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New Year’s Eve 2011

Presumably having been extremely bored for some time, Ruthie this evening mentioned she had read through my blog from its very beginnings, bringing up forgotten memories like Mason and me catching Alan McBurnie with his trousers round his ankles and those early months of looking after the li’l chap.

It got me wondering at what point my inane ramblings may become an interesting archive. As my blog enters its sixth calendar year, I hope that those first entries offer some kind of useful insight into Suffolk ringing four years ago as I hope my current ones will one day.

Also, it highlighted one of the ‘attributes’ – if it could ever be claimed to have any – that my blog has, at least for me personally. As I looked back over my writings of 2011 they reminded me of things that have happened that might not immediately spring to mind. Good ringing and memorable ringing (not necessarily the same thing!) at practices, for services, on outings, in quarters and peals. Meals out with family and friends, enjoyable if not spectacular weekends.

Of course there is much that easily jumps out, sadly not all of it happy. I – and many others – lost two ringing friends from opposite spectrums of our art.

Rod Pipe’s passing unsurprisingly sent shockwaves across the globe, partly because it was so unexpected but mainly because very few – if any – had done as much to further the art of ringing. Susan Schurr may not have been in the same ringing league as Rod (but then again who is?) but had she started our art as a youngster rather than in her seventies, who knows what she could’ve achieved on the end of a rope? Although a combination of distance and illness had meant I hadn’t seen as much of either of these wonderful personalities as I would’ve liked over the last couple of years, I miss them both dearly as I’m sure many of you do too.

It was a year of much personal joy and significance too. I handed over the Master’s badge after five years with a mixture of reluctance and relief. I really have enjoyed my stint in a role I am honoured to have held, but I now get to spend more quality time with Mason and Ruthie and I am delighted to have handed the job over to Jed who I feel has made a superb start to the task in hand and I’m sure will be a fantastic Master.

But whilst I was proud of conducting my first peal of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor – and of the band who helped me achieve this goal, especially Mary Garner and Maggie Ross – it is my two favourite people that I was proudest of this year. Mason started big school proper, complete with grown-up uniform and has managed the trick of being the most popular kid there and doing well with his education. It seems his geography is already better than his Aunty Ruthie’s!

But I was extremely proud of Ruthie for deservedly graduating in Music from Colchester Institute with a 2:1, the culmination of three years worth of work, about 80% of it crammed into the final month!

Grundisburgh.There has been a huge amount of achievement across the county amongst Guild members in 2011 generally and there was very nearly one last bit to report on today as we went for the traditional New Year’s Eve peal attempt of Grandsire Cinques at Grundisburgh, where of course the aforementioned Rod began his amazing ringing journey. He would’ve approved of Robert Beavis and Alex Tatlow’s first peal on twelve in our success on Wednesday and even more so that they were partaking in today’s attempt which had we succeeded would’ve seen Ruth Suggett and Abby Antrobus ring their first at this level at the tower that was also the location of the first peal on twelve for two other members of today’s band – myself and Louis Suggett. It is a testament to Stephen Pettman’s guidance that these circumstances are possible, but sadly a half-lead single after about an hour put paid to a result today.

Richy.Still, it left time for a pint in the Turk’s Head before picking the li’l chap up from his Grandparents who were kindly looking after him whilst I rang and then returning home to help my fiancée set up for our New Year’s party. It was only a small gathering (we haven’t got THAT much extra room!), but we were delighted to see the New Year in with my brother, Mike Whitby and Pete and Susanne, though as you can see, I was a little worse for wear by the end of the night!

However the last twelve months has gone for you and however you spent this evening, Happy New Year!

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Friday 30th December 2011

Mason's on his slide.I picked Mason up until 2012, so with him trying out his new slide and other Christmas presents and Ruthie at work for the last time this year I set about tidying the place up for tomorrow’s party. The calm before the storm.


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Thursday 29th December 2011

It was another day with nothing in the diary but like Tuesday it didn’t mean we didn’t do anything. We travelled from Wyevale in Woodbridge to The Range in Ipswich to Tesco in Martlesham as we looked to tart the house up and get in food for our New Year’s Eve party before we helped Kate bring over our remaining stuff from hers and her old table which she has generously donated.

We did get the chance to catch the appearance of the increasingly famous Claire Monk on Countrywise Kitchen at Christmas from last night on the ITV version of iPlayer (The Welbeck Abbey Brewery bit starts at 5 minutes 15 seconds) as the programme visited her brewery at Welbeck Abbey. Regardless of whether you have anything in the diary, it’s well worth watching.

Tostock.Someone who did have something in the diary today was George Salter who rang his first peal of Surprise in the 5040 of Cambridge Minor at Tostock. Well done George!


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Wednesday 28th December 2011

You win some, you lose some.

Grundisburgh.The win was a very decent peal of Stedman Cinques at Grundisburgh with a full range of Hills and Robert Beavis, complete with back-to-front jumper co-ordinated with his lunchbox and with his shoes on the correct feet. Oh and a detailed account of his recent trip to Currys.

Having met thirteen – Brian Whiting turned up on the basis that he hadn’t been told to not turn up if you believe one side of the story – Beavis and Butthead – sorry, Alex Tatlow – did extremely well to ring their first on twelve. Stedman Cinques on the fast-moving bells of Suffolk’s lightest twelve is about as difficult as you can get for your first on this number, so well done to both of them, especially Alex who at the same time completed the family in this principle from Doubles to Cinques in one year, all in the same tower.

It all deserved a drink and a few chips in the Turk’s Head at nearby Hasketon before the two lads went onto Great Barton for another win. Congratulations again to Alex as well as Stephen Munford for ringing their 25th peal and well done to Becky Munford on ringing her first inside.

For Tom and me though, we were to eventually meet again this evening at St Mary‑le‑Tower for the loss. We were going for 8-Spliced Surprise Major, called by Bunny who was definitely meant to be in this one! Two hours of generally very good ringing was undone by a fire-up which was being sorted out until London came along and finished us off. It was disappointing, but was a success as it further eased Ruthie back into tower-bell peals. She was of course in the success at Pettistree a couple of weeks back, but prior to that she had only rung in the mentally-challenging but less physically so peals at The Wolery in 2011. Having enjoyed this evening though she is keen to continue her gentle return to the tower-bell medium. A pint for her in The Cricketers afterwards perhaps helped her enthusiasm but I think that counts as a win...

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Tuesday 27th December 2011

The period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day tends to have at least a day where there is nothing in the diary. Neither of us working, no ringing, no meeting up with friends or family. So it is usually a very useful day and no more so than today.

It is a month since we moved into our new home and since then our time has largely been taken up with Christmas stuff, fifth birthday parties, ringing and dark, cold nights that did little to aide motivation so it was particularly good to have the day free to unpack more bags and boxes as well as sort out presents received recently.

Reydon.Most notably putting Mason’s new slide together which Ruthie was largely responsible for, my ‘help’ considered more a hindrance! Perhaps it was a good job that I wasn’t partaking in any ringing therefore, especially at Reydon where they were doing very nicely themselves thank you very much! Well done to Michelle Williams and Philip Moyse on ringing their most methods to a quarter and to our Guild Chairman for calling his most. Useful day all round then!


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Boxing Day 2011

When I was younger I hated Boxing Day. It meant another 364 days (365 days when it’s a leap year next as it is this time round) until Christmas Day and after a day of presents, partying, socialising and eating as much as I could it was a subdued and often boring day. The only redeeming aspect was the return of football in the days when I looked forward to Ipswich Town matches.

As I’ve got older it’s also brought a sore head, but I have also grown to appreciate that it too can be a day of festivities and perhaps a more relaxed day, though conversely the thought now of the Tractor Boys returning to action is a thoroughly depressing one.

Although Ruthie had to return to work for the second Boxing Day in a row and Mason had rejoined his mother for Christmas Day Two we were still able to enjoy the 26th this year as we were invited round to Kate’s for a homemade curry with Ron before a chance meeting with Toby and Amy on the way home saw us having a nightcap with the newly engaged couple as they look ahead to the daunting task of arranging a wedding. We know how that feels!

Stutton.Whilst we were relaxing, today often also sees an interesting selection of peals and quarters across the country and closer to home congratulations to Colin Salter on ringing his first quarter in the success at Stutton as the Salter clan edges closer to that family peal of Doubles. Now we just need Henry to get his act together!

And whilst across the border, Happy Birthday and congratulations to Anne Bray on ringing her 50th peal on her 50th birthday in the 5088 of the aptly named St Stephen’s Delight Major at Great Bentley. Paul and Anne are members at St Mary-le-Tower and are a huge help to us there and Anne’s daughter Claire sometimes comes along as well, so well done to her too on ringing her first peal at the same time.

What’s not to like about Boxing Day?

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Christmas Day 2011

Here it is, my favourite day of the year! And it started in the most magical style possible – with a four-year-old boy coming downstairs to find Father Christmas had been overnight, leaving a trail of magic dust and more importantly presents! The reindeer had consumed their carrots, the big man his beers, which I understand were very enjoyable...

Santa's Been.Ruthie's New Slippers.Much wrapping paper waded through and a Bob the Builder ‘thingy’, talking globe and slide revealed amongst much else and we were on the road for an aspect of the 25th which I love. As bellringers we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to meet up and ring with friends on this day and for us it began at Pettistree before Ruthie continued onto Ufford to answer an SOS call and Mason and I went to St Mary‑le‑Tower. Despite the absence of our usual festive visitors Roger Bailey and Simon Rudd we still had a decent attendance, though the later ringing time that enabled a visit to Pettistree first also meant that Mum and Chris had to leave early to get to Sproughton, leaving us unable to ring all twelve.

The li’l chap and I gave his Granddad a lift to join his Nana and uncle at this little six on the edge of Ipswich where I was introduced to their impressive new notice board and even more impressive crop of young learners which saw call-changes on six rung by four under-twelves. The future is bright here.

As we travelled across the brightly lit countryside, past bare forests on a wonderfully sunny winter’s day, passing families walking down our country lanes, I imagined that behind all the cottage facades in our pretty villages, people were preparing for the day’s festivities with bottles and presents opened, the smell of roast dinner wafting across a warm house. Once the boy and I had reunited with Ruthie back at ours we were able to partake ourselves.

Grub's up at Chez Munnings.We are extremely fortunate that both our families are close to hand which means we can spend the day with both. As is traditional the rest of the day began at my fiancée’s grandparents with a large crowd and faultless hospitality, though there was a brief moment of despair when it was realised the seasonal serviettes purchased specifically for the occasion had been forgotten!

Pulling Crackers.Nonetheless, with Mason, Freddie and Poppy thick as thieves we all consumed a fantastic feast, much drink, pulled crackers, wore silly hats and opened more presents before Ruthie and I continued onto my Mum and Dad’s to do the same all over again, this time in the presence of brother Chris, Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric, with the li’l chap leading the handing out of presents and the Christmas beers collected since September guzzled. Thank you very much to Ruthie’s grandparents and my folks for their hospitality and I hope you all had as wonderful a Christmas Day as we did.

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Christmas Eve 2011

Twas the night before Christmas and all was – quite hectic actually. Just how I like it, though Ruthie is fonder of sitting still!

With the 24th December falling on a Saturday this year I was able to spend the whole of it with my two favourite people. That said, I started the day with a couple of tasks carried out whilst my son and fiancée arose at home.

There were a few bits and pieces to grab from town and predictably it was heaving so it made sense for the li’l chap to stay out of it. There was no room in Budgens and queues galore just about everywhere, though the Woodbridge Excelsior Band kept things festive as their mellow sounds wafted down the ancient Thoroughfare which has seen hundreds of Christmas Eves before it.

But once that was out of the way and I’d helped Ron deliver a massive present to Kate it was my son, fiancée and me all the way, starting with a visit to our new immediate neighbours. We have been meaning to visit this elderly and immobile couple for weeks but this had been the first opportunity for all three of us to pop round and we’re glad we did as we found out lots about them and the cottage we now live in.

Festive Decorations at The Ship Blaxhall.Mason & Kala at The Ship.A televisual tradition that I normally like to carry out at Christmas is watching The Snowman and Santa Claus: The Movie. This year the former is on tomorrow afternoon where with at least three under-fives at Ruthie’s grandparents CBeebies is likely to rule the festive airways. But we were at least able to watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol before heading off for the reason why we couldn’t watch the latter of the aforementioned films this afternoon – we were off to The Ship in Blaxhall so Mason could catch up with his Godparents Toby and Kala at the pub his Godfather manages. Their respective partners Amy and Nick were also there and it was the former couple who increased the celebratory feel by officially announcing their engagement. Ruthie and I actually found out on Wednesday night when our neighbours came and revealed it, but it was news to Nick and Kala and it is wonderful to see such a dear friend so happy, especially at this time of year.

It was the highlight of a fantastic afternoon that could’ve gone on for days in a wonderful location, but with our married friends on an even busier schedule than us and more still left for us today we all had to bid farewell reluctantly with the wishes of the season. For them it was down to Felixstowe, for us – via a quick tea at home – it was into Ipswich to ring for The Procession of Carols at St Mary‑le‑Tower, something which is as part of Christmas for me as crackers, Morecombe and Wise and a sore head on Boxing Day. Although I messed up a touch of Stedman Cinques by trying to swap Brian Redgers and Stephen Cheek the wrong way round, it was great to see a big crowd there with the two older Salter boys with their mother, my brother Chris and the Basfords from Canterbury, including of course star of the big screen Hazel!

Whilst we were doing all of that, well done to two Alexs. Initially of the Scase version for his first quarter of Minor and then the Tatlow version for ringing his 150th quarter, both in the success at Grundisburgh today.

My ringing for the day complete though, it was time to get Mason to bed in anticipation of Santa’s visit and Ruthie off to Pettistree for carols at The Greyhound and ringing for and attending Midnight Mass at SS Peter & Paul. If tomorrow is half as good as today we’re in for a good Christmas.

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Friday 23rd December 2011

A slow working week finally came to an end, as expected and in keeping with tradition, at lunchtime. Also keeping up with tradition, the annual John Catt raffle was just about the last task carried out this year within the set of walls I’ve probably spent more time in than anywhere else over the last twelve months. The raffle is a free one between staff members (those that were left) and is a way of dividing up the gifts that clients, associates and friends of the company have sent us. My first festive raffle here three years ago saw a vast array of bottles of all shapes and sizes filled with almost anything drinkable you could think of and vodka. However, as the recession kicked in the gifts became more mundane – generally calendars, mugs, diaries and branded Post-it notes. Combined with the Christmas meal paid for at probably the most expensive joint in town last week and the large hampers handed out this, we weren’t expecting much, feeling perhaps anything very exciting was asking a bit much! So I was pleasantly surprised to walk away with a bottle of red wine. Though I did get a calendar too.

Despite the fact I really enjoy working for our extremely generous employers, it was a lovely feeling to bade Christmas wishes to my good friends there and leave work in the daylight, not to return until 2012.

With the afternoon free and Ruthie not working today, I picked the little chap up for Christmas and the three of us visited my fiancée’s Nan, delivering her gift and card and taking in tales of Christmases past. I love the Christmas we have, but I got a warm glow from thinking off festive sing-alongs and carol-singers whilst snow fell seventy or eighty years ago in rural Suffolk!
It set us up nicely for our evening in the warm at our cottage which really feels like home now as we munched on one final parting shot from John Catt Educational this Christmas – a box of Maltesers!

And as this is going to be the last blog entry that will be available to read before the big day, I shall impart one final parting shot myself. I hope you all have a wonderful day on Sunday, that you enjoy any ringing you do and come away with a warm glow. And if at times a relative gets irritating, you perhaps don’t get the present you wanted or you despair of what’s on TV or just plain get fed up of it all then please spare a moment’s thought for those less fortunate. Maybe say a prayer for them and raise a glass to your own good fortune, especially at this time of year. Merry Christmas one and all!

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Thursday 22nd December 2011

The shortest day of 2011 felt like the longest at times. We do have work of sorts to occupy us (shredding, computer housekeeping, the occasional call from those poor unfortunate souls rattling around deserted schools, etc) but it is a stretch to fill the working day this week, increasingly so as it goes on.

Ruthie of course was busy but at least she was on her last day of work before Christmas, following on from the company festive buffet yesterday and we both had plenty to do this evening as we walked across Woodbridge to The Duke of York for a seasonal get-together with my fiancée’s school chums. Twelve of us enjoyed a boisterous evening well into the darkness of the long, long night.

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Wednesday 21st December 2011

Whilst the office gradually empties of people taking their remaining holiday to start their Christmas early and things quieten right down, ringing continues to get busier, at least for Ruthie and me. We were at St Mary‑le‑Tower early in the evening to ring for The Evening Star Carol Service where it was nice to see Mike Burn back ringing after a couple of months out ill. David’s work commitments meant he couldn’t make it but as he usually does in these circumstances he made sure there was enough to make a decent noise, though on this occasion the Grandsire Triples was far eclipsed by Call Changes on Eight.

Having forsook tea to make it to SMLT, we then grabbed a McDonalds, made a quick trip to Tesco for one last present hunt and headed onto Pettistree practice to ring some more, hand out/receive Christmas cards and then of course move onto The Greyhound for a pint.

Meanwhile, well done to the two Suffolk peal-ringing Salter men tonight. George for ringing his first peal of Kent Treble Bob Major and David for calling his 1800th peal, both in the success at The Wolery. George is coming along nicely, regularly joining us at St Mary-le-Tower where I hope we are helping him and of course David has been well known for all he has done in Suffolk and beyond, so deserving causes in both cases!

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Tuesday 20th December 2011

Although there are certain parts of the business that have something to do this week, for us in the sales team it not unexpectedly got even slower today. There was a semblance of activity though as we cleared some more things away and Peter and I got to take stuff down to our warehouse which even three years after we moved offices is still just outside Great Glemham. It’s always nice to take a trip out here and we combined it with taking a company Christmas present to our cleaner who also lives in the village. We also passed the Old School House which was where we were based when I first joined John Catt way back in May 2008. There is considerable building work going on there, though an extension has been completed and a completely new house built at the back in where there used to be a summerhouse which was a lovely little location to sit and look out over the fields and forests surrounding this beautiful corner of Suffolk. We couldn’t grab a sneaky pint in The Crown though (not that we were really considering that, honest!) as sadly that has closed completely. It was not entirely unexpected after what Ruthie and I found there when we tried to visit back in August, but the sight of this once wonderful old pub with its windows and doors boarded up with that grey metal sheeting which is normally the preserve of depressed inner-city areas is very sad indeed, especially as at this time of year it should be heaving with festive diners and drinkers and festooned with decorations. Still, there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest its closure may have been more down to the owners’ mismanagement rather than a lack-of-custom so hopefully we’ll see this reopened soon and it won’t just be turned into a house to see another village’s community hub ripped out.

Back at our quiet new offices, all of us employees were stunned by another large slice of our employer’s generosity. Not content with treating us to a three course meal and all the booze we could drink a week ago (and indeed all the other free meals we’ve had over the course of the rest of the year) Jonathan came round to give EACH of us a hamper full of goodies. Although not fond of coffee and Christmas Pudding (others close to me will benefit from those parts of John Catt’s gift!), there was enough to keep me happy with jam, marmalade, shortbread, Belgium chocolates and a bottle of fizzy amongst other little treats.

It set Ruthie and me up for an evening that started hectically with a trip to fight millions of others at Tesco (though we did grab a good chat with Cat the old receptionist at my current employers), returned to Pytches Road for manic present wrapping (I wrote the tags which was preferable to my appalling wrapping) and then wandered on to the now much nearer Edwin Avenue to meet Kate for a festive tipple once she’d returned from an apparently very reasonable practice at Ufford. Hopefully it’ll see me straight for another exciting day in the office tomorrow…

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Monday 19th December 2011

It’s the beginning of what threatens to be a slow week. The last working days leading up to Christmas tend to be very quiet, especially at a publishing firm which deals primarily with independent schools who pack up shop in early December, not to be seen or heard of again until about mid-January. With a full working week before we even get to Christmas Eve this year, the next few days will see an exaggeration of that and today saw us having the annual clear out complete with shredding and even a little vacuuming!

Not everything in our lives is winding down this week. At Boots, things are getting more and more hectic for Ruthie with each day she goes in and of course it promises to be a busy week of ringing starting with the last practice night at St Mary‑le‑Tower of 2011. Sadly it won’t go down as the best practice of the year as with a large number of regulars away we struggled, despite George Salter bringing a friend called Katharine who coincidentally had the same surname as him – what are the chances? Whether it was this or people being de-mob happy or both, it was a disappointing end to what has otherwise been a year of progress and achievement at Suffolk’s heaviest twelve. The advances the band has made in Surprise Royal (despite the London Royal being the biggest let-down of this evening) has been superb and will hopefully continue into 2012 as David introduces Bristol Royal and we look to work on their Maximus counterparts. Mr Potts should be congratulated on all he has achieved so far.

And of course it’s not the last ringing of the year at SMLT all together. There is ringing from 2 - 2.30 for tomorrow’s (Tuesday) crib service, 6.15 - 7 for Wednesdays Evening Star Carol Service, 6 - 7 for the Procession of Carols on Christmas Eve and 9.45 - 10.30 ringing on Christmas Day morning (note the change of time from normal Sunday morning ringing) before a peal attempt of 8-Spliced Surprise Major next Wednesday evening wraps things up. Your help at all (apart from the peal, David already has a band for that!) would be appreciated if you’re not already helping out elsewhere.

Sproughton.No help needed for young Eleanor Earey I’m sure, who yesterday rang her first quarter-peal, ringing the treble to Bob Doubles (like all the best!) at Sproughton, with her father conducting and mother bonging behind. Well done Elle!


And well done again Louis Suggett, who along with his friends followed up Sunday’s under-21’s peal of Bristol Max with an under-21’s peal of Spliced Surprise Maximus at Shoreditch. I’m sure Bardwell, Ixworth and the surrounding areas are looking forward to having him back for this busy week!

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Sunday 18th December 2011

With just a week to go until the big day, Christmas was in most places we looked today. Mason and I forsook the normal Sunday morning ringing trail to go to St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge for service where a huge tree has sprung up since we were last there and some of the children performed a nativity play, complete with reluctant shepherds and waving angels. To further the celebratory mood there was a note in the service sheets congratulating Bruce Wakefield on completing twenty-five years of being Tower Captain of the eight which should hopefully be ringing soon as I was told today the scaffolding is coming down on the tower, intentionally I understand! Good news all round – congratulations Bruce and well done Gillian!

A spot of lunch and the festive theme continued as the li’l chap insisted on helping Kate put her Christmas tree up and then accompanied me to Wyevale for some final present searching for Ruthie. Not quite there yet, but one present gathered, wrapped and then revealed to my fiancée by my son in a fit of excitement and we were on our way to St Mary‑le‑Tower for the special method practice. London Royal (No.3) should’ve been the focus but with sadly only nine turning up (plus Mason who had remissly failed to look London up) we turned our attentions to Surprise Major for what turned out to be a very useful evening for Abby Antrobus and an interesting insight into the world of 5673 roll-ups!

One of our Guild members was having an even better time down in London itself and well done (again!) to Louis Suggett who partook in a peal of Bristol Maximus at St Magnus the Martyr where no one in the band was over the age of twenty-one and the average age was twenty years and three months. Not very Christmassy but extremely impressive!

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Saturday 17th December 2011

Why did the witch put her broomstick in a washing machine? Because she wanted a clean sweep!

The jokes in crackers don’t get any better and judging by the fact that four of the five crackers we pulled today had this same one in, the variety is diminishing too. Cut-backs eh? Still, by the same reasoning that Cliff Richard songs are suddenly enjoyed in abundance because it is Christmas and cutting and pasting the TV schedules from one year to the next is accepted, I am happy to enjoy these jokes and everything that goes with the season and there was a huge amount of it today as we went to the North Norfolk Railway at Sheringham to see Father Christmas.

We almost didn’t make it as although the conditions were nowhere near as bad as last year’s Christmas train trip (when it took nine hours to get back from Didcot!) it was very icy with no apparent gritting having been done and having passed one crumpled car sat where someone’s front wall once was (we assumed everyone was alright as it had obviously only just happened and the main concern seemed to be shifting stray bricks off the road) everyone was on an understandable go-slow. Thankfully the railway were aware of the numerous accidents in Norfolk and the treacherous (that word’s back) circumstances in which many of their customers were travelling up in and so they’d held up the train that we were booked on and so we were able to partake in the complimentary mince pies (well, someone else partook in that for me) and sherry surrounded by decorations and table cloths adorned with images of Santa, reindeer and snowmen which delighted Mason. Not as much as a visit to the big man himself though and his grotto at Holt station. His gift of a toy camper van went down well too, as did a glass of mulled wine each for his Daddy and Aunty Ruthie once we were back on the train.

We all had a trip to The Robin Hood Tavern back in Sheringham for a festive pint once we’d arrived back but soon it was time to return home. Thank you Kate and Ron for a wonderful day.

A day that was completed by a visit from Pete Faircloth, complete with two litres of mulled wine! Happy Christmas!

And Happy Christmas (or more likely bah humbug if I know him!) and well done to Robert Beavis on ringing his first peal of Rutland in the 5056 at Debenham today. What a cracker!

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Friday 16th December 2011

For the umpteenth time this month I felt incredibly festive as I sat next to our Christmas tree, beyond it our window looking out to lightly falling snow as I chatted with Lesley Lesley Dolphin on the phone about tomorrow’s Christmas ringing in Ipswich. After the white stuff and shootings that have hindered Brian’s otherwise excellent arrangements, hopefully those coming in to ring won’t be put off by the brief burst of winter today or indeed the deaths at the docks and in a house fire that saw the town making the national news channels for both incidents tonight.

That followed on from us catching a repeat of Wednesday night’s Still Ringing After All These Years: A Short History of Bells. Although as ringers who already know a lot about bells and change-ringing we will have a different perspective to non-ringers, I thought the programme did a superb job of explaining our art with cameos from friends Dickon Love – who gave the presenter Richard Taylor a quick go at the recently visited St Magnus-the-Martyr – Martin Cansdale the former Ringing Master of the College Youths and Hazel Basford who along with her husband Hedley come to Ipswich regularly to see their family and have become good friends of the St Mary-le-Tower ringers. The only gripe I would have with the programme is its promotion of the blinking Martin Creed Project, an ill-thought out and lazy bit of ‘art’ that could cause us a lot of problems. So worth another reminder to check the tower-finder on the projects website and keep an eye on your local towers, especially those with no bands and/or ground-floor, open peals of bells. Otherwise we could see an accident or a loss of all that good publicity that the likes of Lesley Dolphin give us.

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Thursday 15th December 2011

Picking Kate up from Ipswich Railway Station after an exciting couple of days in Scotland gave us an opportunity to go late-night shopping in Suffolk’s county town, joining the bustling crowds under the bright festive lights. Of course there was no Grundisburgh practice so I was also able to throw in a trip to Tesco and a call to Uncle Eric to wish him a Happy Birthday as well as returning Max home in anticipation of his owner’s return.

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Wednesday 14th December 2011

The Wolery.Considering the amount of drinking and mixing of grapes that went on yesterday, Ruthie and I felt alright this morning and even the usual 3pm downturn didn’t materialize. In fact there seems to be no significant after-effects, perhaps due to the amount of water I drunk (the older I get, the wiser even I get!) and we were ready and raring for our last peal attempt at The Wolery of 2011. This time out it was Ashtead Surprise Major which generally went very well and was a fitting finale to a year of achievement in the little blue shed.

Preston St Mary.And whilst I suspect it’s not quite the last this year we’ll see of the western Suffolk quarter-peal ringers, it has been a year of achievement in their ranks too and as we reach the end of another hectic twelve months for them it was appropriate that still more was achieved today, this time by Richard Brewster who rang his first of Double Court Bob Minor in the success at Preston St Mary. Well done Richard!

Credit is also due to two ringers from Essex who help us out greatly within our borders, most particularly at St Mary‑le‑Tower. The 5088 of Superlative Surprise Major at Ardleigh saw Stephen Cheek call his first peal and Ian Culham ring his first on eight. Well done both of you!

Meanwhile, I’m afraid my annoying voice is on Radio Suffolk again this week. On Friday at 1.30pm I shall be on the phone to friend of ringers Lesley Dolphin in regards the Christmas ringing in Ipswich the following day. It is the start of a busy week or so for ringers that will also see much change to the normal order of things, though perhaps less so with Christmas Day being on a Sunday this year. For us at SMLT we have a crib service to ring for from 2-2.30 on Tuesday and then the Evening Star Carol Service from 6-7 the next day if anyone can help whilst we are also ringing from 6-7 for the Procession of Carols on Christmas Eve! On the big day itself our ringing time will be later than it normally is on a Sunday, running from 9.45-10.30 and you won’t be surprised to know there was little enthusiasm for a practice night on the 26th before things return to normal on New Year’s Day and Monday 2nd January. Meanwhile there won’t be any ringing at Grundisburgh on the 25th. Whilst for most of you events at the county’s only (for now!) two twelves won’t effect you, it does highlight that for all towers there will be extra ringing, changes of times and some normal ringing will be cancelled over the festive period. Please do keep up with what’s happening at your local tower and help where you can at this busy time!

At least you won’t have to fit it around catching How God Made the English, the programme we filmed for at St Lawrence back in July. Despite originally being scheduled for next week, I received word today that it isn’t likely to be on until March. However, following last week’s much talked about programme on BBC4 which we still haven’t caught, we were at least able to catch the end of Still Ringing After All These Years: A Short History of Bells on the same channel tonight between returning from Ipswich and popping across the road to deliver a card to Toby and Amy. Of course it is now on iPlayer (the programme, not the card) and is repeated on Friday at 8pm. There’s lots to listen and watch out for!

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Tuesday 13th December 2011

If it’s good enough for Pippa Middleton it’s good enough for John Catt Educational. Just a couple of days after the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister stayed and dined at the Crown Hotel in Woodbridge whilst in the area for a wedding at St Andrew’s church in Melton (if it’s good enough for Mason’s Christening, it’s good enough, etc, etc), my generous employers took all their employees out to the same establishment for our Christmas meal, all expenses paid. Sadly we were unable to find which chair her most famous asset rested on, but we did have an absolutely marvelous afternoon of eating and drinking. I can recommend the celeriac and stilton soup, turkey (the first of many over the next couple of weeks I imagine) and chocolate torte, but the rest looked lovely too, though I still can’t bring myself to like Christmas pudding!

It was all washed down by Adnams Spiced and copious amounts of white wine which meant we and our guests Mary and Jeff were very merry by the time Ruthie and other partners joined us. There was a brief flurry of activity when one member of staff accidentally went missing with the company credit card and had us wondering if we’d have to do the washing up, but once that had been sorted the diehards among us moved onto the cheaper but nonetheless wonderful Anchor round the corner.

Ruthie and I returned home to walk Max who we’re looking after whilst his owner is in Scotland doing the Christmas present run at the end of a day that saw me getting up at 5am to take said owner to Ipswich Railway Station and was all in all a very memorable and enjoyable day. One that even Pippa may have enjoyed!

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Monday 12th December 2011

It was an up and down practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening. The London Royal we finished with wasn’t as good as last weeks (though it improved) which was a shame as the spliced Cambridge and Yorkshire Royal beforehand was superb and followed on from a useful evening for Sean, George and Craig with lots of Double Norwich and Bob Major rung.

All being well, SMLT will of course be one of the Ipswich towers featuring in this Saturday’s Christmas ringing in Ipswich between 11.45 and 12.15 and no matter how many Brian Redgers gets for this popular and hugely enjoyable event, he never turns anyone away. So if you want to get a bit of Christmas shopping done and perhaps grab a tower than please come along and take part.

For now it was a pint in The Cricketers as we battled the phantom door opener which was getting slightly annoying!

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Sunday 11th December 2011

It’s got to that time of year when people seem to be permanently sewn into thick coats and glued to a batch of envelopes as they wander round the freezing streets and lanes of our beautiful county. And up St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening the infamous Christmas card filing system is in place, hopefully avoiding the fate of having Pottsy throw it across the belfry this year.

For now though, it was birthdays that was the focus rather than Christmas as I accompanied Mason to not one but two fifth birthday parties. The first was for Samuel at the familiar St Audry’s Sports and Social Club in Melton which has hosted Nick and Kala’s engagement party, the li’l chap’s Christening do and Mrs Roger’s birthday bash and today resonated to the sound of noisy kids playing a host of games like pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey and football amongst many others whilst also stuffing themselves with crisps and cake.

The first leg dealt with, Mason excitedly chattered on the way to Northgate Sports Centre for the second party, this time for Alice. This was a slightly different event, with a bouncy castle, ball pit and soft furnishings galore as the li’l chap and his contemporaries dashed madly around before consuming even more food, though my boy spent most of the time taking bowls of food round to others, highlighting the helpful nature that has endeared him to people of all ages and indicating why he is so in demand.

That helpful nature was in evidence at Grundisburgh this morning as he entertained little Rosie as her mother Laura rang. Whilst we got through Yorkshire Major and then Grandsire Triples, the li’l chap waved toys about at the young girl and read from Standard Diagrams to her. Perhaps the future of ringing?

Aldeburgh.At the other end of the experience scale, many congratulations to Mary Dunbavin on ringing her 700th peal for the Guild in the success at Aldeburgh this afternoon. It has been well earned by this good ringer who is usually available and willing to help out which has been highlighted in her efforts towards our recent 41 Surprise Minor result. Congratulations too to Richard Brewster on ringing his fiftieth quarter this year and well done to Andrea Alderton who rang her first Buxton Bob Minor in the same 1260 at Buxhall today.

It may be that time of year, but there is plenty being achieved on the end of a rope and hopefully more to come before 2011 passes.

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Saturday 10th December 2011

Pettistree.It’s been a busy few weeks at SS Peter & Paul, Pettistree. Hot on the heels of the tower AGM and the dedication of our new peal-board which coincided with the celebrations of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the rededication of this now well-used six, we this morning scored the annual peal rung to mark the December anniversaries of the rededication of the bells in 1986 and first peal on the restored bells in 1987. And in keeping with the standard and variety of ringing that has created and attracted so many good ringers over the last quarter of a century, it wasn’t done the easy way. Instead, we rang the three methods named after the village and recorded on the aforementioned peal-board, Schurr Surprise Minor named in memory of the much-missed Susan and Wickham Market Surprise which was first named and quartered this year in the village of its name to welcome the arrival of dedicated Pettistree ringer Gill Waterson and her husband Dick to the big WM by a Pettistree band. Also fittingly, it was Mary Garner’s 350th peal, rung at the tower she learnt to ring at twenty-five years ago.

Pettistree Peal Band.Peal duly rung and rung well, we convened at The Greyhound for a drink and then assembled for band photos (though we couldn’t see for a while after staring into the bright winter sunshine for so long!) before Ruthie and I returned Kate home and we headed to Ipswich to collect Mason from his grandparents who had again been generously looking after him.

The peal meant we were unable to attend the North-West District Social at Barrow, but there was just time for a bite to eat and a cup of tea at home before we headed out to the North-East District Carol Service at Wenhaston. I have to admit that we hadn’t intended to attend this occasion as some weeks ago it had been announced that Ipswich Town’s game at Barnsley would be shown live on the tele at the same time. Normally I would stop everything to watch my favourite team play, especially as going to an actual game is still far too expensive to do regularly. However, with each of the seven defeats in a row the Tractor Boys have suffered recently, the decision to enjoy some festive cheer rather than depress myself further over football had increasingly become a no-brainer. On beginning our journey back home we tuned into Radio Suffolk to find Town were 2-0 down at half-time and the decision felt entirely justified. By the time we got back to Pytches Road (our new address by the way) though the boys in blue were 3-2 up, playing superbly on the way to a 5-3 victory. I’ve lost count of the number of false dawns we’ve had at Portman Road over the last few years (there have been at least two already this season) so I’m certainly not getting excited at this result and I am still rather depressed about the future of an aging team that wouldn’t look out of place at Veteran’s Day if they were ringers, but I did feel a little disappointed to have missed the game after all.

Wenhaston.Helmingham.However, I’m still glad we went to the Carol Service which had liberal sprinklings of the season’s magic, from Ronnie’s opening solo of the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City to – rather appropriately considering ITFC’s efforts in North Yorkshire on this cold December night – In the Bleak Midwinter and Joy to the World. And after a toilet break for the li’l chap which saw us inadvertently gate-crash a local party in the church hall complete with wine and nibbles we returned to the church to hear new father Richard Rapior doing the bible reading which recounts the story of the newborn child in the manger whilst his month-old daughter Emily and his wife Julie watched on. To top it all off there was wine for those who could partake and mince pies for those who like the darn things as Maggie Ross excitedly told us about her role in the first peal on the restored bells at Helmingham which it is good to see back in the peal columns. Who knows what may be done to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of this restoration?

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Friday 9th December 2011

Happy Birthday Mandy Shedden!

Mason, Ruthie and I were delighted to be invited to join in the Guild secretary’s 50th celebrations at the Southgate Community Centre in Bury St Edmunds where the barn dance not only served as a practice for the 2012 Guild Social (which will be a barn dance held at Sproughton Tithe Barn on Saturday 15th September – put the date in your diary now!) but was a jolly good night out. Barn dances are energetic things, just about the only partying that involves a serious form of exercise too and apart from the occasional injury (ask Alan McBurnie and Kate Eagle about that!) it produces a really fun atmosphere that the li’l chap of course gobbled up, even after having his school disco this afternoon! We should be really grateful for Mandy’s work for the Guild, not only in her current job (which I reckon is probably the hardest role in the Guild) but previously as secretary for the North-West District and as the PR Officer, especially as she has a lot else on her plate. Thank you Mandy for a great night and I hope you had a fantastic birthday.

Rendham.Whilst we were exhausting ourselves dancing wildly, others were (possibly exhausting themselves) ringing, most notably Susanne Eddis who rang her first quarter of Surprise Major in the success at Rendham. Well done Susanne!


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Thursday 8th December 2011

Now the temperatures are hitting bitter lows, the frost needing to be scrapped of the windscreen in the morning and darkness falling well before we leave the office, those long, balmy sunny days when Ruthie and I were organizing our lives around the next stamp on the Woodforde’s Ale Trail seem a long, long time ago, which is why we were slightly puzzled that we still hadn’t received our hoody as reward for forcing copious amounts of beer down our throats. Philip and Maggie had received their prizes some time ago, though they were able to collect them in person from the brewery shop in Woodbastwick whilst we had to send off for ours. But we were sure they should’ve been with us by now. A slight prod later and today our wish was fulfilled. I say ours as my fiancée has claimed said item of clothing, but it does at least mean that she doesn’t keep nicking my fleece!

She was able to show it off tonight as – along with Susanne who, with us, was accepting a lift with Kate on a very wet and windy night - we went to the latest Surprise Major practice at Ufford. Again, the selected crowd allowed for a more useful, controlled session that already seems to be benefiting those present and giving everyone a proper go. As I said last time, this is far from elite. In fact, completely the opposite as hopefully the more this group of ringers progresses, the easier it may be to introduce others.

Henley. Ipswich St Nicholas.It’ll be the last one of 2011, but there is still plenty going on before Christmas and New Year reaches us. Apart from the two festive events happening tomorrow (NW District Christmas Social & NE District Carol Service), there is Midweek Ringing at Henley and then after lunch (where the ringing will either improve or get worse depending on how much you’ve had to drink at The Barham Sorrel Horse) at Offton on Tuesday, the Bacton Monthly Practice on Wednesday and then Saturday 17th December there will be the annual Christmas Ringing in Ipswich. Unfortunately, a diary clash means once again we can’t make it this year as this is one of my favourite ringing events of the year. There is always a tremendous mix of people there, all with tales to tell of the tower they’ve rung at, especially if that tower happens to be St Nicholas, St Mary at the Quay or St Stephen! And every year, Brian Redgers somehow manages to get ringers for every bell rung full-circle in the town centre, even if weather conditions mean they don’t always get there! It is well worth taking part in if you’re not already, so please do contact Brian on 01473 436 575, he’d be delighted to hear from you. And don’t forget that refreshments afterwards are in St Margaret’s church itself, not across the road as they have been in the past.

Meanwhile, whilst there will be no practice at The Norman Tower next Tuesday, down in the Cathedral you will be able to view the two new trebles until their dedication in March before they make up the county’s third twelve. It’s all very exciting, as are the achievements of Suffolk’s ringers and well done today to Susan Densham on ringing her first inside and of Bob Minor and Michelle Williams on calling her first quarter of Minor, all in the success at Reydon. Who needs warm weather?

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Wednesday 7th December 2011

Bob the Builder! Can he fix it? Bob the Builder! Well, not on this occasion.

Instead, it was left to a nice man sent by the letting agency to point out that all that was really wrong with our hot water was a lack of patience (though age and gravity on the systems behalf also played a part) and Toby and Amy to not only point out that Emily had a flat tyre but to fix it as well. We rewarded our neighbours with a cuppa and had a good old chat before we all dispersed for our respective teas and Ruthie and I then headed onto Pettistree practice and then The Greyhound after that – Happy Birthday Mrs Roger!

Meanwhile, well done yesterday to Robert Beavis on ringing his fiftieth quarter of the year. Although rung in Bristol (St Michael-on-the-Mount, Without), it’s safe to say the majority of those were rung in Suffolk so are deserving of inclusion here! Plus I couldn’t stand the bleating if I didn’t…

One thing I did miss this evening was a programme called Come Bellringing with Charles Hazlewood on BBC Four this evening. Of course I – and most of you too – will be able to watch it on iPlayer and it is on again on the same channel on Friday night so it’s not the end of the world that I didn’t catch it. It also starts a couple of weeks of bellringing themed BBC Four programmes with another one on next Wednesday and then apparently How God Made the English (which we filmed for at St Lawrence in the summer) on the following week. So keep your eyes on the TV schedules!

And don’t forget a festive Saturday this weekend as the North-West District host their Christmas Social at Barrow in the morning and the North-East District hold their Carol Service at Wenhaston.

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Tuesday 6th December 2011

Is there anything much more festive than four and five year-olds singing Christmas songs at their primary school dressed as donkeys, shepherds and – in Mason’s case – elves? I think not and it was great fun watching the li’l chap nod along when he wasn’t sure of the words before belting out the lines he did know at full blast! There was ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘Little Donkey’ and (lots of) ‘Jingle Bells’ as well as some ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ which sent me back to John Catt – who had very generously let meout of the office to watch the my boy’s performance – with a warm fuzzy glow and humming the season’s favourites.

Back at home we almost felt like we were stepping back in time as for some reason we’ve stopped getting hot water. The boiler still works, the heating is still going but what was once roasting hot water is now lukewarm at best. An evening of investigating by first us and then the ever helpful Ron and Jude failed to find the cause so it’ll be a case of seeing what tomorrow brings.

At least we got the pleasure of our visitors’ company and Ron had deserved his cuppa, even if it took me two attempts to make!

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Monday 5th December 2011

There was a real sense of progress at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening. From Ian Culham’s well-rung Rutland Major to tentative steps back into Surprise Maximus to an extremely well-rung few leads of London Royal (No3) that had a consistent rhythm and good striking throughout bar a couple of method mistakes.

In The Cricketers afterwards we were reminded of ringing’s past and the standards we all ought to be looking to emulate as the Bailey brothers of Leiston – and more specifically Fred Bailey - came up in the conversation. Following my article about the very successful Bailey Day on Campanophile, a lady from Rugby got in touch to say she had been taught by Fred at Castle Bromwich and wanted to find out more. I pointed her in George Pipe’s direction and when he brought it up over a pint tonight, Simon Griffiths mentioned that he too had been taught by Fred at the same 10cwt six at SS Mary & Margaret, from handling through to his first quarters. It further reiterates the reach and effect this extraordinary group of brothers from north-east Suffolk had on ringing.

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Sunday 4th December 2011

Pettistree.I have said it before but it’s worth reiterating. Pettistree is an example of how things should be done in ringing. It’s hard to believe now, but in the mid-1980’s the bells here had remained silent since 1937, bar the odd occasion most notable of which was celebrating VE Day. When the project to rehang the bells was set about, they did it as all such projects should be done, by involving the community. But they went further than that by teaching an entire new band, eighteen in all including Chris and Mary ’41-Spliced Surprise Minor’ Garner, our current webmaster and immediate past secretary respectively and both tremendous contributors not just to their local tower but the whole Guild.

At the rededication on 14th December 1986, the bells were rung by an entirely local band which had been learning for the previous six months at other accommodating towers nearby. It was a tremendous achievement that saw the band hit the ground running and ever since, Mike Whitby has ensured that good handling, striking and variety have been the mainstays of ringing here, all done with good humour. That has meant that the ringing has constantly been of a good standard and has seen the band win the Mitson Shield in 2008, nearly seven hundred quarters rung on the once silent bells since their restoration and numerous peals involving many local ringers scored. Three of those peals were in methods named after the village. Pettistree Delight in 1996, Pettistree Bob in 2006 and of course Peter’s Tree Surprise (the band that named Pettistree Surprise Major which doesn’t convert to Minor refused to rename the line) at the end of last year.

Pettistree Peal Board.Today saw the dedicating of a peal-board recording these achievements in a celebration that also appropriately marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the rededication of the bells. It is a fine board, quite rightly dedicated to the memory of the much-missed Susan Schurr who did so much to keep the peal-board at the forefront of our minds and six of us got a quick glimpse of it before ringing the six hundred and eighty-eighth quarter on the restored bells to celebrate the occasion. The method was Pettistree Bob, a tricky little line that caught us all out at some point but that didn’t distract from a good quarter befitting of the Pettistree standard.

Presentation to Mike Whitby.The band popped over to the Church Room for our second ringer’s tea of the weekend as I rejoined Mason who Ron had very kindly been looking after – thanks Ron! We were then in turn joined by Ruthie after work and then crowds of Pettistree ringers and helpers past and present, including the Girt’s, George Pipe and the lesser spotted Mark Ogden as well Jed, Philip and Maggie as Guild officers visited in abundance. Mike was deservedly presented with a wonderful picture of SS Peter & Paul done by Peter Schurr and an engraved tankard for a quarter-of-a-century’s hard graft to ensure such a high standard has been reached and maintained.

It was then back over to the church for more ringing and a service which saw the Bishop of Dunwich give one of his typically entertaining sermons. Mason got a lift back with Aunty Kate having behaved impeccably at the end of a long day for one so young. Of course it began at St Mary‑le‑Tower, though two courses of Grandsire Cinques was too long for the li’l chap to hold on which meant we had to head home for a swift change rather than to St Lawrence before we rejoined the Sunday morning circuit at Grundisburgh.

But one of the most exciting parts of the day for Mason and me was visiting the annual Woodbridge Christmas Fayre and then putting up our decorations at home. A brightly lit tree sits proudly in the window of our new home and was a welcome surprise for Ruthie when she eventually returned home to share a cuppa with her mother.

Surely an exciting part of Stephen Dawson and David Howe’s day was ringing their first quarter of Gower Bob Minor in the success at Great Finborough. Well done guys, hope you had fun!

And you could all have fun too, with Claire Monk’s beer. It’s a shameless plug I know, but she is doing a fantastic job running her micro-brewery in Sheffield and she is coming home for the Christmas period so if you want to put in an order for some of her beer, now is the time to do it! We can recommend the Henrietta!

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Saturday 3rd December 2011

Ringing meetings in Suffolk are one of my fondest childhood memories. Not so much the meetings themselves which were above my head at that time and very dull as a consequence. But rather all that went with them. Generally at that point of my ringing odyssey it would be at a new tower (or even towers) which I had little concept of where it was, with ringers I didn’t always ring with, ringing stuff that I didn’t always get the chance to ring, ending up in a quaint country pub that was totally at odds with the 1950’s semi-detached dominated suburban housing estate in Ipswich that I grew up in, lovely as that was. Incidentally they are the same reasons that I enjoyed peal-ringing and still do.

The tea was of course a highlight as many of you who knew Chris and me and our gravity-defying plates of food will testify! But there was a real sense of adventure when I was younger going out to these, never fully knowing who or what to expect.

When I went to university, ringing changed for me. It became a lot more professional in its outlook and whilst I obviously enjoyed the increased drinking opportunities, I still yearned for those afternoons in a quaint village hall in my rural homeland. Although I occasionally went to meetings for what is now the Lichfield & Walsall Archdeaconries Society, I had no car then and it was a rare treat that depended entirely on whether I could get out there and back.

Hollesley.So when I returned to this wonderful part of the world, complete with car (when I wasn’t crashing it!) I was delighted to return to these occasions, such as the South-East District ADM today at Hollesley on a gorgeous sunny December afternoon that only enhanced that warm glow accompanies me at such events. The emphasis has changed slightly. The towers are rarely a grab now (especially Hollesley of course!) and I find myself more the helper than the helped these days, but I at least know what’s going on in the meetings and that element of surprise still exists. It was great to see Alan McBurnie back from his travels and also James Smith who is now back in the country permanently, albeit in London. However, that’s still closer than Hong Kong so hopefully we’ll see a lot more of this much-missed, brilliant ringer. We were also honoured to have Alex Tatlow there, fresh from scoring his first peal of Stedman Doubles at Grundisburgh this morning, along with David Stanford who completed the family from Doubles to Cinques at the same time. Well done guys!

