David Henry – Trinity, Wall Street, New York

My first peal was rung on Sunday, August 30th, following post-service ringing at Trinity Church Wall Street, New York. I rang the treble to Plain Bob Triples, and the other ringers making up the band were skilled and experienced; and equally important, they were my friends. This was my second attempt, the first one having been six weeks earlier, which I had approached confident that after years of competition level cycling often in the Alps, this would be a comparatively mild exercise. To my surprise, the bell proved a less manageable piece of machinery than a bicycle, and about half-way through I began to feel faint and generally unwell, and none of the remedies available to a cyclist (energy bars in the back pocket of the jersey, electrolyte-laced hydration a reach away on the downtube) were there to save the day. Unable to keep track of where I was in the hunt, our efforts ceased with a call to stand. I was not keen to have another go at this any time soon, but that was no deterrent to my friends from organizing another attempt while I was away in England studying Stedman at the Bradfield Ringing Course. So on the early afternoon of August 30, well hydrated and with probably three additional pounds of body weight from dietary preparation, and with a better sense of the difference between a wheel rotated by a rope and one driven by a chain, my second attempt was underway with the familiar words, “Look to …” As the peal continued, there was not even a hint of the problems that had overtaken me weeks earlier. I had no real sense of the time (one ringer counselled me always to assume that there’s “about two hours left”), and eventually time didn’t seem to matter, or even exist. I found myself enjoying the experience, listening to the striking and to the ever-changing rows, noticing familiar or particularly musical sequences as they came and went in the kaleidoscope of sound. Like climbing the Col du Galibier in the Alps, it was irrational, inexplicable, mildly insane; but the sense of satisfaction, of bonding with and depending upon others similarly engaged, and of participating in a rite of initiation into an ancient and esoteric tradition, grew ever stronger, all of it resolving in an incredible sense of accomplishment with the conductor’s words, “That’s all.”

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