Recently we have started ringing again at Ipsley. Until 15 years ago, ringing was a regular part of my life, but then the band which had been badly fractured by events beyond their control, gradually drifted away - university, jobs, old age, and in my case the birth of my daughter, were the exuses we needed to close a chapter in our lives and move on.
Over the years many of us had migrated to the daughter church and became heavily involved there. A remnant of the old band were invited to ring to mark the Millennium, and that as it. In time a new band was formed, who I gather rang West Country style call changes, and the old band was forgotten. This band, too, in time faded away.
When I was out and about on my travels I would sometimes hear bells ringing, and this would trigger memories of the enjoyment and fulfilment I had gained. But I did not enter any tower and offer my service, fearful that time would have made a mockery of my previous talents.How much have I forgotten? Can you lose a skill you practised for 25 years?
As the churches in the parish developed their individual identities they diversified theologically. Joint events became fewer and fewer. On the odd occasion I attended the parish church, the ropes were visible through the glass screen, but the ropes did not move, and no sound came forth from lofty louvers.
After various conversations it was agreed that the time was right to restart ringing, and following a meeting with the Wardens and Rector, we decided to investigate involvement with the association. I browsed the association website and found a contact for our branch secretary. Reading through some minutes from the Central Committeel, I realised with great sadness that 2 stalwarts of the branch had died last year. They were both very proficient ringers who had rung together for many years and were, I imagine, of a similar age. Their personalities were very different - one calm, reserved and unflappable, the other with a cheeky grin, the ability to deliver perfect placed and perceptive one liners and a refusal to give up on any touch that had gone pear shaped.
As we go through life, we move on, but imagine that life is continuing, as before, in the circles we have left. The realisation that for some "stand" has been called for the last time, provides us with an unwelcome reminder of our own mortality. Rest in peace, fellow ringers, and thank you for the welcome and encouragement we were given by all when Ipsley transferred from the more urban Northern Branch to the more rural Southern Branch.