Following the service which I still think is an important part of the day, the tea was a fantastic spread, though as I am now setting an example to Mason - who’ll hopefully also grow up to love these events – I can’t afford to pile the plate too high these days! And although the meeting can never be described as exciting I have grown to learn that they are a vital way of communicating with the membership.

Today much was brought up about the various Olympic projects going on, good and bad (just a reminder to keep an eye on your local towers in regards the Martin Creed Project) and the long-term review of deanery boundaries and representation. However, the most significant bit of business was Tom Scase replacing Kate Eagle as District Ringing Master after five years. Of course it may be expected of me to praise my future mother-in-law’s tenure, but she was very deservedly thanked this afternoon for her service. It hasn’t always been easy. Her job and other commitments take up a lot of time, often unpredictably but she has carried out the role in a way which Ruthie and I are very familiar with from other aspects of her life, with enthusiasm, organisation and above all else good humour. She has always been approachable and willing to help and the changing of the dead August date to the thriving and popular Quarter-Peal Day – a true highlight of the calendar – was a masterstroke.

She has often been let down by the membership in my opinion with some quite appalling turnouts from the most populated district with the best transport links. Tom has a number of issues to address in this respect – though not on his own of course – such as why we never see any ringers from the Shotley Peninsula. Holbrook have a keen band that go on outings across the county. Harkstead have a thriving young band that are helped to great effect by the Salter’s. What should we as a district be doing to attract them to these events which would surely benefit them?

I hope that Tom gets the support he deserves and needs from the district membership and he had a good start tonight with nearly fifty present this afternoon and a large chunk of that stopping on to ring at this superb eight in the evening. Ruthie and I thought we ought to get the li’l chap to bed after an exciting day for him that started – as it did for us – at his grandparents who very generously put us up (and thanks to David Potts for getting us back in Ashcroft Road’s vicinity last night!) and continued onto the Suffolk Ski Centre where he had been invited to an afternoon of tobogganing for a friend’s fifth birthday party. He’s proving to be a popular boy as after last week’s party, he has TWO more next Sunday!

There are hopefully a lot of fond childhood memories for him to remember from today and next weekend!

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Friday 2nd December 2011

There was a continuation of yesterday’s festive feel as the Christmas decorations went up at John Catt, adding sparkle and colour to the office and the ringers of Southwold rang for the switching on of the seaside town’s lights. Well done to Michelle Williams on ringing her first of Surprise Major for the occasion as 1282 changes of Cambridge were scored as well as a quarter of Plain Bob Triples. All very jolly.

Having picked Mason up singing ‘Jingle Bells’, we then passed large crowds in Warwick Avenue round the corner from ours as they awaited the switch-on of the huge display there that raises so much money for charity and the electricity companies every year. We weren’t stopping though as we had a date in Ipswich as once we’d dropped the li’l chap off at his grandparents for the night, Ruthie and I walked into town to The Cricketers which was the assembly point for the St Mary‑le‑Tower curry night. Mum and Dad aren’t overly keen on spicy food so we were grateful for their babysitting whilst we had some drinks first at the familiar Wetherspoon’s and then at The Dhaka where the main event took place. It was a grand idea of Mr Potts and saw a good crowd out with a large Essex contingent and a visit from Mr and Mrs Guild Ringing Master! It’s the kind of social event that there should be more of in ringing and seems to have spawned the idea of a two-legged SMLT-Norman Tower Ten-Pin Bowling competition. Watch this space!

And watch this space next summer as this evening the draw for Euro 2012 was made. There shouldn’t be any need for taking time off work as none of England’s games start before 5pm, but please note I am not available for ringing on the evening’s of 11th, 15th and 19th June!

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Thursday 1st December 2011

Christmas is still more than three weeks away, but in many respects I enjoy the build-up to it most of all. Come the 26th and the emphasis switches to recovery and then the New Year celebrations which are still good fun. But as the festive season approaches there is a great sense of anticipation that I’m fortunate has never been let-down on the 25th yet.

Of course for some it starts the previous January with buying cheap decorations, cards, gifts, etc. You do hear of the really mad who celebrate as if it’s Christmas everyday. But even the more sane and restrained will have noticed some card shops flogging their Christmas wares in July, closely followed by the rest before summer has finished. But for me, it’s December 1st when it really starts. The parties and meals will be in full-flow for just about every company and organization, carols will be heard round almost every corner and I shan’t feel guilty about listening to Noddy Holder hollering ‘it’s Christmas’ for the trillionth time. Cards with humorous depictions of Santa Claus being clamped, pictures of pretty snow-covered villages and even some with a reminder of the Christian element will begin flying backwards and forwards between friends and relatives, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer will appear, the sparkle of different coloured lights bouncing off shiny tinsel and candles in darkened medieval dinner halls as choirs sing traditional hymns will become commonplace and there will be a distinct spring in most people’s step. To be honest we’ll all be fed up of it by New Year’s Day if not sooner, but I intend to enjoy it while it lasts.

As if I needed anymore of the season’s joys pumped into me, Ruthie and I were greeted by a sea of brightly lit trees as we arrived to ring for the opening of the annual St Mary‑le‑Tower Christmas Tree Festival early this evening. The ringers’ tree sits proudly and appropriately at the bottom of the belfry stairs, bedecked with blue lines and topped by a Suffolk Guild badge made by our very own Sean – thanks Sean! It is all a wonderful sight and is well worth a visit before it finishes on Tuesday 6th December, especially if you’re as much in the Christmas spirit as I am currently!

Although our esteemed Ringing Master was unable to make it (as he suspected) due to work commitments, he had made sure there was a good band on hand to ring the front eight before we all headed back out into the driving rain for home, for us via Kate’s to pick up our own decorations and advent calendars. Let the festivities begin!

Meanwhile, well done to the local band for the 1260 of Doubles that marked a hundred years of peal-ringing at Great Barton and most particularly to Alex Tatlow who at the same time was ringing his fiftieth quarter of 2011. Congratulations Alex, there’s still thirty days to reach the century!

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Wednesday 30th November 2011

At the end of next month it will of course be time to ring in 2012, a significant year for Ruthie and me but also for the nation as the biggest sporting show on Earth arrives seventy miles down the road in the big place just past Stratford St Mary. And bellringing is doing its bit and we in Suffolk will hopefully not get left behind. A lot has been said on avoiding the Martin Creed project, but there is an Olympic project that the Central Council and we are keen that members get involved in – Five Rings Triples. This is a method that has been composed especially for the occasion and especially for bellringers and whilst it isn’t true in the traditional sense of a method, it is something that we should be capable of doing. For those in five and six-bell towers there is a Doubles version too and we are being encouraged to ring quarters of it if possible with the CCCBR keen for people to ring it for New Year. More details are available on the Presidents blog (and here. Ed.), including blue lines and a website to sign up to. Please get involved and also let me know too as the East Anglican – the magazine published by the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich – would like to know how many towers and where will be doing this as I have written a short piece (they only give you 150 words which is short for me!) for their December edition on bells and the New Year.

There was a more traditional achievement amongst the county’s ringers today as Joanne Sharples rang her first quarter inside in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Rushmere. Well done Joanne and keep it up!

Hopton.And I also missed another landmark achievement on Saturday when the first peal on the augmented bells at Hopton was rung. I’m sure Stephen would’ve been delighted with this peal, so well done all involved.


As a new era is ushered in there, an old one was ending for Ruthie and me as I handed the keys back on our now officially old property in Sun Lane. I accompanied a representative from the letting agents on their inspection of the house at lunchtime and although we have been desperate to get out of here for months I still felt a pang of sadness as we wandered the empty shell that was a home for Mason, Ruthie and me for two-and-a-half years. For all the mould, dampness and slugs and that blinking boiler, it is worth noting the circumstances we arrived here in back in April 2009. Hollesley was – and I imagine still is – a lovely village to live in, just a walk from the sea, with a nice pub, shop and superb ring of eight of course, surrounded by beautiful coastal rural idyllness. But at a time when money was a lot tighter than it is now, the fifteen mile round trip just to get to Woodbridge and back for work, Mason, shopping or even just when I’d forgotten something was expensive both financially and time-wise. And whilst the flat really was wonderful, my fast-growing son sharing our bedroom was far from ideal. So the house opposite Jewson’s certainly helped us out and has been the scene of many happy memories and our home as other happy memories were made elsewhere.

Nonetheless, we are delighted with our new abode and with our past one now out of our hands we can focus fully on unpacking boxes, finding clothes and clearing space in Melton. There’s lots of it still to be done so we forsook Pettistree practice this evening to sort more stuff out but not before ringing in the pre-practice quarter of Pettistree Delight Minor. It was a big success, especially considering the furrowed brows beforehand, not least from my fiancée who due to a communication mix-up between her, me and Mike hadn’t even realized she was in the quarter until three quarters of an hour beforehand which saw her combining cooking tea with learning the line of a method that sees more unnatural 6-5’s and ‘London roll-ups’. Thanks for the footnote guys!

It was a good effort which suggests that Five Rings shouldn’t be beyond us!

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Tuesday 29th November 2011

One of the many good things about our new abode ahead of Sun Lane is that we’re allowed to put pictures up on the wall. It always makes a place feel more homely and perhaps another reason why we’ve never felt entirely comfortable at the house we’re in the process of vacating. So now, there is a panoramic photo of Wembley Stadium dated Monday 29th May 2000. It was the last ever domestic football match at the old stadium, but more significantly to me it was the day that Ipswich Town won promotion to the Premier League by beating Barnsley 4-2 in the play-off final. My brother and I were there having come down from the Midlands and if Mum and Dad hadn’t been away that weekend we probably would’ve travelled up to our town of birth to celebrate with the thousands of other Town fans and slept in Chez Ashcroft. Apart from obvious exceptions such as Mason’s birth, Ruthie and I getting engaged and finding out we had secured our new home (have I mentioned lately that we’ve moved?), it was the best day of my life.

But looking back, perhaps we ITFC supporters had been spoilt. Our eventual triumph in north-west London on that cloudy early summers day came at the end of our fourth consecutive participation in the exciting end-of-season lottery and although the previous three attempts had obviously finished in failure at least it was entertaining and interesting. Our first season back in the big-time saw us finish 5th above the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, who in fact got relegated that season! In fact, if results had gone our way on the last day of the season we would’ve qualified for the Champion’s League. We did still qualify for the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) and then beat the mighty Inter Milan and although we got relegated that season we still had a team to be proud of, there were so many good memories and it seemed it wouldn’t be long before we returned to the best league in the world.

Next year will mark ten years since Liverpool beat us 5-0 to send us down and since then, bar reaching the play-offs a couple of times in the early years, that victory over Arsenal at the beginning of this year (even that seems a long time ago) and numerous victories over Naaaaaridge who by and large (until Paul Lambert came along and once he leaves) were even more woeful than us for much of the same period, it has been a depressing and dull decade of football in this part of the world. Our latest move sees me at my tenth different address since we last played in the Premier League and although we plan to be here for a long time (partly because we really like it but partly because getting an affordable mortgage anytime soon seems unlikely), following this evening’s 4-0 defeat at Burnley (which you might have already worked out is the reason for my ramblings through footballing history) it doesn’t seem inconceivable that I will have lived in another ten places before we return to the top flight. If we ever return. It actually seems more likely that we’ll go down now and for the first time in my life I don’t care. I have sadly lost all interest in a club that once made me so happy.

In fact, having picked Ruthie up for a late shift from Boots, I was more interested in making sure that Sun Lane was finally cleared and cleaned by tomorrow’s handing back of the keys.

Hollesley.And hopefully South-East District members will have got their names in for tea at Saturday’s ADM at Hollesley by tomorrow too. With Kate stepping down, we will have a new Ringing Master and it would be superb for them to have a big turnout to support them. I shall be there avoiding the Tractor Boys’ latest defeat (at home to Watford for the record) and I hope to see lots of experienced ringers and improvers alike, helping and learning and enjoying the last big district get-together before Christmas. Anything’s got to be better than following the football…


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Monday 28th November 2011

With everything now moved across to our new home it is a race against time to clean the mouldy damp-ridden, slug-infested old one before we hand the keys back later in the week. On top of that we needed to go to Tesco as we had no food in, unless oatmeal biscuits on a bed of spaghetti is your idea of food heaven. All combined it meant we didn’t make it to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice but were at least able to welcome our new neighbours Toby and Amy who we now live directly opposite to! Time will tell if that’s a good thing or not!

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Sunday 27th November 2011

When we moved into our new house, we didn’t expect sea views, what with it being in Melton and about ten miles from the North Sea. And to be fair we haven’t got sea views, but I was amazed when I drew back our bedroom curtains and realized we could see the cranes of Felixstowe docks. It is a fantastic view as the cranes are far enough away not to blight it with the rooftops of Woodbridge, the glistening surface of the Deben and the green countryside and forest that occupies the pretty east bank of the aforementioned river peeking through in front of the towers of Britain’s biggest port. It makes a big change from only being able to see Jewson’s!

View from the Ferry  Quay Cafe.There wasn’t too much time to admire the view though as Kate was picking Mason and me up in the van for another day of shifting whilst Ruthie went to work. First though it was a trip to Pettistree for Sunday morning ringing and then the Caravan Café for a hearty breakfast to prepare us for what lay ahead.


And what did lay ahead was a phone call from Alex Tatlow asking for the number of the missing ringer from the peal attempt at Great Barton and the emptying of what has been our home for over two-and a half years, with some stuff being deposited in the new house and other stuff going to the dump before the three of us retired for a cuppa. Many, many thanks to Kate for all her help this weekend (especially today!) but also to Ron, Mum, Dad, Chris and of course Mason! Well done team!

And well done Fred Stentiford and Anne Buswell who rang their first quarter of Plain Bob Triples in the success at Hollesley. Now there is a place with a sea view!

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Saturday 26th November 2011

Ruthie and I have been waiting for this day for months, imagining what it might be like, all the more so since we first saw what today became our new home.

I have to be honest and say initially it didn’t go exactly as we had imagined. It started with me picking Mason up from his mother’s and then dropping him off at his grandparents, partly to keep him out of harms way with lots of heavy stuff getting flung around and partly as he had been invited to a birthday party at Northgate this afternoon. Thanks to Granddad for dealing with that one! Having ascertained that my bank whose nearest branches to me are Ipswich and Felixstowe wouldn’t cancel the standing order for the old rent over the phone, I then hung around in the town centre of Suffolk’s county town until the bank opened and I could get that little problem sorted.

With that done, I returned to Woodbridge where Kate and Ron had very generously booked a van for us. However, when Ron was informed that the van was held up coming back from London and we would have to wait until one o’clock to collect our carriage it was a tad frustrating. However, it did at least allow us to pick up the keys for the new abode and when Ron and I were sat waiting until two at the van hire place my brother and fiancée were together able to get what remained, ready to take over once the van finally arrived in Sun Lane.

The van and a car loaded up, we took Chris over to the cottage for the first time and indeed the first time we had entered it since viewing it what seemed an eternity ago. I often find that in the period between viewing a property and moving into it your mind plays tricks. You take what you saw in a short space of time and play around with it. In your head you put your furniture into it, rooms get bigger and even change shape and doors move a few yards along a wall. When you actually get into it you can be slightly disappointed. Not this place though. It actually seems bigger than I remember it, even as we filled it with furniture, boxes and bags. And as with Thursday, piles were also evident, but not the type that one prominent Guild member suggested!

With Kate now helping us and Mum and Dad turning up with the li’l chap, there were many hands making light work and once the crowds dispersed we were able to sit back and take it all in. Not everything has been shifted just yet, but there was enough stuff in to make it feel like home and even to put the very helpful Chris up for the night. Mason loved his new room and started making a mess of it and pizza was devoured for our first meal of a new era for us.

Stowmarket.And it was a new era for David and Lesley Steed as they rang their first quarter as a married couple today with a 1264 of Plain Bob Major at Stowmarket. Of course – as is usual – they followed this up with more quarters, including one of Kentish Delight Minor at Bacton with Josephine Beever ringing her first blows in the method. Well done Josephine and congratulations to the happy couple!


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Friday 25th November 2011

The first night I went to the Green Man in Tunstall as a fresh local I was unsure as to what to expect. I had half anticipated a pub full of old men sitting on their own supping from mugs. Not that I would’ve minded. At the time I was just delighted to have a village pub two minutes walk away. However, it was a pleasant surprise to find a relatively youthful and enthusiastic clientele, including Kala and Toby behind the bar. None of us could’ve anticipated the close friendships that were to develop to the extent that these two are of course Mason’s Godparents and whilst Toby was unable to come out tonight due to work, Ruthie and I were delighted to join the li’l chap’s Godmother for her birthday this evening.

We were in fact accompanied by my brother Chris who is up to help with our big move tomorrow but who also took us out to The Anchor as a belated but very generous birthday treat for me. By complete coincidence it was also where Kala was having a meal with family to celebrate her big day, including her cousin Lou who is another friend I have made since those early days back in 2005.

Tabs settled, we moved on from my favourite pub in Woodbridge to eat in to my favourite pub in Woodbridge to drink in, The Mariners for a great evening before we settled down for our last night in Sun Lane.

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Thursday 24th November 2011

Pretty much everything is ready to move. I’d be lying if I said absolutely everything. But in the main boxes, bags and piles sit waiting to be scooped up on Saturday and either taken to our new home or to the dump. Hopefully we won’t get them the wrong way round.

And tonight we took Mason’s bed apart. Or rather Ruthie did whilst I packed kitchen stuff after our last meal in Sun Lane. Either way the house is ready to be vacated, even if it is looking very chaotic

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Wednesday 23rd November 2011

It can be a strange thing earning a living. Many of us make a buck by working in offices and shops. Some are outside on the land or on the road. Still others put their lives at risk such as the armed forces or emergency services. Then there’s Bill Bailey.

As the comedian himself confessed as we watched him perform at The Regent in Ipswich tonight, even he was “struck by the ludicrousness of my profession”! But this man has truly earned it. On shows like Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI (Ruthie’s favourite of course) he has always come across as a genuinely nice chap. Other attributes that have always been present on the goggle box but really shone through this evening though is that he is not only incredibly funny but an immensely talented musician and very intelligent man. He combined all of this in a quite brilliant show that featured a folk version of a rap song, the varied use of horns, a gallery of famous paintings which he managed to take the mick out of whilst also lovingly imparting useful information on them and a comedic analysis of most things political including the Eurozone (“everyone knows that Nectar points are legal tender in Greece now”) and of course politicians themselves!

It was the highlight of a fantastic evening that started with another joke – our boiler. Yep, in one final insult the blasted thing has packed up AGAIN. I’ve never known anything quite like it and it enhances are keenness to move to our new abode.

The Wolery.Still, at least we had our evening out to take us away from our cold house as Kate and Ron picked us up and whisked us to Mister Wing's directly next door to our ultimate destination for a marvellous Chinese, the sound of the front eight at St Mary‑le‑Tower accompanying us as a peal of four spliced Surprise Major methods was scored. Very well done to all concerned, but especially David Potts for whom it was his first spliced Surprise as conductor and Alex Tatlow who was ringing his first spliced Surprise. And whilst I’m at it, well done to George Salter on ringing his first peal of Little Bob at The Wolery, although we couldn’t quite hear them from St Helen’s Street!

Once inside the lobby of the theatre I bumped into Karl, my partner in crime from our HSBC days, now grown up (complete with Movember ‘tache) and happily married with a six month old son called Sebastian. It was great to catch up and it was a great evening. Thank you very much Kate!

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Tuesday 22nd November 2011

A little bird pointed out that a number of our members had a rather successful quarter-peal weekend north of the border a couple of days ago. There was Plain Bob Triples at Marsham, Doubles at Southrepps, Yorkshire at Felmingham, Norwich at Bacton, Bob Triples again at Holt, Oxford Treble Bob at Knapton and more Doubles at Barton Turf. Firstly, well done to said little bird on her first Plain Bob Triples as conductor, but take a look at the footnote on the final quarter of the weekend!

Well done to David and Lesley, who have done much to progress ringing in Suffolk with their many, many quarter-peals across the county and – as we have seen this weekend – beyond. Not only has it helped ringers expand their ringing but it has meant prolonged ringing at many towers that don’t get much which is always a good thing! Anyway, I hope all goes/went well.

We have our own excitement coming up this weekend when we collect the keys to our new abode and with just over a week until we have to vacate our current home our attentions turned to cleaning some of the space we’ve created through packing. The dampness that is one of the main reasons for leaving has meant a constant battle against mould and mildew but as we want to leave the place pristine of course, Ruthie returned to her scrubbing roots and purchased some super powerful bleach for the task. Hence I returned from work to a very light-headed fiancée and a house that smelt like Crown Pools!

With some bits and pieces to return to Kate we got some fresh air and a cuppa up at Edwin Avenue before getting back to business in Sun Lane with the kitchen and bathroom emptied of all but the bare essentials.

Haverhill.This Saturday is also an important date in the South-West District calendar with its ADM at Haverhill. One of the things I’ve missed since I passed on the Master’s badge to Jed is going out to the districts on a regular basis and although we obviously can’t make this Saturday’s I hope that we might be able to get out every now and again in the future. The South-West was one I always enjoyed visiting with the splendid countryside in that part of the world. Their events always seem well attended and because there are so many learners in the area there seems a higher level of enthusiasm than in other parts of the Guild. However, because of that high number of improvers I know they would also appreciate help to get as much use out of their events as possible so if you can make it over there this Saturday afternoon than please do. And if not then, then the following day at St Gregory in Sudbury for John Smith’s Triples from Scratch.

A district that shouldn’t need outside help is the South-East District. Two twelves sit in its boundaries, it has the most members of all the districts by MILES and the best transport links as well as some of the best ringers in Suffolk at their disposal. And yet attendances at events in the last couple of years has been abysmal. Hopefully this will change at its ADM at Hollesley a week on Saturday. Yes it’s a long way for many people but it’s worth it if everyone makes it as useful as it should be. Wonderful bells and – if a large proportion of the membership turns up – something for everyone from call changes to Surprise Major in a lovely part of the world. And although we shouldn’t need outside help, it would certainly be appreciated!

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Monday 21st November 2011

Ah, technology. It allows us to do so many things from the wondrous (medical advice, space travel, etc) to the mundane (those who have read many of the messages on Facebook know what I’m talking about) and much useful and pointless in between. However, if it doesn’t work then we’re stuffed as we found out at work today. Late in the morning our computers went down and the problem not diagnosed (it was a faulty switch is about as much as this semi-computer-literate chap could comprehend) and fixed until nearly the end of the day. So there was little we could do but chat, read books (remember them?) and drink obscene amounts of tea. Good job I wasn’t ringing a peal this evening.

St Mary-le-Tower.Thankfully there were no such problems at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice tonight where a large crowd equated to some very good ringing. In fact the striking was possibly the best that I have heard it for a very long time with Stedman of the Caters and Cinques variety the two best pieces. It’s just a shame that those who should know better floundered too much in the Cambridge Royal for Ian Cullam and Yorkshire Max as these too would have been brilliant pieces of ringing. Now we just need to concentrate because we have shown again that we can produce fine ringing.

There was a tremendous crowd in The Cricketers afterwards too, where they have erected their Christmas tree as has Woodbridge on The Market Hill. It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas. Well, maybe just a little.

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Sunday 20th November 2011

Happy foggy St Edmund’s Day!

The huge amount of the stuff failed to stop me making the most of today’s festivities, not that it would’ve made any difference to my first task of the day which was to do an interview in my bed with Rob Dunger of Radio Suffolk. Rob was in the studio, before anyone starts any rumours. It was of course in regards to the Guild’s ringing for the patron saint of the county, preceded with an interview with Sarah Friswell from Bury St Edmunds who I did jury service with! Sadly it wasn’t as long as I hoped so I didn’t get to drop as many names in as I wanted, though I did get in the word bananas for Toby! Still, I think it got the message across and hopefully raised awareness of ringing going on within our borders over the course of the day.

Without Mason today – which felt very strange – I thought I might make it to St Mary‑le‑Tower on time this morning. Unfortunately I hadn’t banked on another of Woodbridge’s roads being closed which meant a trip back round its one-way system and incredibly annoying traffic lights (why does a town Woodbridge’s size need traffic lights anyway?) and took a while to negotiate. Once there I was able to partake in some good ringing on the back ten before then going onto Grundisburgh.

Great Barton.From there it was a race against time as I strove to get to Great Barton by 11.30 for a peal attempt. I was a few minutes late but predictably I beat my brother there. All present we set off into Rossendale which started badly but got considerably better (it’s easier when it’s mixed up with the other forty!) by the time we finished the extent and entered London. At this point a miscall curtailed our efforts, though happily at a much earlier stage than the last lead loss here a few weeks back! Wary of the neighbours who back onto the churchyard who had to listen to that and have another one coming up next Sunday to mark the hundredth anniversary of the first peal there, we sensibly decided not to go for the peal again so opted for a quarter instead.

With a large dose of déjà vu, this started with an improving extent of Rossendale before we got into London which was then miscalled. It wasn’t the conductor’s day…

Still it meant we were in the pub early, on this particular occasion in The Flying Fortress that the North-West District held its January meeting at earlier in the year and a very popular place judging by the crowds there this lunchtime. We had considered a bite to eat here, but we needed to book a table. Perturbed by our reluctance to commit to this we were sent to a freezing function room for punishment, but at least we got a seat!

The Greyhound.Warmed by a pint of Adnams I was set for a what transpired to be a successful quarter at Ufford followed by a touch of Pettistree Bob Minor as practice for the forthcoming annual anniversary peal attempt at the tower the method is named after. And it was the said tower’s AGM that occupied us afterwards as a good gathering collected at The Greyhound. This most enjoyable event used to be brilliantly hosted by Peter and Susan Schurr at their lovely home and although last year it was held in the ringer’s favourite pub we at least had Susan present. In fact she had been recovering and the minutes from last year’s notes poignantly stated how well she was doing to the extent that it was noted how she would hopefully not only be returning regularly to practices but ringing too. Sadly of course it wasn’t to be and so she was never far from our thoughts this evening as we looked back over an otherwise very successful year at a tower that should be an example to all rural sixes and eights across the county. Regular quarters (sixty-five since last years AGM!) and a good sprinkling of peals as well as a varied repertoire of methods at practices and in said quarters and peals has ensured good attendances and good ringing from ringers of all abilities. Susan would’ve approved.

As always it was a time to look ahead too as Christmas and New Year ringing was arranged (practices will go ahead as usual over the festive period) and dates booked for the three outings in 2012. And more immediately on the afternoon of Sunday 4th December there is the dedication of the new peal-board featuring the three peals of locally named methods which all ties in nicely with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the rededication of the bells. So there is much to look forward to if all goes to plan!

For now though, Ruthie and I dropped her mother off and collected our tea from the kebab shop on Warwick Avenue and returned to our house of many boxes.

Meanwhile, well done to Cathy Colman on ringing her first peal in hand in the success at (where else?) Pretyman Avenue. As someone who can’t ring handbells to rounds most of the time I am most impressed by anyone who can manage this feat!

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Saturday 19th November 2011

Two weeks ago we travelled to the other end of the A12. Today we were at the far end of the A14 from it's beginnings in Felixstowe as it plunges into the Midlands and reaches the M6 and M1. In fact we went beyond there and for good reason as we met up with friends from the Rambling Ringers at the home of the Dews.

More specifically I was there to ring in our very own (she still feels like Suffolk's even after several years in Sheffield!) Claire Monk's first peal of eight-spliced Surprise Major on the back eight of Mike and Janet's 2cwt twelve, The Plantagenet Ring at Church Lawford. I was honoured to ring in the first peal on these since much-pealed bells almost exactly two years ago and whilst we were ringing a very decent peal, Ruthie and Mason accompanied Janet to St Peter in the village to let in The Ladies Guild in between helping Mrs Dew with the post-peal grub.

Claire did very well (congratulations Claire!) in the peal called by one of the best young ringers in the country in Chris Woodcock and whilst we were able to partake in some bacon butties and catching up with good friends we were unable to enjoy the rest of the day's entertainment as we needed to be back in time for Kara to collect the li'l chap for a party.

We made it in plenty of time, despite having to negotiate Cambridgeshire's obsession with average speed cameras which make this stretch of the A14 one of the worst and most dangerous bits of road that I have come across as the natural ebb and flow of traffic safely manoeuvring amongst each other is replaced by vehicles bunching up and numerous close calls.

And we decided to take advantage of a rare childless Saturday night (I know we only had one two weeks ago, but they don't come round often!) by meeting first Pete and Susanne and then Toby and Amy in The Mariners. We discovered that in one of those quirky coincidences, Mary Faircloth who rang the second in the peal in Warwickshire earlier today is in fact Pete's great Aunty!

Southwold.Whilst we had been off gallivanting on the other side of the country, on the east coast they were ringing the annual St Edmund's Day peal at Southwold as we gear up for the big day tomorrow. Well done to Philip Moyse who called it and in the process was ringing his first of Major as conductor. Top effort!


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Friday 18th November 2011

Taking Mason to and picking him up from Mum and Dad's and an evening of Children in Need reminded me how lucky we are to have a happy, healthy li'l chap.

Meanwhile, I was contacted by Rob Dunger from Radio Suffolk to set up a phone interview at 7.40am on Sunday to talk about ringing for St Edmund's Day so listen out for that either at the time or on iPlayer! Or not if you'd rather avoid my dulcet tones!

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Thursday 17th November 2011

Though not an extraordinary day today, it was not a normal Thursday.

Tomorrow, Mason’s school will be closed for a teacher training day so as he is spending Friday with his grandparents. I picked him up dressed in the pyjamas he’d worn to school all day as part of their Children in Need fundraising efforts. This came at the end of a very quiet day in the office with five people from our small company in Lisbon for a conference, including all bar one of the management. As usual, the relaxed atmosphere produced a more productive day, with everyone just getting on with things.

Something that was typical of a Thursday was the lack of practice night at Grundisburgh. Since the false dawn of a few weeks back, it seems things have returned to their sorry state again at Suffolk’s lightest twelve. It is a big shame but it at least allowed us to take some junk up to Kate’s out of the way from our increasingly crowded house and then to sort another cupboard out, this time the dreaded under-the-stairs!

Meanwhile, I was impressed to see Gordon Birk pull the tenor at Liverpool Cathedral in to a peal of Yorkshire Maximus today to mark the 60th anniversary of the world’s heaviest peal of bells rung full-circle. Gordon is a nice chap and very kindly came out to ring our special peal at Hagley almost exactly a year ago so certainly isn’t a ringing snob! And like Andrew Mills before him, he isn’t a huge lump of muscle either. He just has very good technique, also like Millsy and both are worth observing if you ever find yourself in the same belfry as them. Well done to Suffolk boy John Loveless too on ringing the eleventh, an impressive effort in its own right! Again it shows the spectrum we have in ringing. Very few people will pull this huge tenor in to a peal (indeed Gordon is only the third to do it on his own I think) or indeed ring a peal at this massive structure at all, but when (admittedly very good) ringers are able to push themselves to this extreme, it makes that 3-4 dodge in Bob Doubles or a half-course of Lincolnshire Major seem just that bit more attainable!

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Wednesday 16th November 2011

A great bit of publicity in the East Anglian Daily Times today, entirely generated by the ringers at St Gregory in Sudbury and pointed out to me by John Smith. Its theme was the new local band there and ringing for St Edmund’s Day, which neatly links me to the big day on Sunday. I haven’t heard back from Radio Suffolk yet, but if I do then I will be able to report a reasonable amount of ringing outside of normal Sunday ringing, though not spectacular. There are peals and quarters going on over the weekend as well as the ringing at St Gregory so hopefully we will generate some positive publicity from this.

Pettistree.There will hopefully be some local publicity in regards Pettistree bells in a few weeks when we reach the twenty-fifth anniversary of the re-dedication of the bells and the start of a tremendous success story. For a small six in the sticks we have an extraordinary range of ringing and rung well too. Appropriately enough, Mary Garner - one those original learners who had already achieved an awful lot in ringing and more than done her bit for the Guild – was part of our peal of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor earlier in the week and this evening it was clear to see the grounding for Monday’s result as following a very good quarter of Ac/dc Delight Minor we rang Beverley, Netherseale, Norwich, Surfleet and York of the standard forty-one. But the beauty of this practice – built up by Mike Whitby and Mary over the years – is that it isn’t just for the many skilled ringers we have on the books here. Over the course of the night Double Court was rung and Daphne and Bill rang the treble to Bob Doubles very well. The latter was doing it for the first time and caught on so well that he rang it to a touch the second time.

The Greyhound.Another aspect that makes this practice so popular and that perhaps others could follow is that it doesn’t just finish at nine. The ringing does of course, but the majority spill over to The Greyhound which backs onto the churchyard and shows no signs of dwindling popularity three and a half years after reopening. Good beer, the usual bowls of chips and of course interesting company. Long may it continue.

And long may the handbell performances in Bacton continue. They may not be rung in the Guild’s name – which is a big shame – but I feel that the quality from these peals can spill over into Suffolk ringing generally with resident members such as Winston Girling and Louis Suggett learning a lot from them. And of course Jeremy and Cherril help spread their expertise beyond Pretyman Avenue, so well done Mrs Spiller on ringing her 500th handbell peal today.

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Tuesday 15th November 2011

There are signs that the festive season is fast approaching. The buildings lining The Thoroughfare are now adorned with Christmas trees and if you have the Bliss music channel on your televisual boxes you can now enjoy seasonal songs pretty much twenty-four hours a day. Well, seasonal for December. Ruthie and I indulged in a little ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Fairytale of New York’ but it’s still too early even for me!

Besides, we have a big house move first and that means packing and sorting. This evening saw the cupboard in the corner of the living room dealt with. It sits behind the TV, full of Christmas decorations, cards from said festival, birthdays, anniversaries, christenings, etc and programmes and other football memorabilia from nearly twenty-five years of following the decreasingly beautiful game. As you can imagine it’s rarely touched, but like so many other corners of our current home there’s a lot of stuff that we simply don’t need to lump across to our new place. It was empty by the end of the evening and what had been spared stored in cardboard. Now what next?

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Monday 14th November 2011

Brandeston.As they say in Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse (I’ve got to know that particular programme very well!) ‘Hot Dog’! Five months ahead of schedule on a very dark, cold night in Brandeston our band of merry men and women succeeded in ringing a peal of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods. What started nearly two years ago with a mere eleven methods on a snowy Sunday afternoon in Rushmere reached it’s original aim in style tonight and it is impossible to say how proud I am of all the band, but especially Mary G and Maggie. As if to underline how difficult it is to get this far, Maggie had recently been involved in an attempt of the forty-one lost in the LAST LEAD at Great Barton, so this was no mean achievement. Though ironically it wasn’t the most methods to a peal in Suffolk today as the hand-bell team at Bacton took that honour!

As we reflected in triumph at The Chequers in neighbouring Kettleburgh (The Queen’s Head was again closed, though I’m sure it must open at some point!), thoughts naturally turned to what we do next. There is – believe it or not – more to aim for, with fifty-two Surprise Minor methods well within our capabilities, but we may well take the chance to consolidate and try and get the forty-one again.

Either way, we were very chuffed and have a lot to thank our other halves for almost as much as our powers of recollection as they have helped us brand lines and compositions into our memories and it was back to my fiancée that I returned for some tea and (because I was in a celebratory mood!) another pint at The Mariners with Jono the black-eyed barman!

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Sunday 13th November 2011

We will remember them.

Burgh.And Mason and I did from half-muffled ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower (though because we didn’t muffle the front two we couldn’t fully take advantage of the fifteen there!) to doing our bit for the benefice Remembrance Sunday service at Burgh (including helping put the cones out at one the most dangerously placed war memorials in Suffolk!) to making it to the Market Hill service in Woodbridge, though the huge fireworks either side of the silence weren’t to Mason’s liking! He was perfectly behaved though.

Others appropriately did their bit to mark this sombre occasion in the belfry, with a quarter of Bob Minor rung on the back six at Stowmarket and peals rung of Grandsire Triples at Ixworth and Lyme Surprise Major rung at Aldeburgh, all half-muffled of course. Well done to Stephen Munford ringing his first of Grandsire.

Meanwhile - in amongst much packing and going to Tesco so we could eat and Kate’s to drop junk off – I was delighted to see my Bailey Day article up on Campanophile. The same article should hopefully be in The Ringing World soon too.

And look out for Mason in Tuesday’s Evening Star as his school photo will be in there!

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Saturday 12th November 2011

Exactly eleven months ago, eight of us attempted a 5040 of Grandsire Triples on the back eight at St Mary‑le‑Tower to mark the 275th anniversary of the first peal at this significant tower both locally and internationally in the same method. That's 12th December 1735 for those whose maths is failing them right now.

Sadly that attempt was lost due to the clapper coming out of the eleventh once again and whilst obviously the opportunity to ring the peal on the exact anniversary was lost we decided we would quite like to go for it again within twelve months. So this afternoon we were back again, this time with the bells half-muffled for Remembrance Day. It was as usual a stunning effect and over two hours of good ringing followed despite the best efforts of some of the local youth that could do with the type of service that we are commemorating this weekend... And then the tenor ringer came over very dizzy, nearly falling off the box. We had to stop of course and whilst it was frustrating, the well-being of said ringer was paramount. A similar thing happened to me towards the end of a peal attempt at Debenham a few years back and it's a horrible feeling.

We remained upbeat, especially after a drink in The Cricketers afterwards before Mike Whitby returned me from where he collected me, via a trip to Witnesham to drop Owen Claxton off. Thanks Mike!

Preston St Mary.At least others were successful in the county today, most notably at Preston St Mary where Stephen Dawson rang his first blows of London New Bob Minor and Richard Brewster and David Howe were ringing their first quarter in the method. Well done guys and well done Abby Antrobus who rang her first peal on ten in the successful Stedman Caters at The Norman Tower.


Now that's the way to do it!

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Friday 11th November 2011

I am lucky enough not to have had a relative or close friend killed in action and obviously hope that will remain the case, but I have seen the media reports of family after family mourning the loss of another young life in action. And of course the stories of life in the trenches of World War One and bravery in World War Two are ingrained from school age. It is a task I could never undertake, coward that I am. The very least I and the ordinary man or woman can do is remember the sacrifices past and present that our armed forces make and so I was glad that John Catt fell silent for two minutes as the the normally bustling office stopped to mark 11am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 2011.

Ixworth.There will be further opportunity for ringing to mark this significant time of year on Sunday of course and I hope that as many ringers as possible will help as many towers as they can to do so. But for today it was good to see the quarter at Ixworth where Alex Tatlow called his first Stedman Triples as conductor. Well done Alex.


It wasn't all remembrance as at the other end of the spectrum Ruthie took part in a quarter of Rutland Major at Rendham to celebrate the birth of Emily Rapior whilst I packed more boxes at home. All made possible by those who have laid their lives on the line on our behalf.

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Thursday 10th November 2011

Ufford.Ruthie and I haven’t rung at Ufford for ages what with them being out of action for some time for repairs to be carried out on the tower. So we were delighted to return there this evening for a special Surprise Major practice. Now this was an invitation-only practice but there is nothing wrong with that and it certainly isn’t elitist, an accusation that I have heard levelled against similar invitation-only practices in the past. Rather it is the best way of arranging such a venture – it is hoped tonight’s is the first of many – that is looking to focus on Surprise Major for ringers up to a certain stage in their Surprise Major ringing. If you invite people you know exactly who is coming and you can control numbers and even plan the practice, a particularly useful thing to be able to do. It means we get enough to make it worthwhile whilst also making sure there aren’t so many that those there to improve don’t get a fair crack of the whip. No doubt others in the area will get invited at some stage but for this evening it was a very useful practice for a keen bunch, even if at times it resembled what a doctor’s waiting room would look like if you plonked a ring of eight in the middle of it!

Still, some of us ended up in the delightful White Lion Inn round the corner for a tipple and a chat, a good night had by all I think.

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Wednesday 9th November 2011

Blythburgh.Congratulations to Richard and Julie Rapior who became the proud parents of Emily on Saturday. Many of you will know what a lovely couple they are and I’m sure will join me in wishing them all the best for the next eighteen years! Well done both of you, especially Julie!

Blythburgh Peal Band.And well done Maggie Ross and Michelle Williams for their respective achievements at Blythburgh in the peal which revealed the good news to me!


All good stuff, but sadly otherwise my day was preoccupied primarily – apart from work of course – with delving a bit more into The Martin Creed Project Project. Having only really got details of this on Friday when it was announced to the world that we were all getting up at 8am on a workday morning to annoy the neighbours, I haven’t had the chance to properly look at this what with our weekend in London, though speaking with people down in the capital about it was a bit of an eye-opener. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this is that it appears to offer anybody who is willing the chance to sign up to ring at any tower. A bit like opening up Lord’s for a knock-around, Twickenham for a game of tag rugby with your mates or dare I think about it allowing just about anyone to play on the hallowed turf of Portman Road. Oh wait a minute, they already allow that last one.

I would urge all of you just to keep an eye on this link. It shows a map of rings of bells that people can click on to volunteer to ring at on the 27th July 2012. It also indicates how many have volunteered to ring at each tower, though worryingly not who. There is someone booked up at Woodbridge and it even appears to suggest that St Mary‑le‑Tower, St Lawrence and St Stephen in Ipswich are all booked up with volunteers!

Now in many towers they won’t be able to get in. We hope. But perhaps places where we need to be most wary are those with no bands where perhaps an unwitting non-ringer holds the key and allows any old Tom, Dick or Harry in not realizing how inappropriate and even dangerous what is proposed can be, though I would hope any key holder for a belfry would be aware of what should and shouldn’t be done on the huge lumps of metal in their care. Ground-floor rings may be susceptible.

The chances are it will all fizzle out. Despite all the media coverage there seems relatively few numbers taking up the opportunity, certainly in the rural areas. But whilst the website does make it clear that not just anybody should go up a tower, there is nothing in reality that will stop anyone signing up for anywhere. We could end up with inappropriate tower-grabbers on bells they can’t manage or even worse non-ringers. I don’t need to tell you that at best it would be a PR disaster and at worse we could have a serious accident. It all sounds very melodramatic, but if we all keep an eye on things and particularly our local towers then we should hopefully prevent this getting out of hand.

The Wolery.A more worthwhile project that I am looking forward to getting my teeth into is David Salter’s hope to work up to many spliced Surprise Major methods at The Wolery over the coming months and we made a tentative step towards this aim this evening with a peal of Bristol Major. It may sound daft with a band that must have rung goodness-only knows how many peals of Bristol Major between them, but it isn’t an easy method on a mini-ring so we were relatively chuffed with our efforts, though as always we must be looking to do better. We were well fed for our success too before heading off for a good night’s sleep. I hope Richard and Julie are getting one!

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Tuesday 8th November 2011

Ruthie and I like meeting up with Fergie. Not Sir Alex the manager who has just completed twenty-five years service at Manchester United, the Duchess of York or the singer from The Blacked Eyed Peas, though I’m sure they would be perfectly delightful people to convene with. Rather Ruthie’s best friend since childhood Charlotte who will be one of her bridesmaids when we get married next 11th August and is up from her abode in Brighton for a couple of days to visit friends and family. So this evening was a good ‘un.

It had been planned to pop into the best place in Woodbridge to eat, The Anchor but when we entered we found the place heaving, hardly any room to stand and drink let alone sit and eat. Quite why it was so incredibly busy on a wet November Tuesday night was a mystery even to the man behind the bar who could only say “they just all came in all of a sudden.” It’s a strong indication of just how good this place is that it was so packed, but it did mean a change of plans so we wandered a little further to The Cherry Tree which seemed positively dead in comparison, even though they actually had what one would consider a decent crowd on such a nondescript evening.

We enjoyed the fare at what is another good establishment for food and of course catching up with Fergie before we walked with her via a quick sneak at the outside of our new house and then retired for the night.

Covehithe.It all involved no ringing as you will have noticed, but there is plenty coming up, not least this Saturday as the North-East District ADM tops a rare opportunity to ring on lots of the forgotten fives in this corner of Suffolk. Sadly a combination of peal-ringing and frantic packing will prevent us from joining the fun but I would exhort as many of you as possible to take advantage of this. Five-bell ringing is probably the greatest leveller of ringers there is, with often those who consider themselves learners getting on better than the so-called ‘experts’ and there is the chance then of a tea at the end of it all! This is an example of members taking the time to do something different to encourage other members – of all abilities – to take part in a Guild/district activity. Please reward them with your attendance if you can and make it worthwhile the time and effort they have put in.

It is also worth noting that on Wednesday night it is the monthly Bacton practice and I have only heard from a small number of people in regards St Edmund’s Day! Please spread the word and get in touch!

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Monday 7th November 2011

Does an individual tower need a constitution? Many will say it is completely unnecessary with a band of volunteers in a hobby that is essentially very simple in its aims – ringing well for Sunday service. Others say that with the finances, maintenance and other issues that can go with ensuring there are people to ring church bells to a reasonable standard when it matters that a constitution is essential.

You’ll be unsurprised to hear that I sit on the fence on this and fall somewhere in between. For example, most six or eight-bell towers across Suffolk with bands will receive six or seven, maybe ten to fifteen if they’re lucky for their ringing. They really don’t need a constitution. They just need someone who runs the ringing, maintains things and takes the occasional request from visitors to ring the bells. Often it’ll be the same person and it works fine. However, you go to the far extreme and you get places like Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, York Minster and the Bullring. They are iconic locations with extremely high standards which don’t sit practically with allowing the vast swathes of people who would like to ring there to come and have a go. They need a constitution to maintain those high standards and to remain elite to differing extents. They are rare exceptions in a hobby which prides itself on the fact that – in the main – you can go anywhere in the world where change-ringing is being practiced and join in.

We had the debate some time ago about whether St Mary‑le‑Tower needs a constitution and eventually everyone agreed to varying degrees that we did. I was concerned that the names York Minster and the Bullring were being bandied around as examples and that elitism was what we were aiming for. We are not York Minster or the Bullring. However, what I would concede is that we are different to most towers in Suffolk. Not because we are elite or anything like that, but because we are the only practicing twelve-bell tower in the Guild, with the heaviest ring of bells and our attendance incorporates regulars who travel huge distances from across the county and beyond. On several occasions in recent years we have ringers from Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire up on the same night. We probably have a higher than average number of requests for visits, be it peals, quarters or outings. We need to have something that makes sure there are the right people ensuring the ringing is interesting and progressive (it’s a long way to come for many if we just stuck to Bob Royal or Cambridge Major), that we can aide the higher number ringing of those coming to give it a go (after all, how can we find who can and can’t do it if we don’t let people try it?), that these huge bells (in weight and number) and their fittings are maintained and the large number of ringers requesting a visit are satisfied. It is also proper that we have a society whose membership can hold these officers to account and so the notion of giving rebirth to the St Mary‑le‑Tower Society was seeded. Membership of this will hopefully be something to aspire to, but lack of membership will not be a bar to coming to St Mary‑le‑Tower and you wouldn’t be treated any differently. You just wouldn’t have a vote at the SMLT AGM, which I’m sure most people can live with.

Tonight – after a practice that finished at 8.30 and saw the visit of the now famous first-aider from Beccles, Chris – we sat down with Charles our vicar and discussed the nitty-gritty. I was glad that membership of the new society wasn’t limited to just those who ring on Sunday mornings. After all, some of our most regular and needed ringers come almost every Monday without fail, but can’t come on Sunday mornings. The Bray’s have their local towers to ring in on the Sabbath and of course Ruthie has to work. Some of the wordiness of the document was removed as was the necessity to attend on so many occasions to achieve membership. For me that would’ve been a bit too much.

Although we weren’t able to finalise the constitution this evening (we would still have been there next Monday trying to agree on some of the exact wording), we got the more difficult elements sorted and the message from St Mary‑le‑Tower is clear and at the end of it all the same as with just about every ringing tower in the world – everyone is welcome provided they are prepared to contribute to our ringing in a positive way and help us achieve our aim of getting the best possible ringing we can. The only difference from other places is that if you do it well and regularly, you can join the SMLT Society!

Ruthie and I had felt we’d had enough booze for one weekend so with the meeting finishing late we passed on the opportunity to go to the pub and made our weary way home.

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Sunday 6th November 2011

Ruthie and I weren’t sure whether we should be worried or not that after last night’s indulgences we felt surprisingly well first thing. Either way, it was lucky that we did as with being bellringers we were up early to go ringing, starting with Stepney, a lovely big ten which Jonathan our host runs. Sadly, despite the help of ourselves and Darren Moore and Alice Longden from Yorkshire who had also attended the Dinner, we were still one short of ringing the full set. However, they still make a nice nine and a fine back eight and so with Mr Slack heading off – many, many thanks for putting us up this weekend Jonathan - we were left in the hands of Simon, one of the local ringers to take us to Southwark Cathedral for the next tower on this particular Sunday morning.

Southwark Cathedral.The Cathedral now looks slightly overshadowed by a new neighbour that is nearing completion, ‘The Shard’, a huge skyscraper that is set to be the latest addition to London’s skyline, but the entry into the belfry is particularly uncomfortable for those of a nervous disposition. It might help to know it is somewhere between Great Yarmouth and Pershore Abbey on the terror scale for those who know the routes up to those belfries. And to be fair we didn’t think they were really worth the effort and with a lot of sore heads the ringing from a mixed band deriving from across the globe on a daunting ring of bells was understandably iffy. Still, there are many who would’ve been delighted to take part.

