This week the Methcom sketch returns to its usual subject, a meeting of the Methods Committee itself. The Committee met in March in Winchester as guests of Tony and Tessa Smith, and the meeting marked the end of an era, it was the last one to be attended by Tony before he leaves the committee to move on to higher things. We owe special thanks to Tessa for having entertained the committee with tea, coffee, biscuits and lunch over the years - her records show that this was the 23rd meeting we have held at her house. Your correspondent had to start off by apologising for having failed to produce a sketch of our previous meeting, when we were the guests of Robin and Jane Woolley in Nottingham. He promised to do better in future, and his punishment was produce one for this meeting, so here it is.
We started as usual with a review of the correspondence that Tony had received in his role as committee chairman, and this led us into a discussion of the 24480 of Treble Dodging Minor rung at Cambridge in January. The decision on whether this is to be counted as a record-length peal ultimately rests with the Records Committee, but one of the jobs of the Methods Committee is to advise on grey areas in the CC Decisions so we had to get our thinking caps on.
The facts are these:
It wasn't the longest length of Treble Dodging Minor, that was of course the 72000 rung in 2007, but it was the longest length in which each extent was spliced.
It was rung without an umpire.
Central Council Decisions require that any peal of 10000 changes or more that would be a record length must satisfy certain additional conditions, including having an umpire, otherwise it fails to count as a peal at all.
We had a brief discussion on the Decision that says that it doesn't count as a peal at all. The rationale is presumably to make sure that we don't end up with records that aren't the longest lengths rung, but you might observe that there's a parallel in athletics records, where "wind-assisted" results are recorded but not counted as records. However this Decision is reasonably clear, and the real grey area here is whether the fact that all the extents were spliced puts it in a separate category from the 72000. After reading through the relevant Decisions some more, we observed that while they talk about keeping separate records of single-method peals and multi-method peals, they don't say anything about distinguishing between spliced and non-spliced multi-method peals. So we concluded that this peal, while being a very noteworthy one, should not be viewed as a record-length peal and so did not need to have an umpire.
Having dealt with the legal interpretation, it was time to get out our rulers and magnifying glasses (literally) and pore over the Ringing World Diary. We have received a number of comments about the legibility of some the diagrams in the 2008 diary, so we have decided for 2009 that we should work on fixing these issues rather than changing the content any further. People seem to be reasonably happy with the Minor diagrams, but there's quite a bit of wasted space around the Major diagrams, with the result that the lines and numbers are rather small. Also the Royal and Maximus methods are shown using lines only, and it is sometimes difficult to tell what place is what.
For 2009 we are planning to add shaded backgrounds to the line diagrams so that you can tell more easily where 3-4, 5-6 etc. are. We would like to thank Martin Bright for adding this capability to his method diagram software. We had a bit of a debate about the best aspect ratio for diagrams, in other words whether the horizontal spacing of the place positions should be the same as the vertical spacing of the rows. In the end we decided to keep them equal but rotate the Cambridge, Superlative, London and Bristol Surprise Major diagrams so they go down the page instead of across it. This will mean we can use a larger font size for the figures. We hope these changes will make the diagrams much easier to use.
We then turned to the Doubles Collection book. This has historically been one of the more popular books prepared by the Methods Committee, but is now out of print. Philip Saddleton has produced the main body of the book, and is now working on the compositions that it will contain. It will clearly contain extents for the individual methods, but how far should we go with spliced extents? Philip has compositions to allow you to ring a peal of all 177 methods that don't have 4ths place lead-ends, or a peal of all 220 methods. We decided that the book should include these, but should also have some explanatory sections showing how these were constructed, along with a few further examples, showing readers how to compose their own. After that, and a brief discussion of the XML specification and the forthcoming Ringing Roadshow it was time to put away lap-tops, pack our bags and leave Winchester for the 23rd and last time.
The Ringing World, June 13, 2008, page 658