Transcript for ‘Take a deep breath’

Transcribed by Cathy Booth

NICKY: Because when you’re relaxed, then you feel so much better about things and things happen much more naturally. I think the worst thing when you go, when you catch hold of a rope, if you do so with anxiety, I’m not sure it’s a good place to start from. But when you relax, just let it happen. It tends to work better.

[Bells ringing rounds]

Cathy Booth: My guest today is Nicky Carling, who comes from a ringing family. She has held various positions at tower, district and guild level over the years, has rung about 80 peals, taken part in local and national ringing competitions, but says her focus in ringing has always been about having fun. Nicky is also a therapist and we will discuss advice for ringers who are anxious about returning to ringing after the pandemic. But first, Nicky, I just want to ask you, when did you start ringing?

NICKY: I was 10 when I started, so I’ve been ringing for 42 years now. It was not something I wanted to do. It was insisted upon, and much to my annoyance, the minute I took hold of a bell rope, I absolutely loved it and I really didn’t want to. So yes, that’s when I started at the age of 10.

Cathy Booth: And how long has bell ringing been in your family?

NICKY: Only one generation before me. My dad’s Gary Mason and his older brother, Kingsley Mason, both ringers. But that’s where it started. Although I understand that I have a granddad who did ring a long time ago. But it was way, way before I was born.

Cathy Booth: And you’ve kept ringing in the family because your daughter’s ringing now as well.

NICKY: Yeah, she started. Again she didn’t want to do it. We tried her with it when she was, what would she have been about 10 as well. She was just a little bit too small. And then she said, No, no, I’m not doing it. I never want to do it. And she came along to everything that we went to and made so many friends. I said, “Well, you may as well start now.” So she did, and she’s doing absolutely brilliantly. She’s going to leave me way behind.

Cathy Booth: Before the pandemic. Obviously, people aren’t ringing at the moment, but before the pandemic. Can you describe what you were doing ringing wise?

NICKY: Ringing Sunday service. Who knew that Sunday mornings could be so useful without ringing in them? It’s amazing what you can fit in, isn’t it? So, yes Sunday service. We were going regularly to practice night. We were involved with the Leicester district, so we were busy doing that. The Leicester guild has a lot of initiatives on. They run Saturday morning and what they call progressing ringers, so it’s sort of plain bob, plain hunt type workshops that they run monthly. So we were doing some of those, guild meetings, all sorts of things like that. So yeah, we were quite involved.

Cathy Booth: I see and we should talk about where you ring as well. You ring the cathedral,

NICKY: Leicester Cathedral.Yeah,that’s where I started and and I’m still there now. I’ve never got very far. So yeah, that’s that’s always been my home tower and we’ve seen full bands and reduced bands and skillful bands and not so skillful bands and all sorts of things in that time.

Cathy Booth: Can you describe the tower? What, what sort of bells there are there?

NICKY: We’ve got 13 bells, obviously with the flat six, but ring of 12, 2500. weight, they’re quite odd struck in places, but they’re really easy to ring. it’s a lovely ringing chamber as well. So they were good bells to learn on. They’ve got a decent draft on them so that you’re never fazed when you go anywhere else, yeah rather than learning somewhere that’s got a very short draft and then you’re always panicking elsewhere. But no, this is quite a good draft. Yeah, good all round tower, really.

Cathy Booth: And for those that don’t know what a draft is, that’s the length of rope between you where you’re ringing and where it’s going up into the bell chamber. What did you find most difficult about ringing?

NICKY: In terms of learning?

Cathy Booth: Yes.

NICKY: Oh my word. I don’t know because I learnt so young, I guess I didn’t really have any fears. I just got stuck in and did what I was asked to do. I always feel for people that are learning at a much older age. There are a lot more fearful and a lot more bothered about getting things wrong.

Cathy Booth: And have you had any surprises associated with ringing?

NICKY: Surprises how do you mean surprises, just

Cathy Booth: Anything that you’re particularly proud of, for example, or anything?