We were glad to make it back down however and to Café Brood next door where most of the ringers stopped for a coffee, tea and bacon or sausage baguette, something that we couldn’t resist! On another mild day for the time of year we sat outside this superb location (self-titled the best BBQ in London and offering a brilliant BBQ range and even hot mulled cider if we felt so inclined that soon after last night!) reminiscing about an evening that has already been banked in the mind under ‘unforgettable’.

The Monument & the tower of St Magnus.It had already felt like a long morning - though mainly enjoyable – but there was one last bit of ringing in the capital and one that I was particularly keen to do. Ever since the brand new twelve was hung at St Magnus the Martyr a couple of years ago, I have wanted to go there to ring. I’ve had to pass over a couple of opportunities to ring a peal there but I had heard back from lots of people that had rung at this understandably popular location. So we parked up in the famous Pudding Lane nearby, did our tourist bit and had a look at The Monument that marks the Great Fire of London that made the aforementioned lane so well known and finally entered the belfry I have yearned to enter for so long. If I’m honest a lot of the feedback I’ve had on this twelve has been disappointing with views most commonly made about tower movement and that they aren’t great for a brand new twelve. However, whether it was coming here straight after Southwark or that I’m easily pleased, I really enjoyed them. There is sway but no worse than a lot of other places I’ve been too and even Ruthie enjoyed ringing some Stedman Cinques here.

St Paul's.That was enough ringing for now though, so we decided to be tourists for a bit and head for St Paul’s Cathedral. That London is difficult to drive around will not be news to anyone, but in my experience, anytime I’ve driven into the City on a bank holiday or a weekend it has been easy enough to get round and park. Not on this occasion though. Having initially failed to find a parking space near this British landmark, I attempted to find some in the streets nearby. When we failed there I attempted to return to the Cathedral. Except the road system in the capital does all it can to send you in exactly the opposite direction, the frustration compounded by millions of traffic lights, that enemy of traffic flow. No wonder the city is always so snarled up.

Eventually we did find our way back and even discovered a space directly next to this huge place of worship. Having taken in the huge campsite currently making the news here and had a look round what was open to view inside, we grabbed a drink and made our way back to Ipswich to see how Mason and my parents had been getting on. Once we’d discovered they were well, we left them together for a little longer to pop out to our fourth tower of the day and one more familiar to us, St Mary‑le‑Tower. We were there to attempt a quarter of London Royal (No.3) with a band predominantly made up of attendees at The Guoman last night. Whether this had anything to do with a very poor attempt that never got off the ground I don’t know, but it seems more homework is needed on this! It was disappointing as actually we’ve been ringing this well at practice nights.

Something else that has been disappointing is Martin Creed Project that I mentioned on Friday and which has been in the news. Much mention was made of it yesterday by those we met in London and the general consensus is – as indicated by the Central Council on their website and on the back of this week’s Ringing World – that this is a very ill-thought out scheme, at least where church bells are concerned. The idea of ringing the big bells that we have control over very fast for three minutes at 8am on a workday morning, with all the ringing up and down that would be involved at most towers is frankly ludicrous. More worrying is the ability for anyone to go to the project’s website and by all accounts just book themselves in to ring at a tower. PLEASE BE AWARE OF THIS! The Central Council has apparently been spoken to but not listened to on this and the more I hear about it the less I want us to be involved in it. Therefore our Chairman Philip Gorrod was on Radio Suffolk this morning sounding an appropriately cautious note, though he was called a whole hour earlier than we were informed he would be which was unfortunate. Well done anyway Philip and thank you for saving me the job – even as well as I felt when I got up, I’m not sure I would’ve if I’d been speaking to the county at 6.55 this morning!

It allowed us to be a little more with it when we eventually got home and able to enjoy the visit of Pete Faircloth for a beer (about all we could bear today!). We may raise a glass to Nigel Bond though who rounded South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight off nicely on Friday by ringing his first of Minor in the success at Hollesley. Well done Mr Bond!

Finally though, but certainly not least, many happy returns to my brother Chris who celebrated his birthday with a lost quarter at The Norman Tower this afternoon. Happy Birthday Chris!

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Saturday 5th November 2011

At one end, the A12 runs past Woodbridge, a section of road regularly used by us. It meanders through Little Glemham, causes untold amount of grief for the unfortunate residents of the otherwise very pretty Farnham and cuts very slowly through beautiful Blythburgh past the genteel seaside town of Southwold on it’s way to it’s eventual destination of Great Yarmouth over the Norfolk border. It’s an awful road north of Wickham Market but the main part of many rural communities in the pleasant countryside of north-east Suffolk. Today – with Mum and Dad very kindly looking after Mason - Ruthie and I were at the other end as it goes beyond the M25 and becomes one of masses of clogged up routes surrounded by a concrete jungle of cramped housing, tunnels, huge buildings and the nearly complete Olympic complex as we headed into London for the 374th Anniversary Dinner of the Ancient Society of College Youths.

After last night’s horrific accident on the M5, even I was quite wary of the journey down the remainder of the A12, but amazingly – with no SatNav – we found the home of Jonathan Slack in Rotherhithe where he was very generously putting us up for the evening. Most of you will of course know Jonathan – son of Guild Treasurer Gordon - and many will have rung with him when he lived and rung in Suffolk and he is doing very well down in the capital with work and ringing. In fact, he was still in the pub post a peal at Croydon this morning and we were a little earlier than expected, having assumed we would be driving round and round this mass of roads and humanity for a lot longer rather than getting straight there! Therefore we parked up outside and snuck a cheeky pint at The Ship practically next door. Jonathan’s reaction when we told him suggested it wasn’t the best of choices we could’ve made but nonetheless we had a pleasant sip of Tribute as a lively and communal atmosphere built up and I expected Del Boy and Rodney to step in at any moment.

A successful Mr Slack returned from his exploits and showed us around his lovely pad on the River Thames, a view of Rotherhithe church framed by his living room window and if you stand in the right place Canary Wharf is visible. It’s an impressive location. There was no time to appreciate it though as we needed to glam up for the main event and after jumping on the tube in our best gear, bumping into Peter Blight who knows my mother (‘ah, Sally Diamond’s son’) and wandering past The Tower of London (a warning to behave this evening) we were at The Guoman Tower Hotel slap bang next to a beautifully lit Tower Bridge. It was a wonderful location for what turned out to be a wonderful night, despite an extraordinary wait for beer before dinner.

The meal itself was lovely (though I can never understand why the more you pay, the less you get!), punctuated with the treasurer Phil Rogers requesting the Master took a drink with various groups such as those who had rung a peal for the society in the last year, guests, those who had been members for fifty years and more, etc. On this note it is worth mentioning that our very own Don Price has completed sixty-six years of membership of the ASCY’s, the most of anyone in the 352 (yes, that’s right, 352!) strong attendance tonight. Well done Don, a credit to Suffolk as always.

Ruthie & Richy.Once the grub was consumed/savoured it was onto the more formal but still enjoyable part of the evening, kicked off by some of the superstars present ringing three-leads of 88 Alliance Maximus on handbells, a method composed by the much-missed son of Suffolk, Rod Pipe of whom much mention was quite rightly made. From there it could of got quite boring as various speeches were lined up, but I’m glad to say that no one let the side down, especially the Very Revd Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster who informed us it was much more daunting speaking to us than it was officiating at the Royal Wedding in front of 2.2 billion people worldwide earlier this year! Special mention has to go to John Hughes-D’Aeth who is stepping down as secretary after seven years and whom left us with a song. Well done John on seven years superb service, but don’t give up the day job…

All that out of the way, it was time to drink and mingle and how! It was impossible to get round everybody with such a huge crowd of course, but it was great to catch up with those we did, with many friends from Birmingham present (fresh from winning the one-off London v Birmingham 12-Bell Contest at Cornhill to celebrate the new ring of twelve there) such as the Wilbys, Warboys, Tony Daw, Will Bosworth, Mark Eccleston and James Forster, but also others from around the country and the world such as Philip Saddleton and Anthea Edwards, Becky Sugden (another who will be familiar to many in Suffolk), Katie Town, Jim Clatworthy and of course James Smith, ‘popping over’ for the weekend and soon – I’m delighted to say – returning to this country for good. I could go on, but there were so many there and eventually we had to leave, crossing Tower Bridge well after midnight to catch a bus back to Jonathan’s, not something we can normally do that late at night at the other end of the A12!

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Friday 4th November 2011

It was a busy day for PR in the Suffolk Guild as Bailey Day, St Edmund's Day and the Olympics all came together at once.

Our efforts in Leiston a couple of weeks ago have now appeared in the Church Times and seems to be another good job, although they've borrowed that strange photo from Archant!

And with 20th November approaching fast I thought today would be a good time to get St Edmund's Day 2011 publicised. Since Radio Suffolk contacted us in 2008 about celebrating the day of the county's patron saint I have been organising peals rung simultaneously in each district, but there have also been an increasing number of quarters attempted and scored too. I had also decided to take a break from the stress of organising four peals at once, especially as - like last year - it falls on the Cumberland's Peal Weekend. Therefore I thought I'd make the event even more inclusive, especially as there should be more ringers available as it is on a Sunday this year. You should've received an email from me, but if you haven't then I'm keen that as many members do extra ringing at as many towers as we can get involved. Peals would be great, but so too would be quarters and general ringing, even if was just for twenty minutes or so. Maybe even combine it with an open tower day or something similar. So long as local residents know why it's happening it is a potential recruitment opportunity. Whatever you do, please let me know so that I can tell our local BBC radio station all about it!

Said radio station has already been in touch about an Olympic event that hit the national news today. This is the first time I've really seen details about the Martin Creed Project and judging by the Central Council President's blog the CCCBR aren't overly enamoured by ringers being asked to ring at 8am on Friday 27th July, the day of the London Olympics opening ceremony of course. However, they do seem to have least managed to put the time back from four in the morning (!) and do say they are keen that ringers take advantage of as many Olympic-related opportunities to promote ringing and so Philip Gorrod our Guild Chairman shall be on the phone to Rachel Sloane at 7.55 on Sunday morning.

The reason the CCCBR aren't falling over themselves to endorse the above project is that they have already got heavily involved in the Five Rings Triples project which is also mentioned in the President's blog. There will be more on that over the coming weeks and I have also been in touch in recent weeks with Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council about getting ringing involved in the celebrations on 5th July next year, the day the Olympic Torch comes through Suffolk and rests in Ipswich, something my respective contacts there are keen to do too, though they are in the early stages of planning. So hopefully more on that soon too.

Sproughton Fireworks. Sproughton Fireworks.It is going to be a busy few months for all PR Officers across our ringing community, but this one did at least have time to make the Sproughton Bonfire, Fireworks and BBQ this evening. The last couple of years this has been a very wet night, leading to a miserable experience with Mason two years ago and us not going at all last year. This time round though, the evening was mild and dry and with the fireworks themselves as fantastic as ever, the crowds flocked. In fact, before we even got there the police had shut the gates as the attendance reached 3,000. Thankfully they had found some more space and reopened the gates by the time we got there and I'm glad as we - and particularly the li'l chap - had a wonderful evening. Well done Ralphy and all the other ringers who essentially make this increasingly popular event run, with familiar faces like Crawford and Angela Allen on the gates, Mum, Dad, the Jones', Delia Hammerton and many more serving burgers and drinks and Mr Earey himself setting the display off. Perhaps I'll get some advice from them on how to manage all this PR!

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Thursday 3rd November 2011

South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight has been disappointingly slow. Compared to the huge numbers of quarters rung over the last couple of years during similar events in the North-East and North-West districts, it has had a poor response from the 300+ members in the district with the highest membership of the Guild. Although quarter-peal ringing in the South-East District shouldn’t be restricted to these two weeks – and indeed that’s not what this aims to do of course – it is a chance to amalgamate efforts, give a real focus to an important way of enhancing the learning process. For those not yet up to peals, there is nothing like a prolonged forty-five minute blast of whatever you are trying to get to grips with. Just ask Sean following his first quarter on Sunday.

St Lawrence.The North-East District of the Essex Association was another neighbour that has shown us up in regards to quarters in recent times, with their Quarter-Peal Month in September seeing all twenty-three towers quartered, with thirty-nine scored in all, so it was appropriate that this evening three of their members should lead the way in bolstering our own efforts. And so Ruthie and I found ourselves entering Ipswich as St Margaret's practice got underway on the tuneful front-six and arriving at St Lawrence where Messrs Cheek, Avis and Bray had invited us into a quarter at the famous five.

As we headed to The Cricketers following a brisk quarter of Doubles, the sound of all eight were plip-plopping their way from the edge of Christchurch Park across a near-deserted town centre, bouncing off the walls of closed shops. One can’t quite imagine what it sounded like when both of us were going but I hope it was nice or at least not too horrendous. Perhaps it is best to ask Owen Claxton who we bumped into beforehand heading to a PCC meeting at St Mary‑le‑Tower slap bang between the two towers. Perhaps don’t.

After a drink at the familiar Wetherspoon's, my fiancée and I finished our evening in The Mariners after a day of sorting and packing. More of that to come…

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Wednesday 2nd November 2011

Hooray!!!! We’ve finally managed it! After months of searching Rightmove, buying papers on a Thursday, chasing letting agents and a huge amount of disappointment we have secured a new house as the one we looked round yesterday was confirmed to be ours! The current tenant doesn’t leave until the 20th and then the letting agent want to go in and check it over, fix anything that might needing fixing, etc so it won’t be until the end of the month that we move into our new abode, but that does at least give us time to prepare moving out of our current one.

No time for that this evening though as once I was back from work it was tea and then straight out to Pettistree for a quarter of Rose Surprise Minor in honour of Rob Rose’s recent 70th birthday. Rob and Daphne have been welcome additions to the bands here and at Wickham Market, enjoying their ringing and being superb social beings, so it was lovely to do something for this significant landmark. It was also another quarter in the South-East District for this years Quarter-Peal Fortnight, adding to Jim Juby’s first quarter for twenty-five years in the success at Debenham that I missed in writing yesterday’s blog. Well done Jim!

Quite apart from missing Jim’s achievement and Beavis’ exploits in Bristol, I missed the fact that Monday evening’s peal of Stedman Cinques at St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham was rung to our very own Louis Suggett’s composition. It is a stunning achievement to have infiltrated the best ringing scene in the world so far so soon and whilst I imagine it is just the beginning rather than the pinnacle of Louis’ ringing accomplishments, well done to all from Suffolk who have taught and nurtured this talent, most especially his mother Ruth but also members like Maurice Rose. And most of all, well done Louis!

Back at Pettistree practice our aims were slightly more modest, but it was still a decent night’s useful ringing from Plain Hunt on Five to Double Court to Spliced Minor as we were joined by James Whitby who having enjoyed his return to ringing so much on Sunday morning decided to come back for more. He of course also joined us in The Greyhound afterwards before Ruthie and I returned to Sun Lane to consider an exit strategy for the next few weeks.

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Tuesday 1st November 2011

Maybe, just MAYBE our search for a new home has been completed. Today we looked round a wonderful, reasonably priced two-bedroom house that isn’t far from where we are now but is in a much quieter location. It is another similarly aged property so is full of character but seems to be in a much better condition then our current place and is full of little side-rooms that actually qualify as storage space, including what was termed a ‘walk-in wardrobe’! We have got the timing right on this one too and our application is currently going through. However, knowing how these things work I shan’t be fully convinced it’s ours until we have the keys in our hands.

So for now we waited and spent our traditional Tuesday night in at Sun Lane with a slight pang of guilt in my reporting of last nights practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower as actually it finished rather well with a very good half-course of Yorkshire Max. However, we still need everyone to be on the ball for the next practices so regular visitors like Mandy, Craig and George can progress to the level of helping contribute to very good half-courses of Yorkshire Max.

We as a district also need all members who possibly can, to come to Saturday’s South-East District Practice at Framlingham. It is only a couple of hours out of your afternoon, though you don’t need to be there that long if you really don’t want to and it can be more than that if you wanted to enjoy some of pubs and other attra_ctions this lovely rural market town offers. But with a number of members down in London for the College Youths Anniversary Dinner all help would be appreciated.

As it would be at Elveden and Beccles for the North-West District’s 8-Bell Method Practice and the North-East District’s 10-Bell Practice respectively, both on Wednesday evening and both worthwhile events where people are learning something – they will need experienced help!

And although it’s not a bellringing event as such, the Sproughton Bonfire, Fireworks and BBQ on Friday is essentially organized and manned mostly by ringers, led ably year-on-year by Ralph Earey. We had a bit of a disaster taking Mason to this a couple of years ago so we’re going to play this one by ear, but if you fancy it, it is well worth the effort!

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Monday 31st October 2011

Reasons why this year’s Halloween was particularly scary:

Yes indeed, the Italy crew had returned, though we were still a little short as some needed to catch up with schoolwork and others had to make up for still being half-way across the continent on his wedding anniversary. Chris’ presence was a bonus obviously, but sadly too many ringers who should’ve known better were going wrong, not helping Mandy, Craig and George as they all strove to progress.

Tales of last week’s typically packed and exhausting trip were regaled in The Cricketers afterwards, but it is perhaps more useful for the moment to look forward a week as next Monday will see the practice cut short at 8.30 so we can have our meeting on the new SMLT constitution. Everyone is still welcome of course, just get here early if you want a decent go!

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Sunday 30th October 2011

I don’t remember when exactly I rang my first quarter-peal. It was in 1990 or 1991 and April rings a bell – so to speak – but other than that I can’t be more certain or specific. I do remember it though. The treble of the middle-six at St Mary‑le‑Tower to Plain Bob Doubles during a power-cut.

It was the same bell as Sean Antonioli rang for his first quarter-peal this evening, though thankfully not during a power-cut as following the turning back of the clocks in the early hours of this morning it was dark for the 5.15 meet. Arguably though, he had a harder job than I did twenty-odd years ago as I had the tenor to lead off. No such luxury for the American though as we rang Plain Bob Minor, but as with most of his progress over the last two years he took it on with little concern, even unmoved by Brian chasing his sally round the belfry at one point! He is the first ringer I’ve taught - though David and Amanda have to take most of the credit for his recent progression – so I was very proud to be taking part this evening. He is keen to learn, often spending his spare time doing his homework when not actually ringing or working goodness knows how much overtime at work making and restoring boats. Noting method structure and taking advice from whoever he can, he has truly earned this quarter and his name is quite rightly up in lights on the front-page of Campanophile. Congratulations Sean.

Hasketon Mason His ringing earlier in the day was a good sign of things to come as Mason and I entered SMLT belfry to find him ringing the treble to Plain Bob Major unaided and doing very well at it too before the li’l chap and I continued onto Hasketon to ring for the fifth Sunday benefice service. There was the obligatory trip to the newly fenced park opposite St  Andrew prior to ringing starting at this six which will be familiar to anyone who took part in last year’s Mitson Shield or Lester Brett Trophy competitions. Although a rare round tower, the belfry is in many ways a typical Suffolk belfry, very rustic and almost timeless bar the vacuum cleaner in the corner. I do enjoy coming out to this peaceful village where the only sound apart from the occasional car and when we get the bells turning is that of the large number of cows in the fields infiltrating this most rural of communities.

And whilst the rest of the day saw the boy and me tidying Edwin Avenue in readiness for its owner moving back in, the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight saw another success involving said owner as she helped Richard Moody to his first quarter in Norwich Minor in the 1272 at Orford. Well done Richard!

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Saturday 29th October 2011

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I love open tower days. The standard of ringing can be unpredictable but it is the unpredictability that I enjoy. You can bump into all sorts over the course of a day and the freedom of it all means that you can take things at your own pace which can often differ to that of others which means you often come across many different groups of people. Today's held in support of the Elmsett Bell Fund also took you across from the far west of Suffolk to the far east, taking in almost the full scope of our county's beautiful and varied countryside on what turned out to be a beautiful day.

I hope lots of people took advantage of this as unfortunately we weren't in the end as essential shopping (and for once I mean that!) in Ipswich for next weekend's posh do took longer to carry out than anticipated, meaning we only had time to pop round Ruthie's grandparents whilst we could with some more busy weekends coming up, meaning we even had to sacrifice a planned visit to Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric's.

But whilst we found ourselves too short of time on this occasion to do any ringing, I'm glad to say others did find the time, at least at Debenham where congratulations are due to Tom Scase for calling his first on eight as conductor to mark the 250th anniversary of the original ring of eight at St Mary Magdalene's. Well done Tom!

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Friday 28th October 2011

The East Anglian Daily Times article on Bailey Day was regenerated in it's sister publication Coastal Scene which gets pushed through the door free of charge round our way so that'll reach a decent audience. There were a few more photos though the decision to print a photo as we were stood around beforehand seemed an odd one considering the number the photographer took whilst we ran them round! Still, I'm very grateful for what our local newspaper has done for the event and hopefully it will have done some good for ringing in Suffolk.

As I hope Ruthie will have done at Kettleburgh where she went this evening to help some of the learners there. More of this needs doing and involving more beside the usual folk who put in endless hours helping others already. If you can help a local tower with learners than please do!

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Thursday 27th October 2011

It’s great to see the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight start to build up steam. Apparently there was a loss at Ufford earlier this week, but otherwise there were two scores yesterday with Beverley Minor at Pettistree and Doubles at Wickham Market yesterday, but it feels more like a quarter-peal fortnight now more multiple quarters have been achieved today, with one at Tannington and more significantly the first on the re-hung bells at Helmingham with a not too easy composition! Well done Tom!

No such exertions from us I’m ashamed to say as I was on my what should be my last late shift of the year but I’m hoping we may be able to take part in some of Saturday’s Open Tower Day in aid of Elmsett Bell Fund. These are good fun and I hope that many of you will lend your support and enjoy a day out crossing the county and it’s beautiful countryside.

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Wednesday 26th October 2011

A problem with a lack of petrol first thing this morning saw my day running a bit later than I intended, leaving me with a little less time than I would’ve cared for ahead of what turned out to be a different evening.

My first peal attempt of this month was made wearing shorts and sandals. My last peal attempt of this month – on the front eight of St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening – was rung wearing a jumper and in a bit of a chill. Sadly, like that attempt at Brandeston during the abnormal heatwave of a few weeks ago, tonight’s attempt of London Major came to grief. We perhaps should’ve realised that the evening wasn’t going to go to plan when having waited for a while for Brian Meads to battle his way through the London Road rush-hour traffic he climbed the stairs preceded by a couple of police officers. They were chasing two lads that had raced into the church yard and then disappeared, the officers suspecting they had darted up the open tower.

They would’ve been within their rights to return two hours later and charge a very good band with not doing all they could to help their conductor who was looking to call his first peal in this tricky method. We really weren’t on the ball and I include myself in this as I caused a brief fire-up at the end of the first part as I looked around the treble ringer to see the clock from my position on the second at Brian Whiting’s request. It was only later that I thought anything about the fact that Brian was the one on the treble I had to look around!

Still, whilst it finished too late for me to make Pettistree practice – well done to Chris McArthur on ringing his first quarter of Beverley Minor beforehand - I was able to join Ruthie in The Greyhound for a drink and then a trip back to Edwin Avenue in a refueled car.

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Tuesday 25th October 2011

Four years on exactly and this blog continues to drone on randomly and sometimes pointlessly. It may have changed its emphasis slightly now I am no longer Guild Ringing Master and is perhaps less interesting for it as I don’t get out and about as much as I did then, but people still regularly comment on it, sometimes negatively but mostly positively. It has got me in trouble once or twice (probably quite rightly too!) but I have had many lovely things said about it too. My words on Susan Schurr when she died went beyond ringing and reached many who knew her and were comforted by them. And perhaps most pleasingly, a ringer who had been out of ringing for a while due to a serious illness took me to one side and told me how my blog had made them feel part of things still. Please do keep letting me know what you think of it, whether good or bad.

And it enables me to let people know things like my being contacted by Ed Bevan at the Church Times today, who was keen to find out about the Bailey brothers and what we did for Bailey Day. He was duly informed so do look out for it in the aforementioned publication. Otherwise I can let you know when it comes out through this blog!

Other than carrying out my PR duties today, what should be my last early shift of the year allowed Ruthie and me to visit her Nan and enjoy a couple of pleasant and laid back hours talking about everything from Eastenders to Italian war evacuees! I’m glad I can tell you about it!

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Monday 24th October 2011

It’s nice to feel you’ve done your job and following the superb article and band photo in today’s East Anglian Daily Times and on their website about Bailey Day I’m very satisfied. There’s the odd mistake that is typical of non-ringers trying to explain ringing to the public, such as saying we were ringing a ‘peel’ and Arnie ‘played’ the sixth, but I felt that Jonathan the reporter we spoke with did a very good job of relaying what was going on and why, complete with the website address. And having recorded my disappointment with our other local media outlets over Saturday’s events I ought to give an apology to Radio Suffolk who did act upon my contact (or at least someone’s!) and interviewed our esteemed Chairman (Start at 3hrs 13minutes) on Friday morning.

Two of the ringers whose beaming features appeared alongside me in the aforementioned article joined me at Kettleburgh this afternoon as I took advantage of one of my last early shifts this year to go for the 41-spliced Surprise Minor again. It’s been too long since we last went for it and not only have the Norwich Diocesan Association beaten us to it (well done guys!) but we were (or at least I was) a bit rusty. Still, we had some more good practice and it was nice to ring on this lovely six on another gorgeous sunny afternoon. It was also pleasant to catch up with Persephone Booth when I dropped the keys off as I wiled away the afternoon prior to Ruthie and I joining another three of Saturday’s band at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice.

Along with a strong and fast improving Bury contingent (including the much appreciated visit of Philip Wilding) they helped make up such a good attendance that whilst we obviously missed the five regulars currently crossing the continent with Stephen Pettman we were able to cope, even finishing with a very well-rung touch of Stedman Cinques. Once that was done it was to The Cricketers for a pint and some interesting conversation…

With everything that has been happening, I have very remissly forgotten to bring South-East District members attentions to their Quarter-Peal Fortnight. Not that they should need reminding as it’s been on What’s Ons and plugged on various occasions, but as with last year it has started slowly. Do try something if you can and if you can’t get a band together, I’m sure Kate or Peter will be happy to help you.

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Sunday 23rd October 2011

Another lovely sunny day as Mason and I made our way round the usual Sunday morning circuit for the first time for a few weeks. St Mary‑le‑Tower was slightly low on numbers but still very productive as was Grundisburgh where the visit of Mike Burn helped make eight in Stephen’s absence.

The afternoon saw Mason helping Kate and Ron with the base for her new shed whilst I kept up with the Manchester derby that for all the rubbishing I did yesterday was a spectacular event! With one last week of earlies starting tomorrow I returned the li’l chap to his mother as Ruthie and I continued house and animal-sitting.

Meanwhile, well done to George Salter on ringing his first peal of Bob Minor inside in the two hours and thirty-seven minutes worth of it at Orford and Michelle Williams, Christopher and Sarah Plummer, all of whom rang their first quarter of Double Oxford Bob Minor in the success further up the coast at Reydon.

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Saturday 22nd October 2011

The biggest, most anticipated football matches can be hugely damp squibs. Manchester United vs Liverpool, Chelsea vs Arsenal, no doubt tomorrow's Manchester derby are hyped up to the point that you could easily forget there is anything else happening in the world, but frequently turn out to be huge anti-climaxes.

To a lesser extent the same can be said for some ringing events, but one of the most hyped for some time lived up to it's billing today as Bailey Day went perfectly. And I mean perfectly.

All five quarters arranged directly as part of the event were scored, with a handbell quarter in the vestry at the centre of things, Plain Bob Doubles at Therberton as well as at Saxmundham, an impressive score at Kelsale and appropriately Plain Bob Major at Southwold.

In addition there was a quarter in honour of the day at Rickinghall Superior which also completed a spectacular day of achievements which saw Nicole Rolph and Cindy Fitsell ring their first quarter, Suzanne Stevens ring her first of Minor in hand, Trevor Hughes his first since 1983 and David Lowe his first inside. Well done to all of you.

The day had started with general ringing at St Margaret where there was a tremendous exhibition on the eleven ringing brothers and a lunch in The Engineer's Arms whilst those who could find their Guild badges explored The Long Shop Museum. And come the afternoon, I was not only honoured to call the re-run of the Bailey Brothers' famous peal but relieved too. For on Thursday night I managed to pour a pan of boiling water over my left hand, scalding it quite badly. Over Friday and then last night a blister appeared and grew and I wondered if I would be able to ring. However, after some advice from my fiancée’s employers Ruthie and I dealt with it and wrapped the wound up well meaning that once the East Anglian Daily Times reporter and photographer had done their bit (including trying to get the band to engage in some kind of group hug) we set off for a very decent peal that I hope the brothers would've been pleased with. I'm sure Ernest in particular would've been very proud of Arnie his pupil (probably his best) as he rang the same bell as his tutor rang a century ago.

It was thirsty work and so we joined the various quarter-peal bands back in The Engineer's Arms to have some drinks, study photos and articles on the men we'd come to honour and eventually to enjoy some fish 'n' chips.

It was all part of a day superbly masterminded by Cindy who along with Philip, Maggie and Jed ensured a memorable day which not only met but exceeded expectations. Well done to all involved.

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Friday 21st October 2011

With Stephen Pettman's Italy trip setting off today, this evening saw a bit of house swapping as Kate looks after Pettman Towers and their animals and we look after her house and animals. In Mr P's absence it is worth noting that there definitely isn't a practice at Grundisburgh next Thursday and we could do with some help on Sunday morning. It is also worth noting that the following Sabbath is the fifth of the month (and also the first day of the clocks being moved back so don't forget to do that!) so there is no ringing at Suffolk's second twelve. Rather that is moved to Hasketon between 10.15 and 11 for the benefice service and I imagine a number of other towers across the county will have their usual arrangements altered so now is the time to keep your eyes peeled.

Sadly it seems there will be no need to keep your eyes peeled for anything to do with Baileys Day on Look East as they couldn't fit in anything this evening. That means arrangements have shifted to the 'weekend team' and as I am yet to hear from them as I write this I'm guessing that there won't be anybody from the BBC there this weekend to cover the event. As today is the actual anniversary of the peal it would've been perfect timing to have the cameras at Leiston, especially as it would have made the public aware of why there is so much ringing taking place at St Margaret as well as at the nearby churches in Kelsale, Saxmundham, Southwold and Theberton. It's a big shame and in fact I've been very disappointed by our local media's reaction to this truly unique occasion that sees Suffolk in the bellringing limelight. At least the East Anglian Daily Times have shown interest with a photographer due to take a picture of the peal attempt band before we set off and a reporter contacting me later to find out some more info to put in an article about the day. I'm looking forward to seeing them tomorrow, but even more I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of you in the North-East as we celebrate a truly incredible ringing family.

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Thursday 20th October 2011

I remember well the terror of waiting for Mum and Dad to get back from parent evenings when I was a schoolchild, awaiting the disappointed looks on their faces after they’d spent hours hearing about how I could apply myself better, why my French bore more resemblance to Hebrew than France’s mother-tongue and how Carl Rudland and myself were terrible influences on each other. I wonder what ever happened to Carl… Or France.

Of course you wouldn’t expect such issues from a four year old in his first months at proper school, but I was nonetheless incredibly proud of the glowing reports his pleasant teacher gave, even if much of it was familiar to us. His reading is coming on and his politeness and eagerness has made him so popular that most of his contemporaries named him when asked about their favourite classmate. Now if he can keep these kinds of reports up for the next twelve years he won’t need to fear any of his parent evenings!

It capped a good day off – well, better than it was for a certain ex-dictator from Libya was having anyway – as I spoke with Ian Kings from Look East about Bailey Day. As I write, nothing is set in stone yet, but there is a strong chance that there maybe something featuring us in Friday night’s programme, probably right at the end. Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled on the BBC over the weekend!

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Wednesday 19th October 2011

The Park & Ride into Ipswich has served me well over the last couple of weeks but I was glad to return to the five minute walk to work and back that is my normal daily commute as I returned to John Catt to find a pile of paperwork and calls to be made, as well as a menu for the company’s Christmas meal. Tis the season and on that note it’s worth pointing you in Mandy Shedden’s direction as she has Christmas Card Calendars for sale in aid of The Norman Tower bell fund, a nifty gift for a good cause.

Back at work though, the late shift that I returned to not only plunged me into darkness as I left work for the first time for months but also meant I was unable to partake in the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree which this week aptly saw the first ringing of The Bailey Brothers Surprise Minor. Apt of course as Friday sees the one hundredth anniversary of the first Bailey Brother’s peal and Saturday the events to celebrate this incredible achievement. There will be a peal, quarters, open ringing, two meals at the Engineers Arms, an exhibition and free entry to the Long Shop Museum – don’t forget your Guild badge! It should be a superb one-off occasion, one for all abilities and even non-ringers. Publicity for it is well-advanced, with a photographer coming to capture the peal (attempt) band before we set off at two (that was trickier than I thought as pretty much all their photographers will be at Portman Road for the footy) and contact from Look East happening at some point over the next day or two. Bizarrely it’s just our usually trusty friends at Radio Suffolk that I haven’t heard back from!

Whilst I missed out on the above quarter, I did make it to the practice and then – having grabbed some tea from the kebab shop up Warwick Avenue – Ruthie and I headed to Toby and Amy’s flat where we had been invited for a belated birthday drink as Mason’s Godfather had been typically busy at The Ship over the weekend.

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Tuesday 18th October 2011

The last two and a bit of largely interesting but unexciting jury service came to an unexpectedly nerve-racking climax today as we were sent away to a bland room overlooking Portman Road Stadium to come to a verdict on all the evidence we had seen and heard over several days of witness cross-examination, expert analysis, statements, transcripts and tapes of harrowing calls to the emergency services.

During that period, us in the jury had developed 'gallows humour' to an extent as we attempted to cope with the vast amounts of information being relayed to us in regards to a very sad situation involving arson, malicious text messages, near-death and (indirectly) three young children. Today though, we were completely serious. We and we alone held the course of a young defendant's life in our hands and even though we could've very easily have made our minds up days ago in many peoples eyes, we took our time and discussed everything in depth, going through every doubt before we very sadly had to come to a guilty verdict.

It was also sad to be saying farewell to my fellow jurors who I have come to know very well since first meeting them in the heat wave of early October. Many friendships have been forged with people including a fellow Woodbridge resident and Sarah Friswell the PR Officer at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral who I will not only be coming across again in the coming months as we look to promote and celebrate the augmentation to twelve of The Norman Tower no doubt, but whom I discovered I have met a few times before at events like The Vestey Ring dedication just over a year ago and The Suffolk Show in June.

However, this sadness was accompanied by relief that I can return to normality and replaced by happiness and joy later as Susanne and Pete took us out to The Cherry Tree to celebrate her new job at Otley College starting in the New Year and then as Ruthie and I popped in for one at the Mariners to celebrate Ipswich Town's latest victory at the aforementioned home of the Tractor Boys. Well done and thank you for the drink Susanne!

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Monday 17th October 2011

Ruthie and I had a couple of brushes with fame today.

My fiancée was very excited at serving the actor Hugh Fraser, perhaps best known for portraying Captain Hastings in the ITV version of Agatha Christie's Poirot whilst we were both very excited to see Alan Munnings, star of the picture in today's East Anglian Daily Times from Saturday's re-dedication of Helmingham bells. If you look closely that is.

The former meeting had occurred at Boots, the latter St Mary‑le‑Tower at another busy and decent practice night. David has done incredibly well to get a practice running where so much is now considered standard and is generally well rung too. As ever though, a little more experienced help would be very much appreciated.

As was a pint in The Cricketers afterwards!

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Sunday 16th October 2011

After a late finish last night - or rather this morning - and a long afternoon of drinking, there was no way I was in a state to drive anywhere this morning so Mason and I went to church at St Mary the Virgin within walking distance. The original date of completion on work to the tower was the end of September, but there is now a real worry that the bells will be unavailable for Christmas, though the local band continue to practice in neighbouring villages such as Hacheston so it's worth checking beforehand where they're going if you want to join them. Nonetheless, we're really hoping the bells are ready for August 11th next year! Either way, there was no ringing this morning.

Elmhurst Park.Elmhurst Park.However, following an afternoon in the sunshine at Elmhurst Park (which the li'l chap greatly enjoyed as you can see!) I was sober enough to drive Ruthie and me to St Mary‑le‑Tower (via Mum and Dad's to drop their grandson off for a while) for the third Sunday method practice that is now becoming well-established. This month we were focusing on four-spliced Surprise Royal, in this case Cambridge, Yorkshire, Superlative (No2) and London (No3) and it is incredible what a bit of focus can do - there was some really good ringing. I'm glad I was in a state to enjoy it.

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Saturday 15th October 2011

Helmingham.Richy.There can't be many better ways to spend one's 33rd - and indeed any - birthday than how I spent mine today in beautiful autumnal (and yes, I think we can finally say autumn has usurped summer for this year!) sunshine with good friends at a superb location, rubbing shoulders with the local gentry, listening to wonderful bells followed by a small get-together in the comfort of my own home, however keen we are to leave it!

The former was of course the re-dedication of the historic and glorious eight at Helmingham, started with a lovely service in a packed (and I mean packed!) church before the many ringers there grabbed a ring. It's just a shame that more of those numbers weren't present at the admittedly less grand but perhaps more useful South-East District practice at Holbrook and Harkstead a couple of weeks ago...

Helmingham Re-dedication.Helmingham Re-dedication.Nonetheless, it was a brilliant sight to see ringers from across the county and beyond not just enjoying the refreshments at the church but in the Coach House Tea Rooms up by the hall that gives St Mary's such a grand setting. Lord and Lady Tollemarche were extremely down-to-earth and a pleasure to speak with too. A sneaky glass of champagne seemed appropriate on many levels today!

From the Lord and Lady of the manor it was to the bustling aisles of Tesco as we prepared for a small party for my birthday. To be perfectly honest I hadn't really thought about doing anything much this afternoon, but after some prompting I invited who I could get into our small abode and was rewarded with a wonderful time from Kate and Ron's arrival just after four to Nick and Kala finally managing to get a taxi at 1.30 in the morning as the 15th passed. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and many thanks to everyone who has sent birthday wishes through the various mediums available these days from face-to-face to cards to Facebook. And it was great to spend the whole day with Ruthie and Mason.

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Friday 14th October 2011

Disappointingly - once I'd got our application form in before rushing off to court - we were informed that the flat we'd desperately chased yesterday has now gone to someone who beat us to it. Such is the rush for properties in Woodbridge you need to apply for them almost before they go on the market. Never mind, the search continues.

Rendham.Ruthie was able to console herself with a quarter at Rendham this evening and I with Mason's arrival for my birthday weekend. Thank you to Mum and Dad who collected the li'l chap from school as jury service once again got in the way. Nearly done!


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Thursday 13th October 2011

Grundisburgh.When I returned to Suffolk in the summer of 2005, Grundisburgh was home to a brilliant practice, possibly the best in the county. Whilst numbers at St Mary‑le‑Tower were struggling, at the then world's lightest ring of twelve in a tower Bristol Royal and Surprise Maximus were on the menu every Thursday with an enthusiastic, jovial and large regular attendance, followed by an entertaining evening in the Turk's Head, just as ringing should be.

Sadly in recent years attendances have dwindled and a new tenor seems to have had a detrimental effect on the go of the bells though many would say they haven't gone well for a long time! Even until fairly recently it had at least been a useful practice but numbers had fallen so much that it actually hasn't been worth many coming vast distances, including Stephen, so there hasn't been a practice for several months.

So it was a genuinely pleasant surprise when Mr P announced there would be a practice this evening as eleven - including Ruthie - turned up. The ringing was rusty and the striking not great but hopefully if practices get going again this will help that improve and it was a useful evening for Laura Lindley in particular as she took a well-deserved night off motherhood!

Whilst no one else picked up the tradition of a post-practice pint, Ruthie and I decided to have a couple of beers in The Mariners following a frustrating day. Many of you will be aware of our search for a new home, but today it could've ended if circumstances were different.

If it wasn't for my jury service I would've been on early shifts at John Catt this week and thus finished at 1.30pm. However, my duty to the justice system saw me down in Ipswich until 4.30 today, out of contact for most of the day meaning that when we saw a two-bedroomed flat in the centre of Woodbridge within our price-range in the East Anglian Daily Times this morning, it was down to Ruthie to get the ball rolling. She did so valiantly, getting an early viewing and taking photos of the property for me in my absence. However, an application form needed filling out by both of us, signed and returned ASAP. JSM - who my fiancée was dealing with - closed at 5.30, so I was making a mad dash from the county town via the Park & Ride to sign the form and present it to them before the day was out. We made it to JSM at 5.20... to find them shut. Of course if I was on an early shift as I should've been we could've have it sorted hours earlier, but with Ruthie in work early tomorrow and me not with a lot of time to play with before going to court we may have missed the boat with many others looking round the flat after my better half. We'll have to wait and see.

Campsea Ashe.Still, we received good news today that cheered me after this disappointment as it transpired that the first peal was rung on the six at Campsea Ashe yesterday. It is another well-deserved landmark on a project that has been worked so hard on. What was particularly delightful though was that it was a predominantly local band that scored the peal including Ruth Darton who was ringing her first peal. Congratulations Ruth and well done to all concerned at Suffolk's newest six.


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Wednesday 12th October 2011

This evening's peal at The Wolery wasn't the most exciting I've ever rung but nonetheless produced some decent ringing before biscuits AND cake.

Meanwhile in our absence, many thanks for the footnote from the quarter at Pettistree in anticipation of Saturday's forthcoming landmark...

Which is also incidentally the re-dedication of the historic and significant ring of eight of Helmingham. It should be a good event as should the following Saturday at Leiston for Bailey Day for which Cindy will need names for the fish 'n' chips supper following the peal and quarter attempts. Please do support both events.

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Tuesday 11th October 2011

Just days after fighting flies at The Norman Tower for the recent Cumberlands practice we were back at the now fly-less (at least ones that are alive) ten-bell location in Bury for the locals practice. And a jolly good one too as my brother Chris doubled up a visit to ours with taking us to what is now his regular practice.

There was variety from Plain Hunt to Yorkshire Royal with some Little Grandsire Caters thrown in for good measure and all mainly well-struck with a large crowd in attendance.

Of course we followed it up with a pint at another venue from last Thursday, The One Bull, memorable for a drink with Abby Antobus and an attempt to remember who Josephine Butler was. Good fun and well worth joining them if you get the chance. Thanks Chris!

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Monday 10th October 2011

St Mary‑le‑Tower has a clapper back in the third! Strangely though, after two decent practice nights without it, tonight's first practice with it back in wasn't the best as piece after piece collapsed and the striking left a lot to desire with mainly those who should've known better being the cause. Still, these things happen and it should hopefully act as motivation to do better next week.

Perhaps we were distracted by the first viewing of the proposed SMLT constitution which is to be discussed at 8.30 after a shortened practice on Monday 7th November, so if you are planning on coming that week than make sure you turn up early to make the most of it!

Personally, whilst I agree with the notion of a constitution for ringing at somewhere like the Tower where much is expected from the ringers that travel huge distances to join us, I feel what is proposed is perhaps a bit too prescriptive for a hobby such as ours. I feel we need to ensure that those who deserve to have a say have a say but I don't think we need to be quite so strict on who.

It is all something that can be brought up after the practice of 7th November, but it was a pint in The Cricketers and collection of our tickets for the College Youth's Anniversary Dinner after this practice.

Meanwhile, be on the lookout for a programme about the effect of coastal erosion in East Anglia on Radio Four on Thursday at 11.30am which features the story of the lost bells of Dunwich and apparently the sound of Happisburgh bells from north of the Suffolk-Norfolk border. If you miss it, it will of course be on BBC iPlayer for a week afterwards.

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Sunday 9th October 2011

Kate & Ron.If there's steam trains and fancy dress involved the chances are Kate and Ron will be there. And on this occasion Mason and I were with them as we took in the second day of a 1940's weekend at Nene Valley Railway and although the li'l chap and I didn't go as far as getting dressed up we were able to appreciate the occasion as soldiers from the British, US (including Ron) and even German armies wondered among others in period dress (including Kate) and us normos as a singer sung songs of the era on Wansford platform and those present (including us) took advantage of rides in carriages being pulled by the Duke of Gloucester and City of Peterborough engines.

Mason.The NVR is of course a familiar location having been there a few times, most recently a couple of months ago whilst we were on Ramblers in the area and there was another reminder of a lovely holiday as a guided bus tour on a double-decker which drove the streets of London during the forties took us around the nearby villages of Nassington and Yarwell, taking us right past the campsite which was our home for a few days in the latter village and along the roads and lanes that became very familiar to us during the first days of August.

It was a little chillier than back then (and indeed a week ago!) but we still enjoyed every moment and Mason (and come to that Kate and Ron!) was in his element! Sadly, Ruthie couldn't make it of course as she was working and I missed Sunday morning ringing but on this occasion it was worth it and thank you to Ron and Kate for inviting the boy and me.

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Saturday 8th October 2011

It's taken three years of study including many, many essays, recitals, exams (most of them crammed into the last couple of months of the course!) and concerts in the evening and at the weekend. There have been tears and laughter, frustration and joy, numerous hours and miles spent travelling to Colchester and back via car and train. But it all climaxed today as Ruthie graduated with her BA (Hons) in Music.

Ruthie's Graduation.After formal and informal photos the ceremony began. Either side of her collecting the certificate confirming her 2:1 on stage from Duke Dobing of Snape Maltings there were lots of other deserving graduates and speeches from various bigwigs of Colchester Institute and the University of Essex and an Honorary Doctorate for former student Tansy Davies (who impressively had travelled in from Norway this morning) but it was of course my fiancée that Kate and I were there for and we were immensely proud as she got her just reward for her hard work.

Ruthie's Graduation.Colchester Institute Symphonic Wind Orchestra.The ceremony was followed by walk in full robes to a deserved drinks and canapé reception at The Minories Art Gallery where the graduates let their hair down and more photos were taken, particularly group ones. Memories of Glasgow from earlier this year came rushing back as group photos were taken of the Symphonic Wind Orchestra's graduates but soon it was time to leave.

Mason had sadly been an agonising three months short of being old enough to attend, even if my better half had been able to get more than the two guest tickets that every graduate were allowed to apply for, so we needed to pick him up off Mum and Dad who had very kindly looked after the li'l chap whilst we celebrated Ruthie's achievements. They were in town to ring for a wedding at St Mary‑le‑Tower by the time we had returned from Essex but it still allowed time for Kate to let some visiting ringers in at Ufford and cook a fantastic stew and dumplings for us and Ron at the end of a wonderful day. Thank you Kate and well done Ruthie!

Well done too to Maggie Ross who - whilst not quite as big a deal as graduating is still worthy of mention - rang her 100th peal in the 5040 at a busy Earl Stonham. Not bad for someone who claims not to be a peal-ringer!

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Friday 7th October 2011

My experience of jury service from my first week on 'duty' has been one of boredom, frustration, much waiting around and considerable anti-climax. No juicy cases and scandal that I wish I could tell you but can't. Rather I've found more out about fellow bored jurors in a few days than I have about some family members in a lifetime, improved the Snake score on my phone to previously unattained heights and spent far more time back at work than in a courtroom.

Today was another day when I was not required by the justice system but my presence at work not only allowed me to say a certain and proper farewell to Sean and Carla - two of our temps on their final day at John Catt - but allowed Jonathan to very generously reward the sales team with a meal out for all those who have participated towards meeting our latest target at lunchtime.

The venue - at my suggestion and with very little objection from those in the know - was The Anchor, to my mind the best pub in Woodbridge for food and quite possibly the best food altogether in the town. It was typically brilliant, superbly combined with decent beer as ever before we returned to an afternoon's work and a late shift that meant that Kara had to adapt our arrangements for the umpteenth time with my highly unpredictable arrangements and drop Mason off at mine with Ruthie who very kindly fed the li'l chap prior to my return.

There was a quick trip to the park in failing light before getting the boy to bed and celebrating England's qualification this evening to Euro 2012. Whilst a trip to Montenegro to watch the Three Lions' draw was a little out of my reach (and indeed that of the average English footy fan) and the game was on Sky TV and therefore we were unable to view in our abode, it means there will be a summer of football with English involvement in Poland and Ukraine from 8th June next year. Even though we did incredibly badly at the World Cup last year, I love the communal atmosphere of these tournaments when the national team is involved, the sense of focus on England games, all hopefully in the sunshine, though maybe they should shift the tournament to the beginning of October to ensure the latter! A repeat of the fun had in the Red Lion last summer (though no proposals from me this time round!) would do nicely. For now, all eyes are on 2nd December for the draw so I know when to book holidays from work and avoid peals, quarters, meetings and the rest in the summer of 2012!

Edwardstone.Coming back to 2011 and more specifically today, well done to David Salter on ringing his 2800th peal in the 5040 at Edwardstone, Tom Scase on calling a quarter for 150th time in the success at Earl Stonham and to Jenny Scase, Stephen 'Podge' Christian and Richard Bufton on ringing their first of Beverley and Surfleet in that same 1320 at the gallery ring of six.


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Thursday 6th October 2011

The Norman Tower.Ruthie has been dragged around enough College Youths events in recent times and is due to accompany me to the CY’s Anniversary Dinner next month so it is only fair that I help her partake in Cumberland events too, so this evening we travelled to The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds for a SRCY Eastern Practice being ably run by our very own Maggie Ross and attended by a truly eastern collection as members travelled from Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and even Bedfordshire.

