rang up 123456 in a grand cacophony.
  • Rounds and Rotate, working on even striking. The striking improved over the course of our Rounds and Rotate but we still have room for improvement.
    • Not all of the band are reliably ringing with appropriately out-of-balance strokes so that we have a clean handstroke pause and even spacing among all the strikes.  The Miami band had rung for years with equal hand- and backstrokes and no handstroke pause, and not everyone has made the transition.
    • We also helped Carroll with where she looks, i.e. not at her sally when making the catch, and with the visual spacing between her hands and those of the ringer she’s following, i.e. about half a sally’s length.
    • Some of the senior ringers seem to adjust their striking to put pressure on a ringer they feel is out of place, thereby getting out of place themselves.  It’s a human temptation but is not helping the band.
  • Plain Hunt on Four with tenor behind, Nancy tenoring evenly behind Judy, Ken, Marguerite, and Thomas.  The working bells were initially s-l-o-w as has been the Miami custom, so that some of them were out beyond the steadily-striking tenor;  then when upbraided the working ringers overcorrected to crowd too close to leads, leaving a big gap before the tenor.  On the bright side, the working bells were almost always audibly in the correct sequence among themselves.
  • Rang down in peal.  Perhaps it is time to devote a practice to ringing up and down in peal, as many of the band are not doing well with ringing down in peal.  At our elementary stage in this skill, it is important to focus on keeping one’s bell at about the right height, so that it strikes at about the right pace, and if possible also keeping it striking at about the right time as well.  I’m no expert myself, but there are a few heuristics that are helpful at this stage:
    1. Be attentive at each stroke, so you can correct any problems before they grow.
    2. If your bell struck too soon, put oomph into it immediately to ring it back up a bit higher, where it will strike at a slower pace.
    3. If your bell struck too late, check the next stroke so that it is sooner and also so that the bell does not rise as high, so it will ring at a faster pace.
    4. As in normal ringing, the best thing to do is count and ring in your proper place by the count.
    5. As in normal ringing, if the ringer ahead of you gets off the beat, look to the ringer two ahead of you, or three, or as many as it takes to find a ringer who is ringing reliably and whom you can synchronize off of.
    6. As in normal ringing, if you are the treble or the tenor, make your corrections small so that you don’t throw off the rest of the band, who are relying on you.
    7. Whatever you do, don’t give up;  keep trying.  As with any other skill you’ll improve if you try to do better.  Meanwhile if you give up you are letting down the ringers around you.

New rain awning

2013-05-02.awning_42492013-05-02.awning_4256 2013-05-02.awning_42532013-05-02.awning_4260 2013-05-02.awning_4263rainAwning.2013The first rain awning lasted about a year, possibly the life span one can expect from an awning home-made inexpensively out of plastic dropsheets and duct tape.  It did not survive being taken down for the removal of that awful galvanized gutter;  the duct tape peeled loose a bit and then restuck to whatever was nearby.  When I tried to unfurl it again, the plastic tore in several places.

I constructed a new one over several days in early May, first rigging together the rope harness to support it and then cutting sheet plastic to size and sealing it to the ropes.  I used color-coded ropes to make unfurling and lofting it easier:  red on one side, green on the other side, blue down the middle, white across from one side to the other.  Nancy helped with the sealing and with lofting the awning into place.

Last year’s awning was made out of the lightest plastic available (6mil as I recall), since it seemed at the time that a lighter awning would last longer.  This year’s was made out of the heaviest I could find, 20mil.

I tried silicone sealer this time since the onstruction-grade duct tape had started to come loose after a year, and once it came loose it would stick to any part of the awning it came into contact with, often causing a tear.  A small test indicated the sealer would adhere to the plastic.  I had to patch a few places where the sealer pulled free later using (of course) duct tape.

2013-05-14.awning_42742013-05-14.awning_42762013-05-14.awning_4277We lofted it into place and adjusted the various corners so that the lowest part of the awning was at the corner where the drain pipe was.

So far it seems to be working.  Some readjustment was needed to keep that corner as the lowest spot, to keep water from collecting in another spot where the accumulating weight could tear the awning apart.

Service ringing · 2013May26Su

Seven ringers:  Barbara, Carroll, Eoin, Jim, Judy, Marguerite, Thomas.  We had expected eleven ringers until early this morning when cancellation emails started arriving.  We are fortunate to have enough ringers that even with four last-minute cancellations we can assemble a good-sized band.  We raised 123456.

Thomas arrived early to take down the tarps, put furniture back in place, and lower the ropes after yesterday’s loose rope class.  Carroll arrived first of the remaining ringers and helped fold tarps.

Bands have ups and downs like any other group.  In recent weeks we’ve had many ringing sessions at which the band took on ambitious challenges and triumphed, for example our recent advances in Plain Hunt and in the new ringers that can now Plain Hunt.  Today, however, we struggled to ring cleanly struck rounds, and were direly challenged by even a few simple call changes.  This is of course better than many ringing sessions a year ago, but still disappointing.  We’ll do better at practice on Tuesday, I am sure.