NICKY: Oh, wow. I can’t think of the top of my head. I’ll be honest, after I left to ponder that one, yeah things that I’m proud of? I love helping people. I’m proud that I was able to be guild ringing master. And people would come up to me when I finished the job and handed it over to somebody else said, You know what? You really made a difference. You really made us feel coming from out in the middle of nowhere that we could come to a guild meeting and it was OK and that we were going to get a ring and people were going to be supportive and friendly. And it didn’t matter if we made a mess of it. So I think it would have to be that: the fact that people actually came up and commented and thanked me for the work that I’d done in making them feel welcome. It should go without saying, but obviously they felt that it needed saying which yeah so proud of that really, I think.

Cathy Booth: Good. And you’ve held many positions. What position are you holding at the moment?

NICKY: I’m just a social secretary at the cathedral. I like to arrange pub crawls and all sorts of things like that. So that’s my job at the minute. But no, we’ve got work commitments on So we’ve both, both me and my husband, Dave Carling. We’ve both stepped back a little bit this year to work, but before that he was secretary of the Leicester district. I’d been Guild ringing master until a couple of years ago. So yeah, we’ve stepped back a little bit. Let others have a go, really?

Cathy Booth: Fair enough. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with regard to ringing or that you would want to pass on to somebody?

NICKY: The best bit of advice, what I’ve learned, really to me, ringing is fun, it’s about getting together and it’s about enjoying what you do. And I think it’s about keeping that perspective that it is fun. You give up your free time to do this. And so whilst it’s a wonderful hobby and you learn a lot and everybody hopefully wants to do their best, it’s get out of it what you want. Have fun and enjoy what you’re doing. And when it stops being fun, look at why that is and make the changes needed. Not necessarily giving ringing up, but it might be that you need to be in a different place or looking at things differently or getting different advice to help you.

Cathy Booth: I see. Good. Have you done any ringing related activities during the pandemic? Because obviously you can’t ring at the moment.

NICKY: We, myself and Dave went up to the cathedral when we were allowed to ring the four bells. We did that. We put ourselves on a rota for doing that. So we quite regularly did that during that window. Dave’s been involved in meetings with old university friends in ringing room. We did have a go at ringing room early on. I tend to work in the evenings when these things happen, so it doesn’t fit naturally for me all the time. But we had a go, the three of us, but myself, Dave and my daughter Jenny ring in hand bells and yeah that never really got massively off the ground, but we were getting somewhere.

Cathy Booth: All right, good.

NICKY: Well, it’s crazy because whilst everybody else has been at home, all three of us have been working. So finding the time when we’ve all got space to sit. You’d think when everybody kept at home all this time, that would be easy. But for us it actually hasn’t been.

Cathy Booth: What is your work?

NICKY: I’m a therapist. I work for myself and I work for two charities – a charity in Nottingham called Imara, which deals with abuse in families and a cancer charity in Leicester, which is a wonderful organisation called Together Against Cancer. And they provide lots of nutritional advice, massages, reflexology, all sorts of complementary therapies. And my work sits in there helping people with cancer to talk about what’s going on for them in a way that they can’t do with family. Quite often when somebody has a cancer diagnosis, they all of a sudden they seem to have to protect all the emotions of the people around them. And so with me, they can vent and say how awful it is, and I work privately as well, dealing with a lot of anxiety, weight issues, all sorts of things. Problems from childhood. All sorts of things that I deal with in a talking therapy capacity.

Cathy Booth: What do you think has been happening with people’s mental health with this pandemic and coming out of that?