Despite all the banter and put-downs I’ve never held much to this College Youths-Cumberlands ‘divide’. Indeed I used to be a Cumberland in a previous life and even rang a handful of peals for them until my move to the West Midlands made it more practical to change ‘sides’ and I find it a shame that you can’t be a member of both, though I am very happy with my membership of the ‘superior society’! It was good to catch up with many friends from across the region, to share light-hearted discussion with Sue Marsden - a Naaaaridge fan - about one of those other rivalries that exists only in the panto sense and to enjoy some decent ringing from Little Bob to Bristol Royal all done as we battled against a swarm of flies determined to get in on the act.

Those flies were probably being very sensible and staying in from the heavy rain and chilly wind outside (that’s summer over and done with and to think it’s still only early October!) but we had a pub to get to afterwards as we returned to The One Bull round the corner from this soon-to-be-augmented ten. All good fun and exactly what there should be more of in ringing.

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Wednesday 5th October 2011

Happy Birthday to Kate who – all being well and God willing – will be my actual mother-in-law by her next birthday but who I also count as a very good friend, generous in every way and a jolly good laugh to be around. So I was more than happy to be in on a surprise meal and buffet at (where else on a Wednesday evening?) The Greyhound in Pettistree that Ron had superbly and very kindly organized to celebrate this deserving cause.

Kate's Birthday Band.It was a surprise so well kept that even at 5.30 the birthday girl handed us the birthday cake she had intended on taking to practice for the ringers, apologizing as she informed us she was being taken for a meal ‘somewhere’! Her face when she walked into her actual destination to be greeted by Ruthie and me was a picture, as was the band who rang a quarter before practice and prior to my fiancée and I exiting to the meal with Kate and Ron, having left the cake for the ringers to enjoy.

They were able to enjoy the fine spread provided after practice too with crisps (including Twiglets, the finest food known to sober man surely?), dips, sausage rolls, cheese puffs, cake and much more as we also entertained two visiting ringers from Christchurch in New Zealand, whose bells are of course sadly very much out of action at the moment and for the foreseeable future. It was good to see them.

It is also good to see the annual Salter peal-week boosting Suffolk Guild peal totals and well done to the band that rang their first peal of Winchendon Place Doubles at Monk Soham on a very positive and enjoyable day, hopefully most of all for Kate.

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Tuesday 4th October 2011

Without going into details, they didn’t need me at court today which led to a surreally normal day as not only did I return to work, but I did my first 9 – 5 for several weeks.

Ruthie’s day was different to her normal Tuesday day-off though as she went into work too, either side of a haircut and having viewed it and had a conversation with her through the locked doors at Boots I then bumped into Pete and Susanne and then Mike Whitby. Reassuring to be back in our small community by the Deben after the unpredictable yet dull day in the metropolis of Ipswich yesterday.

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Monday 3rd October 2011

Today I started something which has generated envy and sympathy simultaneously in my direction – jury service. Obviously I can’t and shan’t go into too much detail, but it is the latter emotion that is more appropriate as I spent one of the dullest days in my life in the juror’s waiting room overlooking Fortress Portman Road at Ipswich Crown Court. It’s been a bit like waiting at an airport without the holiday at the end of it, though I did get the chance to wander around town on another abnormally hot day for the time of year.

I returned to Suffolk’s county town later in the day, this time with Ruthie to meet Kate for a tradition that seems to get earlier and earlier each year – Christmas shopping at Boots. I love Christmas and get very excited by it, but even I’m not quite in the mood for it yet! That said, we have saved ourselves a lot of shopping further down the line and after a quick bite to eat in McDonalds it put us in town for another third-less St Mary‑le‑Tower practice. And much like last Monday, whilst it sounded terrible a lot of the time, the ringing was generally very good, including four-spliced Surprise Royal before that collapsed in a heap. And also much like last Monday it was topped off by a drink in The Cricketers of which I was very much guilty of enjoying!

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Sunday 2nd October 2011

During the eighteen months or so that we’ve been trying to build up to 41-spliced Surprise Minor we’ve had many attempts that have been encouraging, many that have been frustrating and many that have been both. This afternoon’s latest go at Brandeston – with Philip Moyse standing in very ably and successfully for Brian on the treble - fell into the last category as we got right up to the 2160 changes mark. I should’ve been able to put the mêlée that occurred at that mark right but it came as such a surprise after over an hours very good ringing that it caught me out. Lessons to be learnt all round there then. However, again we showed we are capable of going all the way in the near future and I feel at the moment that the greatest danger to getting this sooner rather than later is our bulging diaries as it looks unlikely that we’ll be able to go for it again for another three weeks. Still, good fun as usual and with the weather again scorching, many of us went for our first peal in shorts in October!

And at least others were achieving today as four quarters are recorded on Campanophile across the county, most notable of all the 1320 of Kent Minor at Tostock that saw Nathan Colman ring his first in the method. Well done Nathan.

And as I enjoyed some good ringing at the three towers I rang at this morning, St Mary‑le‑Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisurgh, even though the third was still out of action at SMLT. So not a bad days ringing all in all.

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Saturday 1st October 2011

I'd like to make an apology to the summer, for exactly a month ago I more or less reported its demise as we entered September and the beginning of the chilly yet cosy autumnal months. Little could I (or indeed anybody else at that) imagine that as we crept into October the UK would be gripped by the kind of heat wave that we'd be amazed to see at the height of summer here. I even got sunburnt today! So sorry summer and sorry autumn which looks like it will have to wait a lot longer than it usually would.

Harkstead.However, I make no apologies for saying I'm extremely disappointed in the members of the South-East District of the Suffolk Guild following an absolutely appalling turnout at the practice at Holbrook and Harkstead this afternoon. I thought long and hard about saying ashamed but that would admittedly be too strong. We are all volunteers in this wonderful hobby of ours, there is no obligation to support these events and even if we were able to force people to come I wouldn't want to. Ruthie and I couldn't make last month's SE quarterly meeting as we were on Philip and Maggie's treasure hunt. Next month we won't be able to make the practice at Framlingham as God willing we'll be at the College Youth's anniversary dinner. Kate was absent because she had to attend a vital first aid course she'd put off as much as she was allowed, hence I was running the ringing. Some were at Portman Road watching Ipswich Town beat Brighton 3-1. Others were on holiday. Maybe others were nobly supporting the the first open tower day of the weekend at Redgrave which is to be lauded. Ringers have other things to do from time to time and nobody would expect each SE member to put aside every first Saturday of the month.

What is annoying though is the number of members who will just not have bothered. Maybe most disappointingly was the complete lack of local support from the two host towers, bar the appearance of John Malster and Mike Warren at the latter church to ring. Robin and Ruth both (eventually) let us in at the former but then let us get on with 'our' ringing as if they were nothing to do with us. Don't get me wrong, we're grateful for the use of all the bells we ring on for these events, but it would be great to get a lot more local support - after all it is for ringers like those at Holbrook and Harkstead that these practices are arranged.

Soon though, SE members will have to make a choice. You either support district events or they won't happen. For learners and the local ringers that are supporting them that is a vital opportunity lost to ring with more experienced ringers rather than maybe learning Bob Doubles with two or three others who are also learning it.

For the more experienced members it will mean a bigger struggle to find promising learners and bring them to a level that will help some of our more established ringers to achieve what they are hoping to achieve. Where will the next multi-spliced Surprise Minor or Surprise Major ringers come from? How will potential ten and twelve-bell ringers find the contacts and confidence to ring on those numbers and with those ringers? Not through South-East District events at the moment.

Apart from anything else the pitiful low attendance of just nine district members from the largest membership in the Guild (eleven if you count Ralph and Tessa who were unfortunate to arrive at the second tower just after we'd given up and finished early) made what should have been a very enjoyable, pleasant and social occasion a bit of a chore, though it was a useful afternoon for John Taylor, the only learner to turn up. Even with the presence of Rowan and Jed our Guild Ringing Master (for whom we were very grateful) it meant that most of us were ringing every time.

Butt & Oyster.With this scorching sunshine though and my mood perked considerably by the Tractor Boys' aforementioned victory I was glad that the social aspect could still be enjoyed as we retired to The Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill, one of the most famous and iconic landmarks in Suffolk, overlooking the River Orwell. Those of you who simply chose not to come, you missed out on a treat!

And as if to emphasise how little attending this afternoon's mere two-hour event would've taken out of your day, our lengthy trip down to the far corner of the county was preceded by a long, lazy and very enjoyable picnic in Elmhurst Park back in Woodbridge with Mason's Godmother Kala and her husband Nick as summer continues to fight back.

And at least elsewhere in the county members were taking advantage of their subscription and the vast opportunity ringing offers them as Neal Dodge rang his first quarter away from cover and Clare Veal rang her first inside, both in the 1260 of Doubles at Tostock. Well done guys, I wish more would follow your example!

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Friday 30th September 2011

At the end of another week of early shifts at John Catt I was able to pick Mason up from school and join Ruthie and Clare at their Nan's before we fed my fiancé's elder sister at ours whilst she entertained us with her latest phone app.

Others were entertaining themselves in the belfry and well done to John Taylor on ringing his first quarter on eight in the success at Henley today.

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Thursday 29th September 2011

Bridesmaids' dresses. Tick. Another job done well before our self-imposed 11th August deadline.

Of course I had nothing to do with this most girly of tasks, rather Ruthie headed up to Norwich with her two bridesmaids who had returned to Woodbridge from opposite ends of the country to carry out this duty, as Clare her sister came down from Scotland and Fergie her best friend came up from Brighton.

With the car still at Champkins I walked up to Woodbridge station to meet them on their return and once we’d said our farewells to Fergie who went off to meet some more friends we wandered up to Edwin Avenue to meet up with Kate, now returned from whatever country she ended up in. With Clare only down for a couple of days we then all headed over to Saffron for a curry. The owners seem to have changed and are busy renovating but the chef is still the same and so are the locals as whilst we were there we were joined by Pete and Susanne and then Henry and Jacqui and their son from Anglian Events who we’d recently met up with in regards to catering! That’s another job to be done before 11th August…

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Wednesday 28th September 2011

I may have mentioned this before, but I dislike public transport with a passion. With a car, you can jump in and leave when you’re ready, go the route you want to go, react to any problems as you go along and have some privacy. This afternoon however, Ruthie and I waited for a train that was nearly twenty minutes late, stopped randomly at length with no explanation (as they do), rammed full of depressed and tired looking office workers and cost us the equivalent of half a month’s fuel even by current vastly and criminally overpriced petrol prices.

It did have its uses however as although part of the reason we were at National Expresses’ mercy today was that Emily our one and only car had just been dropped off at Champkins for her service and MOT, we were off to Oulton Broad for the pub crawl to end all pub crawls. Well, to end our participation in the Woodforde’s Ale Trail which finishes this Friday as we grabbed three more pubs and stamps in this bustling community on the edge of the Broads.

Ruthie.Maggie.As with a lot of our other stamps over this summer which still seems to be going on, we were accompanied by Philip and Maggie who along with Bertie their dog joined us on the train at Halesworth and took us round to The Waveney, the Lady of the Lake and finally to The Flying Dutchman where Maggie, Ruthie and I got our thirtieth and final stamp which qualifies us for a Woodforde’s hoody. You might think it has been a long, drawn out and expensive way to get a bit of clothing and you’d be right, but that’s missing the point. Much like ringing takes you to places you wouldn’t normally go, this ale trail has taken us to many pubs we wouldn’t have normally gone to, some of which we’ve passed many times without entering, some which we probably won’t go in again. Until the next ale trail that is. Above all, it’s been good fun from Castor to Felixstowe and much in between, but part of us is glad we don’t have to check our booklet before we enter a pub anymore!

Class 170 DMU.The train going back even behaved itself to get us back to our respective towns of residence, allowing Ruthie and me the chance to grab a bite to eat from the oft-closed kebab shop, whilst the band at The Wolery managed to ring the first peal of Carlisle Minor that any of them had rung. Well done guys.


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Tuesday 27th September 2011

Over the last month or so I have spoken of how my interest in Ipswich Town has waned after some pretty depressing results and depressing seasons. However, following that impressive win on the tele just over a week ago and a very good 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough (one of the high-flyers of the Championship) the anticipation of the big match that was once permanently with me had returned for this evening’s fixture at West Ham, relegated from the Premier League last season, still with many of their ‘superstars’ and already up at the top. I was hopeful rather than expectant, but at least I was hopeful. And quite rightly too as at the end of a great display we scored the first goal of the game with a minute to go to win and in the process keeping a clean sheet for the third match in a row, the first time we’ve managed this for nearly seven years.

Despite all this, I still can’t bring myself to be over expectant when we next play, having endured goodness only knows how many promising runs that faded into more mediocrity and indeed even tonight I assumed it would be painful listening to it on the radio so Ruthie and I took the Woodforde’s Ale Trail to Martlesham instead, visiting The Douglas Bader right in the heart of the estate, continuing onto The Red Lion in the older part of the village, before returning home whilst listening to ITFC grab THAT goal! A very enjoyable evening.

Ufford.We could’ve gone to Ufford of course for their practice night as they are now well truly back up and running and whilst we didn’t tonight I look forward to returning in the near future. It’s good to have this eight back in action after a lengthy silence for tower repairs.


Harkstead.Meanwhile, don’t forget it is the first Saturday of the month this weekend and therefore a South-East District event, this time what promises to be a useful practice at Holbrook and then Harkstead in the afternoon. If you can’t make that, then you could always help out at Redgrave with the open tower and The Vestey Ring, a weekend-long event and a great PR opportunity that will need as much support as possible. And not forgetting before all of this the regular fifth Friday Surprise Major practice at Halesworth. No one is expecting anyone to go to all of these, but if as many members as possible could help just a little it would make a big difference. Of course if you could make all three that would be even better!

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Monday 26th September 2011

Today was a day missing crucial ingredients to be perfect but nonetheless it was still a satisfying day.

The missing ingredient in our latest peal attempt of 41 spliced Surprise Minor at Brandeston this afternoon was rounds, though thankfully only relatively early on. At St Mary‑le‑Tower practice it was the third clapper.

However, our attempt at six-bell ringing was useful and enjoyable, even though we didn’t get as far as last time and an attempt of a quarter with some of the less familiar methods not yet rung such as Warkworth and Bamborough came to grief.

And at SMLT we still managed to ring Royal in Cambridge, Yorkshire, Superlative (No.2) and London (No.3) even if – despite some good ringing – if it didn’t sound great!

Both occasions deserved a visit to the pub afterwards, The Crown in Framlingham in the afternoon and of course The Cricketers in the evening.

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Sunday 25th September 2011

Ruthie and I are both starting work extremely early tomorrow morning, so it just isn’t practical to drop Mason off at Kara’s as I normally would on a Monday. Indeed it wouldn’t be entirely fair on him, her or our respective neighbourhoods! Therefore I dropped the li’l chap off at lunchtime today after a morning of church at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge and tea and as many biscuits as the boy could sneak in before he found the rather bare ‘Toy Library’ over in the Church Centre. There was no ringing of course as work continues on repairing the tower and although the latest printed information continues to say it’ll all be finished by the end of this month, all the verbal and visual evidence suggests that is very ambitious so don’t expect any ringing there soon! However, whilst Sunday morning ringing is out the locals are still undertaking their Tuesday night practices at nearby towers such as Hacheston and Marlesford so if you did want to join them it’s worth getting in touch with them first.

Though it was a shame not to spend the afternoon with my son, it did at least enable us to accept Pete and Suzanne’s kind offer of dinner round theirs, though conscious of that early start in the morning we weren’t out too late!

Whilst I didn’t manage any ringing today, others did with several quarters rung across Suffolk, notably the quarter of Westminster Minor at Redgrave which was the first blows in the method for all the band. It’s not the easiest of methods and I don’t mind admitting I struggle with the front work on this and Allendale it’s sister method as it’s very easy to find yourself the wrong way round, so to get it when none of the band had ever rung it before is impressive. Well done!

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Saturday 24th September 2011

Dale Farm is the news issue of the moment. Whatever the rights and wrongs it has been the focus of media attention for the last few weeks and Mason, Ruthie and I were in the area today as we joined the Hollesley outing to south-east Essex.

Basildon.Basildon.We didn't actually see the site so our day was carried out without disruption from this source at least. However, traffic between the glass belltower at Basildon and The Barge Inn at Battlesbridge - partly caused by volume but largely caused by their obsession with traffic lights in this part of the world - meant we arrived late for lunch which we then had a considerable wait for. It was very busy which was understandable as the food was extremely good, but we had pre-booked our meals.

It meant that we were all running late to the afternoon towers of Rayleigh, the ten at Prittlewell which I ran and Great Baddow, all lovely peals of bells which seemed to correspond with the ringing getting better and better as the day wore on.

The morning saw us at the dark Victorian church of Galleywood and the lovely little six at Downham where I caught up with the local Roger Dorking in the stunning location there before we went to the home town of Toby, the li'l chap's Godfather. He calls it Bas Vegas (Toby that is, not Mason) but it is perhaps the most uninspiring location for this most unusual home for a ring of bells. It felt very strange being on full view from all 360 degrees as we rang and even more so of course to see the bells themselves from outside. The unfortunate effect it seems to have though is that combined with the close proximity of the bells to the ringing chamber they are very, very loud, almost unbearably so. Still, it was a very interesting experience.

Well done to Anne Buswell and Cathy Newman on arranging a superb day out that we really enjoyed, despite trying to follow Mike and Pippa trying to follow their sat nav. At least we didn't end up on Dale Farm!

Friday 23rd September 2011

Today I used up my last day of annual leave of the year until John Catt's Christmas closedown. Not to do anything in particular, though it did allow me to pick Mason up from school. But whilst Ruthie went into work I had a lay-in and did not a lot.

Unlike the band who rang their first of Corse Bob Minor in the quarter at Ashbocking today. Well done guys!

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Thursday 22nd September 2011

In many respects, our abode at Sun Lane has served us well. It's been our first place together, it's where Mason has grown from a baby to a toddler to a little schoolboy, it gave him his own room, I love its little nooks and crannies and the character you get in a house of its age and the location is superb, even if living in and around a builders yard can sometimes be a bit awkward!

However, the last couple of winters have really showed up its shortcomings. The boiler has been notoriously unreliable (though it was serviced today by Tim our busy plumber) the electrics often fail (usually when it's rained heavily and water has come in through the holes in the roof) and the damp has been awful. Apart from anything else it won't be long before Mason's outgrown his cosy bedroom.

As a result we are on the lookout for a new abode before the winter comes and apart from using sites like Rightmove that has meant getting up early on Thursday's to get the property paper, even when I have been on late shifts or - as was the case today - when I have a day off. We are slightly restricted in what we are looking for. Finance of course plays a big part, but obviously we need at least two bedrooms and with having just the one car between us now, we need to be in Woodbridge or at a push Melton. Such properties are not oozing out of the pages of the EADT on the penultimate working day of the week.

So we were quite excited when a two-bedroom flat within our price-range and even more in the centre of Woodbridge than we are now jumped out at us. I left a message with the agents some two-hours before they even opened and then we headed round there for when they opened, only to find out it had already gone before it even got in the paper!

So the search continues, but for this evening we continued house-sitting for Kate and with another cancelled Grundisburgh practice watched more TV instead of ringing as a general theme reveals itself this week.

Not so for Philip Moyse and Michelle Williams who were ringing their first quarter of Double Court Minor at Reydon this evening. Well done both of you!

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Wednesday 21st September 2011

It is five wonderful years to the day since Ruthie and I started going out. With an expensive new anniversary in the planning we decided against going out for the occasion, but we did sacrifice Pettistree practice to have a night in of good food and good drink.

In our absence, well done to Hilary Stearn on ringing her first quarter of Surprise in the 1320 of Cambridge Minor prior to practice.

Hopton.Looking ahead, October is looking a busy month so the support of as many members as possible would be much appreciated. It shouldn't be a chore so I hope many will come willingly, but history suggests otherwise. Apart from the normal district events including the first of the ADM's in the North-West at Hopton, three very notable and exciting events are taking place. On the 15th, Helmingham's restored bells are being re-dedicated at 11am. I am very much looking forward to this and have heard excellent things about them.

The following Saturday is of course Bailey Day. As you can see from What's On this is a unique day of celebration and obviously a one-off occasion. I hope the attendance of ringers reflects this. If you are on the other side of the county and unable to make it to Leiston, there is the South-West District Practice at Kersey, so there's no excuse for having nothing to do on the afternoon of the 22nd!

And a week later we have the Elmsett Towers Open Day. I love these type of events as there are always different faces (familiar and new) to see and a real sense of a journey, no more so than on this one as it stretches the breadth of the county from Fornham to Campsea Ashe. Please do support this worthy cause.

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Tuesday 20th September 2011

Next time you see Kate and Ron, ask them how their holiday in Portugal went. The answer may well make you chuckle as much as it did me!

With the ‘mother-in-law’ away, Ruthie and I were again charged with looking after her abode so our Tuesday night in was transferred to up the road.

Meanwhile it seems that public relations has been a hot topic on the chat lists according to Sue Marsden’s ‘review’ on the front page of Campanophile. Obviously this is my area so I would encourage you to look at Sue’s write-up and most particularly click on the links to John Harrison’s website which has some useful tips.

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Monday 19th September 2011

Sometimes, if I’m very bored or perhaps whilst I’m on a long walk, I start writing that day’s blog in my head, especially if the day or evening ahead is very predictable. With Ipswich Town on the tele tonight I began doing such a thing today as I walked to work and back. I knew it was unlikely that we’d make St Mary‑le‑Tower practice with the late finish at work so I predicted we’d end up watching ITFC take on Coventry City in a pub somewhere in Woodbridge. I’d got the first few downbeat lines in my head, something along the lines of “I’ve had enough of watching Ipswich lose to poor teams, I’ll still keep the faith, but it’s hard, blah, blah, blah.” Such are the depths that my favourite team have plunged that even at home against the only team who have been in the Championship longer than us and who were one of the few teams below the Tractor Boys in the table that I saw absolutely no possibility other than yet another extremely disappointing evening. Even some of that irrational anticipation I spoke of a few weeks back had left me.

So imagine my delighted surprise as Ruthie and I sat at the bar of the Red Lion and watched the Town destroy their visitors from the Midlands 3-0. And I mean destroy as we could’ve scored more (though we would also have conceded a few against better teams) and the commentators even used words like ‘quality’ when talking about the boys in blue. I can’t remember what that word means, but I believe it’s good!

Casting the Treble.And it was a good night even though we did miss SMLT practice night, but whilst we were unable to go to Suffolk’s oldest twelve, it has been good reading and hearing about last Thursday’s trip to Taylors to see the trebles cast for the county’s soon-to-be newest twelve, The Norman Tower. It is exciting to see this all come to fruition, especially as I’ve always felt the west of the county has always needed a twelve to help the many ringers from that part of the world talented enough to ring on that number but who can’t always make it over to Grundisburgh or Ipswich and beyond the borders to Cambridge, Norwich, Saffron Walden, etc.

Helmingham.Another exciting project has been the one to restore the historic eight at Helmingham and although I haven’t been able to get any exact details yet, the dedication there is to be on the morning of Saturday 15th October which also happens to be my birthday so feel free to bring your gifts and cards along!


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Sunday 18th September 2011

Currently I need to ring twelve more peals to get to three hundred for the Suffolk Guild and I’m hoping to reach that landmark by the end of the year, so I’m on one of those Munnings Missions. However, I took a break from this target today as I rang a rare peal for the College Youths as part of their annual peal weekend. It was a peal of Cambridge Royal at Braintree but it originally started out as Maximus at Chelmsford Cathedral prior to moving to St Mary‑le‑Tower and then Great Yarmouth before dropouts and further problems at the tower chosen reduced it to Royal at Bocking and Coggeshall before we finally settled on this 12cwt ten under the planes arriving and leaving nearby Stansted Airport.

To be honest it wasn’t as good as it should’ve been with the band we had but it was a fitting tribute to Rod Pipe whose compositions were a theme chosen for the weekend. Of course it would have been most appropriate for his brother George to have rung in this 5040 and indeed he was originally in the band before his recent hospitalization ruled him out. However, in a positive and pleasing development, GWP returned to ringing at SMLT for the first time this morning as we were also bolstered by the visit of John and Margaret Smith from Gloucestershire.

The Smith’s also came to Sproughton which Mason and I did too with an eye on this afternoon’s arrangements as Mr Potts was picking me up at 1.30 from Ashcroft Road for our trip into Essex. Whilst the folks stayed to church and did their bit serving tea and coffee afterwards, the li’l chap and I spent a very pleasant and sunny hour or so at the Castle Hill Recreation Ground that I remember so fondly from my youth.

Whilst it was a fairly busy day’s ringing for me I wasn’t the only one taking up our fine art today, with particular note to our former Chairman Winston Girling who called his first handbell peal at Bacton and David Steed who rang his 500th quarter in the success at Buxhall. Congratulations both of you!

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Saturday 17th September 2011

How many recruits make a PR exercise worthwhile? It's a question that is important to me in my role as PR Officer for The Suffolk Guild but often the answer can be as few as none. It is important that we get our name out there, that people at the very least understand our art. Sometimes we might not get recruits directly from an event but they come indirectly, through word of mouth or even by bellringing being planted in the consciousness of someone who at some point might be looking for something new to do in life.

The Vestey Ring at Henham.The Vestey Ring at Henham.That is why going to things like the Henham Steam Rally this weekend are very important and why Ruthie and I – accompanied by Mason of course – were delighted to help out with The Vestey Ring as it sat in its prominent position leading into and out of the popular funfair. It wasn’t as busy as at The Suffolk Show but then this is a smaller event than the county’s showcase occasion and unlike the perfect weather conditions of the 1st and 2nd June, many people may have been put off by widespread reports of almost constant rain throughout the weekend.

The Vestey Ring at Henham.The Vestey Ring at Henham.As it happened, bar a ten minute thunderstorm that sent everyone racing for the various tents dotted around and saw the ringers huddled together under the mini-ring (it’s a good job we all get on isn’t it?) we were blessed with bright sunshine for most of the day, even if it wasn’t quite as warm as those summer days at Trinity Park. We therefore ended up going in fits and starts, occasionally having no one approach us for ages and then having hoards turn up at once. Like last year we seemed to do some good recruiting for other parts of the world with the Norwich Diocesan Association doing particularly well along with other associations like the Hertford County Association and the Kent County Association also potentially getting new ringers out of our efforts, but there were still an awful lot of people wandering off with our leaflets and many from Suffolk who seemed keen so this was definitely a worthwhile exercise.

The system employed in the summer of having two groups of helpers doing two hours of manning the bells and then being allowed two hours to wander the show worked a treat again, allowing us three the opportunity to explore the many stalls and in particular fairground rides as the li’l chap enjoyed the bouncy castle, big slide, merry-go-round and much more as we and then his nana and grandpa took him round whilst my fiancée and I did one of our stints encouraging people to have a go.

The day was finished with an impressive game of ringing twister as Ruthie rang one and four, Maggie rang two and five and I rang three and six, all captured on film by Bruce Wakefield. We managed to get clean rounds before we collapsed in a heap of laughter which was impressive, though not as impressive as Louis Suggett’s peal of 9-Spliced Maximus at Worcester Cathedral today. Well done Louis. And well done everyone who helped today in the breezy grounds of a stately home in North-East Suffolk, especially as both on the way there and back the A12 showed just how inadequate it is to cope with events like this (I dread to think what it’s like when Latitude is on!), holiday traffic to Yarmouth and indeed everyday use.

We still made it back in time to have some tea at Kate’s (thank you muchly Kate!) before we took ourselves home for bed at the end of an exhausting but very enjoyable and satisfying day. Yes indeed, this PR exercise was most definitely worth it. I hope tomorrow’s crew have as good a day.

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Friday 16th September 2011

It's easy to imagine every week consisting of something wedding-related until 11th August next year. This afternoon saw more research as we popped to Anglian Events about food on the old Bentwaters airbase, now a business park.

Despite having passed it goodness knows how times, especially when I lived in nearby Tunstall it's the first time I've ever been in the park and it is as vast and strange as I imagined with businesses mingled with old bits of planes and tractors busying themselves with trailers full of freshly picked vegetables, though no sign of the Top Gear team who often use the site for filming.

Whether we go with Anglian Events or not is yet to be decided as we have a number of catering options to look through, but Henry and Jacqui who run it are a lovely couple and once I'd popped out to pick up Mason from school, their cat Mrs Richards kept him well amused. And all the talk of cheese and biscuits that came up inspired us to treat ourselves to this luxury tonight as a works do that Ruthie was to have been attending was cancelled.

Chediston.Others were out and about this evening and today with many achievements of note marked. Well done to Michelle Williams who rang her first quarter on ten in the 1278 of Grandsire Caters at Stradbroke, but also to the entire band who rang their first of Edge Hill Bob Minor at Earl Stonham. And not forgetting young Alex Rolph who rang her first Minor inside in yesterday's 1260 of Plain Bob at Chediston. Keep it up all of you!


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Thursday 15th September 2011

Brandeston.I was quite proud of our multi-Surprise Minor peal band this afternoon. With no Brian Whiting and Mary Dunbavin today we were indebted to Jason Busby and Louis Suggett for helping us out at Brandeston as Mary Garner and Maggie Ross embarked upon their first attempt at a 5040 of 41 spliced-Surprise Minor and I tried to call it for the first time. The initial go at the next number of methods following a success like the one we had at Tunstall a few weeks back is often fairly relaxed, even by this band’s laid back but focused standards. We haven’t got the baggage of month’s worth of failed attempts and it’s generally accepted that although we’re obviously going in with the intention of scoring a peal we expect to be feeling our way into a new composition and new methods. I wasn’t convinced I’d got the composition sussed until we actually got into it and due to holidays it had been over a month since we got the 35. So I wasn’t overly expectant today.

However, after a couple of false starts within the first half-hour (largely caused by me putting people wrong!) we set off in a confident manner, through the Carlisle-above methods and then into the London-above methods which included three of the six added methods from last time, Kelso, Lincoln and Coldstream. I expected it to fall apart at Kelso which along with Bamborough and Bacup – the other two methods that share its below-work – had been the cause of the most grimaces. But we breezed through this and eventually it was Lincoln and Coldstream that tripped us up and brought us to a stop. By that point though we had very nearly got to the end of the first 2160 otherwise known as John Warboy’s SU0308 which works out to the equivalent of three extents and equated to an hours worth of ringing in seventeen methods. On top of the false starts we’d had a useful and taxing afternoon (though it would’ve been impressive to emulate the peal scored on handbells in Newmarket to the same composition to make it two peals of 41 in Suffolk on the same day!), so despite the loss we were very upbeat ahead of our next go on the 26th.

Sadly we couldn’t reflect on our efforts in any drinking establishment as we found first the village’s Queen’s Head Inn was closed (as usual!) and then The Chequers in neighbouring Kettleburgh locked shut and so we parted each others company with Louis impressively cycling to the nearest railway station as he contemplates returning to Birmingham tomorrow and a College Youths peal attempt of 9-spliced Maximus at Worcester Cathedral with the great and good on Saturday! It seems incredibly far removed from what we do in Suffolk ringing but we showed this afternoon we’re capable of testing ourselves here too.

I returned to a less glamorous task as Ruthie and I tackled our back yard and I emptied two large boxes of empty bottles before an evening in as Grundisburgh practice was again cancelled, but I felt satisfied with our efforts in both peal-ringing and gardening alike!

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Wednesday 14th September 2011

“It starts with a couple of plain courses,” our conductor announced before we embarked upon this evening’s attempt of 5088 changes of Iceland Surprise Major at The Wolery. After a sea of confused and worried faces and intimations that he perhaps hadn’t checked out the composition as rigorously as he should’ve, he went on to qualify his seemingly bizarre comment. “With a bob at the end of each one of course.”

Mason, Ruthie & Richy.Ringing, maybe?Relieved we set off and scored a decent effort in 1hr 49minutes and the cake, biscuits and tea that followed came at the end of another long day, though not quite as packed or pubby as yesterday. Once I’d got in a full-days work at John Catt it started with a quick trip to Ventures of Framlingham to get our digital album enabled so we could download the pictures from last months photo shoot and share the results with you! The full-range was included in the fifteen photos we selected from the footy shots to toys to tea and – as you can see – bellringing too!

From here all we did was pop to Tesco before heading onto Ipswich for the peal which itself was preceded by three leads of Bristol to allow the Salter’s eldest child and tenor king George take some video footage of us and the bells for David’s new website. You’ll be glad to hear his blog is back!

Congratulations to Mick on ringing his 250th peal for The Suffolk Guild (not bad for a furrener!) in tonight’s success and further afield well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first Treble Bob inside during the 1320 of Kent Minor at Preston St Mary. But perhaps the biggest congratulations of all today has to go to Mike Whitby on his 1000th quarter as conductor, predictably and appropriately at Pettistree prior to practice. Presumably with a true composition!

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Tuesday 13th September 2011

These early shifts give me the unusual sensation of having a day at work and a day off all rolled into one and rarely has that felt more like the case then today. For after finishing a full shift at John Catt by lunchtime, Ruthie and I managed to fit in the type of stuff we would only normally get in on annual leave and it was all extremely enjoyable.

Falkenham.After a quick bite to eat, it started almost immediately from the moment I changed into civvies with a trip down the peninsula to Falkenham, a loud but lovely-going little six in the tiny but pretty church in this tiny but pretty village overlooking the River Deben and incredibly isolated bearing in mind it’s very close proximity to Felixstowe where the Mid-Week Ringers who we were joining had rung at before lunch. It was nice to join in with this group as normally I’d be at work of course. If do ever find yourself at a loose end on a second Tuesday of the month though, it is well worth popping along, especially as it travels around the county and indeed sometimes just beyond. For example next month they’ll be at Bures and then into Essex to the six at Great Horksley. The following month it’s Rendham and Parham. So it’s sure to be at a tower near you at some point!

It was a shame that Primrose Minor didn’t go so well today. If you have learnt Cambridge correctly, using place-bells to break the line into bite-size, easy-to-learn chunks and if you think about the construction of a method properly then Primrose shouldn’t be any problem as it is simply Cambridge with someone making sixths at the lead-end instead of someone making seconds. The effect this has is a bit like a stretched out bob. You just go in the direction you were going instead of dodging back a place as you would for a Cambridge lead-end. Other than that it’s exactly the same as Cambridge with the place-bells coming in a different order. Don’t make it so hard for yourselves!!!!

That said, the general quality of ringing was very good and apparently followed on from some decent ringing at St John the Baptist in Falkenham’s noisy neighbour which was our destination after the ringing as we aimed to pick up some more Woodforde’s stamps whilst we were in an area we’re not normally in. We went via the Hand-in-Hand at Trimley St Martin where we (or rather Ruthie as I was being Des today) only managed to get a pint of Wherry if we drank it outside as they were locking up for the afternoon!

From there we delved into the depths of the docks and The Dooley Inn. Bizarrely this place didn’t serve Woodforde’s but were still happy to stamp us so we enjoyed a drink in the conservatory of this oasis amongst the huge hub of industry that surrounded us and was in complete contrast to the serene setting of St Ethelbert’s just a couple of miles away. Still it was fascinating watching the huge cranes and ships going about their business and if you’re into lorry-spotting this is definitely the place to come!

Stamp-collecting is more our thing though and so after a swift one there it was onto the next pub, this time on the way out towards Felixstowe Ferry and right by the seafront, The Fludyer Arms. Despite its great location – when we got there it was wet and windy and yet it was still a superb outlook – and the way the sun lights up the bar, it appears this might have been our last opportunity to come here for a beer as they are having a closing down party on 1st October – 2pm until all stock is gone if you’re looking for a late night! It was understandable in a way. They didn’t have any Woodforde’s either but also stamped our book and the décor was looking a bit shabby and the gents were out of order. But with a lick of paint this could be a superb place for locals and visitors alike.

Despite the gentle and meandering nature of our travels there wasn’t time to reflect on this sad demise as we had an appointment to fulfil south of the border. There was no point at this stage returning home to then travel back down the A12 so we decided to have fish ‘n’ chips on the seafront and then make our merry way to Langham and more specifically St Mary’s church which is absolutely nowhere near the village! Rather it is in the middle of Langham Hall estate. Still, we were the first there for a quarter attempt in aide of Quarter-Peal Month in the North-East District of the Essex Association, meaning we were able to greet the organizer Stephen Cheek and another regular at St Mary‑le‑Tower Ian Cullam, along with his father David and also Bevan Wilgress, another two who will be well known to many ringers at SMLT.

The 1320 of Cambridge (second-place Primrose) was brisk but the general consensus was that that was the right way to ring this six and so it was also considered one of the best quarters that the band had rung in. Indeed, the locals coming in for their practice night which followed were also glowing about it having listened to the end so we were quite chuffed with our efforts.

My fiancée and I stuck around for a little to help them, but at the end of a very long day we felt we ought to hit the road. That said, as we went through nearby Stratford St Mary on the way back to the main road, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a fourth stamp of the day in our Ale Trail booklet as we passed The Anchor. Presumably not many have done the same as it took some time to find the stamp but to their credit the barmaid and landlady kept the search up and eventually found it and so we sat and shared in the birthday celebrations for some man called Roger. Happy Birthday Roger, I hope you had as much fun today as we did!

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Monday 12th September 2011

The early starts this week again mean an early finish and afternoons to myself and as Ruthie is generally finished by lunchtime it allows us to sort out all kinds of things. Today it was a trip into a surprisingly quiet Ipswich to get stuff for her impending graduation, but every afternoon this week is booked up with something. It beats sleeping on the sofa watching Diagnosis Murder!

And in contrast to last week when the late finish meant a rush to make St Mary‑le‑Tower practice at all, we were back in Suffolk’s county town in good time to help out on a very windy evening. The conditions and holidays contributed to a lower than normal attendance but we still managed Cambridge Royal, Stedman Caters (though our friend concentration disappeared again, seeing it come to a premature end) and call-changes on twelve and it was good to see a youthful element there with both Craig Gradidge and George Salter getting on well tonight.

Of course it was all topped off by a pint in The Cricketers afterwards but it had been a long day all-in-all at the start of what’ll be a long week that all being well (if I’m still awake!) will be topped off at the weekend by the Henham Steam Rally. If you’re not already helping then please do pay us a visit, it should be jolly good fun and great publicity for the Guild!

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Sunday 11th September 2011

It was a desperately poor morning of attendance at St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh as with the ringing masters of both still away and others also out of the county and indeed country there were seven at the former where I had to endure Stedman Triples all in with the second missing (yuck!) and just three at the latter where Mason was the only one who had a ring.

Chooty.There were a whole lot more at Sproughton church this afternoon for the annual teddy bear parachute and paper-plane throwing. After fixing him up with a parachute made out of the plastic sleeves you’d normally put paperwork in, ‘Chooty’ (as the li’l chap decided he should be called) was dropped by Ralphy from the top of the tower housing this 8cwt six, the last one to go and following on from many other teddy bears of different sizes that had varying degrees of success. Some plummeted straight to the ground, others floated, one even got caught on the floodlight hanging from the tower. But Phil Jones was busy with his enormous pole (make your own jokes up!) as he fished various bears from the roof and trees that surrounded the tower.

Mason.Chooty did alright as it happened before we headed inside out of the wind and onto the flight deck normally known as the ringing chamber that overlooks the church. Mason loved it of course as he threw his plane as far as he could muster, taking out a couple of kids in the process, but as both Ruthie and I have got early starts in the morning I needed to get him fed and returned to his mother so this good thing had to come to an end.

We still managed a couple of pints in The Mariners before bed as we took advantage of a rare Sunday evening with no child, but neither of us fancied overdoing it hours before we needed to be up again, tempting as it was to celebrate Roger Whittell’s 500th peal, achieved this afternoon at the place that has contributed a large number of those, Aldeburgh. Well done Roger, a total well earned. And well done to Cherril Spiller on calling her first peal in hand in the 5040 of Bob Minor in Bacton.

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Saturday 10th September 2011

As terrible as it sounds with our forthcoming nuptials, I can't really remember much about the many weddings I have rung for bar ones I have attended. I turn up, ring whilst we wait for the bride to turn up at some point during the afternoon, hang around reading another order of service so that I can work out how far to the end we are when they start singing 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' and/or 'Shine Jesus Shine' and then ring for however long we've got left before people have to get to somewhere else, often to ring for another wedding.

This is particularly the case at Grundisburgh where we are completely away from view of the church and proceedings, but it was here that this afternoon's wedding looked like it might be a bit more memorable for us ringers as with ten minutes until kick-off we were two band-members short and when I asked Clare the vicar about money - in Stephen's absence - she said she was waiting for the groom and best man to bring it and they still hadn't arrived either!

Philip and Sandy eventually arrived, victims of being stuck behind tractors and the many cyclists taking part in the Suffolk Historic Churches Bike Ride, joining us and Chris and Audrey Barker who knew the bride well and presumably the groom did too as she married someone this afternoon. It all started late of course, but then it wouldn't be a wedding if the bride turned up on time would it?

All this came in the middle of a Saturday that ticked over in comparison to those I had when I was Guild Ringing Master. It started disappointingly in Framlingham where we collected our digital photo album from Ventures. I had hoped to be able to show some of the wonderful pictures they took at our session last month, but in the only slip-up from them thus far they had failed to enable the memory stick to let us download and share the photos, so we'll have to wait until we can get it back to them.

On the way back to Woodbridge we decided to pop into Ufford Park Hotel as we are considering staying there after our wedding, just as a treat! It would be well worth it judging by the room and balcony we viewed and I can certainly understand why it has the reputation it has!

And following the mild excitement of ringing on the back six of the county's lightest twelve we grabbed another stamp on the Ale Trail as we popped into the once familiar haunt of The Turk's Head in Hasketon. The new life breathed into this wonderful example of rural Suffolk charm and character seems to still be enveloping the local community with bands, quizzes and curry nights, good beers and even on a late Saturday afternoon there was a decent crowd inside and out. It just goes to show what can happen when villagers club together to save their pub as they did here.

Just a shame that Ipswich Town can't show the same spirit as they predictably lost again, this time at Blackpool, though the 2-0 score line practically counts as a victory for us these days!

It was a shame that following several nights of nothingness on the TV, tonight's evening of QI to celebrate the new series (don't expect to speak to Ruthie at 10pm on Friday nights until after Christmas now!) meant we had to miss Match of the Day and the Last Night of the Proms, enjoyable as it was. No doubt there'll be nothing on again for the next few nights...

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Friday 9th September 2011

Tesco? On a Friday morning? Mental! And I mean that in the sarcastic 'isn't-that-rock-and-roll' way as well as literally. Why aren't all these people at work? I'm not doing that again!

On a much more entertaining note though, by the evening Mason had been dropped off at mine so he could recount his exciting first few days at school!

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Thursday 8th September 2011

Cake. Another box ticked. Straight after another late finish at work, Ruthie and I popped round to the home and business of Wendy, a good friend of the Eagle ladies and whose business is cakes. And very nice cakes at that. She made one for Ruthie’s 21st last year that was absolutely tremendous. She is also very good value for money and a lovely lady so it proved to be a useful and enjoyable evening before we treated ourselves to some wonderful food and drink at the rejuvenated Coach and Horses on the way home.

Just one important note in case you’ve missed it elsewhere – there is no practice at Offton next Tuesday (13th), ironically when we were considering popping along!

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Wednesday 7th September 2011

Mason.As Mason grows up he constantly amuses and makes us proud. Today it was predominantly the latter as he started full-time, all-day school, complete with a proper uniform and garish yellow tie. Being on late shifts this week I was able to join Kara in accompanying him on this momentous occasion which he may remember for the rest of his life – I know I remember my first proper day at school and that was some time ago!

The later start that enabled me to drop him off at school also meant a later finish which made our plans for this evening quite a bit tighter. For we were returning to the scene of Saturday’s fun to partake in the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles, but also to continue on the Woodforde’s Ale Trail and be reunited with red teddy and dog who we had so carelessly left behind at Gorrod-Ross Heights at the weekend.

However, when we got there we were met by Chris the tower’s first-aider who rather worryingly was waiting for an ambulance. It transpired that just before we’d arrived a ringer called Alec from Darsham had taken a bad turn whilst ringing the treble to Grandsire Caters. It was suspected he’d had a stroke or even worse, but by the time I had got up there he had a bevy of women fussing over him, he was talking and even occasionally joking and ringing had resumed. It was obvious he needed medical attention, but even when the first responder and then paramedics arrived they were happy for ringing to continue as the practice peaked at Cambridge Royal on an otherwise very successful evening with a huge turnout.

We of course hope that Alec will be OK and our thoughts are with him, but as the practice drew to a close he was still there in good hands with the main concern being how to get him down the staircase. It was decided it was most sensible to make some space and so Ruthie and I and joined Philip and Maggie in crossing just over the border into Norfolk for a rare pub on the ale trail. Whether it’s an oversight or part of ‘the game’ I don’t know, but The Artichoke in Broome is in the booklet twice and therefore has two differently numbered stamps behind the bar. It means you can get two of them for the price of one essentially, so this was an opportunity too good to miss. It’s a lovely pub too with lots of casks visible in a neighbouring room giving them a big selection. Well worth a visit even if you’re not on the Ale Trail.

Further west there was some considerable quarter-peal activity today, most notably at Ixworth where the 1250 of Surprise Major was the first of five-spliced for Ruth’s Young and Suggett and for a young up and coming ringer called Maurice Rose who seems to have a big future ahead of him! Well done all three of you!

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Tuesday 6th September 2011

Last year’s World Cup was memorable most particularly (apart from getting engaged of course) for watching England games in the Red Lion on balmy hot days as we revelled in the communal atmosphere. We tried to replicate that a little for this evening’s England-Wales Euro 2012 qualifier but sadly on a wet and windy evening there were far fewer people in, though enough to have made it lively if the game had encouraged it. England won 1-0 which means they need ‘just’ a point from their last game next month to ensure that we can enjoy our exploits of last summer next summer, all being well. However, it was a dire game and we were grateful for the convivial company of Pete, Toby, Amy and their lodger Katherine and her friend Gemma before we locked eyes on an altogether more enthralling one-day international cricket match as England beat India by seven wickets. All very sporty. I almost feel fit.

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Monday 5th September 2011

Stephen Pettman is planning on taking a calendar on his next and possibly final ringing trip to Italy. He’s looking for action shots in particular from within belfries to use in it, which explained Stephen Cheek’s presence halfway up a ladder flashing away whilst we rang some rounds on twelve at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice tonight. It was an amusing moment on another useful evening run ably by the tower captain in the absence of the ringing master, even if four leads of London Royal (No.3) was one lead too many!

We retired to The Cricketers afterwards of course at the end of the first of five late shifts that whilst handy for getting Mason’s haircut and then him back to his mother’s meant that tea was reduced to a quick bite at McDonald’s before we rushed into SMLT.

And as useful days go, it seems to have been a particularly good one at Great Barton today where not only did Simon Veal ring his first quarter on a working bell but Joseph Pettitt rang his first quarter-peal altogether in the 1260 of Bob Doubles. Well done both of you, especially Joseph.

Hopton.Whilst we reflect on that which has been, there is a lot to look forward to, with a fair bit happening in the North-West District. Come 8th October, just a few short weeks away the first district ADM will be taking place at Hopton, newly rehung and augmented as many of you will know. What a great opportunity to show the Guild’s support for the all the work done there in difficult circumstances and I hope there will be a good turnout not just from the NW but across the Guild.


Redgrave.Before that though, Briony Davies needs help with ringing demonstrations and ‘have-a-go’ sessions at the Redgrave church Craft Fair and Flower Festival over the weekend of the 1st and 2nd October. It would be really good if we could support this PR opportunity, especially as The Vestey Ring will be out in force again. Sessions will run from 10 ‑ 12.30 and 2 ‑ 4.30 on the Saturday and then 10.45 ‑ 12.30 on the Sunday. Please do get in touch with Briony if you can help with what will hopefully be a busy but laid-back affair.


But before even that there is the Henham Steam Rally over the weekend of 17th and 18th September. Philip has had a superb response to his cry for help with the aforementioned mini-ring at the show, but he still needs some extra for the Sunday. So if you can help and fancy free entry (tickets are normally £9) to a mini-Suffolk Show that is a fantastic little event then let our Chairman know!

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Sunday 4th September 2011

Our overnight stay in Halesworth meant an early start to get Ruthie to work and Mason and I to a morning of ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh, all which were missing their ringing masters today. It meant I ended up running the latter two, though the visit of Hedley and Hazel Basford with their grandchildren at the former two helped greatly. Ironically it was at the lighter twelve that they didn’t make where we had the most as we had enough to ring Grandsire Caters.

Ruthie is now permanent boss at Boots on a Sunday which means she doesn’t get the opportunity to come home for lunch so after popping in to see her and then ascertaining that the open day at Buttrum’s Mill didn’t start until later than I thought, Mason and I headed over to the Sutton Country Fayre. Primarily it was to help with The Vestey Ring, but it was also a great way to occupy the li’l chap as he took advantage of the ice cream, candy floss, bouncy castle, rollercoaster and horse shows amongst much else, though he stormed out of the army tent declaring it was ‘too girly’. Tough man to please.

