The Perfect Practice Cake

by Lucy Williamson of Ipswich and York


· 1 core of prompt arrivals 

· 1 strong and efficient leader 

· A generous splash of enthusiasm 

· 1 set of metaphorical goal posts 

· A sprinkle of people who did their homework 

· A glug of concentration and perseverance 

· A dash of specific and constructive criticism 

For extra smiles and happy tower captains, add:

· Some diligent payers of steepleage

· Some cake or sweeties

· A visit to the pub


· Preheat your oven:  If the tower captain is the parent and the ringers are the children then someone who does their homework is the favourite child! Revising methods during the week can help your practices to go much more smoothly and you will also progress quicker. Revising methods is also vital because perfect striking with less than confident knowledge of the method is almost impossible. 

· Assemble your ingredients: If you’re a painfully on-time person like myself, then I’m sure you’ve also been to practices in the past when those who turn up for the start of the practice are too few to actually ring anything useful. The peak arrival time for late comers seems to be around 8pm (assuming a 7.30pm start). Sometimes rocking up a bit late is unavoidable due to work commitments, family or traffic disasters but equally I’m sure we all endeavour to be on time for work or school, for weddings and peals, so why not give the same dedication to weekly practices? Practice makes perfect after all. 

· Mix well: A strong and efficient ringing master is very important for a good practice. Keeping the practice moving is an important factor, in order to keep peoples’ focus by avoiding long periods of chat in between touches. This is partly why a visit to the pub after practice is so useful; saving much of the socialising for after the practice makes the most of your time in the tower. 

· Avoid soggy bottoms:  Enthusiasm is a vital ingredient. Enthusiasm at a ringing practice is like baking powder in a cake. Without it your practice should still function on a basic level but it will be flat, much less enjoyable and not as effective. 

· Add a new twist to the recipe: The metaphorical goal posts usually move when you least expect it! When I was learning I was never allowed more than one week of being able to ring something confidently before I was chucked into something new. Of course this is what needs to happen if progress is going to be made at an encouraging rate, but at the time it is fairly frustrating because you feel as though you never really know what you are doing. 

· Plan for a baker’s dozen: Concentration and perseverance hopefully shouldn’t need much explanation. Needless to say that ringing doesn’t always go to plan so a considerable dose of perseverance is indispensable. 

Where would we be without Mary Berry? :

Before I was properly bitten by the ringing “bug”, every week my Dad would try to persuade me to go to the local 12 bell tower.  My response was always the same: “I’m not going there because it’s too scary”. Although this was a valid response to the prospect of going to a practice where I would have been the least experienced ringer in the tower, there was one thing which I was yet to truly to appreciate; you will only progress by ringing with people who are better than you. Only those with more experience can provide the constructive criticism needed for you to make progress, and there’s nothing better to encourage you to try your best than thinking you are the weakest link. 

· Pay for quality ingredients: At 50p (or even £1) a week, ringing must be one of the cheapest hobbies in all the land so we really don’t have an excuse for not paying steepleage! I’m sure most of us would more than happily part with 50p for a slice of cake, so why not for the use of the bells, which hopefully bring equal pleasure to that of a delicious slice of confectionary. I have found that cake, almost as much as beer, is often a  focal element of district outings and ringing teas!