NICKY: Yes, I think there’s going to be a lot. It’s been a very weird situation. I feel that wherever you go, you cannot escape what’s going on. It’s worldwide. So normally, if something’s happening in our world, we can go somewhere and talk to somebody for whom this isn’t happening or whatever the problem is, isn’t happening. With this, it affects all of us. And I think that has been really interesting to watch how people have reacted. I think at first, a lot of people retreated into their pyjamas and joggers and stayed there for a while watching Netflix and things like that. And I remember talking to people saying, Please don’t stay there. Oh, but this is great. I’ve waited for years to do this. Yeah, but don’t stay there because you are going to find it really difficult to get out of this. And so there was that and I think as well, there’s been people that have been incredibly fearful and people that haven’t bothered at all. And so you’ve got that sort of clash there and the whole powerlessness that people have felt. We can’t do anything about this. We’ve got to just follow the rules and do as we’re told. And I think the loneliness for people, particularly those people that are on their own. I feel that the mental health impact of this is going to be felt for a long time, and I think one of the saddest things I heard was a friend of mine say that her grandson had started having anxiety at the age of five. And I thought, No, this isn’t right. We shouldn’t have this. Five year old little boys should not be bursting into tears and panicking because they’re so unsure of what’s going on. So I do think there’s going to be a lot of work. Sadly, a lot of work for people in my profession, helping people adapt to getting back to normal. I think some people will think that it’s going to be dead easy to bounce back, and I’m not sure that it is. Yeah, and it’s been interesting for me as well as a therapist because I’ve had to deal with my own responses to this alongside everybody else’s responses to this. So that’s been interesting. And talking to fellow therapists, we’ve all had this thing impact us in a way that would none of us knew what was going to happen and how it was going to play out. So we’re all working against a backdrop of our own issues, our own family issues. And yeah, so it’s been fascinating, but I think it is going to have a knock on effect.

Cathy Booth: And somebody listening who’s a bit anxious about going back to ringing, what would you say to them?

NICKY: I would say in the first instance, I imagine there will be guidelines as there’s been guidelines all the way along in relation to ringing what those are. I have no idea. But there will be guidelines moving forward and I feel that if you’re anxious about going back, talk to somebody in your tower, whether that’s your tower captain. Hopefully your tower captain is approachable and considerate of other people’s feelings. It doesn’t always happen. But talk to somebody within your tower who can understand where you’re coming from and what you may need. Again, we’re going to be a collection of people, a community of people all in one place all with differing views, all with differing worries. And I think the most important thing that we need to do is be considerate of other people’s worries, even if they make no sense to you. Even if you think it’s over the top. Then I think that it’s important that we acknowledge where somebody else is coming from and how they are feeling and accommodate that. Talking it out, I think talking to people so that somebody else can be aware of how you are feeling about it and they can look out for you

Cathy Booth: Because I guess some people might be concerned about actually catching COVID in the tower and that type of thing. And we’ve had this impression to stay distant from other people, and now they’re having to come back into being sociable again. Although bell ringing is lovely, I always think from the point of view of you’re with other people, but you’re not intensely having to talk to them. So in some ways it’s a gentle introduction to to being sociable again.

NICKY: And it might be that some towers are more suited to a return to ringing than others. If you’ve got a very small ringing room and it’s not very well ventilated. |Then maybe that is not the place to be going in the first instance, however much those bells need ringing again, maybe that’s not the best place to start, or you start with a set group of people that are happy to be in that space because there will be people out there that are not concerned. And so it’s probably around picking your tower and just people allowing for a little bit of flexibility around that. I can think of towers like Saint Margaret’s in Leicester, which is a huge ringing room with big windows on each side. So yes, we can ventilate that really easily. The cathedral has doors at both sides. We can ventilate that really easily. But those are the ones locally where that is not an option on a Summer’s day, never mind following a pandemic. In some towers you do not want to ring at when it’s anywhere near warm. Perhaps they’re the ones to avoid. I think with ringing, a lot of this is around the droplets, isn’t it? The transmission is around the droplets from what I understand. And so you’re not actually looking directly at anybody, you’re looking into a circle. So maybe that will help with reducing that transmission. And I think as well, a lot of the ringing community are of the age groups that will have been offered the vaccine. So of course, that is going to be another layer of hopefully safety that we’ve got. It made me laugh at the beginning. We were saying there’s no way anybody that rings bells is going to catch this because look at what we hold, we put our hands on these sallies that have been in towers for years and years with who knows what on them. And so our immune systems are probably quite robust in a lot of ways. But I know that people have succumbed to it. But yes, this dreaded thing, what’s on some of those ropes sometimes.

Cathy Booth: What is it that you’re looking forward to ringing-wise after the pandemic?