Ruthie’s Aunt Stella was nearby the mini-ring doing face-painting and she was soon joined by Wob and their two siblings Freddie and Poppy which added a new dimension of fun to proceedings for my boy, but it was also a successful afternoon of PR for the Guild as punter after punter had a go, mainly youngsters. If nothing else it makes people aware that there is something to do on this far-flung stretch of Suffolk that they could participate in.

Generally the weather held out too even if it was gusty enough to blow the bells about at times, but as the fayre drew to a close and we began packing up the heavens opened. I helped a little with the heavy bits but with Mason getting wetter and wetter and his return to school imminent I decided against making him ill. The timing was reasonably good too as we got back to Woodbridge in time to pick Ruthie up as the rain continued to hammer down.

Not that the weather stopped others achieving on the end of a bell-rope today. Well done to Fred Assmann on ringing his first quarter on eight in the successful Grandsire Triples at Southwold and to Emma Pym, Robert Beavis and Alex Tatlow on ringing their first peal of Double Norwich in the 5008 at Wilby at the end of a busy weekend of peal-ringing for a lot of that band. Congratulations to RCB on ringing his 50th peal at the same time.

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Saturday 3rd September 2011

A few months ago in the early stages of what I consider summer and yet already some way into a very early heat-wave, Mason, Ruthie and I sat outside The Anchor Inn at Nayland by the River Stour looking over to Essex on the southern border of our county on a beautifully hot day. Having all but written summer off a couple of days ago, we found ourselves outside The Waveney House Hotel by the River Waveney looking over to Norfolk at the northern border of Suffolk in similarly hot conditions.

Treasure Hunt Team.We found ourselves here after a highly entertaining, fascinating and pleasurable afternoon that began with a gathering back at Philip and Maggie’s where more participants had arrived and then moved onto the quayside in Beccles where we were met by Adam, Jo and their two boys, the final family to join us. After a vast picnic that built up the energy levels and team photos we were given our tasks and got down to business, our rabble led by the Guild Chairman and accompanied by Zoe, Maxine and their respective tots Katherine and Lauren. I find treasure hunts a great way of finding out about places. At one last year in Pettistree I discovered so much about a place I go to once and even twice a week most of the time so today’s in a town I know but am not familiar with was incredibly interesting. Aside from observations that would lead us to answers to various questions there were dates we had to find as well as photos to pinpoint the location of. However, by far and away the most fun bit was a task which involved getting pictures of as many different modes of transport with at least one member of our team on or in as we could find. Motorcyclists, bus drivers, car salesmen and even pensioners with mobility scooters were asked if they could spare their vehicle for the task and we thought we’d done really well to get fourteen, even if we were stretching things a little with piggy-back rides and a broomstick that Mason, Ruthie and I came across as we left the Bear and Bells having got another stamp in our Woodforde’s Ale Trail booklet.

When all gathered at the aforementioned riverside hotel though, we found ourselves way off the pace with the team that got the most finding an incredible twenty-one modes which ultimately helped them win overall after a tie-break. Meanwhile, we ended up in third-place, just a point off the two leaders. A highly credible first effort me thinks!

After the giving out of prizes it was back to the organisers’ abode in Halesworth for a game of croquet that I mercifully avoided playing in this time round and more booze, food and great company that finished around their huge dining room table before we returned to Jason and Sarah’s exhausted but buzzing, though this may have been down to the alarm at the garage neighbouring P & M that didn’t stop the whole time we were there this evening. Thank you very much to the Busby’s for putting us up and putting up with us. And thank you to Philip and Maggie for inviting us to such a wonderful event. I know we had to miss the South-East District Quarterly Meeting for it but apparently that won’t always be the case as it’s never held on a fixed weekend of the year. That’s if we’re invited again which I hope we are as we had a great time and made many new friends from a wonderful bunch of people.

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Friday 2nd September

A real nice change from the norm this Friday as Mason, Ruthie and I found ourselves in Halesworth at the residence of Philip and Maggie for the start of a weekend of fun. For fifteen years now, Maggie has hosted an annual treasure hunt near wherever she has been living, ably assisted of course in later years by Philip. It involves many of their friends – twenty this year plus children – from a variety of backgrounds including bellringing, school, uni and even friends of friends.

The main event is tomorrow, so for this evening we met up with the vast majority of our fellow hunters who had travelled from previous haunts of Gorrod and Ross, such as Kent and Hampshire as well other areas like Yeovil. They’re jolly bunch. It would’ve been easy to have felt left out as they all regaled tales of past treasure hunts and picked up as old friends do but there was none of it and by the evening we felt like hunt veterans ourselves and of course the li’l chap mingled easily. Much alcohol was drunk as I began my duties as beer monitor for the weekend, food consumed and the draw for tomorrow’s teams made. It was completely random but Ruthie and I still ended up on the same team – we’re yet to see if that is a good thing or not!

There was a full house at the abode of our Guild Chairman and the North-East District Ringing Master so we were grateful to our fellow participants, the recently married Mr and Mrs Busby for letting us stay at their lovely house nearby at the end of a lively and enjoyable but very late evening for all three of us. On the basis of this evening it is going to be a fun weekend!

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Thursday 1st September 2011

I know it isn’t so but I always consider this date as the start of autumn. Simmering July and August (OK, maybe not quite simmering but they were reasonably hot) are behind us with their long sunny evenings and holidays and September and October are before us with leaves changing their colour, the clocks going back and the nights getting longer. It sounds depressing but I love watching the changing seasons and there are few places where you can appreciate nature’s comforting and continuing cycle of life better than here in Suffolk. The concrete of the West Midlands tends to look the same all year round – generally wet.

It seems a good time to mention the latest edition of Awl a’huld which should now be with you. If it isn’t then please get in touch with your deanery rep and make arrangements for them to be delivered. If you don’t know who your rep is, then first of all why not?! If you aren’t sure then check the annual report or get in touch with me.

If you have got your copies then please – as I believe most of you are doing – get copies out and about. Put a copy in the church, give one to your incumbent, doctor’s surgery’s, libraries, pubs. In fact wherever suitable you can think of in your community. But please don’t let them sit gathering dust in your belfry.

And starting with Saturday’s South-East District Quarterly Meeting in Ipswich there is a lot of ringing available to you before the year is out as we enter the final third of 2011. I have to admit to some slight hypocrisy here as Ruthie and I shan’t be able to make it but it is because we have something else on rather than not being bothered. If your diary is blank or merely filled with something that can be put of until another time then please help out this weekend and indeed with other events put on around the county. These are set up with much effort and it is pointless if they are not attended by learners AND experienced helpers. We need you all!

Appropriately as we look ahead, the future of Suffolk ringing were taking another step on the ladder of progress as Robert Beavis and Alex Tatlow joined forces to ring their first peal of Stedman Triples in the success at Grundisburgh today. Well done guys, more of the same please!

For Ruthie and me there was no ringing as again practice at the aforementioned twelve was cancelled for this week and next, but we still had a busy afternoon as we took advantage of my early finish and her ladyship’s day off to visit Colchester Institute for the first time in months to collect her work from her last few weeks there. The two lever-arch files crammed with essays and another pile on top was a stunning reminder of the obscene amount of work in a short space of time that my fiancée had to wade through at such a critical stage of her course.

From that brief dalliance with the past we looked to the future again as we popped into Ipswich town centre to pay for our wedding rings, another important aspect of our big day in eleven months time before we popped into see Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric on the way out of town and a look back once more. Normally this is an interesting visitation as we discuss football and ringing in equal measure but it was particularly so today as mention of our wedding prompted our hosts to bring out several old photos and newspaper clippings, some going back over forty years. In amongst news that it would cost as little as £17 for a season ticket to watch the then UEFA Cup holders Ipswich Town and a progress report on the soon-to-be opened southern bypass there were pictures of me in various stages of my youth and likewise of my aunt and uncle. Perhaps the most fascinating were the various pictures in the papers of Suffolk Guild events such as the AGM at Stowmarket at the tail-end of the last century featuring many familiar faces looking younger and others that we no longer see like Andrew Stone. It goes to show that PR is not just a modern phenomena!

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Wednesday 31st August 2011

I’ve mentioned before my strong disliking of methods with three blows in lead here, two blows in seconds and out there and the like but following last night’s quarter of messed about Cambridge in Wickham Market, Ruthie and I were in the neighbouring village of Pettistree for a 1440 of Cambridge even more messed about, soiled by long blows on the front and the middle and masquerading as something called Simpson Surprise Minor. Part of why I dislike them is their wholly unnatural feel that leads very easily to frequent mistakes and there were a few this evening, not least from myself! D’oh! Still, a worthy effort in the end.

And it led onto a practice that wasn’t up to its normal standard of striking though it improved as the night wore on and climaxed in some very well rung variable-treble-spliced-Doubles and Minor before we moved into The Greyhound. With Pete and Susanne present, the four of us then decided to return to Woodbridge and a couple of jugs of Adnams in The Cherry Tree which completed a long, long day.

And whilst we were making goodness-knows how many places at our local practice, well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of a more traditional method in the Double Court success at Preston St Mary.

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Tuesday 30th August 2011

After a week of 11am starts and even a Bank Holiday Monday free from Mason waking me at some unholy hour (I miss him really of course!) the 6am start was a real test for the body as four days of early shifts began.

It seemed to cope well, with the bonus - as always - being an afternoon free to do as Ruthie and I wished. On this occasion we used it to pop down to The Abbey School where our wedding reception will be taking place. As Will and Chris showed us around it allowed us to picture some of our ideas and thoughts. All in the shadow of the currently scaffold-clad tower of St Mary-the-Virgin it is a beautiful scene as we remember well from Laura and James Lindley's wedding reception at this same location exactly three years ago today. Happy Anniversary guys! If it turns out half as well as theirs we will have done well.

Wickham MarketThe body even kept going long enough for a special quarter at Wickham Market as we rang a method named after this village in honour of Gill and Dick Waterson's move to the parish this week. Most of you will be aware it's been a very tough year for this lovely couple with Dick's health problems, so it was lovely not only to have Gill ringing but Dick sitting on the sidelines watching on, looking well and in his usual good form.

I was ready for bed by the end though!

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Monday 29th August 2011

July and August can be extremely unpredictable in ringing circles. People go away, others might visit, still others have their normal routine change, so you never quite know what you're going to get on a practice night.

This can be exaggerated by a bank holiday as it was this evening at St Mary‑le‑Tower. I don't think David was expecting a very big crowd but much to his surprise twenty-five ringers crammed into the belfry. Encouragingly there was a largely youthful element to the attendance as I counted nine there under thirty and the bulk of those under twenty as we were visited by ringers from Reydon to Bury St Edmunds, Essex to York and much in between. It was a lively practice and although there was a fair amount of struggle the half-course of Yorkshire Max that finished the evening was good stuff and hopefully a sign of things to come.

However, as positive as the practice was, thoughts were inevitably with George Pipe and of course Di as he recently went into hospital in order to get a solution to the leg problem that has dogged him for so long now. I'm sure we all send our best to him and Di.

Di was chirpy in the circumstances though and indeed seems relieved that it looks like something will be getting done about it so felt able to join us in The Cricketers afterwards for a drink. Ruthie and I joined her before we then headed out of town via The Fat Cat to get another stamp for the Woodforde's Ale Trail. We're nearing that hoodie so desired by Ruthie!

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Sunday 28th August 2011

We all like to feel appreciated and I can honestly say I felt my efforts as Guild Ringing Master were generally well received though I am also aware that there are a lot of people out there too nice to say otherwise! Nonetheless, thank you ever so much to Chairman Philip Gorrod for arranging the meal in my honour this evening as a thank you for my five years of masterial duties.

I'd been given the choice of venue and after much thought had plumped for Saffron, the curry house we once frequented so regularly but which Ruthie and I hadn't been to for some time. It isn't grand but the food and service are great and following a couple of pints in The Mariners and The Angel to help Philip and Maggie grab a some more Woodforde's stamps beforehand it seemed even better!

Not all of the executive could make it - as we all know, getting ringers all together in the same place at the same time is one of the great logistical feats of our age - but we still very much enjoyed the company of Gordon, Janet, Jonathan and Suzanne. It doesn't get much better - a curry and wine with good friends. Oh, and well done to Helen Stanford on her two A's and eleven (yes ELEVEN!) A*'s! Judging by this evening and the footnote to yesterday's quarter at Brixham in Devon her folks are very proud!

Despite taking advantage of the friendships that bellringing offers me, neither Ruthie nor I touched a bellrope for the third day running as of course Ruthie had to work and Mason and I went to church at the silent St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, a visit sandwiched between walking two dogs and a four-year old! All jolly good fun.

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Saturday 27th August 2011

With Kate 'popping up' to Scotland for a couple of days, we found ourselves house-sitting once again. Not that we mind as it all feels a bit luxurious compared to Sun Lane! This time we also had charge of Max and Ron's dog Jude who has a deep dislike of all things feline - not an easy juggling act in a house of four cats!

Otherwise - apart from a very quick trip into Ipswich to look at wedding rings and ITFC actually winning a game - it was a day of not considerable note personally. However, the same can't be said for Chris Davies who today rang his first peal in the 5040 rung in memory of Albert Driver at Rickinghall Superior. Well done Chris, I hope the first of many!

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Friday 26th August 2011

I used to go clubbing on Friday nights. Even when I returned to Suffolk and the 'quiet' of Tunstall I used to finish the working week out in the pubs of Woodbridge with Rusty. We used to start in The Red Lion, catch one in The Mariners and then finish very late in the crowded Cross long before it became a vegetarian restaurant. I spent this evening in a storage warehouse on a dark industrial estate.

The arrival of Mason has long curtailed big nights out over the weekend (but for the odd special occasion) and my body probably couldn't' take that kind of abuse every week now anyway. Besides, after being helped in the moving process several times I was more than happy to help Kate and Ron as they collected Clare and Kev's belongings and loaded it all into a van in readiness for a very long trip to Scotland tomorrow. It's all good news as it means that Mr and Mrs Douglas have managed to find a flat north of the border.

And at the end of my first week of late shifts I was still able to put the li'l chap to bed and hear all about his exciting trip to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Park yesterday. Judging by his expansive and expressive description of his visit he had a very good time. Thank you Mum and Dad for taking him and dropping him off this afternoon.

So whilst some residents of our county returned and others prepare to leave, one former resident was today having her fifteen minutes of fame elsewhere in the country. If you get the chance once you read this and you haven't already then listen to Claire Monk talk about her Welbeck Abbey Brewery during Toby Foster's breakfast show on BBC Radio Sheffield, at 1 hour 36 minutes in. A very assured performance. In fact, I wonder if she's considered being our Guild PRO...

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Thursday 25th August 2011

The centenary year of The Ringing World has brought into sharp focus the place of the traditional ringers’ journal in modern-day ringing. As someone who works in getting people to advertise in printed publications as well as online I am fully aware that a lot of people just aren’t interested in printed stuff. Why advertise in a school directory when people can look you up through Google? Why fork out a few quid a week on a copy of the East Anglian Daily Times when you can read most of it (and more given the ability of the website to update breaking news as it happens) on your computer at work during a break? Why print out copies of Awl a’huld when you can read it on this very website? Why support the RW when you have Campanophile?

As I know from my job though, depending on your audience there is still a big demand for having an old-fashioned book or magazine that you can breathe in and touch. Heads and parents of prospective pupils at independent schools still seem to like to see a copy of something they know and respect and even more so – in the headmaster’s case – like to be seen in rather than jostling for position on the internet with porn and the latest ‘news’ on Big Brother. And many ringers still like to receive a copy of the publication affectionately nicknamed ‘The Comic’ through their letter box as well as (and often in preference to) logging onto a computer and checking Campanophile. Print and internet actually compliment each other nicely in truth.

I haven’t been able to justify the cost of a subscription for a while now and nor do we have the space to hoard copies of the hundred-year old publication, but I do miss that end-of-week read when there’s nothing on TV and I appreciate having a gander at the various belfry copies that I come across on my travels. Which in a roundabout way brings me to the prompt for my written ramble. For I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with recent weeks of RW’s in between chatting and ringing at Pettistree practice last night. Although I’d seen all the peals and quarters on Campanophile weeks earlier and many of the articles had also caught my attention online, there were some articles that I hadn’t come across on the net, including the very interesting reports from Stephen Pettman and James Smith in the August 12th edition about their recent trip to Italy to show the natives English change-ringing, accompanied by a small but familiar band of helpers including Joan Garrett and my brother Chris.

Something else you don’t always pick-up on (unless you are prepared to wade through a lot of the drivel on Ringing-Chat) is the interesting views and opinions of other ringers across the country and of course the world which you can easily do through the letters columns of the RW. One such thread which got me thinking throughout today, seems to have arisen from a letter by the Reverend Barry Peachey, a prominent ringer from Barrow-on-Humber that many of you may well know or at least know of. His original letter raised the same question that I made in Awl a’Huld a few months ago – should we be distancing ourselves from the church to help recruitment to ringing?

It has to be said his point seems to have been made more forcibly than mine and appears to have been caught up with a grudge he apparently has with the Church of England, but I agree that the question needs raising. Many of the letters in reply to his seemed to miss the point slightly and indeed I had some correspondence with someone concerned that my brief article in the Guild magazine was essentially calling for us to cut our links with the church. But that certainly isn’t what I am aiming at, though I can’t speak for Barry. We must not only retain our links with – in our case – The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich but look to strengthen them wherever we can. Not just because they allow us to house our instruments in their buildings and use them regularly (in most cases) but because we can help feed each other. Despite dwindling congregations I still think it is preferable to recruit from the churches we serve and we still do get most of our ringers from within. As I’ve mentioned before, they are more likely to be committed and understanding to our need for them to ring on Sundays. Likewise, we can bring in people to bellringing from outside the church and in some cases they then become regular churchgoers when they otherwise wouldn’t have.

However, we must be realistic. Our pool of churchgoers is – generally speaking – getting smaller and there are a large number of people out there who would enjoy ringing but currently wouldn’t go anywhere near a church through often unfounded preconceptions. But rather than playing down our links with the church I’d prefer to play-up the aspects that ultimately keep most ringers enthralled – the mathematics, science and music of it, the tremendous social outlet it offers and lifetime of friendships across the globe. We need to go to the potential recruits (and with The Vestey Ring we can do this now) armed with these aspects. An opportunity to do that soon is at The Henham Steam Rally on 17th and 18th September. Please help man the ring and let’s get some of those people into a church belfry that wouldn’t normally be seen near a church.

Before I finish what has admittedly been a long blog today, well done to Ruthie who despite having got her degree is obviously missing exams. As part of her progression at work she today took a healthcare test and got 100%! Clever girl!

Wednesday 24th August 2011

The late finish at work sadly meant I was unable to ring in a very special quarter at Pettistree before this evening’s practice as Schurr Surprise Minor was recorded for the first time. It was named after Susan of course, with the method being a slight variation of Primrose, her favourite flower. Happily Ruthie was able to ring which went some way to making up for her disappointment at having to miss Susan’s recent memorial service through work.

I was able to join the practice later on however which was as lively as ever and was attended by Caroline and Tim, a mother and son team from Brandeston who are doing what all learners should be doing and getting out and about to help progress themselves.

It was lively in The Greyhound too as us ringers struggled to find seats in a pleasingly packed establishment before Ruthie and I headed home together to make our tea.

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Tuesday 23rd August 2011

Much like when we reached the one year to the Olympics milestone recently, the same landmark to our wedding has seen a sharpening of focus on sorting the various aspects that must come together for the big day. The church (providing the tower’s still standing) and venue have been booked, bride’s dress paid for and collected, flowers and photographer made aware of the 11th August date and the first enquiries made about the honeymoon. But whilst there are still 354 days to go (not that we’re counting!) there is still a lot of issues to be sorted.

The different shifts over the next couple of months at work offer an opportunity to deal with a lot of those so before I headed off on my late shift today we popped into Alexander’s down the Thoroughfare to enquire about suits and Aspens round the corner for rings. It’s going to be a busy few weeks me thinks!

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Monday 22nd August 2011

Our IB World Schools Yearbook campaign began today at John Catt. This is the big one that means calling schools from Japan to California, New Zealand to Norway, Chile to Mongolia and just about everywhere in between so it also means the start of ten weeks of shift work, some weeks starting as early as six in the morning, other weeks finishing as late as seven in the evening.

This week it is the latter and whilst the early shifts have the upside of giving me the afternoon to myself and the downside of seeing me knackered by the evening, the pluses and minuses are also equal with the late shifts. It is nice to get a long lay in as we don’t start until eleven but the finish time means that I can’t commit to many things ringing-related in the evening and the first casualty was tonight’s practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower. Hopefully that won’t always be the case but on this occasion after a week looking after Kate’s house and then returning to find our boiler had broken AGAIN we were short of food and hot water, two things that needed to be remedied tonight. This was done with a visit from the increasingly familiar Tim Butler, our landlord’s handyman and a trip to Tesco, both of which could’ve been done after work and before practice following a normal 9-5 but not after finishing at seven. Here’s to two months of not knowing whether I’m coming or going!

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Sunday 21st August 2011

Normally on a Sunday, Mason and I go to Grundisburgh park if the weather’s nice between morning ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower and the twelve in the aforementioned village. It’s nice for the li’l chap of course who loves it but it also helps pass the time in the now long gap between the two towers. So I was slightly surprised to hear the sound of bells wafting over the playing fields on another hot day almost a quarter of an hour before the normal 10.15 start time at the little wobbly red-brick tower. Having ascertained it definitely wasn’t the relatively near rings of six at Hasketon and Burgh still ringing (when they started ringing on eight it was a bit of a giveaway!) I began wondering if I’d got the wrong time. Nope, definitely right. As I scooped the boy up I wondered if perhaps there was an early service I’d missed an email about or maybe some visitors were there but it all just turned out to be a rare occasion when not only lots had turned up but had turned up early so they’d made a start. And in the end thirteen plus Mason were present, allowing us to be probably the only tower in the country this morning that rang Stedman from Triples to Cinques.

SMLT had been a bit shorter on numbers but we still rang three leads of Bristol Major on the back eight on a scorcher of a day that just got hotter and hotter and having arranged to meet Philip and Maggie for some more Woodforde’s stamping after Ruthie had finished work we decided to go for a little drive out in the beautiful East Suffolk countryside that we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep, particularly in this weather.

With our drinking companions from the north a little on the drag we decided to try the Parrot and Punchbowl in Aldringham again. We’d tried here last month when out this way and it was closed. Sadly it was again this afternoon which seems crazy at peak holiday season with presumably loads of tourists and locals out and about looking for food and drink on such a lovely afternoon. Still, it allowed us to nip over to The Lion Inn at Theberton where I’d actually originally got our Ale Trail booklet but had remissly failed to get a stamp for the occasion. We got it today though in a pub that seems to be thriving. I love these sorts of places, truly local with the old boys sat at the bar but also extremely welcoming and as we sat there the tourists that the Parrot and Punchbowl were probably missing out on came pouring in.

From here it was on to meet Ross and Gorrod for another stamp, this time at the very different surroundings of The Bell Hotel in Saxmundham. It was still welcoming but not as cosy. Still it did for us and after a couple of drinks here we made our merry way home having enjoyed our afternoon out.

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Saturday 20th August 2011

On Tuesday I spoke of my (and indeed the average football fan's) illogical sense of anticipation and expectation in the immediate lead-up to an Ipswich (or whoever the average football fan supports) game. When the Tractor Boys play Leeds United at home next Saturday that sense will be tested to the extreme as this evening's awful, appalling and shameful televised 7-1 defeat at Peterborough leaves little footballing hope for even the most optimistic of supporters.

We watched it from Kate's living room on an otherwise quiet day, but thank you very much to Mrs Eagle for the grub and drink. We needed plenty of the latter after the match!

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Friday 19th August 2011

I used to go to the Castle Hill Recreation Ground yards from my Mum and Dad's regularly as a kid but until this afternoon I hadn't stepped onto it for sometime. But with Mason over there with his Grandad when I went to pick him up after a day at work it required another trip down memory lane. It has changed a lot, something I've only been able to view from afar before. There used to just be a couple of brick walls to kick a football against and maybe some swings when I was the li'l chap's age. Now there's a huge adventure playground and a five-a-side pitch that rises from the green lung in the middle of this sprawling North Ipswich estate. Suffice to say someone was enjoying it very much!

On a ringing note there were others also enjoying themselves today. At least I hope they were! Well done to Ian Wright on ringing his first quarter inside in the success at Rendham and just outside the county at the Cambridgeshire eight of Longstanton, well done to Alex Tatlow on ringing his first peal of Bristol Major.

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Thursday 18th August 2011

After over a week of flitting between two houses in Woodbridge, the owner of one of them returned this evening with her travelling companion in wet weather more associated with the Scottish nation they’d just returned from. We’ve got a bit used to having the option of a bath as well as a shower, the ample space and the hundreds of TV channels – I think we could quite happily stay, but Mrs Eagle might have something to say about that!

And although it arrived on time, Kate and Ron’s train didn’t come into Ipswich until past eleven tonight so we spent an evening humming the theme tune to The Good Life as we plucked runner beans, courgettes and turnips from the mother-in-law’s ample vegetable garden before spending one last night there with the travellers and their possessions safely returned.

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Wednesday 17th August 2011

There were a couple of gentle nods to my recent two weeks off this evening as we first returned to Ventures Photographers in Framlingham for a viewing and then popped round to Mum and Dad’s where Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick were visiting.

The photos have turned out well. Ventures are not cheap but we chose the digital album that allows us fifteen photos that we can send on to others and with our free session from last week and voucher off it’s worked out nicely. We should get them in about a month but the use of props has produced some memorable shots.

From there it was down to Ipswich and following our meal with Aunty Carol and Emma whilst on Ramblers it was good to catch up with Mum’s other sister and her chap. We had a nice evening just chatting and having a relaxed drink before Ruthie and I rounded it off with a quick stamp in the Woodforde’s book from the Dales pub nearby.

Meanwhile, well done to George Salter on ringing his first peal of Major in the 5184 of Plain Bob at The Wolery.

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Tuesday 16th August 2011

After the best part of a decade of mediocrity and desperately (and even dangerously) poor football, there has been a depressing predictability about Ipswich Town. And yet still I love them and the game and the illogical part of me (which most football fans seem to have) still eagerly anticipates each Town game as it approaches, despite the more rational part of me saying ‘it’s just going to be another depressing indication of how far off the pace we are’. Those feelings are exaggerated considerably though when I actually go to a match and so I was bizarrely excited as Ruthie and I prepared to watch them take on Southampton at Portman Road on this warm sunny evening.

The feel good factor was helped along by some marvellous football harmony as we were given a lift by a Saints fan and a Naaaaridge supporter in the shape of Maggie and Philip as we not only took in the footie but also aimed to collect some more Woodforde stamps, a task we duly began with a pint of Wherry each in The Arboretum from where St Margaret’s bells apparently sound good.

After a swift one there we got down to the real business and the crushing of the romantic football fan in me as ITFC found themselves 2-0 down after just eleven minutes and 3-0 down by half-time in an inept performance that Robert Beavis (who along with Diana Leach made up a six-bell band within the stadium this evening) described as akin to watching someone ring Cambridge badly. However, that optimistic irrational football supporter was resurrected in the second half as a couple of substitutions seemed to turn the whole team round and suddenly we were back to 3-2 with half an hour still to play and a lively crowd behind them. Eventually the fan base and team ran out of steam though, the damage already done in that awful first-half and an all too familiar and predictable collapse as the visitors ran out deserving 5-2 winners. Our next game away at Peterborough is on the tele this Saturday evening and all being well I shall be watching it expectantly again despite it being painfully obvious that after ten years of trying we are still as far away from achieving promotion (or even challenging for it) as we have ever been.

For now we met up with Ross and Gorrod again, fresh from the joyous away section as we continued our other reason for coming into the ‘big smoke’ tonight with a pint and a stamp in P J McGinty’s and then the best pub in town, The Dove before they dropped us off at Edwin Avenue on their merry way back to Halesworth. Thanks Philip and Maggie!

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Monday 15th August 2011

A lot’s been crammed into the sixteen days since I was last at work as bar that dentist appointment I enjoyed the freedom from deadlines, targets, strict timekeeping and the routine I mentioned on here at the start of my annual leave. When you think about it that’s half a month and so it not only felt like but actually was a long time since I left the offices of John Catt for the adventures that awaited me back then. And although I have a job that ticks all the boxes (not least that in the current climate it is a job) today dragged as things are still very quiet.

Eventually though, Ruthie and I made it to St Mary‑le‑Tower where another good attendance participated in a practice that somehow managed to fit in (nearly) two courses of Cornwall Major, half a course of Superlative Royal (No.2), a few leads of London Royal (No.3) and a touch of Stedman Cinques, all within the presence of Ian Cullam whose father David many of you may know.

After what seemed a long day we chilled out at Toby’s house with him, Amy and some homebrew a customer of his had dropped off for our opinion. The man (and lady) from Sun Lane say yes!

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Sunday 14th August 2011

Susan Schurr was an absolute treasure. Not only did she buck a trend by becoming an integral part of the Pettistree band having not started until her seventies but she was a significant part of the church and half of a partnership with her surviving husband Peter that was (and Peter still is) much loved by their extensive and very talented family that obviously took their lead from their head who displayed a 'can-do' attitude that was very familiar to us all.

Therefore it was no surprise to see SS Peter and Paul so packed out for her memorial service this afternoon that we ringers had to sit in the chancel having completed our ringing just beforehand. It was for her ringing that we most remember her of course but from all that was said during a moving but upbeat service (much of which was selected by Susan herself) it is clear there was so much more to her life. However, many ringers will remember her good humour as she tried to ring with a hearing aid and our Guild Chairman may still have the marks from when Susan (entirely accidentally!) struck him with a handbell during a course at Stutton a couple of years ago! Philip obviously bears no malice as he was one of many ringers present today.

Before the open ringing and service a quarter was aptly scored and it was all followed by a fine spread in the village hall where Mason was in his element. It was all a fitting tribute to a much missed friend.

The day had begun in typical fashion, though with the back four at St Mary‑le‑Tower down following an inspection earlier this week only ringing on the front eight was available to the fifteen in attendance this morning. No such problems at Grundisburgh as the back ten were put into action with another healthy attendance.

But my annual leave - and our day - ended in much the same way as it did sixteen days ago with a meeting with Ruthie's school friends, this time at The Duke of York in Woodbridge. It's the first time since it has changed name from The Seal that we've visited this pub but it was still as pleasant as it was previously and of course it was great to catch up with the gang.

With a return to work tomorrow though and the li'l chap still needing bed even though his hols continue we headed home early.

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Saturday 13th August 2011

Ruthie's grandparents are nearly always away for Ruthie's mid-July birthday, so as with previous years we were invited to theirs for a belated celebration with them, Ruthie's uncles Wob and Moog and their respective wives Stella and Ange and - more importantly for Mason - their children Freddie, Poppy and Lucy. Although Lucy's a little young to be mucking in with the big 'uns, the li'l chap had a whale of a time with his contemporary Freddie and his sister whilst we adults had a good catch-up.

Although Kate was away of course and Clare is now in Scotland, my better half had a great time and indeed we all enjoyed Derek and Janet's typically fantastic hospitality before we three meandered back to Edwin Avenue to spend a night in our second home for the week. It's just a shame that Ipswich Town spoilt a lovely afternoon by losing at home as no visible signs of progress are made. After my comments about enjoying my Saturday afternoons a few weekends ago, I'm already looking forward to the summer...

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Friday 12th August 2011

Our merry but patient band of Surprise Minor peal ringers took eight months to follow up a 5040 of twenty-one methods with one of twenty-seven. And today we successfully made the next step to thirty-five methods at Tunstall... eight months further on! Watch this space in April!

This morning's effort was a fine one and surprising to a certain extent as it seemed like ages since our last attempt with holidays and the like intervening and some of the band having a very difficult week that made focusing on all these methods pretty tough. So well done to all, especially Mary and Maggie!

After such an achievement, what better way to celebrate then with a pint of Wherry and a stamp in the book from The Ship in nearby Blaxhall? No Toby today but I did have a chat with another good friend Lou before an afternoon of sorting out that seemed quite mundane after our success earlier. However, a new suit needed to be purchased, old computers taken to the dump and Mason collected from his grandparents before Ruthie was picked up for an ultimately successful quarter of Belfast at Rendham.

Meanwhile, it's good to see photos from the Guild Social on the website and with an eye towards 22nd October's big event a context to Bailey Day. And in terms of forthcoming events it is worth noting Susan Schurr's memorial service this coming Sunday at Pettistree. It would be great to see a big crowd for this popular lady. But beyond that the South-West are busy with some very useful events and then we have the South-East District Quarterly Meeting in Ipswich. These events are all for your benefit even if you are an experienced ringer. For if we don't support the learners as they progress then who is going to support your efforts in the future?

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Thursday 11th August 2011

God willing it is exactly one year until Ruthie and I get married so it was apt that my wife-to-be picked up her wedding dress from Ipswich and we also had a photography session. The latter had nothing directly to do with our big day in 366 days but it is something that we will have to get used to on 11th August 2012 if all goes to plan.

On this occasion though it was linked to one of the many draws that I entered into at The Suffolk Show a couple of months ago. No substantial amount of cash or a shiny new car was won, but instead a free photography session at Ventures in Framlingham. Having picked up Mason for it we entered in with props at the ready as requested from the model bell that belongs at St Mary‑le‑Tower to Ruthie's teapot to Mason's Thomas the Tank Engine and enjoyed a lengthy but highly enjoyable time with our photographer Emily. We will have to wait until Wednesday to see the results.

Having visited The British Larder (formerly The Cherry Tree) in Bromeswell to pick up a Woodeforde's stamp yesterday we took the opportunity to grab another one today. I suggested The Crown in Great Glemham the village where John Catt were based until three years ago and which is now being run by my former colleague there Rhian. Except we arrived to find it shut indefinitely and an angry notice from the locals pinned on the door. So don't head there for your next stamp! Or indeed anything else

Instead we continued onto The Lion Inn at neighbouring Little Glemham who duly obliged us with a stamp and a very good bit of grub before we popped into Ipswich for the dress and enjoyed a night at ours as we treated Pete Faircloth to some of the homebrew. If a year today is as much fun we're in for a good 'un!

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Wednesday 10th August 2011

The Wolery.I have rung two peals in a day before but it is some time since the last time. But with Ruthie at work this morning I took the opportunity to ring in a peal of Stedman Caters at Grundisburgh and then with my fiancée accompanying me to ring a 5088 of Zopf Surprise Major at The Wolery. Apparently it's a mountain in Switzerland, but the line had more to do with Uxbridge.

Both were enjoyable occasions with plenty of banter exchanged with Sue Marsden the Naaaaridge fan before their impending relegation campaign and Alex Tatlow and Robert Beavis doing well in their first of Stedman. Nice one guys.

And with the Salter kids in the care of their grandparents this week to give David and Katharine a well deserved rest, there was more cake and biscuit than usual following our evening effort.

In between we popped round Kate's house to feed the animals and begin looking after the house in her short absence on a trip that began early this morning with me taking her and Ron to Ipswich Railway Station so we now have two houses to live in!

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Tuesday 9th August 2011

As the hard-working and decent residents of Ealing, Croydon, Birmingham (well done to the ringers who still managed to ring a peal at St Philip's in the middle of it all!), Liverpool and everywhere else last night overrun by wasters tidied up we thought we ought to do the same in our house (though the cause of our disorder was more to do with an over-enthusiastic four-year old than mindless vandalism) with Ruthie on a day off and me on my second week of annual leave.

It was punctuated with a morning visit to the dentist, an interesting couple of hours at Ruthie's Nan's and a brief trip to Tesco that saw more clothes shopping than food shopping, all paid for with our own money earned from working rather than looted.

Looking ahead there is a very important date to note in the next couple of months - Saturday 22nd October which is to be Bailey Day to celebrate the contribution of the famous Bailey brothers to ringing, 100 years on from their peal at Leiston. There are various events going on around the East Suffolk town on the day of which there will be more details soon, but please do note the date.

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Monday 8th August 2011

 Whilst wasters and criminals across London and now the rest of the country looted and vandalised apparently partly because of boredom (not because they are mindless thugs of course) we at St Mary‑le‑Tower were actually occupying ourselves constructively with a decent practice, most notably a half-course of Cambridge Royal that was allowed to move at a natural, brisk speed (SMLT tenors are SO much easier to ring when they're being shifted along rather than held back whenever we get faster four hour peal speed) and therefore produced some good ringing.

There was a surprisingly good attendance (over twenty) at this holiday time to the extent that David had to ditch plans to ring Cornwall Major as the likes of London Royal and Stedman Cinques took priority.

Following a good night's ringing Ruthie and I returned to Woodbridge and more specifically The Mariners as we joined Toby, his new girlfriend Amy and Kala to celebrate his forthcoming birthday. It was great to catch up with them all of course and we had a hilarious evening as Toby pleaded his innocence to a charge of littering and speeding. His case isn't strong!

It was a wonderful end to a day that started with taking Mason back to Kara after ten brilliant days with the li'l chap that has taken in some real highlights like Verity's party, the Guild Social, Brian and Pete's BBQ and of course Rambling Ringers. We would no doubt have enjoyed all of that without Mason but it was extra special that he was not only able to share it all with us but seemed to have a great time. It now feels odd not to have him about!

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Sunday 7th August 2011

The first day back after a holiday can feel a bit of a comedown and it has to be said it felt like that today as Ruthie returned to Boots and Mason and I picked up the Sunday morning trail again.

However there was a real feel-good factor about this morning as at both St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh as Peter and Christine Hill paid us a very welcome visit that enabled us to ring Stedman Cinques at both towers and Yorkshire Max at the former although this fired out after some quite good ringing.

Squeezed in between was first Sunday ringing at St Lawrence but the afternoon was a quiet one as rain prevented Mason and me going out to his preferred destination of the park. Instead I caught up with emails after a week without any internet access and briefly locked Mason and me out of the house.

Those who were busier and reaping the rewards in the county included Nathan Colman who rang his first quarter of Grandsire in the success at Tostock whilst Richard Brewster and David Howe rang their first of Ipswich in the 1320 at Buxhall. Well done all of you!

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Saturday 6th August 2011

It’s taken in twenty-six towers, ringing from Doubles to Maximus, seven pubs, hundreds of miles, goodness knows how much beer and a steam train but sadly our holiday came to an end today. It has been a great week and I would always recommend coming and joining the Rambling Ringers. The ringing is varied and interesting as is the membership and whilst there is a certain standard expected – after all we’re invading an area and ringing other people’s bells - so long as you can at least ring Cambridge Minor to a decent standard and you’re willing to get into the spirit (and pay your subs!) then you’d be more than welcome.

That said it’ll be unlikely that we’ll be able to attend next year’s tour. With our wedding falling on the very last Saturday of the 2012 tour we had planned to come for the middle weekend and maybe a day or two at the start of the second week, assuming that with the Olympics swarming the south of England that the tour would be up north and relatively accessible. However once we’d put our tent down, bade farewell to the campsite and following the growling pulleys and a broken rope at Corby the morning didn’t quite go to plan. Things didn’t go as badly as they did for the Brays who suffered a flat tyre before they could even set off this morning but enough to have a dramatic effect on our plans both for today and next year.

Normally the tour meeting takes place after the last tower before lunch, on this occasion Weldon after which we would then make a start for home. Unfortunately a wedding was also booked up for just after we finished ringing and with rain outside it was decided that the meeting would unusually take place AFTER lunch at the next tower Gretton. It meant that having found The Talbot Inn in Gretton lunch was a bit of a rush. It was a strange establishment that seemed to be a typical village pub from the outside but resembled a social club on the inside. Still, the food was nice even if we didn’t have enough time to fully enjoy it.

Even then we still made it to the church to cast our vote for the proposal of South Yorkshire. However that finished in a dead heat with the proposal for North Cornwall and so the other two proposals were ditched and a second vote was taken. Amazingly this finished level too leaving the casting vote to new President Chris Birkby. He plumped for Cornwall and so any opportunity for us to go next year disappeared. Quite apart from not wanting to join the extra tourists in an already crowded tourist region slap bang in the middle of what’ll probably be one of the busiest periods ever in southern England, it’ll be too far to go for a few days the week before our big day. There are a few others that probably won’t make it either so they may need extra help! The attendance for today’s meeting was unusually low. Perhaps if the meeting had been at the normal time there may have been more present and who knows?

At least Mum won’t have to organise the next tour as she hands the secretary’s role to outgoing president Geoff Pick and she was quite rightly thanked and applauded for her efforts not just for this year but the last few. Well done Mum!

Disappointed, we said our goodbyes and returned to Woodbridge to return Kate’s tent and have a cuppa. It wasn’t the end of our day though. Not by a long way.

Normally we get back to Suffolk in time to enjoy the meal following the South-East District’s Quarter-Peal Evening. In fact it almost feels as much of the holiday as the tour. But with this year’s tour being a lot closer than the last couple of years we were able to go one better this time round and actually ring in a quarter as we headed to Barking with Kate and Ron. Despite a false start due to a missing key for the attempt at Coddenham we rang a brisk and enjoyable quarter of Doubles as Ron and Lyn looked after Mason and whilst Coddenham’s quarter was lost the band at Sproughton joined us in scoring a 1260 of Doubles before we joined everyone else in The Sorrel Horse at Barham for what was another successful social event. It is of course Kate’s last year as District Ringing Master and this was her idea – and a very good one at that – so it remains to be seen if this is continued by the next Master. I hope so. It has turned what was once the lowest attended district event into a real highlight of the year.

Finally – and I’m aware I’ve rambled on (get it?!) today – well done to Tom Scase on ringing his first peal of Bristol Royal in the 5002 at The Norman Tower in what was apparently an excellent peal.

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Friday 5th August 2011

Back in 1994 when the Munnings family went on its first Ramblers tour we were out on a geographical limb with us being the only representation from the east. However as I ran the ringing at Brigstock this afternoon I counted eight regulars from St Mary‑le‑Tower alone as we were joined by our Guild Ringing Master Jed. Add my brother’s presence to that and the earlier attendance on tour of Mandy Shedden on Tuesday, Claire Monk yesterday and today and of course son of Suffolk John Loveless on Monday there has been a distinctly East Anglian feel to this traditionally Midlands based society.

Whilst I finished our ringing day with running this hard-going eight we started it with returning yesterday’s favour to Chris and as is normally the case when either my brother or I pick up fthe other one or a day on Ramblers we were late as Mason, Ruthie and I went to his isolated B&B outside of Oundle. We still made it to Kings Cliffe just in time for a ring before we headed onto Lower Benefield whose rehung and restored bells were only dedicated a few weeks ago. A good job has been made though they are very loud inside!

And having rung again at Wadenhoe – another tower from the recent Pettistree outing – we headed into the village in search of dinner. Like the church the village is in a beautiful setting nestled at the bottom of the hill from St Michael and All Angels next to the village and it was there we found the marvellous King’s Head pub. It was an interesting place with posh but tasty nosh that set us on our way to the fives of Aldwinkle (where the lack of guides at this ground-floor five caused some considerable handling issues for some!) and Sudborough and then that visit to Brigstock.

We returned for our final night on the campsite and whilst some wandered over to Yarwell in sight of our field to ring we contented ourselves with putting the li’l chap to bed and then sitting overlooking the mini-Ramblers village as the sound of our friends ringing wafted over us. It may have only been on four but with the sun lowering it seemed an idyllic scene and a very good reason to be camping with the Rambling Ringers.

Another good reason to be on the campsite was revealed with another brilliant night of socialising. Miss Monk may have returned home earlier today but she’d left us with a barrel of Henrietta from her Welbeck Abbey Brewery which was served up at ‘The Ramblers Arms’ – essentially Chris Woodcock’s tent! It was good stuff, backed up by the amount that disappeared over the course of the evening and well worth getting hold of. Thank you very much Claire!

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Thursday 4th August 2011

Heavy rain woke us this morning clearing the humid, muggy conditions that we’ve had since the end of last week and has served us well through the Guild Social and Sunday’s BBQ. It went a little too far the other way as we had a day of chilly wind and rain but it wasn’t us who had to drive through it as Unky Chris was driving us today, a favour we shall God willing reciprocate tomorrow.

His and our first destination was changed from the tour list as a funeral at Ryhall meant we couldn’t ring there so the first tower Great Casterton was moved into its place and Barnock was introduced at the start of the day as we turned north from the campsite for the first time this week. Keeping up with that? As we travelled onto the new second tower and onto Greetham we briefly travelled through Lincolnshire and into Rutland as our tour of counties this week reached six.

And with Chris driving I sat back and enjoyed some beer at The Plough in the latter village, one of three pubs there and which was understandably surprised to have twenty ringers appear for food on a Thursday lunchtime. Their surprise also meant that not unexpectedly it was a leisurely lunch, though we weren’t overly fussed at missing the five at Market Overton immediately after our grub.

However, as we were joined by fellow blogger Claire Monk (whose blog is much more interesting than mine as it’s about beer!) whom I still consider as one of us despite leaving Walsham-le-Willows years ago we made our way round Rutland Water to Cottesmore, Langham and then the wonderful eight at Oakham where we rang Rutland, Water (eighths-place London) and Rutland and Water spliced.

Whilst the rest headed to Braunston Chris kindly took us back to the campsite so Mason could get a early night after two late ‘uns, even if we didn’t as we drank the night away during a social evening outside the Bray’s tent until the early hours.

Once again life went on back in Suffolk of course and of particular note Matthew and Geoffrey Moyse who rang their first quarter in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Reydon. That Moyse family are a talented bunch!

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Wednesday 3rd August 2011

When I was a student living in Dudley I used to have a 45 minute bus journey into Birmingham city centre that I used to learn various Maximus methods for a peal at the other end. I was a lot younger then though and I don't think I can do the same now, but a similar section of the brain was required this morning as we visited Kettering on Ramblers.

MasonBefore every tour we are given a list of methods to learn each day. Usually they're a selection of Minor and Major methods but for today Lyddington Surprise Maximus had been selected with this twelve in mind. I have to admit that Ruthie and I had forgotten about this so when it was called for there was some frantic learning undertaken. We weren't the only ones either as others had assumed we wouldn't have enough so when we actually succeeded and succeeded well there was a large degree of satisfaction.

Although they weren’t quite as good as I’d hoped – the tenor seems to lack any oomph – they are still a vast improvement over the old twelve only replaced in 2004 and the ringing highlight of the day for me, though for Mason the main attraction was the ‘beach’ outside the church!

Mind you, that isn’t to say the other bells today were not enjoyed. Either side of St Peter and Paul we had the nice and light six at Cranford and the anti-clockwise eight at Barton Seagrave where the sound-proofing is extraordinary. Even stood under the tower it sounds like the bells are miles away. For occasions like this, peals, quarters, etc it is absolutely ideal.

However, this was where the ringing finished today for us three as Ruthie and I had a treat lined up for the li’l chap. For after we’d been to The Prince of Wales Feathers in Castor for the most westerly stamp we could get in our Woodforde’s Ale Trail booklet and some lunch we had made time to take him to the Nene Valley Railway to ride on a steam train. For a moment over our pints of Wherry we were worried that we would have to disappoint him as a study of the timetables revealed that we – sorry, I – had misread it and there was just one train we could catch – the last one of the day leaving from Peterborough. It meant a dash to the cathedral city and of course being the last train meant one of us had to take the car whilst the other one accompanied Mason on the train. So whilst Ruthie and the boy headed for Wansford, I jumped in Emily the car and aimed to beat them to the same location in a Top Gear style race. And in the typical fashion of the popular car programme I was pipped to the post, stopped from reaching the car park by the level crossing that was letting the train pull into the station!

It all set us up nicely for another social evening as my brother Chris – who had joined the tour this afternoon – very generously picked us up and took us across Northamptonshire and into Leicestershire to join Mum and Dad at the home of Mum’s sister and Chris and my Aunty Carol, which is also the home of her daughter our cousin Emma and her boyfriend Mark since they finished building an annex to an already substantial property a few months ago.

From there we were taken to The Elms just outside nearby Lutterworth for a meal. The food, drink and company was good and Mason especially enjoyed the play area outside before Chris returned us to the campsite in the dark at the end of a long, varied and very enjoyable day.

A day that was also significant for Alex Tatlow back in Suffolk calling his first Surprise as conductor in the peal of Yorkshire Major at Henley. Well done Mr Tatlow, the first of many I’m sure.

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Tuesday 2nd August 2011

Thrapston is a very special place to me. It is where my maternal grandparents and great grandparents lived and are now buried, where Mum and Dad got married, I was Christened and where Chris and I had our first handling lessons on one of our frequent trips to visit our grandparents. But since Grandad died in 1996 I have rarely been there so the tour's visit to the eight at St James was a special one, especially as it was Mason and Ruthie's first visit to the 'motherland'.

As I partook in a course of Northamptonshire Major and eight-spliced I reflected on how far ringing has taken me (and indeed my brother) since those early lessons as a child. It is a wonderful hobby and ringing tours like this help show how varied and enjoyable it can be if you let it.

