Nathan's First Handbell Peal AND The First Peal at the Bungalow

An ECG Double-Header

April 2016

By David Maynard

"Up above the streets and houses..."
Few people who grew up in the 1980s can have managed to remain in ignorance of the iconic cultural phenomenon that was "Rainbow". For anyone with the misfortune of being too old or too young to have experienced this epic of erudition, age really isn't an excuse. Find it on YouTube or buy the DVD.

Memory, musty from having been long enclosed, fails me as to exactly how or why we first started referring to Bungle (that is to say Alex) as Bungle, but establishing the date of his ursine investiture is somewhat less problematic. Like the first quarter peal rung on toilets, inspiration dawned during a pint-full post practice pub session in the Royal Oak, Heavitree. Somehow the subject of children's TV programmes came up in conversation, and in the ensuing enthusiasm for all things Zippy, George and Bungle, it transpired that some of us were the privileged possessors of middle names taken straight out of the Rainbow house itself. Obviously nobody's parents had actually thought fit to bestow "Zippy" or "Bungle" on their cherished offspring, even as a middle name, but mine had chosen to name me in honour of the undisputed king of the stripy jumper - Geoffrey, and Pip's had looked (as both Taylor Swift and Casey Musgraves also would, years later) to Jane, alpha-female of Rainbow's very own pop trio; "Rod, Jane and Freddy"..

Having stumbled so serendipitously upon this rich vein of comic potential, we decided, predictably enough to ring a Rainbow quarter peal. Not on the Early Learning Centre multi-coloured toy handbells (other brands are available) - this would come later, but a quarter peal in which all participants would have a Rainbow middle name. Two performers had already been selected, or rather predestined, to take part, and we'd simply have to make up some middle names for the others to complete the band. If Munchkin could complete the middle initial alphabet to quarter peals, why couldn't we employ similar creative licence to correct this accident of birth, which stood in the way of our current project?

Cutting the Gordian Knot
And so, following in the illustrious footsteps of the great Douglas Adams, getting into his bath with a bottle of Scotch to think Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect out of yet another impossibly tight corner, we got another round in and settled down to some serious invention. Andrew was volunteered as Zippy - partly in honour of his recent and impressively speedy completion of the Great West Run, and partly because he is so totally unlike the loud, boisterous, bossy, self- promoting zip-jawed character in every way. Dominic was quickly volunteered (slightly unkindly, it seems to me now, having recently re-watched the entire first series on DVD) to adopt George.

"So," I had asked, in imitation innocence. "who will be Bungle?"

"Alex!" came the delighted chorus of reply. Laughter prevailed.

A few weeks later we duly rang our Rainbow quarter peal, and while I still add "...just like in Rainbow" when clarifying anything relating to my middle name or initial for the benefit of bank officials, receptionists or curious peal ringers, none of the middle names that were assumed purely for the purposes of this project have stuck.

None that is except for the one which has stuck so well that more than one confused fresher has asked "Who?" when Alex has been mentioned, or addressed as such, in conversation.

A Chapter on Bungle
Forgive me, dear reader, for not rushing all at once into the heart of my subject, but, at the risk of alloying my allusions, I hope that this digression has been both enlightening and entertaining. And so, as you will be aware, the name stuck. It stuck so effectively that the fourth at St David's is still known as "the Bungle Bell" to this very day, which in turn inspired its own song (Maestro Martin - take a bow!). Bungle has also lent his name to other musical creations, including Bungle's Little Alliance Royal and Bungle's Little Surprise Maximus, which have become favourites for the handbell touch at the annual dinner.

I wonder what Rod, Jane and Freddy would have made of all that?

"But it isn't even a Bungalow!"
To me it seems logical that a bungalow is a place where a Bungle lives, more logical, at any rate, than the arbitrary quirk that states it simply means a single storey house. So for the avoidance of further doubt, the Bungalow is not a bungalow. The Bungalow is in fact, a first floor flat on a quiet residential street in Exeter, which has been the location for a wide spectrum of ECG activities over a ten year period, and provided a home for a number of society members and former officers, most famously of course; the eponymous Bungle himself. A quick flick through the ECG website augments my own recollections and reveals that over the period since 2004, the Bungalow has played host to Christmas parties, Monty Python screenings, pre and post annual dinner drinking, pancake parties, network gaming, curry pie construction, shower queue conventions, chilli tastings, cookery and kitchen skills masterclasses, life drawing, worms tournaments, DIY lessons, pizza nights, rants, lectures, literally thousands of Bungle's legendary bacon sarnies, fashion shows, late night takeaway consumption and the odd bit of handbell ringing (manuclochination). But, in spite of a number of valiant efforts there hadn't been a peal rung at the Bungalow.