NICKY: After the pandemic? I’m looking forward just to seeing people. We’ve kept in contact with a smallish group of people that we’re ring with regularly, and we’ve met them on parks. But it’s really noticeable how nice it is to see somebody as a whole person, not just a little head on a screen. So I’m looking forward to the social side. My thing is always the social side getting back out there. I’m looking forward to actually putting my shoulder muscles through some paces because I’m really struggling physically through lack of ringing. I’ve noticed that actually, I need to get back to doing that so that I can sort out these knots and pains that I’ve got now in my shoulders that I have never had before.

Cathy Booth: Have you used therapies with bell ringers before?

NICKY: I did have work with some people who’ve come and asked me for help with anxiety privately. What I did some years ago when I did my hypnotherapy was I created a script that was around confidence in ringing and also good bell handling as well and incorporated that in. How hypnotherapy works is it’s nothing like you see on the TV, there’s no daft chicken stuff going on and all that sort of thing. It’s nothing like that. It’s a really gentle way of getting positive suggestions into your subconscious mind. There is an argument that actually all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, and we do it to ourselves all the time. So if you’ve ever driven somewhere and got to the end of your journey and got out the car and thought, Whoa, I don’t remember that journey, it doesn’t mean you’re a danger on the road. It just means that your subconscious has just been working away there and you’ve gone into a sort of state of relaxation because it might be a journey that you’ve done a lot of times and you’ve self hypnotized to an extent. So what I do is I talk to people and relax them and then give them lots of positive suggestions. So for me, if somebody’s nervous about hypno, I always say well it’s relaxation with positive suggestions, that’s all it is. So I created a couple of scripts that I used with some local ringers, and I just put it out there on the guild and said, anybody interested in having a go?

Cathy Booth: Mm-hmm.

NICKY: And a few people came forward and there were positive results from this. So that was encouraging and they were really keen. And what surprised me, I thought it would be younger people that came forward because they would be more open minded about this sort of thing. But it wasn’t. It was older ringers. There was a guy who came forward who hadn’t been ringing for very long and wanted to boost his confidence. And he did really well and a couple of others as well that just wanted to feel better about how they felt in terms of ringing. And also, one of our best ringers in the guild came forward and said, Gosh, I want to have a go at this.

 And I remember as was doing this and him saying, Yeah, that was really good, really loved doing that. And then we went and rang in a local competition the next day and we won it. But the point was it was about being relaxed.

Cathy Booth: Yes,

NICKY: Because when you’re relaxed, then you feel so much better about things and things happen much more naturally. I think the worst thing when you go, when you catch hold of a rope, if you do so with anxiety, I’m not sure it’s a good place to start from. But when you relax, just let it happen. It tends to work better.

Cathy Booth: What therapies do you normally work with?

NICKY: Well, I work with a range of different therapies. I trained as a person-centred counsellor, which is talking about issues and it’s very client led. I then moved on to The Bach Flower Remedies, which are homeopathic remedies that you find in Boots and Holland and Barrett, and they’re lovely. The rescue remedy particularly would be one for anxiety, and a lot of people are familiar with using that. When I wrote the piece for ART, I put a list of the different remedies that would be useful for that, but anybody can contact me for a list that is helpful towards their needs at a specific time. What the remedies do is they work very gently but powerfully on negative emotions, and you work with about six or seven of these at any one time. There’s no contraindications with them. They’re perfectly safe for babies and right up to people of older years. So that’s a lovely way to start if you want to do something for yourself to help with ringing anxiety, get hold of a bottle of the bach flower rescue remedy. And it is pronounced bach. People look at me strangely, sometimes because they think it should be bark. But actually, in this context, no, it isn’t. It’s bach. But yeah, the rescue remedy from Boots or Holland and Barrett four drops four times a day in a drink or onto your tongue. That’s one of the best things you can do to start. So I do a lot of work with those. I then did hypnotherapy and we’ve already touched on that the, the script that I did for ringing. So if anybody wants to give that a go, I do that and I have been able to work online as well, which surprised me. I always thought that it would have to be face to face to do hypno, but it isn’t. I can do it online and I also send people a copy of the recording so that they’ve got it. And then I did something called emotional freedom techniques, which is using acupuncture points to help release negative emotions, which sounds quite nuts. I conclude that everything I do sounds pretty nuts, but it works, which is why I do it.