Our ring was sandwiched in between a brief stop-off outside Nanna and Grandad's old house on Huntingdon Road and a visit to the cemetery to pay our respects to Mason's great-grandparents and great-great grandparents before we headed onto a venue familiar from the Pettistree ringers coach outing just over three weeks ago, Ringstead. In fact apart from Great Addington and Woodford the rest of the day was made up of visits to towers from our 9th July trip as we took in Irthlingborough and Twywell for the second time in a month whilst we passed on joining the rest of the tour as they finished - as Pettistree did - with Titchmarsh as we were joined by Mandy Shedden for the day.

Lunch was taken at The Bell in Little Addington, much more the kind of thing we were looking for yesterday! Good food, cheap prices and a long-running game of pool between Janet and Isabelle Dew. Mummy Dew (eventually) won out!

It was another hot and sunny day and good fun, but our day didn't end at Twywell as the reason we didn't go to Titchmarsh (apart from not enjoying them much last time round!) was to grab some more essentials from Tesco (a potty is essential for a four-year old when the campsite toilet is ten minutes walk away!) and then take another trip down memory lane as we took Mason to the Thrapston park that Chris and I spent many an hour in before we three then headed off to Denford to meet Len and Lesley Hallifax in their lovely home. They are old friends of our family and Mum and Dad were there to enjoy some wonderful hospitality too. Thank you Len and Lesley!

Whilst we were enjoying of all of that, Nathan Colman was doing fantastically in scoring his first quarter inside in the 1296 of Bob Major at Offton. Well done Nathan!

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Monday 1st August 2011

I am a very lucky chap. I have a roof over my head, a job I enjoy five minutes walk away, a beautiful fiancée who also has a job within walking distance, a wonderful son who brings much joy, many good friends and family and a hobby that allows us to socialise regularly with a lot of those friends and family. But there is a lot of routine involved. Monday to Friday it’s a walk to work for a 9am start, walk to home and back for a 1 - 2 lunch break and then walk home after finishing at 5pm. Now that I’m no longer Guild Ringing Master even my weekly ringing is fairly routine though still very, very enjoyable. St Mary‑le‑Tower on Mondays, Pettistree on Wednesdays, Grundisburgh cancelled on Thursdays, generally a monthly peal at The Wolery and the occasional attempt at a peal of multi-Surprise Minor that’s lost (in itself becoming a bit of a routine!) the only things that interfere with that. That’s not the end of the world for sure and many people would think that having a routine life that’s going well is lucky in itself. Which it is and I certainly don’t have any desire to change things greatly, content as I am.

But like a lot of people I like a break from the routine. It’s why I love weekends so much. Even if I’m doing nothing there’s a lot of going with the flow and it’s rare for two weekends to be the same. And of course I get to spend a lot more time with Ruthie and Mason. This is extended and wonderfully magnified when I am on annual leave from work and even more so when we go away on holiday.

So it was with much excitement after a very different weekend that today not only my two weeks annual leave from work but our annual week with the Rambling Ringers began. It was even more exciting for the fact that we were taking Mason on his first holiday and his first experience of camping. But we had to put the tent up first and so we made our way initially to the campsite for this year's tour to Northamptonshire, Rutland and Cambridgeshire at Yarwell just outside Peterborough.

Once Ruthie had put up our home for the next five days next door to Stephen Cheek and the Brays (the li'l chap and I sensibly stayed out of the way!) we were finally in a position to join the tour, though lunch was needed before that. We found what was our first tower of the trip Rushden but finding a pub was harder and so we ended up at the Dog and Duck, a Beefeater Grill in nearby Wellingborough. Being part of a chain and next door to a Premier Inn it was cheap but squeezed between Wellingborough Town's football ground and a retail park it wasn't quite the quaint country pub full of character that we strive to find on holiday.

Still, we made it back to the eight in Rushden where we were not only met by the familiar faces of Ramblers such as the Picks, Dews and Mills but also John Loveless and Linda Garton who were joining us for the day. It is an indication of the standards on Ramblers that we attract such ringers and they remained with us at the next set of bells, the light ground-floor six at Stanwick.

The rest continued onto the 21cwt five at Leighton Bromswold where a male vs female striking competition was won by the ladies but we three needed to get food in for the days ahead so a voyage of discovery was undertaken that took us to Sainsbury's in Peterborough before we returned to the campsite to get beds out (thanks to our Essex neighbours for helping with Mason's!), have tea, get the li'l chap to bed and hear the grumbles those who had been here since Friday had with the site. It appears there is a regular and distinct lack of hot water in the showers that has understandably led to some to kick up a stink. For now though we took in the wonderful social aspect of camping with the Ramblers as many of us gathered to drink and chat until late. Hopefully it'll be a good week.

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Sunday 31st July 2011

It was one the most anticipated events in my diary today as Mason, Kate, Ruthie and I converged upon the isolated Kimberley Hall, home of Brian and Pete Whiting for their annual BBQ. Thank you very muchly to Kate for driving this year which meant that after two years of being the designated driver I was able to take advantage of the ample amounts of homebrew ale generously offered by our hosts. This is an event that is as enjoyable sober or tipsy but especially on a roasting afternoon and evening like this it is nice to just sit back and not have to measure out how much you're drinking.

We were slightly down on numbers - we were missing the Earey and Sparling families amongst others for example - but there was still a good crowd (including a couple of fresh learners) spread throughout the beautiful grounds here as a cricket match was played out on the neighbouring pitch. Does an English summer's afternoon get any better than this?

The Vestey Ring was out in force again following its journey to Whepstead yesterday and though an experiment to dull their shrill sound was abandoned lots of us had a good ring on these (including the li'l chap!) whilst the handbells got a good outing too as Ruthie joined others in ringing up to Bob Major in hand. And of course it wouldn't be the same without a sing-song from Ted, Sylvia and whoever they've brought along and a competitive yet relaxed game of bowls run by Doug, this time partaken by my boy for the first time. There was even a badminton net out the front and more dogs than you could shake a stick at!

With my fiancée having the day off for the occasion the three of us attended church at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge in the morning. Sadly of course the bells are unavailable at the moment as work is carried out to repair the tower and it looks like it is all going to go beyond the original estimate of late September as the scaffolding being used has started buckling and it has been discovered that the tower isn't strong enough to attach it to. So long as it's all sorted by 11th August next year...

It did at least give us enough time to ring at Pettistree first as we helped make up the numbers on a lowly attended morning for this six. But it was all about the afternoon today and thank you ever so much to the Whitings for another wonderful social occasion.

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Saturday 30th July 2011

Well done to all concerned in the North-West District for putting on a superb 2011 Guild Social. Mason, Ruthie and I only made the evening do in the end but that was a wonderful occasion of beer, food and socialising at the brilliant venue of Whepstead Community Hall. The location on the edge of this lovely village in the middle of some of Suffolk's most beautiful countryside was perfect enough as it is, but it had everything else and more that we needed too. A huge hall, massive kitchen, good facilities and - particularly good for my boy - a great playing area overlooking the vast fields and wide blue, cloudless skies that surrounded this spot this evening.

And from what I heard from those who attended the rest of the day - including the history trail around Bury St Edmunds and ringing at the Norman Tower, Horringer and the five in the village we all ended up in - it was a marvellous occasion enjoyed by all. It is a shame that there weren't more there as they missed a fantastic event. Please note that next year's Social is to be held by the South-East District and provisionally it is to be a barn dance at the Tithe Barn in Sproughton on Saturday 15th September 2012. Please take note. What has been so good about all the Socials since we reintroduced them two years ago is that each district has done something different and this will be no... well, different!

One of the main reasons there was a slightly lower attendance than hoped today was that a huge chunk of the North-East District was missing, celebrating the wedding of the new Mr and Mrs Busby as Sarah and Jason tied the knot at Halesworth. Whilst Sarah isn't a ringer she has had the occasional go at it most notably at the Guild Social two years ago in Hadleigh where she ended up knocking behind to Doubles on the mini-ring.

However, it is Jason who most of you will know. Both the Guild and I personally have found him an enthusiastic member willing to help out, even if sometimes he needed to check first he wasn't partaking in his other great love and talent, playing the organ! As a GMC member, regular attender at Guild events and North-East District Chairman he has given a lot to the Guild so I was delighted to see not only the quarter at Chediston to mark the wedding but the 5024 at the wedding venue which marks a rare event on two levels, both as a peal at a tower where they are understandably wary of upsetting a local complainant too much but also a peal including our Guild Chairman. Most satisfying of all it was good to see the groom - above all else a jolly good chap - himself ringing.

Congratulations Jason and Sarah!

The main reason why we weren't present at this afternoon's ringing for the Guild Social was because we were ringing at another wedding at Grundisburgh which followed on from a breakfast at the Ferry Quay Cafe, the cafe in the caravan by the River Deben. We were there to meet up with Ruthie's best friend Fergie who was up from Brighton this weekend. It's always good to catch up with her and today was no different and it set us up for a very, very enjoyable day.

To top it off the article and photo about Wednesday's Young Ringers Afternoon appeared in today's East Anglian Daily Times so do try and take a look!

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Friday 29th July 2011

As it was my last day at work before two weeks of annual leave it was a busy few hours of tying up loose ends, leaving messages and sending emails in an effort to make sure my part of the sales team (and of course the team leader's role) didn't get in a mess whilst I'm off.

It was also Ruthie's last day at work before our break, though she was done by lunchtime in readiness for getting our house back online. Yes that's right! After over a month of being without internet access we are now connected again! Although I've been able to stay connected through work, for Ruthie it was an opportunity to catch up on many, many emails and numerous messages on Facebook.

There wasn't much of a chance to take advantage of it come the evening as - in keeping with recent weeks it seems - we were off out on a Friday night again, this time to the home of Ruthie's school friend Verity in an isolated venue somewhere between Pettistree and Dallinghoo. Despite a chilly evening we had a BBQ and a good time as we caught up with many of those we saw in Sizewell last week as well as Beth who was up from her current abode in Kent and Verity's non-school connected friend Hannah who brought her three-year old daughter Kyla - her and Mason had great fun chasing Verity's ducks and chicken! It was the kind of evening that summer makes even more enjoyable and a great way to start our holiday!

On the ringing scene well done to Robert Beavis and Philip Moyse on ringing their first peal of Bristol Major in the successful 5088 at Grundisburgh this morning. It's a hopeful sign for the future.

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Thursday 28th July 2011

Following my enjoyable trip to the newly reopened Coach and Horses last week and in the absence of a practice at Grundisburgh again, Ruthie and I decided to take a walk down to Melton’s only pub for a drink. As it turned out we also complimented our earlier tea at home with some pudding as we sat outside on an encouragingly warm and light evening and as we were considering heading back home after a pleasant hour or so until Pete arrived from a late shift at work to join us in Susanne’s absence so a few more beers were drunk.

It was good to hear that yesterday’s Young Ringers Afternoon went so well too and a lot of credit has to go to Maggie on organizing it, though she is quick to point out how grateful she is to those who allowed their bells to be rung, helped out, etc. Well done all round and hopefully there will be something in the East Anglian Daily Times on Saturday or early next week (Saturday, p9. Ed.), so look out for that!

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Wednesday 27th July 2011

I’ve mentioned before how I dislike going for quarters after lost peal attempts and so my heart sunk a little when after three attempts at a peal of London Major at Ardleigh this evening just such a thing was suggested. However others wanted to and in those circumstances I will always go along with the crowd and I’ve never given less than a 100% in ringing so off we went and actually scored a decent quarter that belied the struggles we’d had to even get beyond the first two courses of the peal attempts. Therefore I was able to congratulate my fiancée on getting her degree and we appropriately recorded a 1408 of London exactly one year before the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony takes place.

It was nice to catch up with Neil Avis too, a name and face familiar from peal boards and photos in St Mary‑le‑Tower belfry but whom I haven’t seen for years and at least the early finish allowed me to make it to Pettistree to meet up with Ruthie. They too had scored their quarter whilst my better half – who had been given a lift by her mother as I had our one and only car – walked Max to Wickham Market and back before another lively practice was carried out and session had in The Greyhound.

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Tuesday 26th July 2011

It is more difficult than it might appear to publicise the Guild and its activities. In theory I could bombard my contacts at the East Anglian Daily Times and Radio Suffolk every time we do something other than run a practice or have a district meeting but it would rather lose its impact. So either we don’t publicise everything or we try different ways of doing it. For example I did try to find a contact for a local magazine or newsletter in the Nayland and Stoke-by-Nayland area when the Guild Striking Competitions were on, though to no avail. With the Olympics only a year away I am looking at ways we could use them to recruit and promote.

For now though, tomorrow’s Young Ringers Afternoon was a bit of a no-brainer. We want people outside of ringing to know that ringers are not just old men in braces in dark, damp belfries so such a healthy gathering of keen ringing youngsters is something we want to publicise to the residents of Suffolk. Sad as it is and unlikely to actually be an issue we have to be mindful of certain rogue elements of society so we’re not looking to make a big song and dance to those who are that way inclined and don’t read this website or our What’s Ons that there will be a large number of children together in the same place so a photographer from the EADT will be dispatched to Theberton to (obviously) take a photo and report back on what will hopefully have been a very successful event. On a related note, if you are an accompanying adult taking a child which is not yours to the Young Ringers Afternoon then please make sure you’ve asked their parents about permissions and all that so we don’t get in any trouble when their child’s beaming face appears in the local rag!

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Monday 25th July 2011

Holidays really affect things at this time of year. Peter and Jonathan are off this week at work, others are having odd days off over the next few days and still others – myself included – have a holiday coming shortly so things have slowed right down and got very quiet. Apart from this year’s strange break between Easter and the Royal Wedding, we only normally get a time like this in the days leading up to Christmas so whilst relaxed it could make for a long week.

The same feeling pervaded through St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening. There were still eighteen present but not really enough experience and it was a tough evening for all though we finished with a decent few leads of London Royal (No3) and even Little Bob!
 
However, once the summer lull is finished there is an historic event to look forward to on Thursday 15th September as the new bells for Suffolk’s next ring of twelve at The Norman Tower will be cast at Taylors. Sadly that is a workday of course and what with holiday time already whittled down with sports days and the like I shan’t be able to spare the time off, but there is a coach going down and if you would like to be on it to witness this significant occasion then please contact George Pipe or our Guild Ringing Master, Jed Flatters.

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Sunday 24th July 2011

Hopefully it’ll be as hot and sunny as this for at least the next couple of weeks. With Guild Socials, BBQ’s and holidays on the horizon nice weather will hopefully help make for happy memories of summer 2011. It certainly helped today as Mason and I spent hours at the extensive playground at Kingston Fields in Woodbridge. It was sad to see a bunch of teenagers from Farlingaye High School who for some reason felt the need to hang around in a kiddies playground swearing at the top of their voices and then verbally abusing someone with the wit of a plank when they were pulled up on it. They seemed proud of themselves for some reason, but it didn’t spoil a lovely afternoon that followed on from a morning’s ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower (who will be short next Sunday morning if you can help) and Grundisburgh (who won’t be ringing at all next Sunday as it’s the fifth Sabbath of the month) where we were joined by Bruce and Gill in the absence of ringing at Woodbridge and the li’l chap had another ringing lesson and go at rounds. All jolly good fun in the sunshine.

Good fun was being had by those ringing quarters at The Norman Tower, Kersey and Reydon today too I’m sure with particular credit to Lesley Wilson, David Steed and David Howe on ringing their first Kent and Oxford combined in the 1260 of Minor at the middle tower.

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Saturday 23rd July 2011

It is two years since Ruthie and I went camping on Ramblers and with our next attempt looming with a different (bigger) tent and a four-year old in tow we thought we ought to have a trial run to make sure that not only we knew how to put the thing up but also to help make Mason aware of what we’ll be staying in. As it turned out it went well and the li’l chap seems excited about the prospect of camping; so fingers crossed!

Thanks to Kate not only for the tent in the first place but use of her back lawn and for lunch. Thanks also to Pete who in Susanne’s absence cooked us up a treat round their place this evening as he looked to get rid of left over BBQ food from last week.

And a non-ringing related note – the Scottish Premier League kicked off its 2011 - 12 campaign today. That’s right, half-way through July. It seems a little excessive even to this ardent football fan and whilst there’s still a couple of weeks before Ipswich Town start their next season of mediocrity it does show that depressing Saturday afternoons are on our doorstep. I’m going to enjoy my Saturday’s whilst I can, especially the next one when the Guild Social rolls round. If you haven’t got a ticket yet then please make sure you grab one quick!

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Friday 22nd July 2011

Before it closed recently Ye Olde Coach and Horses Inn in Melton was the only pub in the immediate Woodbridge area that I hadn’t been in. That makes me sound a bit of a drunkard I know (‘what d’ya mean sounds like?’ I can hear you all asking) but that has been over a period of six years. You know how it goes, you pop into a pub after some ringing or on an evening out or even just because you like the look of it as you’re passing. But the Coach and Horses had a dreadful reputation (though not as bad as the Horse and Groom/Doom and Gloom down the road which closed permanently recently and is currently being converted into houses) and frankly didn’t look very inviting from the outside.

However no sooner did it look like Melton was going to be publess then Deben Inns the company who run many other pubs very successfully in the area took it over, gave it a facelift and reopened it. The reviews I’d heard were superb and it all looked a lot more inviting from the outside and today I stepped inside my last remaining pub in the Woodbridge area as my sales team were taken there for lunch by John Catt to celebrate another target met. The reviews were well-founded too. The interior is bright (it had always looked so dark and gloomy when I looked through the window previously), there’s a good selection of beers from Adnams to Woodfordes and the food was lovely. Well worth a visit.

Whilst I had a pint of Lighthouse there I couldn’t indulge further as I was behind the wheel this evening, firstly to pick up Mason for the weekend but then to take Ruthie up to Eye for a birthday quarter for our esteemed Chairman. Still he works ardently into his old age, serving us superbly and despite a false start as the boy and I listened from beneath the splendid tower the 1257 of Double Norwich Major was well rung and an appropriate compliment to Mr Gorrod. Happy Birthday for tomorrow Philip!

There was cake and a band photo afterwards that went well despite when the birthday boy told Bertie the dog to sit and half the front row dived to the floor! And what better way to top off the celebrations than with a couple of stamps for the Woodforde’s Ale Trail as we frequented first The Beaconsfield Arms in Occold and then The Black Horse in nearby Thorndon before we finally returned the li’l chap and ourselves to bed.

Today also saw me in correspondence with Diarmaid MacCulloch in an effort to find out when Tuesday evening’s filming will be broadcast. Apparently – all being well – it will be on BBC2 the week before Christmas and is in fact a programme about Englishness, not Britishness. Indeed it’s titled How God Made the English and you’re looking out for three parts over the festive period.

As part of making it to Christmas and knowing I shall be flogged – probably quite publicly – for not mentioning this, well done to Robert Beavis on circling Ashbocking to quarters with this evening’s 1272 of Cambridge Minor. A worthy achievement, that boy’ll go far.

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Thursday 21st July 2011

Having had a very busy few nights, our usual Tuesday night trip to Tesco was delayed until this evening and even then was delayed further by the usual route being closed and then the diversion being blocked by those temporary traffic lights that change to green every other day. When we got there our curiosity was mildly tickled by the replacing of quite a few tills for a new crisp corner but by now you’re probably getting the drift that this evening wasn’t our most interesting, though some may claim it’s only as interesting as anything else I write.

It was an interesting day elsewhere however with particular congratulations to Peter Carter on ringing his first quarter as he bonged behind to the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Campsea Ashe. Well done Peter and keep it up! It is fantastic to see all these first quarter Peters!

The FollyMeanwhile for those of you that haven’t already seen it on this site or elsewhere, two practices in Suffolk next Tuesday will be in alternative venues with The Norman Tower moving to The Folly (due to a choir recording) and Halesworth heading to Wenhaston (don’t know why), the latter also moving its practice to its near neighbour the following week. With Offton having been out of action recently and Ufford and Woodbridge still unringable I’m beginning to wonder if Tuesday night practices have got a curse on them!

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Wednesday 20th July 2011

When I think of Sizewell I can’t help but think of the power station that dominates the landscape, visible up and down our beautiful coast and quite a distance inland but there is of course a village that gave its name to this controversial and apparently ‘soon’ to be growing structure. And it is there that we two and Ruthie’s friend Mark – who we gave a lift – found ourselves as we set out to visit Ruthie and Mark’s friend Moley and his boyfriend Kieran’s new abode. It is the first time my fiancée and I had been to their new flat and what a place! There’s nothing unusual about the inside, though as part of a converted old house it fits quaintly in and around corners and outdoor storage rooms leading to a cosy kitchen that is reminiscent of a galley on a ship.

But it is the location that is so stunning as it sits hidden away isolated even from Sizewell village itself at the end of a track beyond woodland and neatly avoiding any views of their larger well known neighbour. But the best bit is that yards away at the bottom of the house’s land there is a gate that you open to be greeted with the North Sea! Even on a grey evening like this it was spectacular and the urge to wander down the small cliffs to the beach was too strong. It was only from here that nuclear power’s local icon was revealed to us again but it failed to distract from some wonderful views.

There was food and drink inside though so as much as we could’ve stood there all night it was back up the cliff and into the flat for what was a lovely evening of catching up with my beloved’s school friends for the first time in months.

Eventually it was time to leave though and with Mark going home with someone else and the Woodforde’s Ale Trail booklet in our possession we aimed for the nearby Parrot & Punchbowl pub in Aldringham to get another stamp. At just past ten though they were already locked up and in darkness so we plumped for The Plough & Sail at Snape Maltings on the way home instead. It’s a little too well done out for my liking with little character left inside what looks like a typical rural pub from the outside. Being £3.60 a pint as well it’s a bit pricy too so I’m glad we haven’t got to get another stamp from there!

And in our absence from Pettistree thanks for the quarter-peal footnote guys!

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Tuesday 19th July 2011

We have a wonderful art (pastime, hobby, whatever you prefer to call it) that we largely take for granted at least if the sea of apathy often received in response to participants on outings, district events, Guild Socials, etc are anything to go by. But as PRO I come across a lot of non-ringers who are reporting on or exploring ringing and this helps refresh my appreciation of what we do.

St Lawrence, IpswichThis evening saw one such encounter as the BBC were in Ipswich to film at St Lawrence (having popped into Akenham during the day) for a programme about Britishness of which change-ringing is quintessentially the epitome of. It was a strange mixture of being short of time (as we Ruthie and I had a prior engagement of which more later) and it seeming like a long time. Indeed we were there straight from work and for two hours along with my parents, the Harpers and Diana Pipe, but there was – as is always the case with these things – an awful lot of repetition as the same thing was shot from countless camera angles and the main bulk of the piece is likely to be three or four minutes at most I imagine.

That said, the crew were lovely, not least the presenter Diarmaid MacCulloch who is Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford but who you are most likely to recognize if you watched the very excellent A History of Christianity when it was on, though he is also friends with ringers including the infamous John Camp. So this show means business and will hopefully be good publicity for bellringing. On the downside its remit was limited. They wanted a snappy simple introduction to change-ringing so we were restricted to our introduction to change-ringing – call-changes. In the ideal world you’d want to give it a context and a structure, explain how that then develops onto full-blown change-ringing and even how we come to handle bells in the first place but there was no opportunity for it on this occasion, though some method-ringing was included that might get an airing albeit with no explanation of what it is. I have no idea when it’ll be on yet – again these things take a while to complete and schedule if everything goes to plan. I will let you know as soon as I do.

We left our fellow ringers after a couple of hours though as our next engagement was with a level of showbiz far above what we’d just experienced as we returned to Woodbridge to watch the final ever Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. It was of course the end of a significant era to many like Ruthie who have followed the wizard’s tales from the very first word of the first book to this final ending and even though I have no real feeling towards it having never read the books nor watched any of the films until the penultimate one, I could sense the sadness in The Riverside as it ended to the first round of applause I’ve ever heard in a cinema. Harry and Ron getting married in a civil partnership and Hermione getting a job at Ann Summers seemed a bit of a departure from what I’ve heard of the books but everyone seemed satisfied with the way it ended.

Hard as it was to believe after all of that there was still some of the evening left so we grabbed a pint in The Anchor and then The Mariner on the way home to round a lovely night of TV and film off. Now to get in touch with my agent.

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Monday 18th July 2011

Like so many before it, this evening’s attempt at a peal of thirty-five spliced Surprise Minor methods was as frustrating as it was encouraging. Except on this occasion you could throw in an equal dose of bafflement. For after an hour and a half of quite superb ringing at Brandeston on their new guides with a consistent rhythm, good striking and very few mistakes we somehow came out of the second part of the fourth extent in the wrong order. There had been no snarl-up and if I miscalled it even Brian couldn’t work out how I could have done it and for the bells to have come out in the order they did, especially as I was in the right place.

Still, the fact we could ring it that well gives us much hope even if with holidays it is too long before we can go for it again.

PoslingfordFrom a PR side of things there is much happening with District and Guild events. There is of course the Guild Social a week on Saturday (30th) which should be a different and enjoyable occasion. We’d love to see lots of new faces there. But if you can’t make that (and even if you can) there are plenty of diverse and useful things going on aimed entirely at helping learners of varying levels which will also be very enjoyable events socially starting Tuesday evening with the Beyond Bob Minor practice at Worlingham. Come Saturday we have the South-West District practice at Poslingford, then Just Rounds at St Gregory’s in Sudbury next Tuesday and then following last week’s Veteran’s Day at Debenham it is the youngsters turn with a Young Ringers Afternoon at the easy going rings of Theberton and Aldeburgh. This is a great opportunity to encourage young ringers as they will find lots of other youngsters in the same shoes as them. Maggie organized a similar event last year which was a roaring success so she is keen that youngsters come along again from anywhere, not just the North-East District.

And whilst Maggie is also responsible for the very useful and enjoyable Surprise Major practice the following Friday at Bungay (not the usual location of Halesworth) another big, successful and very useful date for your diaries is the South-East District Quarter-Peal Day on 6th August. Since Kate rejuvenated the once poorly attended first Saturday of August date many ringers have benefited with first quarters and the like on this occasion so if you have any of your learners that you think would benefit and/or if you are able to help out then please contact Kate. Again it is a tremendous social occasion with a meal afterwards which this year is at The Sorrel Horse at Barham recently visited by Ruthie and me.

These are events that have been thought about long and hard and there are others besides and particularly at this time of year when people will be away on holiday they are going to need members to come along. No one expects you to visit them all – I didn’t even do that when I was Master - especially if they’re not in your district though cross-district support is something that is much appreciated. But if something is happening in your district then please support it whether it’s to learn something or help someone. It is very difficult in the main for bands to progress and get fulfilment from ringing just from within their own four walls and it’s these types of events that help ringers and bands to get the most out of this wonderful hobby. Otherwise there are going to be an awful lot more silent bells in Suffolk and fewer ringers who could ring as we did at Brandeston this evening.

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Sunday 17th July 2011

All three of us were very kindly put up by Kate last night so the normal Sunday morning routine was started from a different point and of course with a different car as I had my first prolonged outing behind the wheel of Emily as I took Mason and myself to St Mary‑le‑Tower. For a car fairly unused to being driven very much it was then pushed further as it was taken to Grundisburgh, first to the park – which we shared this week with several marquees and a lot of cars there for the village craft fair – and then to St Mary the Virgin where Mason continued his ringing ‘journey’ with some rounds on the front five from the second as well as another go on his own at the end. Again it was under very close supervision with backstrokes only (and I’d got those anyway) and Aunty Kate close behind but he wants to do it at the moment and enjoys it so I’m keen to encourage him whilst it lasts.

From there it was a trip back to Edwin Avenue to collect stuff we’d inevitably forgotten, a visit to Aunty Ruthie at Boots, lunch and then the final chapter of our weekend of bingeing as Kate, Mason and I made the short walk to Deben Road for Pete and Susanne’s long arranged BBQ. Sadly, no matter how far in advance you organize these things you can never rely on the weather and whereas we’d been extremely lucky with the conditions on Friday evening, this afternoon was wet, windy and generally unpleasant. Whilst it dampened the garden (and then some!) it didn’t dampen the spirits and a good crowd – including the Rapiors who it was good to catch up with - tucked into black meat and tasty salad as well as the homebrew which I got stuck into once I’d dropped off Mason at his mothers.

Ruthie eventually joined us but things were still in full swing with covert cat feeding and dodgy jokes as well as the usual entertainment that our hosts offer us when they get together. And with the li’l chap elsewhere my clever fiancée and I took advantage of being able to stay up late and had a whale of a time watching Top Gear and (would you believe it?) Coast with Pete and his father, someone we’ve got to know very well this weekend and is a thoroughly likeable chap. By the end though we were stuffed from three days of almost constant eating and drinking. Thanks to Kev the Rev and the Woodbridge ringers, Kate and today Pete and Susanne for all the hosting though as it has all been very, very enjoyable.

As I hope peal-ringing will be for Clare Veal who today rang her first peal in the 5040 at Great Barton. Very well done to her and to Alex Tatlow on calling his first peal of Minor at the same time. Indeed, further congratulations to another youngster who was achieving this afternoon as Nathan Colman rang his first quarter on a working bell in the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Stowmarket. Hopefully all the above will be the first of many and are an appropriate way to sign off a weekend of achievements.

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Saturday 16th July 2011

These are special days indeed and following Mason’s achievements yesterday it was Aunty Ruthie’s turn on her birthday to make me very proud. She had been expecting to get her degree results this Monday so when she received a message last night from one of her uni chums that the results were already out and my beloved had a 2:1 she wasn’t sure whether to believe it or not. But sure enough a check of Colchester Institute’s website today confirmed that the results had been released early and she had achieved a 2:1 which was beyond her expectations.

It was well deserved though for all the hard work she put in especially in those final difficult weeks and gave us another reason to celebrate today. And once we’d rung for a wedding at Grundisburgh where our efforts were largely wasted as the happy couple couldn’t step outside because of the torrential rain and dropped Mr Beavis at his grandparents we celebrated hard or at least as much as we could whilst we recovered from last night.

Kate had very kindly allowed Ruthie to invite people to Edwin Avenue for a little get-together and provided ample food and drink for the occasion. Moog, Ange and Lucy were some early arrivals but we also welcomed Pete, Susanne and Maurice and whilst Kala was sadly called away for work Toby was able to come over to say happy birthday. Thank you very much to Kate for her hospitality and to all those who have sent birthday wishes and congratulations one way or another!

ChedistonTwo people who should also be very proud of themselves are  Peter Ellenger who rang his first quarter in the success at Chediston and Sandra Chenery who rang her first inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Wissett. Well done to both of you and ‘congratulations’ to George Thoday on ringing his 100th peal of Yorkshire Major in the 5152 at Grundisburgh this morning.

What a day!


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Friday 15th July 2011

Earl StonhamIt was a very emotional day today, most significantly for it finally being Mason’s first sports day following last week’s postponement – though well done too to Tom Scase on ringing his 50th quarter at Earl Stonham which was another emotional occurrence today. I was a very proud father as I stood in the blistering sunshine that was in stark contrast to the weather last Friday and even to just yesterday. The boy was sat behind his chums doing what boys of his age do at these things, waving at his parents and listening intently to the teachers instructions and then he was at the front, poised for his first race.

Now I have to admit that we hadn’t raised our expectations too high, just being immensely proud that he was there and able to race at all after the problems he’s had with his feet but he proved us wrong as he raced off down the track (though he may have had a slight head start!) and finished joint first in a photo finish. But he wasn’t finished there. As I manoeuvred round to the finish line following his unexpected placing he lined up for the beanbag race. The drill for this was that they would balance a beanbag on their head and then drop it into a hoop halfway down the track and sprint to the end. With the type of thinking outside the box that would make Sir Alan Sugar proud, the li’l chap clutched his beanbag onto his head meaning that whilst the others were still tottering around balancing theirs precariously he was racing out well in front. It was all so funny and exciting in equal measure and I took a very chuffed boy home for a comparably emotional afternoon.

After the best part of twenty years driving and five of those with me, my car Gav was finally sent to that great scrap yard in the sky. Well, Whip Street Motors yard in Bramford anyway. He’s done well, very nearly reaching 200,000 miles with over 80,000 of those done since I purchased him from Mum and Dad’s neighbours in May 2006. From South Wales to Lincolnshire, Somerset to Newcastle, over mountains, across flatlands, through civilization and Norfolk he has worked hard. And of course – bar the first few weeks – he has taken me across Suffolk as Guild Ringing Master. He took me to Ipswich Hospital when Mason was born and he was the car I’ve had since Ruthie and I started going out together. There were a lot of memories that he left behind as he disappeared into a mass of scrapped cars to be broken up. But he was getting more expensive with each MOT and bits have long been falling off though it can’t be said I was overly careful with him. Mason was first heard to say ‘I’m going to miss that car’ and then ‘we don’t need that car anymore.’ He’s right on both counts. We don’t need two cars and from now on Ruthie’s car Emily will take the burden though under strict instructions that I’m more careful with her than I was with Gav!

There wasn’t too much time to reflect on today’s happenings though as an extremely busy social weekend began with a knock on our front door from Susanne, Pete and Pete’s father Maurice, closely followed by another knock from Kate before we all walked up en masse to Kev the Rev’s rectory, yards from St Mary’s for the Woodbridge ringers annual BBQ. This is the first one of these that Mason and I had ever been to and we were very grateful for the invite. On such a lovely evening we enjoyed the food, drink and company as the li’l chap followed the host around asking for rubbish. Perhaps if he doesn’t succeed in athletics or business he could go into the rag and bone trade.

As festivities came to an end and Pete and Susanne briefly popped over for a final glass of vino Ruthie got word of some very good news which if true will be very significant…

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Thursday 14th July 2011

In a familiar but depressing throwback, ticket sales for the Guild Social on Saturday 30th July are going very slowly and once more the not inconsiderable efforts of some of our hard-working members looks like it is going to be wasted on many. It has to be said that of course it is peak holiday time by then and we wouldn’t expect every member of the Guild to forsake their holidays to go along (though Mason, Ruthie and I have delayed ours for the event) or ringing for weddings (though we’re fitting one in first) or meeting friends (though we’re also doing that too beforehand) but as usual there will be many, many ringers who will have just dismissed it as being a Guild event as if we’re the mafia or we’re going to sell life insurance to them as soon as they get there. This is something that has been organized and arranged at much time and expense by local ringers of all standards (with probably no small degree of help from non-ringers too) for your enjoyment. In fact the History Trail doesn’t involve ringing at all, so it doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself a good ringer or not.

But Please Get a Ticket, and Soon!

The FollyIt was a disappointing note that was to continue into this evening as we arrived at The Folly in Claydon for the next attempt of ringing thirty-five Surprise Minor methods. We were missing a Maggie this evening so Ruthie very kindly stepped in for her and although we had a (pre-arranged) late start as Mary Garner understandably wanted to ring in the quarter at Pettistree following Susan Schurr’s private funeral we were all present and correct.

Sadly, whilst we remained present we didn’t remain correct and we were never really at the races this evening. We couldn’t get through the 1440 of twenty-three methods we have breezed through at times either as we went for our one and only shot at a peal or for a quarter attempt afterwards. Still, with Gordon and Janet out we consoled ourselves with a drink at The Sorrel Horse in nearby Barham, the type of social aspect of ringing that so many could enjoy in the North-West District on 30th July in fact.

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Wednesday 13th July 2011

We’re considering taking homebrew with us on Ramblers in a few weeks. Whether it’ll be a good idea or not is still debatable but Ruthie and I figured we ought to get brewing so it would be ready if the Man from Del Monte say yes, so having mixed it all together the other night we transferred it to the barrel tonight. Now we wait.

The WoleryIt was a typically satisfying – though for some reason more difficult – task following a brisk but successful peal of Xorn Surprise Major at The Wolery, an Uxbridge-like method above the treble that caught us all out at one point or another but still allowed for a decent 5088. It also happened to be my 100th peal with David, a fact known to Mr Salter through his extensive and up to date records, but revealed to me – as my records desperately need updating when I get time – by PealBase, that wonderful resource. Even if you haven’t rung many peals or even have none to your name take a look at it. It’s incredibly interesting to see what other people I know have done in the past.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that Woodbridge bells will be out of action at least until the end of September due to much-needed work on the tower as the number of eights in this area starts to diminish. At least for now!

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Tuesday 12th July 2011

With it being Ruthie’s birthday this weekend we paid a visit to her Nan. She’s not terribly mobile and doesn’t get out much so is unlikely to be able to come to any celebrations we will have and with work, peals, BBQ’s and ringing for weddings occupying our time over the next few days this evening was the only opportunity to spend some decent time with her and for her to wish her youngest granddaughter a happy birthday. As ever it was a pleasant, relaxing and interesting hour or so, a complete contrast to the trip to Tesco that followed, but we need to eat!

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Monday 11th July 2011

It’s that time of the year again when holidays are starting to affect attendances and we were a little low at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening, at least compared to recent months. There were still eighteen though and the fewer numbers gave Sean an opportunity to blitz ringing the treble to Bob Doubles and Mike to try and suss Grandsire Triples out whilst also managing some good London Royal (at least until the conductor called it into Little Bob two changes too late!) and some even better Stedman Cinques. All in all a very productive evening.

Great FinboroughAnd it so it seems it was for Kate Herd too who rang her most methods in the multi-birthday compliment at Great Finborough. Well done Kate and Happy Birthday to all mentioned. Which reminds me, it’s Ruthie’s birthday on Saturday, I better sort something out…


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Sunday 10th July 2011

MasonMark the date – Sunday 10th July 2011. For today Mason A J Crane had his first proper handling lesson on a tower bell. It was an unplanned adventure too, only following on from the li’l chap’s insistence that he wanted to ring the treble to some Grandsire Caters at Grundisburgh. That wasn’t possible of course – at least for a few weeks, but the ringing of the second as the service bell presented us with the opportunity generously given to us by Mr P. So as we rang the final touch of three leads of Bristol Major, Mr Nigel helped my boy to build a tower (and I mean a tower!) of boxes so he could reach the backstroke. And then we began on the bell I rang my first peal inside on many, many years ago. He was a natural, perhaps to be expected of a four-year old who has spent his life in belfries watching us all do it, but I was very proud and he was very happy!

I am under no illusions. He is just as likely to want nothing to do with bellringing as he grows up as he is to follow in the footsteps of Henry Pipe and Ewan Hull, but I was very proud as he made the transition from spectator to participant and continued the family tradition for the fourth generation. And he wants to do it again!

For now he had to revert to watching at St Mary‑le‑Tower before his momentous trip into bellringing and then afterwards as we joined Louis Suggett and some familiar faces at Gislingham for the Birmingham University Society of Change Ringers ringing weekend. It was good to see Mark Eccleston again as well as Matthew’s Hardy and Franklin who slept on my floor in Tunstall when a quarter-peal week came breezing through our part of the world a few years back. Sadly, apart from the addition of Becci and Emily who I vaguely knew that was it as Louis empathized with the problems others have in organizing ringing outings. ‘I’m not doing this again’ this young and talented ringer was heard to say and it should act as a warning to those who can’t be bothered to support outings and other events arranged at much time and often expense by people.

CottonStill, with the support of the Guild Ringing Master Jed along with Alex Tatlow, David Rogers and Mummy Suggett we were able to produce some very good ringing at one of the county’s newest eights before some of us headed onto The White Horse at Finningham for grub and beer. ‘Unfortunately’ Louis had been unable to arrange to ring at the three in this delightful village and so we headed onto Cotton, a real novelty ring. I’m amazed at how many ringers in Suffolk haven’t been here, especially as it’s only visitors who ring them these days. They don’t go great, they’re out-of-tune and the belfry – and ropes – are caked in bird poo, but they highlight the variety that makes ringing interesting if you allow it. Sometimes ringing isn’t just ringing.

It was an enjoyable day that aptly – as Mason entered the world of backstrokes – showed us there is a good future for ringing as this young band rang both sets of bells superbly, but whilst they continued onto Wickham Skeith, the li’l chap and I returned home to see Ruthie after another day at work and get the boy fed and put to bed after a memorable day for him. He wasn’t the only one doing something new on the end of a rope in Suffolk today though as Philip Moyse – another example of the good future ringing has - called his first quarter of Grandsire Triples in the success at Southwold. Well done Philip. And congratulations too to Abby and Alex on ringing their fiftieth together in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Pakenham.

What a day.

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Saturday 9th July 2011

I’ve always had a soft spot for ringers’ coach outings. Apart from seeing things from a new perspective – realizing there’s a mansion behind that huge hedge you usually can’t see over or being able to spot the isolated church of Ashbocking from the main road – the camaraderie of such a trip is fantastically warming. Someone else takes the strain of getting from tower to tower, no fighting with maps, etc.

We got all that with today’s Pettistree ringers’ outing to Northamptonshire, but we were worried it wasn’t going to happen at one stage as we stood in Wickham Market waiting for a coach that should’ve arrived some time before. After a call from Mary to the coach company our chariot eventually turned up ten minutes after we should’ve left, driven by a very flustered driver who had gone into work expecting to pick-up a group from Needham Market and take them to Huntingdon. He’d got a bit of a shock when he discovered we we're going from Wickham to Godmanchester and then to another five destinations after that!

That said we got to our first tower just in time. And it was not only the first of the outing but the first of six towers that may seem quite familiar to Mason, Ruthie and me over the next month (though they were once very familiar to me as I rang regularly in this area when visiting our grandparents in Thrapston) as every peal we visited today will be visited by the Rambling Ringers in a few weeks. Godmanchester is on the second week of the tour so we shan’t be going to this lovely town then, but the hard-going six at Ringstead that followed is likely to receive a second visitation from us in the first week unless we can find something better to do!

Likewise the odd-struck eight at Irthlingborough, notable not only for it’s distinctive tower but also as one of the few places that has the name Sally K Diamond – aka my mother – on a peal board, something that amused and amazed many in equal measure.

We were then off to the Old Friar pub in Twywell, a lovely pub serving great food and dishing up ice cream for Mason in a new toy! They still go by this strange logic that many places have of bringing out food for impatient and slow-eating kids last though. Still we all enjoyed ourselves and were sent on our merry way for the short walk to St Nicholas church, another place we may well find ourselves at again come the beginning of August.

As we hopefully will at the next bells at Wadenhoe, another distinctive tower with a nice ring of six in a beautiful setting overlooking the river and its valley and where Ruthie ran the ringing reluctantly but marvellously. We definitely want to come back here.

Our final tower was less enticing as we struggled away on the heavy eight at Titchmarsh but even then we finished the ringing here and for the day with three leads of Belfast Major. It was far from perfect, but how many bands from a 7cwt six manage that on a 17cwt eight?

Despite the late start (and indeed some suspect timekeeping generally!) it was a brilliant day out. We loved it, Mason loved it and Bill in particular did really well so thank you to Mary for organizing it and Mike for arranging the ringing. It turned out as it should – a fun day out, lots of good ringing in different places you’d never usually see and friendships enjoyed. What’s more, it’s whetted the appetite further for Ramblers!

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Friday 8th July 2011

Today should’ve been Mason’s first ever sports day. I’d got the day off work and was walking up to Kara’s so we could take him along for his proud day. Sadly, as I wandered up, the heavens opened and then some. It all meant for a predictable postponement until next Friday when I shall have to see if I can get off work again.

RendhamStill, the day off meant I could pick up the li’l chap from what was changed to a usual school day and then spend the afternoon with him and Ruthie who finished work at lunchtime. With the weather still quite bad we were reduced to playing Super Mario on the computer before my fiancée was picked up by her mother for a quarter of Belfast Major at Rendham.


Meanwhile, another Ruth – of the Suggett variety – was on Radio Suffolk this evening talking about the part the Heritage Lottery Fund played in the highly successful project at Bardwell. If you missed it you can listen again – more good publicity for the Guild!

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Thursday 7th July 2011

Apparently Sunday will see the last edition of the News of the World being published so there will be one less medium in which to publicise the Suffolk Guild social on 30th July. This is now an established part of the Guild calendar and the events held by the North-East District last year and South-West District the year before really were superb occasions. Now it is the North-West’s turn and they have a great looking day lined up in Bury St Edmunds, Horringer and Whepstead.

Please do support this. There is an awful lot of effort going into arranging this and it would be a dreadful shame if ringers just shrugged their shoulders and didn’t bother. The name should give a clue to its nature – it’s a social event. Fun. No meetings. No judges. Just fun.

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Wednesday 6th July 2011

There was a strange mix of reflection and anticipation at Pettistree practice this evening as people recalled their stories and memories of Susan and many references were made to her, not least in the dedicating of this evening’s quarter of Kent to celebrate her life – in amongst the natural sadness of her passing it is worth remembering it is a life to be celebrated. But there was also a buzz about Saturday’s forthcoming Pettistree ringers coach outing as those participating made their lunch choices and arrangements for getting to Wickham Market to be picked up for the journey out.

This all continued into another light evening at The Greyhound for a drink or two before Ruthie and I returned to a home now fully serviced by hot water following Tim the boiler man’s visit this afternoon!

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Tuesday 5th July 2011

Susan & Peter SchurrWe all know the scenario. Someone of more mature years takes up bellringing and struggles. They may make up the numbers, they might even become quite useful, but a lot of the time they drift away realizing they can’t take on our involved hobby at such a late stage in life. Susan Schurr of Pettistree – who sadly but peacefully passed away this afternoon – was very different to the norm and was quite rightly considered very special. She started when she was 72 when most would perhaps consider winding down, but she so enjoyed her ringing and the friendships it offered her and kept on going and improving, taking part in her first quarter on eight for her 85th birthday by ringing inside to Grandsire Triples at Ufford. It was one of many quarters she rang in until just a couple of years ago and she progressed to Cambridge Minor in her bellringing journey. We had to ring a bit slower for her and sometimes forgetting to adjust her hearing aid caused problems but she was beyond just being useful. The only regret for us and probably for her was that she didn’t start at a younger age as she would’ve gone far.

Sadly old age and then illness restricted her in the last couple of years and her regular presence was already much missed at Ufford and Pettistree, but she continued to pop in and even carried on hosting the annual Pettistree Ringers AGM at her and Peter’s home. Even though her bad health eventually prevented her holding it last year she still joined us at The Greyhound for the meeting. Whilst in the circumstances her passing may be considered a relief after much illness and pain, she will be sorely missed. We have very many happy memories of her though.

It of course puts our own ‘problems’ in perspective, that of another boiler breakdown, but someone’s coming round to see that tomorrow and in the meantime Ruthie and I were grateful to Kate for the use of her washing facilities before our weekly trip to Tesco and then a walk around town before the rain drove us into The Angel for a pint of Woodforde’s. We had an ulterior motive for our dash into this establishment as we are now in possession of a booklet for the Woodforde’s Ale Trail where we get one stamp in each establishment that we have a pint of Woodforde’s in before 30th September and if we get enough stamps we’ll win lots of goodies! Once The Angel had obliged us we got our next stamp at The Mariners where we were joined by Kate and Ron with thoughts of Susan were never far away.

OfftonOn a positive note it’s good to see Offton bells ringing again after their brief absence and being quartered too. Happy birthday Winston, a well deserved celebration for a man who has done so much for the Guild!


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Monday 4th July 2011

It was a day where very little went right, from the very beginning to the very end.

My Monday morning routine is now very firmly made up of getting Mason to school and then hurrying off to work, all in a relatively short frame of time. Hold-ups make for a very edgy journey - even though it’s short - so forgetting that one of the roads I normally use was closed this morning was not helpful. Even less helpful was that due to the ancient set-up of Woodbridge’s town centre streets, the diversion took me all the way round the one-way system where I and a considerable number of other motorists were held-up by a removal lorry manoeuvring into place. Once that had taken its sweet time (and may I say that it was a pretty daft time to be doing it in the centre of Woodbridge) I was held-up again by ANOTHER lorry further up the road.

Eventually I got the li’l chap to school (just) on time and managed to get myself to John Catt equally close to the edge of lateness after more hold-ups not helped by the entirely unnecessary traffic lights that clog up the town’s roads. It was merely the start of one of those days.

ThebertonHaving rushed home after work to say hello to my poor fiancée and get ready, I then needed to race off to Theberton for our next peal attempt of thirty-five Surprise Minor methods. I stood outside my house for a second thinking hard about where I’d left my car before it dawned on me I’d left it at work. So a quarter-of-an-hour was wasted walking unnecessarily from work and back.
 
Despite then following just about every slow vehicle imaginable I made it to my destination, took the composition out of my pocket to have one last refresh and found that it was actually the Ramblers tour list. I’d picked the wrong bit of paper up! A quick call home to Ruthie ascertained that I had things straight in my head and with the band gathered we set off confidently, the first 1440 (the most difficult part) completed with little trouble before we entered into the Netherseale-Lightfoot-Wearmouth extent, all Westminster above. This was a little trippier but we still got through it and into the Annable’s London-Rossendale-Stamford extent, exactly the same methods but with plain hunting instead of dodging at the lead-end. It was here that another attempt was lost, a promising attempt up in smoke as so many of them have been.

There was a silver-lining though as it allowed for a quick drink in The Lion Inn across the road and then the chance to pop down to join Ruthie at Pettistree where with St Mary‑le‑Tower bells unavailable this evening, David had organized a session for Sean, whilst others went down to Chelmsford Cathedral’s practice. This was just about the only part of the day that went well, with Sean ringing the treble to Bob Doubles superbly and then buying us all a drink in The Greyhound afterwards as he celebrated Independence Day with a great night.