Loose rope class · 2013May25Sa

Thomas is leaving in a couple of months and working to teach the ringers what they need to know before he does.  One important thing it appears none of the local ringers knew was how to get a loose rope back under control.  Now three do:  Anne, Carroll, and Nancy all went through the training today.

Thomas came early to set the ringing chamber up for safe training:  a single rope down, with the others sheepshanked up in the intermediate chamber out of the way;  furniture cleared away to give an open area;  and tarps (thank you, Barbara for this loan!) wrapped and clamped around everything the rope might catch on (the ladder up to the intermediate chamber, the railings of the spiral stairs, and that useless threaded rod sticking out of the wall between the treble and the tenor).  We worked with the treble because the area around it could be cleared most effectively.

We began with skills that help get the intervener in tune with the needs of a panicking ringer and with the timing of the rope, and ideally can prevent the situation from progressing to a loose rope;  then moved on to taking the rope and finally catching a loose rope.  The best outcome is the one requiring the least intervention:  ideally reaching in for a stroke or two will let the ringer in trouble take care of it themselves;  if that doesn’t work, taking the rope forestalls a situation in which the rope gets loose;  in the worst case, you can catch the loose rope and get the bell back under control.  Fortunately the third case is quite rare if you handle the first two cases expeditiously and effectively.  To the best of Thomas’s recollection a rope has been dropped only once (by a confused learner) during his nearly two years in Miami.

  1. Don’t help a ringer that doesn’t want it.  Thomas forgot to go over this during the class, but it’s important.  If the ringer has asked for help, then help them.  Otherwise, if you think they need help, ask “Do You Need Help?” and wait for “yes” before doing anything (unless you are expert and the situation is truly dire).  The things you say to a ringer in trouble are capitalized to remind you that you’ll only have time to say a few words and thus must make those words very clear.
  2. How to reach in and help a ringer in trouble, taught first with handstrokes (easier) and then with backstrokes.  It is important to catch their eye, establish communication, and get the ringer under control as well as getting the rope under control.  Thomas recommended saying “I’m Helping This Stroke“, timed so that you’ve said “helping” before you reach in to help, to ensure they don’t think you are taking the rope.  Also, be sure to let go at the bottom, soon enough that you don’t tug their hand to the side at the bottom:  that might also miscue them to give you the rope when you aren’t taking it.  It’s best to reach in over their hands as that way you are between them and the bell and have complete control.  This is almost always possible, even with a tall ringer and a short intervener, because a ringer in trouble has usually let the bell ring down and has not moved up the tail so their arms would be high at the top of each stroke (if they had they probably wouldn’t be in trouble).
  3. How to take the rope from a ringer in trouble.  First, help them for a few strokes (unless the situation is truly dire);  with help they may stop panicking and be able to get the bell back under control themselves.  If that isn’t going to happen, catch their eyes if possible, reach in on a backstroke, and as soon as you have a firm grip on the rope’s tail order them “Give Me the Rope!” and keep the tail.  If they hold on, don’t have a tug of war;  instead, say “Give Me the Rope!” again.  It is important that the thing you say to take the rope sounds very different from the thing you say to help with the rope;  a ringer in trouble is distracted and not thinking clearly, and you want communication to be quick and unmistakable.  You may also need to tell them “Step Back” to give you room if they didn’t do so spontaneously after giving you the rope.
  4. Finally, how to get a loose rope under control.  It’s not difficult, but it does require prompt and definite action, and not getting it right endangers everyone in the room, especially you.  The catcher must keep feet flat on the floor or skimming just above the floor, to reduce the chance that the loose rope will get under a foot or wrap around a leg.  It’s essential to act quickly because the rope’s dancing and whipping cover a rapidly increasing volume of space;  after it is dropped (backstroke zero), the rope behaves itself during the first backstroke on the loose, spreads out during the second, and starts to whip about the room during the third.  We never let the rope get beyond the fourth backstroke out of control, even as a demonstration, and the students typically caught on the first or at latest the second backstroke (i.e. about as soon as possible).  I won’t explain the technique here because for safety it should only be taught with supervision.

If a rope gets loose, everyone should be setting their bells and (except for the person who is getting it back under control) moving back flat against the wall.  We had everyone but the student and instructor standing out of the way at the head of the spiral stairs.

A student asked “who should go help a ringer in trouble?”  Good question.  Each band can establish their own rules, of course, but I would suggest that whoever is running the ringing session is the one who should go help.  As a general rule a junior ringer should not be dashing over to help.  Now that we often have more than eight ringers, we may have a senior ringer sitting out, and in case of trouble that ringer may be the one to give help, since they don’t have to stand their bell first.  It’s desirable to avoid a traffic jam of people rushing to help a ringer, for one thing, and also desirable not to have less-experienced ringers mistakenly decide someone is trouble and rush to interfere.

We had allocated 15 minutes per student;  this was optimistic.  We averaged 20-25 minutes per student.  For safety we always had at least three people in the room:  instructor, student, and someone to call 911.

During the class, Judy stopped by to drop off a doormat for people to wipe their feet on before climbing the spiral stairs.