 And I thought, I remember when I first sat in a training room and I’d not heard about EFT, but somebody told me, You must do this. It’s brilliant. And I sat in this training room looking at all these people tapping on themselves, and I thought, Oh goodness, I’ve just wasted some money and a whole weekend on this, but I still use it, and I went on to train further up to master practitioner status. So it is very, very useful. I do a lot of resourcing work as well with inner child work, so helping people deal with anxieties from childhood. Quite often when we have anxieties as an adult, the roots for this started in our childhood. If we can go back and deal with the original issue, we can then move forward in a much more robust, resilient and resourced way and deal with things with an assertiveness that perhaps we didn’t have before, which just allows us to say what we feel. Quite often people daren’t say what they feel, and it gives us that help to say what we feel. Yeah, and I’m still learning. I’m doing more and more therapies. I must stop at some point.

Cathy Booth: And you said about the tapping, Is that something you do to yourself?

NICKY: Yeah. The way I was trained to do it is that you tap on somebody else. I’ve never done it that way. I teach people in all the therapies that I do. I teach people how they can help themselves. So again, on that piece that I wrote for ART, there is a copy of the tapping points. There’s a diagram on there, which details the points that you use and you start basically with your hands crossed just over your sort of heart if you like and just breathe. And just by doing that, you are tapping into a major point there, breathing and getting yourself grounded and centered so that if you can’t do anything else, that is a really good thing to do to get that anxiety down. And then there’s a diagram with the other tapping points that I use. There’s various different ways of doing this. But these are the ones that I use, and it’s very, very simple, very easy to do for yourself. And I teach this to children. The worst thing you can do with this is make it complicated. It’s very, very simple. And so anything that over-complicates is just missing the point. You’re tapping on the points. I teach everybody how to do it. So they have always got this tool at their own disposal rather than having to rely on somebody like me.

Cathy Booth: That sounds like a very good way to do it. Good. What advice would you give to people as they go back to ringing?

NICKY: Breathe. Sounds very simple. Breathing, a lot of the therapies well all the therapies that I do. The first thing I say is right, sit there and take some deep breaths, really deep breaths, breathe down into your stomach, which probably sounds a bit weird, but like babies do when you see their little tummies rise up and down. It’s that sort of feeling breathe as deep as you can, because that slows everything down. And then you can think. When we’re breathing very shallow, when you’re anxious about something, you’re breathing is very, very quick and it doesn’t go very deep. The more you can breathe deeply, the more you will be able to take control of yourself and your anxiety. So that is a starting point for everything. Really just get that breathing under control, then think, what is it that I need? It doesn’t matter what anybody else needs? What is it that you as a ringer need? And this again, talk to people, talk to your tower captain. If you can’t talk to your tower captain, talk to somebody else about what you need, and that might change as well. You might be okay one week and not okay the next, but that’s okay, too. I think we’re all going to have to learn perhaps a tolerance that some people will not have had before. But I think if we work together, then we can really, really get there and perhaps change some attitudes and ringing that might need changing as well.

Cathy Booth: What sort of things are you thinking about there?

NICKY: I think sometimes people say, Well the old ways worked for me, lots of shouting across the ringing chamber. Well, it never did anybody any harm. Well, I’ve seen a lot of people leave ringing because people shout across ringing chambers and I’ve seen people get off the end of a rope and look very, very anxious. And the next time they catch hold, they’re still anxious because they’ve been yelled at, and I don’t feel there’s a place for that. I never have felt there’s a place for that. Some people will argue that there is. I don’t believe it. I think encouragement, talking to people in a constructive way. There’s nothing worse than when you were ringing and four people start all yelling instructions all with the best of intentions, I do not doubt it’s with the best of intentions. However, it’s not helpful because from my professional standpoint, I’ll stand and look at the person that’s being advised and I’ll see them absolutely this rabbit in headlights moment. They’re absolutely stuck. They can’t do anything. A lot of people will be different. Some people may respond well, so you can never generalize. But I see it more as being unhelpful than helpful. And I don’t personally hold with the Oh, we’ve always done it that way. Ok, but it’s not helpful.