Getting home though, our day hadn’t finished going wrong just yet. We returned to find that the electricity was off in our house. Once we’d sorted that we discovered this power-failure had stopped the boiler working… AGAIN! That’ll be something to sort tomorrow, as well as possibly looking for a new house to move into…

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Sunday 3rd July 2011

As most readers of this blog will have noticed, Mason and I have been going along to St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge (location for our wedding next year) roughly once a month to ring for and then attend Sunday service. Today I decided to go along again, happily coinciding with the Christening of Rosie, Laura Lindley’s daughter during today’s service.

Appropriately beforehand, we were able to ring all eight with the aid of Pete and Susanne who had brought a bemused-looking Spanish student with them. Whether she was bemused by the bells or by her stay at theirs I’m not sure. Either way, it was good to ring the tenor as I consider it one of the best views in ringing as the Deben meanders off into the distance, Suffolk countryside gently sloping down to meet it on both sides.

After the service, the li’l chap and I were very kindly invited to the Christening party which was held at The Cherrytree. With the sun again shining brightly the party sat outside as the kids – Mason included of course – played on the various climbing frames and swings in this ample beer garden. It was nice to catch up with Angela - Laura’s mother – who herself is a lapsed ringer, but largely I was making new friendships before we left the party to see how Ruthie was getting on and then went to the park as the day wound down.

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Saturday 2nd July 2011

Essex often gets a bad press with programmes like The Only Way is Essex and stereotypes such as Shaz and Gaz, white stilettos and the like appearing to be the prevailing image of our southern neighbours. This is mainly picked up from its border with London and the overspill from that as actually – as most of you no doubt are aware – the north of the county is lovely, equal to most of Suffolk in its rolling countryside and pretty villages and market towns and its ringers – again as I’m sure you’re aware – are a good bunch with not a vajazzle in sight.

Ruthie and myself were able to enjoy the nicer side of Essex today as I returned the favour that Brian Meads, David Rothera and John Hall have paid me in recent years as we judged the Essex Association Striking Competitions. Much like our competitions, this is a long day for the judges with a six-bell in the afternoon and eight-bell in the evening and big turnouts for both but it was good fun.

However, they take theirs very, very seriously and it is almost akin to a higher number striking competition like the Ridgman Trophy or the 12-Bell. There are six districts in the Association, each of which run striking competitions that act as heats with the idea being that the teams that finish first and second in each heat go through to today’s final. Also, nobody – apart from unavoidable disasters and at the Ringing Master’s discretion - is allowed to ring for more than one team, something a few in our Guild would like to see implemented! I have to admit I wouldn’t want to see our striking competitions run in quite the same way, but it seems to work for Essex with eleven teams turning out at Rayne, the location of the first contest.

This tower was already familiar to my fiancée and me as a nice little six with an extraordinarily low door which we visited on the South-East District outing a couple of years ago but we were still grateful for a quick go before we took up our superb judging positions in the garden of the simultaneously large but quaint Rayne Hall, the red brick church tower overlooking us. It would’ve been fine for Mason with a huge expanse of garden and a slide and climbing frame within the high old walls that blocked us from the view of the many ringers hanging around. However, as good as the li’l chap is and adaptable to almost any situation, we thought it would be unfair for him to sit through all this and so we’d dropped him off at his Nanna and Grandad’s after a morning that had been a lot more rushed than we’d intended.

For having made up score sheets for both competitions we tried to print them. Except the ink cartridge ran out on our printer and with Ruthie having finished her course, spare ink cartridges hadn’t seemed a priority. So we headed up to Kate’s where she and Ron were busy toiling in the hot sun putting a new shed up. Six-bell sheets were duly printed before the ink here too ran out. With not only ink but time running out Kate very kindly let us use the printer at Buttons so we could print off the eight-bell sheets and continue on our hectic way. Thanks Kate!

So – complete with hot-off-the-press score sheets - we marked our way through the teams, each of them ringing a 240 of either Doubles or Minor. It requires a lot of concentration as we marked half-a-peal’s worth of rows (2,640 for those who can’t/won’t work it out) with a half-fault for an uneven row or minor clips and the like and a full-mark for a big blow-up. Thankfully there weren’t many of those and the afternoon flew by as we concentrated hard and the ringers of the Essex Association produced some wonderful ringing to listen to. It’s always hard to place someone last, but the big job is picking the winners of course and it was a close ‘un today!

At the completion of a swift and efficient afternoon’s ringing we were moved onto Stebbing village hall for a superb tea and the results. The eyes of Essex’s ringers were on us as I read out some comments (avoiding making any notes about individual bells!) and Ruthie announced the results (in reverse order of course), revealing West Ham to be the winners of the biggest ringing trophy I’ve ever seen! Well done to them, but also to all who took part. As always, I think a lot of ringers learnt from today in a very positive way.

Our job wasn’t over yet though as we were then off to Great Bardfield, another beautiful village with a picturesque green and half-timbered buildings lining the streets to a lovely looking church on the hill overlooking some of that aforementioned Essex countryside. It was much the same format as at Rayne, only on more bells and with a strict entry of one team representing each district, ‘just’ six teams to listen to as they each rang a set touch of 266 changes of Bob Triples. Again the quality was high, so much so there was very little between the Northern District who came last and the Southern District who came first.

Another immense trophy was presented to the victors and everyone seemed happy despite me inadvertently labelling one band ‘great Queens’. So whilst the north of the county upheld the good reputation of Essex with it’s countryside, it was the south who took the glory in both competitions. However, the ringers all helped create a wonderful impression of their county, topped off by a marvellous gift of beer, wine and chocolates for our ‘efforts’ and a drink in the beer garden of The Bell before we left the village and county to reclaim Mason and get some much needed sleep!

Meanwhile, it’s good to see The Vestey Ring continue to do its job well, not only offering some superb publicity for the Suffolk Guild at the Rendham Fete today but also allowing Ian Wright to ring his first quarter as cover as well as it being his and Suzanne Stevens’ first on a mini-ring. Well done both of you!

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Friday 1st July 2011

There was a little bit of a bonus at John Catt this afternoon as we were told the office was closing an hour early at four, partly because of the sunshine, partly because it was so quiet (even for a Friday afternoon) but mainly because so many people wanted to watch Andy Murray’s Wimbledon semi-final against Rafael Nadal. The result of that was predictable but at least it gave me extra time to pick up Mason and nip to Tesco to grab some grub all in time for the second visit of the week from my brother Chris as he concluded his visit to east Suffolk with some food, drink and company at ours.

Meanwhile, very well done to Jenny Lloyd on ringing her first quarter as she knocked behind to a 1260 of Bob Doubles at Hollesley. I’ve met Jenny a few times since she started and she’s always been very cheerful and enthusiastic so I’m ever so chuffed for her.

Congratulations too to Robert Scase on ringing his 250th quarter in the Cambridge Minor at Earl Stonham. Robert is one of those ringers who has always been there, quietly working away for the Guild on the GMC and helping Jenny with the fantastically breathless ringing scene in Debenham and its surrounding areas, so I’m very pleased for him too.

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Thursday 30th June 2011

GrindisburghOnce again Grundisburgh practice was cancelled and you have to wonder about the future of ringing at Suffolk’s second twelve if there isn’t help forthcoming soon. In theory it can probably carry on running as it is with regular peals and enough to make a reasonable noise on a Sunday morning but it used to be such a useful practice for so many. It’s sad to see the current situation though often these things can be swings and roundabouts.

And it did leave the evening free for Ruthie and me to have a healthy walk around town, followed by a healthy pint in The Mariners before an even healthier go on the Wii Fit, the first time I’ve ever had a go on this. Great fun!

Someone else who seems to have been having great fun and is now relaxing back in Suffolk is our very own Louis Suggett who has had an extraordinary week in Birmingham. Not only did he help out in Michael Wilby’s emergency 999th peal at Edgbaston last night (following a clapper break at St Philip’s Cathedral earlier in the week), but he was in the first peal of Artistic Triples on towerbells at St Chad’s Cathedral (a venue where I’ve probably lost more peal attempts than anywhere else!) on Tuesday and before that and most impressively of all he rang his first 41-Surprise Minor in hand, to boot the first time John Warboys’ recent bobs-only composition hand been rung on handbells.

Well done Louis and good to have you back, if only for a short while!

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Wednesday 29th June 2011

St LawrenceAnother Wednesday, another peal. Only this one – not to belittle the other recent peals I’ve rung – was a significant one for me as by ringing in this evening’s 5040 of Doubles at St Lawrence I have now rung peals on all the towers in Ipswich that are currently ringable. No, I’m not counting St Stephen even if you could argue after Saturday that they’re ringable!

It’s not something I had even thought about achieving until I attempted to ring peals at all of them in twelve months last year, but whilst I failed with that aim it did mean I swept up a number of the towers I’d not yet rung a peal at, such as St Clement, St Mary at Quay and the very rare St Nicholas. Whisper it, but I do believe I’ve achieved it before George Pipe, though he has rung a ‘peal’ at St Stephen!

St Lawrence were of course unringable until just a couple of years ago and during the high-profile restoration of the bells a big thing was made of the age of the bells and that Cardinal Thomas Wolsey would’ve heard them as a child so it was appropriate that today’s unveiling of a bronze statue in St Peter’s Street was marked not just by the usual Wednesday lunchtime ringing but also an additional session before the unveiling and this evening’s peal. So a significant peal all round.

And a significant quarter at Preston St Mary as Richard Brewster rang his first of Cambridge Minor in the success there today. Well done Richard!

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Tuesday 28th June 2011

The Norman TowerDespite all the teasing, my brother Chris is actually a very good ringer. He did well in the Birmingham ringing scene (no easy task, despite how effortless Louis Suggett makes it seem these days!) and has rung peals of spliced Maximus, Fourteen and Sixteen and a peal of 165-Spliced Surprise Major methods. He’s no mug on the end of the rope, that’s for sure, but sadly circumstances have limited his ringing, most notably his night-shifts at Sainsbury’s so I have been delighted to see he has found the time to start going regularly to the Tuesday night practices at The Norman Tower. And we were delighted to accept his offer of a lift in his not-new-car (it’s a long story about catching horses and the like) to Bury St Edmunds as he came to stay with Ruthie and me this evening.

It seems he’s stumbled across a good practice too as even with regulars away they still managed Yorkshire Royal and Grandsire Caters with a good smattering of youth in amongst the seasoned professionals there. It was a demographic that continued into The One Bull pub afterwards before the brother kindly took us home. Hopefully the Chris-Norman Tower relationship will be one that can benefit both parties for some time.

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Monday 27th June 2011

The twenty-three in attendance at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening actually represented a relatively low number compared to some turnouts in recent weeks, but on a still, humid, sticky evening we probably wouldn’t have wanted many more! Still, it shan’t be a problem next Monday, at least not at SMLT. Due to a concert or something similar being arranged, there won’t be a practice at Suffolk’s heaviest twelve, though we have been invited to join the practice at Chelmsford Cathedral instead. Apparently the practice nights weren’t in the diary. Well, I suppose they’ve only been going on for a few decades.

On such a lovely hot evening it was appropriate to sit outside The Cricketers – or the Big C as I’ve bizarrely named it for some reason. With Ruthie driving I had a couple of pints but we both enjoyed another jovial night with friends and fellow ringers.

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Sunday 26th June 2011

Just as ‘my’ epic time-consuming project came to a successful conclusion yesterday, so my mother’s (even more epic and time-consuming) project is nearing completion too. I always know when Rambling Ringers is getting close when the tour list arrives in my hands and that day came today. At the moment it is glistening, white and fresh looking but after a couple of days on tour it will no doubt be tattered, torn and probably lost, especially as this year we will be taking Mason. So I somewhat treasure its initial arrival and enjoy looking at where we will be going. This year’s tour holds extra interest as it will be heading predominantly around Northamptonshire, scene of many childhood memories both ringing and non-ringing as it was where my mother’s late parents lived. Indeed, God-willing and barring any catastrophes between now and then, we will be visiting Thrapston where they lived and are now laid to rest (albeit in the town cemetery rather than the churchyard) and where I was not only Christened but where Chris and I first handled a bell, aged seven and nine respectively. It’ll be good to return there and also to go to Kettering where there was once a grotty twelve and is now occupied by an apparently wonderful ring. Other once familiar towers that all being well will be taken in are Twywell, Titchmarsh and Barton Seagrave. At one point during our childhood we were at Peterborough Diocesan Guild events as regularly as Suffolk Guild events. Suffice to say I’m looking forward to it immensely. There are several weeks until that though and for now the weekly routine continues, though in some gloriously hot weather that’ll hopefully stick around for our holiday.

Ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh was enjoyable and productive, but not as much fun as an afternoon down the park and then – at the li’l chap’s request – in the local library. Having only recently been moved into what was once Ruthie’s primary school there seems little danger of this falling to the controversial cuts threatened (though the case for not closing libraries is just the same as not closing everything else that’s being threatened and something’s gotta go) and I’m glad as it’s a wonderful place and although we could only spend a few minutes here before it closed for the day and we went to meet my fiancée after work, Mason loved it and seemed amazed at all the books there that he could just pick up and read.

But such hot weather is energy sapping and once Kate had returned from her epic project – that of returning her firstborn to the Scots – and taken Max, Jude and Ruthie for a walk and Mason was tucked up in bed, we sat back and relaxed. Just relaxed.

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Saturday 25th June 2011

The big day has arrived. Bands of ringers waited nervously, coiled like springs and ready to step into the unknown. Would all the practice have paid off? What would those listening outside think? How quickly could we get to the bar afterwards?

This could easily have been the scene in Leeds today at the National 12-bell Striking Contest – which I’m glad to say my chums from Birmingham won, so well done them and well done Molly Waterson, formally of this parish who came fourth ringing the fourth for Bristol – but was of course a description of the Symphony of Bells. Across Ipswich ringers synchronized their stopwatches and rang simultaneously in a way we’d never had to do here.

At St Matthew we were glad of our practice from earlier on which represented the first time all six of us and our timekeeper Derek had been able to get together to try this out. After a wander around town and a spot of lunch, at midday we listened out for the three fireworks that would signal the beginning of one of the most surreal but enjoyable hours of my life. With Mason doing his business but otherwise behaving impeccably throughout (even conducting me at one point!) we fired and rain-dropped our way through the piece composed by Llorenç Barber with much concentration and mirth to break it up. And what I had feared would be an incredibly long hour actually flew by.

In fact – bar some mechanical problems at St Stephen – the whole thing went off with few hitches, an astonishing achievement for something so hurriedly thrown together and involving so many people. My eternal gratitude goes to all who helped out over what has been an all-consuming project. Nearly every night I had a phone conversation with Simon and nearly every night something else needed changing, sometimes for the next morning! I’m never complaining about peal arranging again! But we got there!

Apart from the problems at St Stephen, the only blot on the occasion came when and where I should’ve been unwinding. Bizarrely, The Robert Ransome where we had booked out a room for afterwards and where we were contributing hundreds of pounds to over this lunchtime and which is a town centre pub open and serving food on a Saturday yards from the bus station and high street doesn’t allow under-eighteens in and they’d taken umbrage to Mason’s presence. Ruthie and I were damned if we were going to pass up the free drink that was on offer after all the work we’d put into this over the last few weeks so we put off our ejection as much as possible before we ended up in The Cricketers, ironically another Wetherspoons directly opposite that was probably not as nice a pub to take a youngster as the pleasant diners of the RR were exchanged for the heavy drinkers and drunks of the big C. I imagine the garden here was the difference though.

Having taken Susanne back to hers, we took Max – who we have for the weekend whilst Kate returns Clare to Scotland to live – for a very nice walk down by the River Deben before rejoining her and Pete at theirs for dinner, a generous gesture that felt almost celebratory having had the burden of the Symphony of Bells lifted from my shoulders and successfully completed. We sure did celebrate with beer, wine, food and dancing which we all – especially the li’l chap - enjoyed greatly. Happy, happy days! And thank you Pete and Susanne.

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Friday 24th June 2011

Campsea AsheOne of the most eagerly awaited dedications – at least for me – in Suffolk finally came round this evening as Campsea Ashe’s newly augmented ring was dedicated on a bright evening in the depths of beautiful east Suffolk countryside. There was a packed church, summoned to silence by a trumpeter stood in the new and impressive ringing gallery. Many of the great and good were there – George Pipe of course as he led the prayers, Philip Gorrod did a reading and Jed Flatters was present and resplendent in the Master’s badge that we used to have to lump around to events like this.

The service itself was so upbeat that Clive Young, Bishop of Dunwich could even afford to jokingly compare the missing bells of Dunwich with the missing bells of Campsea Ashe, no doubt – he quipped – melted down and sent across the world in a container ironically going through Felixstowe with the lead taken from our church roofs. His address and Mason’s impeccable behaviour during the service set the tone for a lovely evening.

Having had a ring, Ruthie and I then took Mason next door to the now familiar Old Rectory where the li’l chap was in his element with acres of grass to run across, swings, trampolines and so many people who along with us tucked into the Pimms and canapés.

And even though I’m no longer Guild Ringing Master, I’m still immensely proud of how the Suffolk Guild has helped this project reach fruition both through its substantial grant – so thank you to all you members who have helped pay for this through your subscriptions – and through offering it’s immense experience and qualifications through the BAC. There were others that helped greatly too, most notably the Heritage Lottery Fund whose representative spoke on the patio of The Old Rectory as the bells rang out. But it’s been helped greatly by the individual help both in time and financially, not least by the Holmes and Fears who must have been so proud to see this moment come.

The Guild now has a superb ring of six that Tim and Glenys are keen to point out is open to ringers anywhere. Hopefully in the coming years it will be well used for peals, quarters, outings, weddings and maybe even the occasional striking competition. But most importantly it is a tremendous ring of bells for the keen local band who we will hopefully hear a lot more from.

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Thursday 23rd June 2011

It was our second practice for the Symphony of Bells at St Matthew this evening, though their first go for Simon Griffiths and Susanne Eddis and our timekeeper Derek Martin who is one of the ringers who we helped at Wickham Market last year and who has since benefited from ringing at Ufford (before they were temporarily put out of action) and Pettistree regularly. He was the perfect man to ask as it crossed over into his work with the BBC, so as our newcomers got to grips excellently with what we will need to do on Saturday I breathed my zillionth sigh of relief of the last few weeks as yet another hurdle was overcome. So many challenges have been met in the last month (it is only a month since I first spoke to Simon!) and things changed around with relative success. However, there are still so many things that could still go wrong with this and I am looking forward to the beer at The Robert Ransome afterwards already!

Having brought our near neighbour Susanne out, we then returned her home and joined her better half Pete for a couple of drinks and some amusing emails before we eventually retired.

Campsea AsheTomorrow evening we will be back to a more traditional form of our art for the dedication of Campsea Ashe bells. It seems to have been a long-time coming for one reason and another, not least the despicable theft of some of the bells back in September that delayed the project by some months, so I hope there will be a lot of support there for this very special service. We now have a superb little ring of six there and if you haven’t been yet tomorrow is your opportunity! What better way is there to spend a Friday evening in midsummer?

And what better way to record what was a superb day out than with photographs? Derek Rose has done a brilliant job of visually recording the Guild Striking Competitions, particularly the six-bell at Nayland. What the band pictures did was put to bed the myth that these competitions are several teams made up of a handful of the usual suspects. They record that there were 68 ringers who took part of all ages from all corners of the Guild. There was some crossover of course, that is what you would expect from a hobby where people ring at several towers, but it was minimal. So I hope this will encourage those who use the ‘same people ringing for all the teams’ theory as a reason for not attending to attend their own district competition and ultimately next year’s Guild competitions which will be held in the North-East District on Saturday 19th May 2012.

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Wednesday 22nd June 2011

Many ringers don’t like Pudsey. The method that is, not the place. Though many may not like the place either. And I’m sure Mr Beavis has some pretty strong objections to the bear. Whether it’s the lack of music in comparison to other methods or the fact that is so similar to Cambridge (in fact it’s exactly like Cambridge below the treble) and Yorkshire and yet different enough to catch you out, most times when you mention ringing Pudsey to ringers they’ll pull a face as if you’d ask them to stick their head in a bucket of fish-heads. But as well as never having been to the town nor having any violent tendencies towards the Children In Need mascot, I also don’t mind the method. It’s just about different enough to keep me interested and a game of spot the music can get you through.

The WoleryThat’s not to say I fell victim to its quirks in this evening’s peal at Ardleigh over the border in Essex, such as the ‘wrong-way-round’ single and double dodges on the back and the three dodges in 3-4. And admittedly this 5088 wasn’t rung as well as it should’ve been with the band we had, but to my mind it adds extra credibility to the achievements of David Potts and Stephen Cheek as we didn’t really help them! But we scored and it was part of a busy day’s peal-ringing for the Suffolk Guild, started at The Folly with a peal of Cambridge Major this morning and added to this evening by a peal of Durham Minor at The Wolery.

That should’ve been enough to make this a very pleasurable evening, but having popped in home only briefly to change after work I was keen to get back quickly for a bite to eat and to see my beloved. Except everything conspired against me. Me arriving late – though I got there as quickly as I was able – didn’t help and nor did a false start. Getting out was problematic as Stephen had the key and he was the last one down. I was then stopped as people grabbed me for a word about the Symphony of Bells (what else?) before I could even drive away. And having come down the A137 with big problems at the Copdock Interchange I decided to go back up the A137. Except I hadn’t realized they were closing it. Quite why they needed to close the whole road was a mystery, even to the two workman sat reading a newspaper at the roadblock, a wide stretch of empty and untouched road behind them adding to the frustration of the situation. The upshot was that I ended up travelling goodness-only-knows where (I think I went through Bentley, but can’t be sure) along with the rest of vast amount of traffic that would’ve hoped to use the A137. Another triumph for the powers that be.

It all meant it was well past ten before I could get home, have my usual update with Simon about the Symphony of the Bells and have my tea. Oh, and say hello to Ruthie. It was a long night, but still enjoyable. Well most of it.

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Tuesday 21st June 2011

After nearly a week of practices elsewhere involving lots of ringers in towers across Ipswich , Ruthie and I finally got involved in the Symphony of Bells as it came to our turn at St Matthew this evening. We were joined by Jeremy and Cherril Spiller as Simon came to show us what to do along with Llorenç Barber, the Spanish and reassuringly barmy composer of the music we shall be ‘playing’ on Saturday. We have got two others who can make Thursday evening’s practice though Jeremy and Cherill can’t so we’re hoping to arrange an additional practice on Saturday morning where we’ll hopefully get all six together, though a timekeeper is imperative as we discovered during this fun-filled evening. And it really w as good fun. It is as I imagined it, very similar to a project we did at the Bullring under a different composer a few years back. So long as you accept that you are making a very different sound to what we normally aim for, it can be quite liberating and very, very enjoyable.

It meant our usual Tuesday night routine was altered and so we spent the remainder of the longest day of the year in Tesco, but it w as worth it and makes all the arrangements seem like they have a point!

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Monday 20th June 2011

Another big attendance at St Mary‑le‑Tower on this cloudy but still light evening, though concentration and striking was sadly lacking in the main. We did finish with a touch of Stedman Cinques that practically came round though.

St LawrenceI shouldn’t have been there at all actually as I had hoped to go for the next peal attempt of thirty-five Surprise Minor, but finding an appropriate venue eluded me at a time when the Symphony of Bells is occupying the vast majority of my spare time. That is coming along nicely, with apparently good and useful practices at St Lawrence and SMLT today and timekeepers being found and even additional ringers. Top stuff!

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Sunday 19th June 2011

One of my favourite memories from my uni years came when Bristolian Stan (one of the many I caught up with yesterday) and I were stood in a taxi-rank somewhere in the West Midlands after a night-out. I’m not sure where but then I don’t think we were entirely sure at the time. We were accompanied by our good friend Dav, a bespectacled, chubby (at the time), short (nothing’s changed there) and loud-mouthed though lovely northerner. As my chum from the South-West and I stood there chatting, we noticed Dav stagger over to a nearby couple who we didn’t know from Adam. The chap had an admittedly dodgy, wispy moustache, but they seemed perfectly harmless and we’d not spoken to them nor them to us. However, Stan and I heard a familiar Bolton voice announce to this poor chap, ‘you have a ‘tache like my mum.’ I won’t even get into analyzing here whether was an insult to the man, Dav’s mother or both, but next thing we knew our northern friend’s glasses came flying past us and we had to leave.

It was one of many stories I could recount (though most of them wouldn’t be suitable for here!) that included him queue-jumping for a taxi in Wolverhampton on another night out and him drunkenly breaking-up and then getting back together with his girlfriend of the time and my then housemate Alison. It’s safe to say he had an unfortunate manner after a few drinks, but times change and like most of us, adult responsibilities have matured him. He and Alison married six years ago (my reward for being in the middle of their weekly break-up was being usher at their wedding) and have two beautiful kids Beth and Jake and a lovely house in the suburbs of Solihull, which we saw for the first time today as I took my own bundles of responsibility along for the perfect get-together to aide recovery from the night before. A sedate but jovial reflection was had by all, including Dav and Alison’s guests Alan and his girlfriend who had been present yesterday. It was all very mature with no signs of brawls over taxis or the like. We’ve all grown up you see.

It followed on from a morning that didn’t quite go to plan as breakfast took longer than anticipated, not helped by my rash promise to Mason that we’d go to McDonalds which restricted our options. It meant we got to the Bullring late, making it to the top of the stairs just as they were setting off into their penultimate touch, Grandsire Fifteen and with their final touch already laid out as a half-course of Pudsey Max as practice for next weekend’s National Twelve-Bell Final at Leeds we didn’t actually get a ring. Whilst that was a shame, it was still a joy to listen to a brilliant piece of ringing, despite a false start. The frightening thing for their fellow competitors this coming Saturday is that there were a number missing this morning!

Still, we were able to catch up with those who were there over a cuppa in Costa Coffee before heading on to Dav and Alison’s and then Unky Chris’ on the way home. I have to say, I always enjoy coming to Birmingham, but I’m always glad to be returning to Suffolk! I have a lot of good friends there, the ringing is out of this world and there’s always something happening. But I much prefer the sedate nature of life back here, the big open skies and space.

Having said that, next Saturday’s Symphony of Bells and the organization required for the practices – especially as things get shifted around – means that life back in Suffolk is anything but sedate for me at the moment! A catch up with Simon indicated that things went well on Friday and people have suggested further ringers that I have been unable to reach. However, we still need timekeepers, so keep an eye out for anyone suitable!

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Saturday 18th June 2011

There was an interesting debate on Mark Murphy’s Radio Suffolk show this morning about noisy neighbours and despite putting complaints about our art and particularly peals into perspective in this blog recently and noting Mark’s support of ringing in recent years, I have to admit I was expecting bells to come up in the conversation. However, it wasn’t mentioned or alluded to once in the half/three-quarters of an hour we heard until signal was lost in the depths of Cambridgeshire. Perhaps someone who heard it all could confirm if we ever did come up, but if not it would suggest that despite over 130 peals last year, hundreds of quarters, countless outings, regular practices and Sunday morning ringing across our towns and villages we are perhaps not the menace that some assume. Perhaps we are communicating well with our neighbours? Still, let’s not get complacent.

The reason Mason, Ruthie and I were in the car travelling through our neighbouring county to the west was – once we’d popped in to feed the chickens at Edwin Avenue in Kate’s absence and had a cuppa with Clare - because we were on our way to Birmingham to celebrate my old uni chum Wellsy’s marriage to his lovely bride Katy. Apart from the congestion caused by hesitant driving and dangerously slow traffic directly linked (in my humble opinion) to the unnecessary average speed cameras between Cambridge and Huntingdon, we made it to the Maypole Travelodge in the leafy southern suburbs of the West Midlands – via a trip to John Lewis in Solihull to get a gift voucher for the happy couple as requested – in plenty of time and were soon relaxing in our top-floor family room with spectacular views of Birmingham city centre before us. If there could be such a thing as a spectacular view of Birmingham city centre.

There wasn’t too much time to relax though, as after a quick wash and change for the three of us we were ready to jump in a taxi for the short journey to Highbury Hall in Moseley where we joined in the festivities with many old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in years, though the existence of Facebook makes it a lot easier to at least stay in touch. Thankfully – despite torrential rain on the way over – the weather held out as we enjoyed the splendid grounds at this wonderful venue. The happy couple had laid on everything you could’ve hoped for too, especially when you have a four-year old in tow! There was a play-room, big trees for the li’l chap and his contempories to explore, a room full of cake and a bar, all of which was later complimented by a fantastic buffet.

We could have stayed there until the bitter end and we did stay quite late, but of course we have to think of Mason and although he would’ve kept going for hours it was soon time to get him back to the Travelodge for sleep. We all really enjoyed ourselves though and were delighted to share in Wellsy and Katy’s big day. Wellsy has been an extremely good friend for the last fourteen years since we all shared the same halls of residence at uni and as is the nature of good friends has supported me through the good times and bad and vice versa and Katy is a really nice girl and looked great today. Here’s to the new Mr and Mrs Wells!

And here’s to the Norwich Diocesan Association who won today’s extremely well supported and apparently very well-run Ridgman Trophy back in the homeland at St Mary‑le‑Tower. The Suffolk Guild came in fourth, but by all accounts it was a superb day out and hopefully brought a lot of business to our neighbours at Churches Bar…

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Friday 17th June 2011

It was the end of our most recent campaign at John Catt today and whilst you might think the last day would see a lot of hustle and bustle as we negotiated frantically in a scene reminiscent of the floor of the stock exchange, the reality is that the final afternoon of a campaign that started back at the end of March is very quiet. Everyone who could’ve been contacted has been, decisions have been made and the last day is mainly an exercise in tidying up. And so it was today on a quiet and uneventful day for me, bar picking Mason up for a weekend of travelling.

For Ruthie though, it was a day of work at Boots that whilst it ended a much deserved week of rest is gratefully received, especially as it marks the beginning of some regular hours.

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Thursday 16th June 2011

Now things are happening I feel a little better about this whole Symphony of Bells stuff. In a round-about way it’s coming together, things are getting decided and we can properly weigh up what we can and can’t do. Today’s practices at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning and at St Margaret this evening were described in glowing terms by Simon in my daily update from him, though from my dealings with this lovely chap I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s an incredibly positive and optimistic chap. But useful feedback from ringers who have so far had a go back this up to a large extent.

However, challenges were always likely to come along and changes needed to be made and now St Clement has fallen by the wayside, this time at Simon’s request. This is partly to boost numbers at the centrepiece ring of SMLT, but also because – following last night’s useful practice at the six - it was ascertained that ideally you need a minimum of four at a tower (apart from St Stephen of course!) and in its tucked away position on Ipswich’s busy inner-ring-road it was going to be difficult to get value for ringers as it were.

The minimum numbers of ringers required for a twelve-bell change-ringing practice of course goes well above four and for this reason Grundisburgh practice was again cancelled meaning that despite having planned to be there this evening I found myself at home with Ruthie, a significant bonus, especially as she hasn’t got her head buried in essays anymore. However, the heavy, heavy rain that soaked me at lunchtime – which reminds me, I really ought to invest in an umbrella – seems to have the effect of blocking our internet, so it was another night of no electronic contact with the outside world when I could’ve done with it!

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Wednesday 15th June 2011

So it begins. Even with St Nicholas’ withdrawal from the Symphony of Bells, there will be fourteen practices over the next eight working days, the first of which was at St Clement involving Maggie Ross and Stephen Wood. A third ringer will be joining them next week and the feedback from this evening suggested that we could do with at least four at each tower which means I would appreciate a handful more ringers generally. Please let me know if you can help and haven’t yet indicated to me your availability.

St Clement, IpswichAnother thing we could do with is ‘conductors’. As was also ascertained from what sounded like a very useful session at this redundant church in the shadows of Suffolk New College, that the conductor doesn’t need to be a ringer or even necessarily musical as the ‘score’ isn’t a traditional music score. Stephen will be bringing his wife, so if there is a partner, child, relative, friend or even homeless person you’ve chucked money at recently that you think could do it then please ask them to come along. There’s money it for them too!

I wasn’t present at St Clement, but I wasn’t far away as I was at The Wolery, accompanied for the first time for ages by Ruthie who is now of course free of essay deadlines and Wednesday night concerts in Colchester . Rather than the normal Minor,  David decided that we should go for Dreamship Surprise Major, essentially Cambridge bar a bit of fiddling around at the half-lead and with a nice composition producing some pretty music. It w as a success, well rung at a good pace before we were treated to doughnuts for George’s 70th birthday and chocolate roll. Happy Birthday to George for yesterday and well done to Mary on this being her 500th peal of Major.

From footnotes elsewhere in the county, congratulations to Dick and Gill Waterson on their good news and best of luck to Richard Clements as he heads to Afghanistan .

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Tuesday 14th June 2011

Congratulations to The Norman Tower on winning Saturday's North-West District Striking Competition and indeed well done to all eight teams who entered in the fun at Wickham Skeith. By all accounts it was a very enjoyable day and I'm sure useful experience for those learners taking part.

No ringing for Ruthie and me today, but plenty of ringing-related stuff to deal with. Well, the Symphony of Bells. The bad news is that I've heard back that St Nicholas is unavailable for the 25th. It's what I had feared when this was first brought to my attention only a few short weeks ago - it's short notice for something that needed to be started months ago, but I shall shift around, discuss and try to make the best of it.

Ruthie and I took our minds off it all by popping round to Bob's next door for a few drinks until 1.30am when we thought we ought to make the long walk home. Nice to have such a hospitable neighbour!

Meanwhile, it was good to see that even though their bells are currently out of action for a short while, the Offton ringers are continuing to ring Tuesday night quarters, this time at The Folly!

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Monday 13th June 2011

So the list of practices for the Symphony of Bells is out. There may be changes and already a couple have said they need shifting though one was an oversight by me. Please do have a look at your emails as the first practice is due to happen on Wednesday evening.

ThebertonOne practice I was missing this evening was St Mary‑le‑Tower as I was in Theberton this evening for our next attempt of ringing a peal of thirty-five Surprise Minor methods. I don’t like to miss SMLT practices but in this case if I hadn’t sacrificed a couple of Monday nights it would have been almost months before we could try again with something that really we need to be very regular with. As it was it had been a few weeks since our last attempt at Edwardstone on Guild Striking Competition day and maybe this contributed to a loss of both the peal and then the quarter attempt following this evening as we weren’t quite quick-thinking enough. As always, good practice and the nice thing about these attempts is that we normally get very good ringing before it collapses in a heap, though it is a little frustrating that we can’t follow up the good ringing with a successful peal!

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Sunday 12th June 2011

GrundisburghMore kite-flying at Kingston Fields this afternoon, sandwiched between relatively well-attended ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh (where Stephen was away) with Caters rung at both towers and a visit from Ruthie’s sister Clare as she battled through the pouring rain to get to ours and back.

Meanwhile, please be on the lookout for an email very shortly about practices for the Symphony of Bells in Ipswich on 25th June. It’s been a logistical nightmare fitting everyone together as many could make only daytimes, some could make some evenings but not others, etc. However, I am very grateful firstly for people taking part but also for giving me their availability. I would’ve liked to get something sent out to everyone over the weekend, but our internet hasn’t been working which is a pain though not the disaster it would’ve been at any point over the last few weeks! I am still looking for conductors at each of the towers who wouldn’t need to ring and indeed don’t even need to be ringers. They’re job essentially is to keep track of the ‘score’ as it’s going along and they too would need to be present at the appropriate practice. If you know anyone who fits the bill then let me know!

HoptonMeanwhile, it was wonderful to see the first quarter rung on the restored and augmented bells at Hopton today, a fitting tribute to Stephen Young who was the driving force behind the project and was at least able to see it reach fruition before he passed away. However, it must have been a very proud moment for all concerned as it always is of course. Well done Hopton!

Talking of projects to be proud of, please note that the evening of Friday 24th June will see the dedication of the restored and augmented bells at Campsea Ashe. After a lot of hard work and fund-raising and of course the heartache of seeing bells stolen just as they were expecting delivery, this has been a most deserved project and of course gives the county’s ringers a superb six where once a hard-going grotty four was. Please do support them on the evening and indeed at any other time you like – Tim and Glenys are keen to let people know that the bells are available if you ask and you are more than welcome to join them at practices on Saturday mornings.

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Saturday 11th June 2011

Such is Ruthie’s joy at being released from essay deadlines and revision that she would’ve agreed to almost anything – even a quarter of Stedman! In the end she got away with ringing the tenor behind in the 1299 at Halesworth dedicated primarily to the 99th birthday of Kath Douglas (a member of the local congregation but also mother of Peggy Meredith who rings at Blythburgh) but also to the birthdays of the conductor Maggie and my father – Happy Birthday Dad!

Mason and I wandered around in the sunshine outside as they rang with the door open at this ground-floor ring, admittedly half-keeping an eye out for angry locals as I recalled the only peal I’ve rung here where it was disturbed by neighbours who came into the church to complain. No worries this time as this is a tower that does just as I suggested in my blog recently. There is a resident that doesn’t like the bells, but they – like other residents of this delightful town – are kept in the loop when it comes to additional ringing, so complaints are kept to a minimum allowing the local band to thrive.

Croquet at High Hill HouseCroquet at High Hill HouseAfterwards we were all invited back to Philip and Maggie’s for Pimm’s, strawberries and cream and croquet. It was the first time I’d played croquet and it showed as I came trailing in behind Mike, Mary and the wily cunning of Trevor. Word of advice - never get involved with anything that allows Mr Hughes to get tactical!

It was a superb evening and even when it got a little chilly we were able to retire to the sitting room mk3 where Mason and the birthday girl worked together/conspired against each other to complete a Thomas the Tank Engine with a little help from Bertie.

Earlier we had popped into Ipswich to do some bits and pieces and see Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric (as well as take in the Trooping the Colour which delighted the little chap) and Mason and I had popped to the park to allow Aunty Ruthie to sit back and recover from the last few weeks and excesses of yesterday! But it was the trip to Halesworth that was the highlight of the day, though not the only ringing going on in Suffolk today to mark birthday celebrations.

Birthday compliments were paid to Alison Evans in the footnotes to the quarters of Minor at Buxhall and Bob Major at Kersey, whilst Becky Munford’s was celebrated with a 1344 of Cambridge Major at Ixworth. Happy Birthday girls and well done to Alison on ringing her first of Pinehurst at Buxhall and to David Howe and Alex Tatlow on the first blows in and first conducting Cambridge Major in the success at Ixworth.

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Friday 10th June 2011

It’s been three years in total, but never has Ruthie’s course felt longer than in the last few weeks as a huge number of essays (I lost count in the end), exams, presentations and recitals were crammed into the last couple of months. It’s something that Colchester Institute have apparently recognized was a bit much for all the students so by all accounts they are looking to spread things out a little next year. Not that it will affect Ruthie as she handed in her last bit of work this morning, thus bringing her whole course to an end.

She and her friends then quite deservedly headed down The Marquis for an afternoon of letting their hair down as well as saying farewell to each other, though there are many friendships there that will continue long after graduation. It meant she was a little bit squiffy when her mother returned her for tea – thanks Kate – but I think we can allow her that!

Meanwhile, well done to Stephen Christian, Jenny and Robert Scase of the Freehold Society on ringing their first blows in Durham Minor in the quarter at Ashbocking today.

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Thursday 9th June 2011

If you have wondered why I haven't been to Grundisburgh practice in recent weeks it's because there hasn't been one and it was the same tonight. On a related note - though for completely different reasons - Offton aren't going to be ringing for the next couple of weeks or so whilst they rebush the clappers.

This evening though, another cancelled practice at Suffolk's lighter twelve meant I had the chance to complete the practice plans for the Symphony of Bells and Ruthie was able to print off some emails and complete the last 400 words of her three-year course. That was the plan until Vodafone stuck their oar in. With the network in our area down, it meant our internet wasn't working and whilst my usage could wait until tomorrow, it left Ruthie in a spot of bother.

So it was a mad dash over to Edwin Avenue to get the job done and then enjoy a cuppa in the presence of her mother and sister. Disaster averted! Unless you'd hoped to go to Grundisburgh that is.

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Wednesday 8th June 2011

There’s another striking competition on the horizon! This time it is the North-West’s turn with the traditional BBQ accompanying all the normal fun of a striking competition at Wickham Skeith this Saturday. You should by now have booked your place and tea, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind some spectators there to partake in what should be a jovial atmosphere.

There was a jovial atmosphere at Pettistree as a huge crowd including visitors such as Peter Bennett from Newport Cathedral and Anne Pilgrim from a little closer to home in Bredfield took in a bright evening as I tried to explain in depth to those who hadn’t heard about the Symphony of Bells on 25th June what it is all about at the same time as Mike was trying organise a productive practice that culminated in some fairly well-rung variable-treble spliced Doubles and Minor that took in nine or ten methods and was jolly good fun!

Of course we all ended up in The Greyhound or rather outside it as a crowded pub meant there was no room in the inn for our large crowd, a fantastic sight in this day and age. We only stopped for one allowing us to get back in time for Injustice where this time Felixstowe (including some strange blocks of flats that have magically appeared on the skyline there) and Southwold took centre-stage.

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Tuesday 7th June 2011

Ruthie quite rightly has first call on the computer at the moment with a considerable workload reaching a crescendo this week. But with several months worth of organizing for the 25th June Symphony of Bells being crammed into a few weeks on top of work and other ringing arrangements, I’ve been in need of it too. I still haven’t got 51 ringers yet – I’m up to 35 – but with Simon and the composer Llorenç arriving in Ipswich a week tomorrow, I need to get some practices going. Provisionally, the local band at St Margaret’s are set to go next Thursday evening and the following Thursday, but I need to know about people’s availability for practices so I can group them together. So an email needed sending out this evening – if you have said yes and haven’t already made it known to me when you can practice then please do get in touch ASAP so we can get something arranged.

There was time away from the computer this evening – apart from the weekly stroll around Tesco – as we watched the second episode of five of a thriller called Injustice. It’s not normally the kind of thing I’d watch, generally a bit too dark and involved for me after a day at work and no beer in hand. But we were lured by the fact a lot of it was filmed round our way and indeed there have been some familiar sights and references to Framlingham and Felixstowe. Last night we only caught a bit, but enough to see they were pretending Felixstowe’s railway station was Ipswich’s and tonight we watched the whole thing as it flitted between London and then shots of the Suffolk countryside and a scene at The Ramsholt Arms. It’s done enough to keep me interested for the rest of the week and if location spotting is your thing it’s worth a gander.

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Monday 6th June 2011

It’s a week since the Central Council meeting in Hereford, something I am now mercifully spared since I stood down as a CC rep but it’s still good to hear back from it and Alan McBurnie’s report is well worth the read to make sure you’re up to speed, even if you don’t find anything of interest in there. One thing I found out about was the Roadshow Survey which I didn’t know anything about. Unsurprisingly they’ve not had the uptake they had hoped for on that and are extending the deadline until the end of June so please do give them your feedback.

Away from ringing politics there was good news for our local farmers as the rain fell and fell, apparently the start of a week’s worth of the wet stuff. Whilst not pleasant for the rest of us, at least it didn’t start last Wednesday and Thursday!

That said, it made Ruthie’s trips between home, railway stations and Colchester Institute a bit harder as she started her last week of her degree course with two presentations which she was fairly chuffed with. Just two essays and a recital to go before Friday then…

It did all mean she was back in Ipswich later than usual so I momentarily left another busy practice to pick her up. We were always going to be hard-pushed to repeat last week’s phenomenal attendance, but even with eight regulars away there were still twenty-three there, including a fleeting visit from Pete and Susanne and also from Philip Wilding, an occasional visitor from Newmarket way. Again there was good ringing, though again it was spoilt by mistakes but there is no doubting that we are heading in the right direction and it’s becoming more fun too. Even if grabbing hold without first finding out what we’re ringing ends up in an almighty heap!

The lively atmosphere spilled over into The Cricketers before Ruthie and I finally returned home for what will hopefully be the last late tea for a while!

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Sunday 5th June 2011

It was a busy day of ringing in Suffolk today, even if I partook in little of it!

OakleyOn Campanophile it records eight quarters and two peals rung within our borders on a big day of achievement. Congratulations to Tom Scase who rang his 450th quarter as he conducted a 1260 of Doubles at Tannington and well done to Katie Wright and Stephen Rabong who rang their first of Bourne in the success at Oakley, Nicky Stubbs and Mark O’Halloran for ringing their first of Norwich Minor in the 1296 at Higham, the band at Mendham for ringing their first blows of Sutton Surprise Minor and Nathan Colman on ringing his first on eight in the Grandsire Triples at Stowmarket. Nathan’s rapid progress has had the added bonus of reintroducing his parents and good ringers Julian and Cathy to regular Guild ringing, but well done to all who achieved something in a quarter in Suffolk today.

Well done too to David Potts who made sure that peal-ringing got in the act too as he conducted his first of Superlative Major. Well done David and congratulations to Mary Dunbavin and David Salter on ringing their 750th peal together in the 5040 of Bob Triples at Rendham.

With all this going on around me I felt slightly ashamed not to be helping out, but it did of course mean I got to spend lots of quality time with Mason which today meant a long but pleasant walk alongside the Deben to Kingston Playing Fields where we took advantage of the wide open space to fly our kite more successfully than last time!

I did do some ringing today and very useful I was too! With Bruce and Gill away today, the locals at Woodbridge were glad to see me, Pete and Susanne aiding them to some decent call-changes. Just a shame we didn’t get time to raise the splendid tenors. I initially started coming here on occasional Sunday mornings as I was keen that Ruthie and I didn’t just pop in and have the church and bells for our big day next year and I’m glad I have done, even if Ruthie has been unable to because of her work at Boots. It’s nice to help out, even if with my long-established commitments to St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh I can’t do it every week.

Mason and I stayed to service and although it wasn’t as packed as for the Easter Sunday service a few weeks back it was still a big crowd. And at least I’d partaken in some ringing beforehand!

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Saturday 4th June 2011

King Edward II Of course today should’ve been the South-East District outing which would’ve been held in the area around the Mid-Norfolk Railway where coincidentally the steam train King Edward II was pulling its first passengers away from its base at Didcot since its very recent restoration. Ron, Kate, Mason, Ruthie and I were going to have a ride after the outing, so in the absence of ringing we decided that we were still going to head to Dereham – one end of the line – to ride upon the first trip of the day.

Whilst I’m not too fond of its main football team, Norfolk – like Suffolk and most of East Anglia– is a beautiful place, especially on a bright and sunny day like this. It would have been a superb day for a ringing outing and it’s shame that we weren’t at Wymondham Abbey at the other end of the line ringing this popular steam engine in as we would’ve been if so many people hadn’t have turned their noses up at the outing.

Still, we had fun (especially the li’l chap who was in his element!) as we enjoyed some lunch under the tourist information centre in Wymondham whilst an impressive ukulele band belted out hits as part of the local music festival and then a pint in The Cross Keys. It was here that I saw one of only two references to the football team that I thought had half-a-billion season ticket holders and which – if you believed Look East and Anglia TV – had supporters in every corner of the county going nuts over their recent promotion to the Premier League with yellow and green sausages, teddies called Lambert, etc, etc. No obvious signs of that here, bar Woodforde’s jumping on the bandwagon and producing a beer called Premier Crew which was served at our pub of choice. If you fancy some of it I’d get in quick, I can’t imagine it’ll be on for long…

The only other nod to the Budgies was a small boy in a t-shirt back at Dereham which we returned to on the same train that took us to Wymondham and after a look round the shop and café we were back in Woodbridge in time for a BBQ at Edwin Avenue. Thanks again for the grub, beer and the day out Kate, much appreciated! Shame no one else wanted to join us!

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Friday 3rd June 2011

I meant to mention in yesterday's blog about Hollesley ringer Sam Shannon's meeting with Princess Anne on day one of The Suffolk Show. She was presenting Long Service Awards to 39 stalwarts of horticulture and agriculture in the county and Sam - with thirty years at John Woods Nurseries near Woodbridge under his belt - was one of them! Well done Sam, a deserved honour - not everybody can say they've met royalty!

Meanwhile, I could still do with some more ringers for the Symphony of Bells in Ipswich on 25th June. Thank you to all who have said they can take part, I shall be in touch shortly as each band ideally needs two practices between 15th June - when Simon and Llorenç will be in Ipswich from - and I need to work out who can make practices when. This is a huge logistical operation and as I have mentioned I could've done with a few more months to get it organised, so I really need as many ringers as possible and as much flexibility as we can afford!

RendhamAchievements in the more traditional form of full-circle ringing continue unabated I'm glad to say and particular congratulations have to go to Ian Wright who rang his first quarter in the success at Rendham today. Well done Ian!

There was no ringing for me today though as with half-term coming to its conclusion there was a return trip to Ashcroft Road at either end of the working day as Mason spent the day with his grandparents whilst I got back into the swing of things at John Catt after yesterday's excitement. I wonder how Sam got on going back to work!

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Thursday 2nd June 2011

The last time I went to the Suffolk Show about five years ago it was cold, windy and wet and I only spent a couple of hours or so there. The difference this time round could hardly have been more extreme!

The Vestey Ring at Henham Steam RallyOn this occasion I was there in an ‘official’ capacity, helping to man The Vestey Ring at the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich tent so having reached Trinity Park at 7.30am I left just after 6pm. It was a long day, but it didn’t feel like it such was the enjoyment I squeezed out of this most fantastic of events, helped greatly by glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze that kept things ticking over at just the right temperature.