Stay of Execution
Given this exemplary tradition of artistic and cultural endeavour, you're probably thinking " this must be that place I'd never heard of that beat Chatham Historic Dockyard to World Heritage Site status last year"... Or something along those lines?

The shocking truth is, however, that the much talked about Bungalow Peal Project was almost consigned to impossibility when Bungle forsook the mean streets of St Leonards to live the suburban dream in leafy Cranbrook. Several of us gave it up as a lost cause. However, invisible forces were at work behind the scenes and circumstances presented a rare window of opportunity. And so, like Maurice spotting an unattended pint from across a busy pub, we seized it with both hands and got stuck right in.

Nathan's first handbell peal
Clearly the first peal in the Bungalow couldn't be rung for any old common or garden ringing society. The weight of history demanded nothing less than an ECG production. Enter one of the Harrison Building's most recent graduates, regular of Wednesday lunchtimes and all-round good chap; Mr Nathan Evans. Nathan, like so many other unsuspecting, innocent freshers before him, had been drawn, inexorably, to the bright lights of handbell ringing by the long established ECG lunchtime practice. Under Matt's expert tuition, Nathan had progressed from Bob Minor Boot Camp to tick off all the usual landmarks, including slogging through many quarter peals on the meaty ECG tenors and performing in front of a paying audience at the Annual Dinner. But he hadn't rung a peal - (pause for emphasis) - yet.

So, as you've probably already guessed by the fact that this article has been written in the first place, we fixed one up. As usual with the ECG we took this project seriously, and prepared for the momentous event by spending the previous day at the Exeter Food Festival, sampling some of the finest cheese, pies, chillies, chocolate, buffalo burgers, beer, cider, wine and gin that Devon has to offer. Bungle would have been proud. Appropriately enough, given the Bungle connection, we also attended a cookery demonstration, to learn a thing a two while we were there... The next morning dawned bright and sunny, perfect conditions for Nathan's first peal, as I explained to the rather bewildered waitress in Exeter's most eccentric breakfasting place; the Cosy Club.

Thusly victualled; intrepid participants four, bell-bejangled, betook, both jointly and severally through the exercise of their manifest skill and uninterrupted endeavour, to put right that wrong for which purpose they're gathering, all seated together in the time honoured form circular, upon this auspicious occasion, had been duly and felicitously convoked. Washed all about by rhythmic currents of bell-song, arms rose and fell in ritual imitation of the opening and closing of some mystical half-dreamed bloom of flesh and bronze. Bob-bedecked and single-strewn they strove, and skirting sleepy shallows and dodging drowsy differences, happened handily home.

Or to put it more conventionally: we sat down to ring the peal, and without more bungling around than the occasion demanded, rang that bad boy.

 

Guild of Devonshire Ringers (Exeter Colleges Guild)
Exeter, Devon
Flat 3, 10 Wonford Road
Sunday, 24 April 2016 in 2h23 (11)
5120 Double Norwich Court Bob Major
Composed by T J Hinks
1-2  Nathan Evans
3-4  David G Maynard
5-6  Thomas J Hinks (C)
7-8  Andrew P Digby
First peal in hand: 1-2.
The first peal in the Bungalow.

The Bungalow had been duly pealed, another Harrison-honed fledgling had been launched into the dizzy firmament of handbell peal ringing, and perhaps most importantly of all, everyone involved in the wider project had had a thoroughly good time, eating, drinking, telling stories about Bungle's extraordinary exploits, soaking up the Devon sunshine and enjoying the excellent company.

And the Bungalow itself? Ever the optimist, I'd like to think that some of the essence of all the laughter that has been expended there over the last decade has somehow soaked into the stones and fabric of the place, and that the last chapter of its Rainbow Odessey is yet to be written.