Cathy Booth: No, no. I would agree with that. If you had an extra million pounds to spend on ringing, something to do with ringing. What would you spend it on and why?

NICKY: Oh my goodness, an extra million pounds to spend on ringing. Oh, wow. I think. How about a nice ringing center with a good ring of bells and a social aspect and everything, you needed all in one place, but not necessarily in a tower, somewhere else, somewhere purpose built for ringing with a social side as well. You could have all your courses there and everything. You could just then a Complete Education Centre. Could you do that for a million? I don’t know whether you could, but you could make a start.

Cathy Booth: You couldn’t you? That sounds lovely. Where do you find out about what’s happening in the bell ringing world? What’s happening generally in bell ringing?

NICKY: We have a guild Facebook page. There’s a lot of stuff goes on there. We’ve also got a guild website. I’ll be honest, I very rarely go on the website, but some people will prefer that sort of thing if you don’t do the Facebook side of things. But it’s through Facebook. Really, a lot of my ringing friends are on there. There is, as I say, the guild Facebook page. So stuff goes. Either ringers will post their own things on so you find out what’s going on in their lives in general, but also the Facebook page that tells you what’s happening. I know Leicester guild. I’ve not really done them, but Leicester guild have been really good at doing Zoom calls and meetings and getting people to talk. It tends to clash with me, finishing work and getting out for my allotted exercise every day and getting some food. But I know there’s been a regular, I think, two meetings a week and I think they also, yes, they did. They had a guild dinner, a virtual guild dinner as well. Again, I couldn’t make that, but I think where people were in breakout rooms instead of tables and saying, yeah, or having a drink and a chat. I don’t think they did food in the end. There was talk of them all having a takeaway. But I don’t think that came off in the end. But yeah, they said the support from the guild to keep everybody connected has been incredibly good. They’ve had speakers from all over the place as well. So yeah, all sorts of different subjects. I attended the one that John Pladis did on the Titanic. That was good. Apparently, there’s been a oh was it marmalade making and all sorts of things going,

Cathy Booth: Oh goodness.

NICKY: So yeah, not just ringing related, which has been interesting. So you find out more about different people. But Leicester Guild is really good at connecting and in normal times because we have the progresssing ringers on once a month on a Saturday morning. That’s a guild wide thing for people that are ringing plain hunt, plain Bob to get together. It’s something that moves around the guild, so it would be in different districts. And there’s also rising ringers, which is for the younger members, and that’s been very successful as well. They’ve done things like bebowling and going to the pictures and things as well as ringing. So it’s fostering a more social side. It’s not just about ringing. Yeah. The guild is very, very proactive,

Cathy Booth: So if I move on to the last two questions now, Nicky. Apart from the towers that you regularly ring at, what’s your favorite ring of bells and why?

NICKY: Um. My favorite ring of bells, I think beyond where I normally ring would be Loughborough, Loughborough Parish. They’re lovely. They’re a bit like St Margaret’s the Gate as we know it. A bit lumpy in places. Bit of a challenge, but they are really worth the climb up there. It’s quite a big climb up to the ringing room, but they are a lovely ring of a bells. And so yeah, they would be my favourite, but something to get stuck into. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Good. A good ring, of bells there.

Cathy Booth: And has anything remarkable happened to you that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t taken at bell ringing?

NICKY: I met my husband. I guess I wouldn’t have done that without it. Yes, it is a big one. I think I remember him walking into the ringing chamber at the cathedral when I was about sixteen years old, and then we both lived our lives out. I got married somebody else, had my children. He went off and did his sort of thing. And then our lives brought us back together 20 years ago, and here we’ve been together since then. So, yeah, that wouldn’t have happened.

Cathy Booth: That’s lovely, Nicky, thank you so much for your time. And that was great.

Thank you to my guest, Nicky Carling for sharing her story and for giving us her advice on how to minimize anxiety on your return to ringing.

if you have enjoyed this episode, then please consider letting someone else know about it.

This podcast was put together by a team

Cathy Booth: Special thanks go to Anne Tansley Thomas and John Gwynne, Leslie Belcher, and the Society of Cambridge Youths for the recording of their ringing.

[Bells ringing rounds]