Project Pickled Egg - Part 11

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London Surprise Major

If you have been keeping notes you will know that six core methods have been proposed so far in Project Pickled Egg - Cambridge, Yorkshire, Superlative, Cornwall, Bristol and Lessness. Three methods from the current Standard 8 have been excluded, leaving London still for discussion.

The merits of London and its role in learning Surprise Major have been discussed at length in the consultations preceding this. As with Cambridge, its inclusion as a core method is not clear cut but it is a difficult method to leave out.

Arguments for inclusion:

• Historically important, popular, and included in many iconic compositions

• Is likely to have been learned on six so benefits from familiarity

• It introduces a method with plenty of wrong hunting below the treble

• Useful in short touches of spliced and introduces the concept of reversing direction from a right place method

• For touches of spliced it is useful to have something very different to the others, and going completely the other way is an essential skill in spliced. It also introduces significant risk, which isn’t a bad thing!

London Major is a big jump in difficulty for all those first learning it, but it is well worth having this level of difficulty in the first seven methods learned. The wrong hunting on the front, the fishtails, and other bits of the line of London Major are all very common features of other methods – there is very little you won’t use again. Most ringers have a real sense of achievement when they first manage to ring London – I still remember when I was a learner at Cannock hearing a course of London Major rung at an Association practice, seeing that the best ringing was in the most difficult method and aspiring to be in it.

The principal criticism of London is that the plain course is not that exciting musically, and even in quarter peals it is difficult to have a traditionally musical composition. Don Morrison elucidated it well in the Facebook group: “One of the PPE criteria is being reasonably musical in the plain course. Music in the plain course makes sense for something you’re going to ring a lot at practices, where plain courses tend to be what you ring. While not as dire as some methods, London doesn’t really do very well on this, at least not according to most people’s tastes.

But for ringing longer touches, particularly in major, and more so for peals than quarters even, music in the plain course isn’t really your goal, though it often facilitates it. What you really want is the ability to generate music over long stretches of ringing, where you’re necessarily going to have a lot of coursing orders not all that close to the plain course. For methods where most of your favourite rows can be packed into a few courses closely related to the plain course, you can easily fall into peal compositions with a half hour of excitement embedded in two hours of dross. The current trend of worrying a lot about little bell rollups is one way of attacking this problem.”

The music of London Major is not quite as ‘in your face’ as it is in other methods. Perhaps one of the attractions of longer lengths of London is the unpredictability of the appearance of musical rows, a bit like going on safari and searching for Big Five rather than going to the zoo and knowing where they will be. A roll up off the front can come from nowhere in London like a leopard stealthily emerging from the undergrowth.

There is also something attractive in the way the bells above the treble wrong hunt into the roll up positions at the fishtails – this is a very different sound to roll ups generated for instance in Cornwall. This just goes to emphasise that our appreciation of music in methods goes beyond a statistical run count and includes the way in which the rows evolve.

For practising, London does tend to be rung as a full plain course. Ringing four leads following by a couple of leads of Little Bob is one way of shortening it, though often with predictable consequences. Calling ‘Middle Before Wrong’ (that is a bob at the end of the 1st, 3rd and 5th leads so the 2nd makes the bob three times) gives a nice slightly shorter course, with several 5-6 roll ups and a chance for the 2nd to practice just two place bells and making the Bob (and incidentally the equivalent touch of London Royal is superb!) Then the more advanced and exciting test is to ring two leads of London as a sandwich with a lead of Cambridge or Superlative in between – this really tests the ability to change direction. This can be double up by calling Wrong Home Wrong Home (e.g. LS-L-LC-L-), adding calls to the changes of direction for the full nerve-wracking experience!

We have searched high and low for some ‘try also’ methods that have London above the treble but are more attractive below. On 10 bells ===London=== is good enough in itself (I think it is at its best in fact) but ===Triton Delight=== is a well-established and highly regarded alternative. Peter Elliott suggested that we were looking for an 8 bell Triton, but it doesn’t quite work. ===Zeals Knoll=== is about as close as you can get but still that doesn’t quite achieve enough to warrant ‘trying also’. I think we just need to accept that London is London – not the most exciting ingredient in the larder, but it is difficult to live without it.