In between my shifts manning our most valuable of PR tools, I delighted in feeding and watering myself with free samples from the Adnams Food and Drink tent, taking in the vast array of animals on show that so epitomize the wonderful rural essence of Suffolk, wandering around art exhibitions, entering competitions to win anything from a batch of pasties to a plasma TV and watching the impressive Apache helicopter displays that brought the entire showground to a standstill.

But my main reason for being there was of course showcasing our superb Guild to the thousands of people that were meandering past. Yesterday was of course the first day and apparently very successful with about hundred attendees having a go. I’m not sure how many we got through this time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a similar figure, with young, old, disabled, black, white and just about any other section of society you could think of having a go.

That included radio presenters too as I was interviewed by Rob Dunger from BBC Radio Suffolk whose assistant Darren had a quick lesson under my stewardship. It was part of a highly successful PR operation, led brilliantly by Philip Gorrod and Brian Whiting that saw a photo on the BBC Suffolk site – guess who the ringer with his back to the camera is – and another interview right at the end of the day by a chap called Ray Chaplin who was putting together a Suffolk Show feature for his talking newspaper for the blind.

With some stallholders packing up and punters heading for the gates we decided to take the opportunity to make a little history by ringing the first quarter on The Vestey Ring, a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor. It was very well-rung in distracting circumstances with all the noise and activity you would expect from such an occasion combined with the church packing up around us! Particularly well done to Delia who was very inexperienced on mini-rings leading up to this but who rang the treble ably.

It was a fitting end to a very enjoyable and successful couple of days. We won’t know yet if we have any recruits but at the very least a lot of people will have gone away with a much better understanding of bells and bellringers, something that is still very important in light of Sunday’s events in Sharow. Thank you and well done to all involved, whether it was handing out leaflets, teaching, ringing or just coming along to say hello and offer support. I think we done good!

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Wednesday 1st June 2011

Twatt, ShetlandIt wasn’t aimed at anyone, honest! It is a small settlement in the Shetland Islands. (There's another one on Orkney).

This evening’s quarter was rung well, especially considering what a trippy little method it is. I’ve made my lack of preference known for methods on even numbers of bells that have more than two blows in one place and this was full of them. There were four blows in lead, three blows in seconds and four blows at the back, the latter leading to a situation where you go up to fifths before coming back down again without even touching sixths. I can’t tell you how many times I went sailing past that bit! And there is the worry that one day I shall find myself ringing a method with the same work beneath the treble and have to shout ‘Twatt below’.

It was the precursor to a relatively low-attended practice, though we still managed all sorts on this bright long evening, including some fairly well-rung ‘messing about’ before we retired to The Greyhound, the evening still bright well into the first pint. And we had the pleasure not only of John Le Grove – visiting from Glossop but formerly of Aldeburgh – but also Mike Daniels, returning after some time away due to ill-health. It was great to see him and he was looking well tonight as he enjoyed finally being out and about enjoying the friendship and activity that bellringing offers.

Sadly – as we were already aware anyway – bellringing is not so appreciated by everybody and this week it was in the national news for the wrong reasons, bringing up bad memories of the Aldeburgh incident a few years ago. A visiting band – including the famous Colin Turner – was ringing a peal of Lessness Surprise Major at Sharow in Yorkshire last Sunday when they were confronted by an angry local who threatened to damage their cars (probably could’ve only improved my car in such circumstances!) and then promptly locked them in the belfry. The old arguments have come up again and I – like so many other people – stand by the opinion that if you don’t like the sound of church bells then you don’t live next door to a church, just as much as if you don’t like large noisy crowds you don’t move into the vicinity of a football stadium and if you don’t like the noise from trains you don’t have an abode alongside a railway line.

However, it is a timely reminder that there are people that have strong feelings against bells, no matter how irrational those feelings. And although this particular local’s actions are completely deplorable (as somebody pointed out, what if there had been a fire or one of the band had been taken ill?), it should serve to remind us to keep working with our local communities. It’s something that many towers already do here in Suffolk (and I don’t know if it was done in Sharow or not), but try and interact with the locals. Use their pubs, invite them in, have open days, get The Vestey Ring along to the local fete and if there is any unusual or additional ringing – prolonged or otherwise - make sure that they know about it, especially those who have complained previously.

Again it is peal-ringing that is at the centre of the controversy and again there are no doubt ringers who will mutter about peal-ringing dragging our name through the mud again. But it’s worth noting that according to PealBase, in the three years since the Aldeburgh ‘controversy’ there has been something like 12,500 tower-bell peals rung around the world, heard by millions of people and that’s just the ones that have been successful. Many of those people will have enjoyed them, most would have been completely unfussed, but so few people have complained about peals (and even fewer have been moved to do something as drastic as what was done on Sunday) that even in this day and age of 24-hour news when something as trivial as the discovery of a lost hamster has been revealed as dramatic breaking news, we have had two incidents in that period that has reached the national news and the Aldeburgh one was predominantly driven by the vicar.

So keep on ringing peals, quarters, going on outings and whatever else. Just make sure the locals know and understand what’s going on.

Because if you get it right then it helps the progression of ringing as shown today and yesterday with Alex Tatlow ringing and calling his first quarter of Superlative Major in the success at Bardwell in which David Howe was ringing his first blows in the method and indeed was ringing his quarter of Surprise Major. Well done both of you and to Kate Herd who yesterday rang her first of Stedman Doubles in the 1260 at Great Finborough.

OfftonCongratulations too to Brian Whiting, stalwart of the Suffolk Guild and a huge help and guidance to so many learners either through his work at Offton or through peals and quarters. For today he rang his 700th peal in Arnie’s birthday peal of Bristol Major at Wilby. And Happy Birthday Arnie!


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Tuesday 31st May 2011

When I was a youngster learning to ring, I know that I wouldn’t have stuck it out to become any good if it wasn’t for the wide range of events that made ringing such a varied and interesting pastime. Quarters, peals, ringing for weddings, outings, meeting days, competitions – these were just some of the events and activities that were vital during those early years of struggle where I could’ve quite easily have thought it too much like hard work and packed it all in.

Thank God I didn’t or else I would’ve missed out on so much and I dare say there would’ve been a struggle to find enough to ring in several peal bands! As a youngster I was pretty much unaware just how much effort was going into organizing these activities and how much I was benefiting from ringing with those with vast experience and from meeting those in the same position as me. These sorts of events are essential if ringing in this rural county of ours in particular is to thrive and not just become a group of diminishing quarter-peal and peal bands and a handful of centres of excellence complaining about how the number of quality ringers has dropped.

So imagine how disappointed I was when I was informed that this Saturday’s South-East District Ringing Outing had had to be cancelled due to a lack of interest. For all the phoning, emailing, logistics planning, arranging of pubs and everything else that Kate has had to do, she had twelve people commit themselves. That’s right. Twelve. From the district with the most members. Yes there were reasonable reasons aplenty for not turning up as is to be expected. Primarily of course at this time of year and particularly this week as half-term comes to an end, holidays will account for a number of those. Weddings are another favourite and family events. That’s all to be expected. We do ringing as a hobby, not as an obligation. People have other things to do. But there will still be a large swath of membership that just couldn’t be bothered. No doubt learners wondering why they can’t progress as they continue to struggle on ringing at the same tower week-in-week-out, limited to what the handful of locals around them can manage. Also quite a number of experienced members who are probably bemoaning that they can’t achieve their own ambitions because nobody is progressing through to join them.

This was to be Kate’s last outing as SE Ringing Master as she will be stepping down at the ADM at the end of the year. That’s Saturday 3rd December at Hollesley, 3.30 if you want to put it in your diaries now and make sure you’re not double-booked. Whether her successor will think it worth their while to bother arranging five or six towers, a pub lunch, spend hours on the phone and internet to be met by such a wall of apathy is yet to be seen. But why would they?

And it’s not just this outing and in this district. Do you remember the Guild Social a couple of years ago at Hadleigh? Huge amounts of work put in by the South-West and the event was only just saved from being scrapped. The ten-bell practice Mason and I recently attended at The Norman Tower, dangerously something that could have got one of our youngsters – Alex – wondering, ‘why did I bother?’ Numerous practices and meeting days.

Eventually these events will die away, learners will lose interest and we’ll have a decreasing membership. It’s not all doom and gloom of course and this is – in the scheme of things - just one outing. We’ve just had a highly successful Guild AGM and Striking Competitions and indeed some successful competitions here in the SE and up in the North-East. But we have to continue supporting District events if we’re going to secure the long-term future of the Guild.

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Monday 30th May 2011

St Mary-le-TowerI think this evening’s practice was the best St Mary‑le‑Tower practice I have been to for a long time. There were thirty-three crammed into the ringing chamber on this special Bank Holiday practice, including fleeting visits from Sean and a couple of friends and even from Sarah Whitby. There was representation from all four corners, with the Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters there with Alex Tatlow and the Spillers from the North-West, the Prices and Philip Moyse from the North-East and Molly Waterson from the South-West, although that is the South-West of England rather than Suffolk!

And with the draw for the Ridgman Trophy taking place here at the host tower’s practice – as is traditional – we again had the presence of Alan Winter and Barbara le Gallez on a lively and warm evening. With the organizers of the competition keen that the judges don’t find out the order of ringing for 18th June, I shan’t reveal who was drawn where, but there is representation from nine teams from the Lincoln Diocesan Guild to the Hertford County Association, Peterborough Diocesan Guild to the Essex Association and much in-between. We’re going to need your support so come on down on the 18th!

The ringing itself was probably the only blot, with too many pieces collapsing with a disappointing level of concentration shown. That said, Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Max would have been absolutely superb bits of ringing if it wasn’t for the mistakes which was both encouraging and frustrating in equal measure.

After a busy and stifling evening, a pint was essential so another large crowd headed over to The Cricketers for refreshment to round it all off.

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Sunday 29th May 2011

When I was privileged to be a part of the Birmingham team in the National 12-Bell Contest, we worked hard for that privilege. Practices were intense and when we visited the host tower there would be recordings taken of our ringing which we would then listen to with a copy of the touch in front of us to follow and mark any faults or areas that needed highlighting. There would be reserves brought along so someone could listen from where the judges would be sat, listening out for differences in how the ringing sounded outside and in. For example, a bell that sounded quick at hand inside the ringing chamber might not have sounded so much so where the judges sat. Peals would be rung at comparable towers and generally speaking there was an impressive air of professionalism.

It sounds extreme, but it was wonderful to be a part of and it worked. In three finals I was involved in we won two. Of course we were helped greatly by some superb ringers, a number of whom are still in the team with other talented young ringers who have joined since and continue to regularly win bellringing's biggest competition on a regular basis. But it is the preparation that has been the backbone of such phenomenal success.

The Suffolk Guild Ridgman Trophy team aren't going to quite the same extremes, but the fact that this year's competition is being held at St Mary‑le‑Tower on Saturday 18th June means we can at least practice regularly at the host tower! It all started for real this evening as we practiced the competition touch of Grandsire Caters and reflected on each piece and where we can improve. Ruthie and I can't ring on the day as we are due to attend a friend's wedding on the 18th, but I was heartened to see such a professional approach to a competition that we have a very good chance of winning. Rumours that preparations were going as far as meeting at the Park and Ride ten minutes before we are due to ring (it nearly worked last year!) are unfounded though!

However, you may be interested to know that the draw for the competition will be held at SMLT practice tomorrow night.

BurghAlthough there were only nine at ringing in the morning, we still managed to produce a professional course of Double Norwich on the back eight before Mason and I headed onto Burgh where the benefice fifth Sunday service was being held. I always enjoy ringing here, especially on a sunny morning like today, with doors open and Suffolk countryside ahead of us.

It was a sunny afternoon too, though with the li'l chap handed back in a slight change to the normal arrangements, I spent a lot of the day in the house sorting out stuff that I can't typically sort out with an energetic four-year old about!

And as missed as he was of course, Mason's absence allowed us to easily attend that Ridgman practice and then join Pete, Susanne and their friend Zoe for an evening of Jenga in The Cherrytree, a nice end to a useful day.

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Saturday 28th May 2011

 Further thanks to those who have contacted me today in regards the Ipswich Symphony of Bells on Saturday 25th June, taking the numbers committed to nearly half of what we need. If you haven't so far and you can (and make practices beforehand), please don't worry too much about what you perceive your abilities to be. This is a new thing for most of us, so we will all be learning together!

With that happening in exactly four weeks time, today was a lot quieter as we partook in another BBQ in Edwin Avenue, though the weather conditions seem to be getting worse with each one! Thank you again Kate for the food and beer.

We were back home in time to watch the Champion's League Final between Man Utd and Barcelona, played out at Wembley this evening. Although the 'English' team lost 3-1, it was an absolute joy to watch their opponents, certainly the best team I've ever seen and in most footy fan's opinions the best team ever.

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Friday 27th May 2011

Wow! Within hours of yesterday's blog going up and mass email going out to members I already have a third of the ringers we need for the Ipswich Symphony of Bells. So far I have people of all ages from a wide range of abilities, exactly what I hoped for and a lot of enthusiasm. It does of course mean we need another two-thirds, but what a great start and thank you to all who have said yes so far!

Vestey RingIt was another useful day in the life of the Suffolk Guild PR Officer as I attended one of the briefings for our attendance (with the Vestey Ring) at this year's Suffolk Show as we met at Gordon and Janet's for a rundown of practicalities and approach and a practice session on The Folly bells. It should be a great occasion but we need to make sure we learn the lessons from the Henham Steam Rally which - whilst a successful outing - showed a lot of things we needed to do differently.

The briefing was also useful for me as with Kyson closed for a teacher training day Mason had spent the day at Mum and Dad's not far from Claydon so I was able to pick him up afterwards. It seemed to encapsulate a day where everything came together.

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Thursday 26th May 2011

It was an interesting day on the PR front for Suffolk ringing.

Firstly there was a superb article on the EADT website and presumably in today’s paper about the removal of Helmingham bells as the first manual steps are taken towards the rehanging of these historic bells laid silent for far too long.

Come the evening, some very different PR – though still positive – was being discussed as I met with Simon Desorgher who I mentioned in Monday’s blog. The events of Saturday 25th June from midday to one are looking exciting if an organizational nightmare. The plan – in a nutshell – is that he wants us to ring all 51 full-circle ringable bells in Ipswich, plus any others that can be chimed anywhere in the town centre to create a piece of music composed by Llorenç Barber across the town in conjunction with a procession of schoolkids from Handford Hall (that’s the school we were trying to think of Mary!) and St Matthew’s School. Although it won’t be traditional change-ringing, Simon and Llorenç are completely aware of the English style having worked with ringers on similar projects in Croydon, York and Liverpool over the years, so we’re not going to be expected to ring out traditional tunes. Rather there will be firing and other arrangements, similar to something I did in Birmingham just before I left there, which produced a sensational effect. We are going to need ringers obviously and ringers that will be available for two practices in the weeks leading up to it. You don’t need to be brilliant at ringing – in fact it was mooted if necessary that depending on the capabilities of the ringers chiming might be an option – as this isn’t the same as trying to remember a blue-line and there will be conductors at each tower coordinating things. In fact, this is a great leveler! But it is something different and we’ll need to approach it in a different manner to our everyday ringing. On the plus side, each ringer partaking will be rewarded with £20 and beer in the pub afterwards, so there’s another motivation! This is something that has already been advertised and the foundations laid before I got involved and personally I could’ve done with a bit more time to sort it, so I’m really going to need your help! I can’t really afford the usual speed of response that we can normally accommodate, this is urgent! So please get in touch with me ASAP and spread the word!

Having spent a jovial hour-and-a-half with Simon – who is a lovely chap and very enthusiastic – in The Robert Ransome in Ipswich, we wandered over to St Margaret’s for their practice and the first opportunity to present Simon’s vision to our members. We were a little anxious as to how it would be received, both of us conscious how people may react cautiously and even negatively to something that on first appearance would seem to be well out of their comfort zone. However, the response was superb and by the end six ringers were already signed up and awaiting further instructions!

Simon left to catch his train back to London whilst I stayed on at what proved to be a very useful practice. Every piece had a purpose for someone present, as a practice should be and there was some pretty good ringing before we finished and I then left to pick up  Ruthie from the station. Let’s hope we can all follow St Margaret’s practice both in the way they went about their practice this evening and how responded to what could prove a wonderful PR opportunity for the Guild.

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Wednesday 25th May 2011

For a period today, Suffolk was partially paralysed by a huge crash on the A14, cancelled and delayed trains from signals, the phones lines being down across the South-East of the county and the kettle breaking at John Catt. It was the latter two which caused us the most problems in a job that is mainly carried out over the phone and fuelled by tea and coffee, but thankfully everything had sorted itself out come another bright and sunny evening as I travelled down to Colchester Institute to watch an extremely emotional concert.

For this evening saw the last time that the current highly-successful Symphonic Wind Orchestra were to play together as they climaxed the performance with the now familiar The Year of the Dragon by Philip Sparke and Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral by Richard Wagner that won them the Gold award in Glasgow. Friendships have blossomed within this group and the memories of that trip nearly two months ago still apparently strong as the tears flowed and photos were taken, but they can certainly say they went out on a high in front of a large crowd.

Of course after such an occasion, a pint was essential, even if it had to be fizzy lager after The Marquis had run out of both their draft ales. They all of course have a couple more weeks of lectures, essays, exams, recitals and concerts associated with other aspects of their course, so it isn’t a final farewell yet, but there was definitely an end-of-era feel about the place tonight.

Meanwhile, just back over the border at Lavenham, well done to David Howe on ringing his first quarter of Kent Treble Bob Major and happy birthday to Mike Whitaker, especially following the successful 1320 in his honour at Pettistree.

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Tuesday 24th May 2011

Tuesdays seem to be getting quieter and quieter by the week. Even though I’d put aside the evening for calling various people in PR-related issues, nobody was available!

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Monday 23rd May 2011

I had a very interesting call from a chap called Simon his evening, one which I had expected but which I was unsure as to exactly what it would consist of. At midday on Saturday 25th June, the bells of Ipswich are to be rung in a ‘synchronised Ipswich Symphony of Bells’ for one hour as part of a piece of music composed by Llorenç Barber, a Spanish composer, so it shan’t be traditional change-ringing. He’s done it before around the world and apparently in other places in the UK, such as York, but on this occasion it is part of the Ipswich Arts Festival. We’re meeting on Thursday, so I shall be able to find out more as I imagine there is going to be some practicalities to be sorted, but I do know we’ll need ringers, so watch this space!

St Mary‑le‑Tower will be one of the towers involved, but tonight it resonated to a style of ringing it is used to and actually done very well after the disasters of yesterday morning. There was another near-thirty crowd, again helped by the Spillers and Simon Griffiths whose presence really is a great help, enabling us to ring some pretty good London Royal (No3) after a shaky start, four-spliced Surprise Royal and a successful touch of Stedman Cinques. David’s vision really does seem to be coming together and there’s even talk of working towards entering a band into the 12-bell again.

Wickham MarketHowever, the real achievement on the end of a Suffolk rope today wasn’t at SMLT, but at Wickham Market where Graham Hickman rang his first of Minor in the quarter of Plain Bob. Graham was one of the enthusiastic locals we went to help at this interesting six last year and has since been coming to neighbouring Pettistree on a regular basis in the Suffolk Guild’s own, less savage version of The Big Society, so I am ever so chuffed for him. Well done Graham!


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Sunday 22nd May 2011

Reunited with Mason at St Mary‑le‑Tower, where trophies were sat proudly on the side, it should have been a lovely morning. However, a bump on the head for the li’l chap (he was fine and showed no ill-effects for the rest of the day) and a severe lack of concentration tarnished things somewhat. Still, it was impressive that we had enough to ring Yorkshire Max, even if folk still don’t know how to change into Little Bob!

Laura brought Rosie to Grundisburgh again this morning, though she was slightly quieter than last time as she slept throughout. Obviously more relaxed in the sound of bells! With peace reigning, the ringing was slightly better than at SMLT before it, even if numbers were slightly lower.

With Mason still showing no signs of being affected by his bump on the noggin, we ended up in Elmhurst Park on a sunny but blustery afternoon as we chased a discarded ball around the park. He’ll sleep well tonight and so shall I!

Even more so in fact after a hard-earned quarter of Belfast Major at Hollesley this evening (once Mike realized what time it was!) that was notable for being the first in the method for Jonathan Stevens and Peter Harper. Well done guys!

With Mike kindly driving, we two joined Alan, Micky and their non-ringing visitors in The Swan at Alderton before we left them to their curry.

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Saturday 21st May 2011

Today was Suffolk Guild Striking Competition Day, probably the toughest gig of the year for the Guild Ringing Master and if I was still in that position my day would have consisted of tarting myself up, printing certificates, making up names to pull out of the hat for the draw, timing teams, dashing about, etc, etc.

Of course that’s not my concern now and so I focused my morning’s efforts elsewhere, though still with half an eye on one of the Guild’s showpiece events. For once I’d dropped off Mason at his grandparents it was time for our next peal attempt of 35 Surprise Minor methods, on this occasion at Edwardstone as the competitions were being held at nearby Nayland and Stoke by Nayland.

The cool ground-floor location may have been different, but the result was much the same as despite some good ringing we fired out as confusion reigned. However, we made it to the fourth extent and we are showing ourselves more than capable of achieving this soon. Mind you, I said that a few times about the 27…

The early finish did allow us some extra time to enjoy the beautiful sunshine though and there seemed nowhere better than outside The Anchor at Nayland, overlooking the River Stour and into Essex. Whilst the area around and north of Woodbridge is my favourite part of Suffolk, Nayland and its surroundings are the most beautiful in my opinion. It truly is postcard stuff with rolling countryside and old timbered houses making up a scene that – bar cars and the occasional telephone and electricity wire – has probably not altered for centuries.

Once lunch was over it was down to business if you could call it that. Reunited with both my fiancée and son, I set about the last dregs of my masterial duties as I made sure the judges I had selected – David Rothera and Brian Meads – were set-up as they would like to be and had had a go on this 16cwt six, before I handed everything over to Jed. The draw for the fourteen teams (what a superb turnout!) was complicated slightly by the new Master forgetting to enter his own team, but he dealt with it well and we were underway with the local band Nayland starting us off, with Derek Rose taking photos of the bands as they came out.

What was so encouraging was the number of people. This wasn’t just fourteen teams made up of the same few people jigged around, though there was some minimal crossover for understandable reasons I have alluded to previously. Nor was it just the South-East District Competition on tour as has been the case in the past, though they still made up the bulk. There was representation from all districts, making it a true Guild competition and it was wonderful to see so many youngsters, particularly those representing Great Barton and Halesworth.

With our teams drawn very early, Ruthie and I returned to The Anchor with Mason for a half or two before we had to leave the day early for a party. But even though we weren’t there for the duration, we got a real sense of a fantastic day out, as it should be. Regardless of the results, the focus on striking by so many members was heartening and it was wonderful that the village was swamped by ringers. Many frequented the pub, others were wandering the village taking in its beauty and still others were to be seen sat outside the teashop, in the churchyard and in the village hall where the tea and results took place after our departure. Well done to St Mary‑le‑Tower A and B on winning the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Trophy respectively (particularly proud of Sean winning his first ringing trophy) and then to the South-East District for winning the Rose Trophy at Stoke by Nayland in the evening, but regardless of where you came you should be proud. From what I saw a lot of people from all corners of the Guild had a lot of fun on a beautiful day in a wonderful part of the world.

With Mason left again with his grandparents (thanks guys!) for an overnight adventure in Ashcroft Road, Ruthie and I left the festivities early for what turned out to be a very lively and enjoyable evening. It was the 50th birthday party of Syd, a good friend of Kate and Ron’s and a lovely chap and the theme was Mexico. So if you were in Martlesham Heath tonight and saw lot’s of poncho’s – and a chap dressed up as Zorro – then you now know what was going on!

It was great fun, with a ZZ Top tribute band offering up brilliant entertainment and Clare giving us all a lift home complete with inflatable cactus! Happy Birthday Syd, hope you had fun!

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Friday 20th May 2011

It is exactly a year since Ruthie’s family and associates such as myself were sat outside The Mariner celebrating the birth of Lucy, the latest cousin of my fiancée. So it made sense that today is of course Lucy’s first birthday, this time celebrated in the rather more sedate and sober surroundings of Moog and Ange’s living room as Mason, Ruthie and myself popped round to drop off a card. As my ‘little’ chap joined the birthday girl in playing with the array of new toys that had generously made their way to her, it struck me just how much he has grown since his own first birthday over three years ago. He towered over her, though as he is the shortest in his class and she is apparently the tallest of her contemporaries that is not likely to last for long!

Appropriately enough, some of us still managed to end up in that same beer garden a year on as us three, Kate, Clare and Ron went along to see an army band play in Elmhurst Park, the day after they had marched through the town to be suitably and rightly honoured for what they do for all of us. It was only right to toast them with a pint or three tonight!

Whilst we were doing that, the footnote for the success at Earl Stonham caught my eye. Superb and very, very apt. Just below that was another significant footnote as Robert Beavis was ringing his 150th quarter – congratulations RCB, must be worth a letter in The Ringing World

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Thursday 19th May 2011

With another essay done this evening – Ruthie is now half-way through her pile of work – we decided to get out of the house and go for a healthy walk. Punctuated with beer. It was very pleasant as we walked down by the river round to The Anchor and then up to The Kings Head before finishing up at The Mariners. A fabulous little tour of (some of) Woodbridge’s pubs on a nice early summer’s evening.

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Wednesday 18th May 2011

Today it was announced the UK route that the Olympic Torch will take next summer, starting at Land’s End a year tomorrow. And excitingly, it will be coming to Ipswich on Thursday 5th July on that journey, with celebrations planned in Christchurch Park that evening for its overnight stay in the town. And although it might mean a cancellation of St Margaret’s practice, its trip from Norwich and then the next day to Chelmsford represents a huge PR opportunity for Suffolk ringers, with the early indications being that the flame will travel down the B1077, taking it through places like Eye and Debenham. It strikes me as a great recruitment focus and I have my own ideas, but perhaps people could suggest ways we could take advantage of this once in a lifetime occurrence?

Though not on the same media level as the above, apparently Monday was a good day to listen to Radio Suffolk if you are a Suffolk ringer, especially if you’re a fan of Fairport Convention and know Hazel Judge, ringer at Pettistree. She was apparently on our local BBC radio station just after nine in the morning on the topic of revenge! Suffice to say you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Haze!

She was regaling her moment of stardom at another lively practice that followed an unfortunate miscall that brought the attempted quarter of York Minor to an end. These things happen and there was some quite good ringing and despite the absence of Mike and Pippa who were watching the grease monkey which was all that was left of Mike & The Mechanics, the evening went well, helped by the visit of Richard Dunhill, a ringer from Essex who is a family friend of Daphne.

It all preceded a trip to Colchester to pick up Ruthie from concert managing and another late tea, a tradition that is soon to end, at least for a while!

Meanwhile, as we were losing our quarter, Abby Antrobus was celebrating her birthday (Happy Birthday tomorrow Abby!) by ringing her first of Double Norwich Court Bob Major. Well done Abby and well done too to Mary Dunbavin on finally circling The Wolery to peals, a pursuit that had been highly jinxed!

And finally, thank you – though a week late – to the band that jointly conducted the quarter at Preston St Mary a week ago for their kind footnote. I’m afraid I missed it until I was searching back for something else, but I really appreciate it and indeed all the kind sentiments that people have passed onto me since I stood down.

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Tuesday 17th May 2011

A typically quiet Tuesday – bar a trip to Tesco of course and trying to sort some judging positions for Saturday, one of the few tasks left over from my Mastership. Don’t forget to get your names in for tea! (Names for tea to

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Monday 16th May 2011

There was a really interesting interview on Radio Suffolk this evening with someone from the folk band Fairport Convention. Never heard of them I hear you say. And neither had I. But, they hold an annual music festival in the Oxfordshire village of Cropredy which apparently raised money for the 2006 augmentation of the local bells from six to eight, with the new second even branded the ‘Fairport Convention Festival Bell’. What’s more, they’ve named their new album ‘Festival Bell’ – complete with a picture of the bell itself on the front cover – and they played the title track on our local BBC radio station as I was travelling into Ipswich to pick up Ruthie and for St Mary‑le‑Tower practice. If you can listen again it’s well worth it, with the interview starting at something like 6.33pm (2 hours 33 minutes in) and the song – complete with references of Minor, Major and tail-ends – at about 6.39 (2 hours 39 minutes in).

Once I’d picked up Ruthie, we arrived at SMLT, wondering who the familiar faces were that David had promised us tonight. They turned out to be Simon Griffiths, Jeremy and Cherril Spiller and quite apart from it being great to see them, these three superb and talented ringers were a huge help to a busy practice night. There were twenty-five present this evening (with some regulars absent!) including the visit of Barbara le Gallez and Alan Winter, the man organizing the Ridgman Trophy which we are of course hosting on 18th June.

With all these guests and visitors, the lure of the pub was irresistible and so we grabbed a quick pint at The Cricketers before eventually returning home for another late night tea.

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Sunday 15th May 2011

When on Friday I contacted those who were originally in a peal attempt of 35 Surprise Minor methods at Monewden this afternoon that the location of our attempt was now to be The Folly due to continued rope problems at the former, I received various responses of acknowledgement and acceptance, including a text message from Mary Garner simply saying ‘ok’. Problem was, due to phone problems, her reply was to a message I’d sent earlier in the week, something that neither of us was aware of until I was stood in Gordon and Janet’s garden in Claydon listening to a voicemail from Mary saying she had just got my later message and was heading for us from Monewden as quickly as she could! Ah, technology.

With the greater flexibility that ringing on a min-ring offers, it wasn’t a big problem and even less so when I miscalled after two extents. What should’ve been Cm (Cambridge), Cm, bob, Bv (Beverley), Bk (Berwick), He (Hexham), Su (Surfleet), Bv, bob, was actually called as Bv, Bk, He, Su, Bv, bob, Cm, Cm, bob. As someone later tried to ram home to me, ‘Cm first, Cm first’! My bad.

Still, it left us with time to do some eight-bell ringing with our hosts as their dinner sat in the oven and gave me a bit more flexibility on what had been a tight schedule.

NaylandWith The Folly just down the road from Mum and Dad’s, it made sense for me to follow ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning with a trip to Sproughton and then a bite to eat at Chez Ashcroft with the folks then taking custody of my child, much to his delight. However, the Sproughton band had arranged a practice at Nayland for next week’s Mitson Shield, meaning Mum and Dad would need to take the li’l chap with them to this delightful corner of the county. The main problem was that they weren’t anticipating a return to Ipswich until about 5.30 and with a 6.30 quarter at Hollesley and a need to get the boy fedded and bedded before a pick-up from Kate before that, that would obviously be too late. The plan had been to ring the peal and then nip down to Nayland and collect Mason, but the early loss at least gave me a bit more time.

My visit to a location I shall be spending a lot of time at next Saturday afternoon was still fleeting, but it did give me a taster of this fantastic location. It really is a beautiful village, real picture-postcard stuff and should be a wonderful spot for this popular event. Be sure not to miss out!

I made it back well in time, the li’l chap put to bed and Ruthie launching into another essay in an almost constant conveyor belt of work. And I’m glad I was in time to prepare for what proved to be a successful (unusually at the very first attempt!) quarter of ten-spliced Surprise Major. Ironically we could’ve rung some of the ‘simpler’ stuff better, but it was really enjoyable and again a superb example of ringers getting together from different towers to collectively progress in a very pleasant atmosphere. It was an atmosphere further enhanced by a trip to what was once our local, The Shepherd and Dog before I finally got to sit back and relax for the evening.

Meanwhile – as advertised so publicly in this week’s Ringing World – I must say well done again to one of our members today. So, well done today to Brian Evans on ringing his first of Ipswich Minor in the 1440 at Rougham. Keep it up Brian!

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Saturday 14th May 2011

Today was the first day I didn’t really feel like Guild Ringing Master. If I still was, I would’ve been over at The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds for the morning ten-bell practice, before heading to the coast and Reydon for the North-East District Striking Competition. However, quite apart from the fact that I want to give Jed a clear run as he starts out on the journey I’ve just completed, it was a good opportunity to get some junk cleared out of our small abode, most notably the now defunct washing machine which – with a little help from Clare – was dispatched at the dump, before we all went round to Kate’s for a chilly BBQ and to watch the FA Cup Final. It’s still a must-watch for all football fans even if it has been unceremonially dumped in amongst the regular Premier League season. And it’s still more entertaining than the Eurovision which appears to still retain its in-house block voting amongst old pals judging by this evening’s final.

Congratulations to Azerbaijan on winning that, but closer to home, well done to Aldeburgh on winning the Pat Bailey Shield, Sweffling on grabbing the Call-Change Trophy and Halesworth on collecting the Harry Archer Trophy in the well-rewarded NE Striking Competition, a tasty forerunner for the Guild Competitions next Saturday at Nayland and Stoke-by-Nayland. Incidentally, for those planning on entering a call-change band, the rules will be changed to four minutes of call-changes, getting to Queens and two bells other than the treble leading. With another large turnout so far, it is likely that the test piece for the methods will again be halved to 120 changes too.

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Friday 13th May 2011

No bad luck on the date where misfortune is apparently more likely to befall us, but it was a very quiet afternoon as I had almost the entire office to myself.

With Mason dropped off by Kara, he joined Ruthie and myself for a trip to Budgens, a highlight on a very quiet day.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Williamson is looking for ringers to help out at St Matthew's in Ipswich next Saturday morning (21st) from 11am for twenty minutes or so ringing and then to help give visitors a go as he opens the tower for Christian Aid. Do let me know if you can help. All good PR!

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Thursday 12th May 2011

 Well done to the North-West District who raised £451 for the Bury St Edmunds branch of the MS Society with their recent Quarter-Peal Week. A good effort for a great cause.

 However, after a busy week there was no ringing for me this evening, though we had some difficulties getting into Kate's house whilst she rang in the quarter at Campsea Ashe, with Ruthie needing to print off her latest essay. Don't ask me how I got in though!

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Wednesday 11th May 2011

Investors in People were in today. They’re essentially an organization that is designed to help companies ‘to improve their business performance’ and today they were attempting that by interviewing a number of John Catt’s employees – culminating in myself – on how they felt about the company, how they were treated, what could be improved and all that other guff. It at least got me out of working for twenty minutes or so and no doubt it’ll prove useful to our employers in some way or another.

No such searching questions in regards my ringing exploits this evening as I followed up last week’s quiet evenings with another night on the end of a rope. Tonight it was a peal of Munden Surprise Minor – Surfleet below, Carlisle above – and whilst it’s tempting to make a quip about mundane Munden it was actually alright. Thank you to David for the kind footnote!

Thank you to the Salters also for the biscuits, cake and tea afterwards that set me up nicely for a couple of pints in The Mariners with Ruthie, once I’d returned to Woodbridge as we celebrated the completion of another essay. Only another five to go.

PettistreeMeanwhile, congratulations to Mike who this evening called his 500th quarter on Pettistree bells, quite apt for the man who has led this highly successful set-up since the start twenty-five years ago. Well done Mike!


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Tuesday 10th May 2011

SproughtonTwenty-five years ago today, the first peal on the restored six at Sproughton was rung, a 5040 of Plain Bob Minor in 2hrs 38mins with a band consisting of Dennis Bugg, David Lugg (both ringing their first peal), Crawford Allen and Ralph Earey from the local ringers and George Pipe and Stephen Pettman, who conducted it. The plan had been to replicate the original attempt, but with Dennis not having rung for seven years, David Lugg unable to ring due to work commitments and George recently suffering a recurrence of a long-running leg problem, that idea went out of the window.

However, it was great that a peal could be rung on the actual anniversary, with three of the original band – including the conductor of course – and retaining a strong local link with Simon and me in the tower that I learnt to ring at. Peals here are always special for me as I recall all that I picked up in this belfry, but this one was particularly so. It was a good effort all round, but particularly by Crawford and Simon who were both ringing their first peal since 1993!

I grabbed a pizza on the way home as I returned to a fiancée still working hard on one of the daft numbers of essays, exams and recitals all coming together at the same time after a long period of time with nothing at all. It seems a ridiculous situation that Colchester Institute has manufactured and can only be to the detriment of all the students, rushing work, getting no rest and increasingly stressed about meeting so many deadlines at once.

Something else that could’ve been ridiculous was the painting of double-yellow lines around the Deben Mill Business Centre where John Catt is based. There is limited car-parking behind a barrier here, but essentially the vast majority of employees on this site have to park on the approach road, a dead-end that leads to the Business Centre. Many travel in from villages. From our business alone we have people who have to travel in from Snape, Sudbourne, Iken, Kettleburgh and even Oulton Broad. Even those places like Rendlesham and Kesgrave where others live, they can’t get in by public transport either because it is extremely unreliable or they have to catch two buses. Multiply that by the dozens of businesses neighbouring us and – although it doesn’t effect me of course - you can see why a complete ban on parking on this road – as had been proposed – would’ve caused so many problems. However, the consultation that is required with such proposals seems to have served its purpose and compromise made as the line painters arrived today and seem to only be restricting parking at the top and bottom of the road, leaving plenty of space to park in between. Hooray for the council!

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Monday 9th May 2011

There was an interesting article on the BBC website today about how people are losing the ability – and indeed the need – to store things in their head. It was mainly referencing taxi drivers and school exams as it discussed this point, but it could just as easily have mentioned bellringing when you consider how much us ringers potentially have to remember when ringing a method without line in front of us. So do we all have extraordinary memories that should be the envy of every GCSE or A-Level student taking an exam over the next few weeks? No. My memory is often shocking as many will testify – it’s why I need to write a blog to remind myself what I’ve done this week.

But as I read this article and thought about the ringing angle, I lost count of the number of methods I have committed to my mind. At least forty-one Surprise Minor methods, plus goodness knows how many plain methods. The standard-eight Surprise Major methods, in addition to others and again many plain methods. Numerous Surprise Royal and Maximus methods, even some on fourteen and sixteen. Grandsire, Stedman, Plain Bob on all numbers, etc. It may be that the reason my memory is quite so bad in everyday life is that it is full to the brim with pointless Surprise Sixteen methods I never ring anymore, but I don’t think so. It’s probably more to do with the way I’ve learnt them by realizing that the same principal applies to Cambridge from Minor to Sixteen, that where the treble is helps determine what I’m doing, course-bells, place-bells, etc. I don’t literally have hundreds of lines stored in my head, I just have a handful of useful tips and principals that I apply to all my method ringing. And I know that’s how many other ringers do it too, so I’m nothing special. But it perhaps highlights why some learners struggle on methods – they are trying to remember too much. If perhaps they took note of these tips and guides rather than dismissing them as clever-clogs adding complications every time it was mentioned a certain method is something above and something else below or that you should use your course bells then they might get a whole lot more satisfaction from their ringing and progress as fast as they want. Let’s face it, if I can do it, anyone can.

I needed these tips and skills this evening as I recalled London Royal as after two bank holidays in a row, Ruthie and I attended our first St Mary‑le‑Tower practice for weeks. It was a curtailed one though as at 8.30 the ringing ceased and the now established SMLT AGM began. Once again, Charles our vicar chaired the meeting and as usual it was fairly mundane and uneventful, with attempts to put together a tower constitution still ongoing and preparations for the Ridgman Trophy which will be held here in Ipswich on the back ten on 18th June. However, there is definitely NOT a hole in the top of the spire and Sean hasn’t left us for Bury St Edmunds.

It was all wrapped up in just over half-an-hour and topped by a pint in The Cricketers. Top stuff.

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Sunday 8th May 2011

In a couple of months it will be Rambling Ringers time again and Ruthie and I are planning to return to camping, this time with Mason too. The tent we had in Somerset a couple of years ago was adequate for the needs of an easily pleased couple on holiday, but when the weather turned it was an uncomfortable experience. With a four-year old with us this year, we needed something bigger and thanks to the generosity of Kate and Clare, one was dug out of storage.

With little use for a few years and a history of abuse from donkeys though, all concerned felt it was prudent to check it was in working order. Therefore, with the sun shining, Mason and I headed up to Edwin Avenue this afternoon to run it through its paces with Kate. Except for an elastic problem that its owner was able to sort, it seems in good nick and I’m now quite excited about our holiday!

For now, the normal routine prevails, though happily so with a decent turnout at St Mary‑le‑Tower that witnessed some very amusing/frustrating call-changes and a reasonable attendance at Grundisburgh.

Elsewhere, big congratulations have to go to Josephine Beever, a familiar face to many in the Guild. Today she rang her 1000th quarter in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Gislingham, with Kate Herd also ringing her first as cover on eight – well done Kate and well done Josephine!

Great FinboroughWell done also to George Salter on ringing his first of Grandsire Doubles in the quarter at Great Finborough and Philippa Weyers on ringing her first on eight in the success at The Norman Tower.


Meanwhile, following the triumph that was Saturday’s very enjoyable South-East District Striking Competition, it is the North-East’s turn this weekend. Hopefully more good ringing will give our art some positive publicity in Reydon but I hope as well lots of teams and lots of ringers go along and enjoy themselves!

If you’re not going to Reydon though, you may want to consider heading over to The Norman Tower for the Ten Bell Ringing Workshop, a worthy event that I hope is well supported.

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Saturday 7th May 2011

Today was a little trip down memory lane as Mason, Ruthie and I attended the South-East District Striking Competition at Tunstall.

I spent a very enjoyable time living in the little pink cottage in this lovely village and used to ring regularly at St Michael's church on Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings, a pretty and easy-going six. We three were given a lift by Kate along with Sean and were greeted at our destination by Richard and Susan, resident ringers here. Richard regularly dropped me off at the nearby Green Man after practices and Susan was my neighbour during my time of residence in this wonderful corner of Suffolk.

As if this wasn't enough of a blast back to the past, a large crowd went to The Ship in nearby Blaxhall, run by my good friend and Mason's Godfather Toby and where the chef is Tracy, the former chef at The Green Man and another good friend from my Tunstall days. And though not any connection to my past, we were all pleasantly surprised to be served by Hannah, a ringer from Leiston and daughter of Michael Rolph, former Guild Technical Adviser and well known to many in the Guild.

The competition was a huge success and whilst there was a little bit of crossover between teams, there were nearly fifty present for the tea and results, not bad from an entry of seven teams (7x6=42 for those who don't instantly pick up on that!). Sean summed up what these occasions are really about. In his first competition ringing, he was chuffed to come fifth, but more importantly he appreciated the aspects of the day that I feel many perhaps take for granted. Sat outside in the sunshine as good ringing cascaded over us, friends mingled, drank tea and ate biscuits as we contemplated if two planes show-flying at nearby Bentwaters were going to crash. Yes, St Mary‑le‑Tower (only just) won again - at the scene of my first ever striking competition win back in 1992, 1993 or sometime similar in another nod to times gone by - but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Heck, even Alan McBurnie rang! Well done to George, Di, Owen, David (who called our Cambridge Minor) and Ralphy who joined me as part of the winning team which was entirely made up of Sunday morning ringers at SMLT.

It was also a day I learnt what Brian Redgers did for his 66th birthday. Well worth asking him!

KettleburghThanks to Mary Dunbavin on judging so expertly as the rest of us lapped up the weather, whilst meanwhile her western counterparts were achieving an awful lot again. Northorp Surprise Minor at Ashbocking, Killamarsh Treble Bob Minor at Hacheston and Edinburgh Delight Minor at Marlesford were the first blows in the methods for the all the band, whilst the 1296 of Morning Exercise Delight Minor at Kettleburgh was Ann Webb's first blows in the method and the rest of the band's first quarter in the method, as well as Stephen Dawson's 100th quarter. Well done all of you and congratulations Stephen!

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Friday 6th May 2011

As you probably all know, I really enjoy ringing, the camaraderie, keeping the brain sharp, trying to improve striking and ringing new things, whether that's in a peal, quarter, at practice, Sunday morning ringing or whenever. So it's felt really strange not doing any ringing all this week.

It's something that will change tomorrow, but for today I was able to enjoy the company of my son and fiancée at home, something I also really enjoy!

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Thursday 5th May 2011

A year on from the general election and the polls were open again, this time for local elections and for the curious AV referendum which seems to have been heavily reported by the media but appears to have turned into a bit of a damp squib. Nevertheless, I was in St John’s Church Hall doing my bit whilst watched over by Kate who was an inspector here on a long day for her.

We caught her in her break later as we popped up to Edwin Avenue after I’d met Ruthie from the railway station on another busy day for her too. It was essentially much quieter for me though as Grundisburgh practice was again cancelled.

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Wednesday 4th May 2011

I’m often mislaying things, like keys, shoes, Mason, etc, but I excelled myself before I left to see Ruthie sing in the Chamber Choir at Colchester Institute this evening. I managed to mislay my car. Many moons ago my late Grandad (of the Diamond not Munnings variety) didn’t realise his car had been stolen from his driveway until the police called to inform him they’d retrieved it in a tale that still makes me smile. The local bobbies hadn’t informed me of such an occurrence, so I was a little puzzled as I stepped out of the door and saw it wasn’t parked in the driveway. I’d thought perhaps I’d left it in the surrounding streets as I quite often have to, but that would be silly as we had a clear driveway with Clare currently using Ruthie’s car Emily up at Edwin Avenue. Ah, Edwin Avenue! It suddenly struck me I’d left Gav up there after the BBQ at Kate’s on Monday.

At least I knew where my car was now, but it meant a ten minute walk I hadn’t accounted for and when I suddenly realised on the bypass that I’d left at home some bits and pieces that my fiancée had asked me to bring – meaning a detour back through the one-way streets and unnecessary traffic lights of Woodbridge – it left me in a bit of a rush to reach my beloved’s place of education.

I made it though and was able to enjoy a very good performance including a solo from Ruthie before we returned for a typically late Wednesday night tea.

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Tuesday 3rd May 2011

Despite the arrival of Louise, the third temporary worker in the same position in as many months, the first day back at work after the long break seemed like we’d never been away, even taking into account the strange day in the office in the midst of last week’s excitement.

TunstallRuthie was meanwhile very excited as she handed in her big dissertation and I’m actually getting quite excited about striking competition season. The first of many across the Guild is happening at Tunstall this Saturday when – hopefully – several teams from across the South-East District will enjoy a good-natured day of competition and fellowship. It’s been mentioned before that an off-putting factor to these competitions is that several people ring for several teams. Hopefully towers will try to avoid doing this, but there are ringers – myself included – who ring at more than one tower regularly. However, even then I’m only likely to be ringing for St Mary‑le‑Tower and Pettistree – Grundisburgh are unlikely to field a team – and this will help to make up teams that will give others a chance. Why should a tower not be able to use the ringers that regularly ring there on practice nights and Sunday mornings, especially if it benefits one of its less experienced members?

Another understandable gripe is that it is too competitive or that SMLT always win. I explained in depth last year that the latter point is a bit of a myth, whilst on the former it is worth reiterating that this isn’t professional sport. This is a social occasion with a competition element and not a very important competition element at that. No matter what you may perceive or may have heard, the judges are not there to put teams down or offer up Simon Cowell-style verbal punches. They are there to place the teams ringing and offer advice where needed. It is primarily – in my opinion at least – a chance to focus on striking, pick up tips, gather advice and most importantly enjoy yourself. Don’t take it too seriously!

So over the next few weeks and months – especially if you haven’t entered one before – put a team together, ring call-changes if you want. You’ll be amazed how much it will help your band and encourage youngsters. If you still don’t want to do it or have doubts then let me know and I’ll try and show you how I think it can help your band.

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Monday 2nd May 2011

Almost exactly two years ago to the day, I gleefully revelled in Naaaaaridge City’s relegation to the lower leagues. It was – and still is – one of the funniest things this Ipswich fan has seen for years, though that is as indicative of a dire decade at Portman Road as anything else. However, I’m big enough and ugly enough to applaud their astonishing transformation from a team losing 7-1 at home in the third tier of English football to a Premier League club in such a short space of time, which was officially confirmed today. Perhaps thankfully it was largely lost in amongst news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, but it is still an amazing achievement.

My start to life as PRO continued slowly with no ringing at all today, though many thoughts on PR for the Guild have been running through my head. Rather today – once I’d dropped off Mason at his mother’s – Ruthie and I enjoyed another BBQ at Edwin Avenue to celebrate Clare’s recent birthday. Though it was still very sunny, the strong, cool wind that has been with us for the last few days drove us indoors to eat, but it was still another extremely enjoyable and laid-back get-together.

On this relaxed Bank Holiday Monday (which also this year doubles up as St George’s Day which has been shunted unceremonially to the May Day holiday for 2011) it was good to see ringing still happening in Suffolk. Well done particularly to Andrew Leach who called his first of Surprise in a quarter in the success at Blythburgh.

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Sunday 1st May 2011

Before I embark officially on my new role as Public Relations Officer, it would be remiss of me not to recognise the fantastic job Bruce Wakefield has done before me. The fact that the Guild has been so professionally represented in public from the controversy at Aldeburgh to the St Edmund's Day celebrations and much in between has in no small part been down to Bruce's initial contact and his ability to find the right people for the right event.

Hopefully over the next few weeks the new set-up will be able to lay out a plan for how Suffolk bellringers are represented, as public relations is vital in an age where there is so much vying for people's attentions. For PR you could almost read recruitment as if people don't know about what we do then we stand little chance of recruiting.

For me we essentially have two target groups. The 'easy' target group are those already going to church. We know how and where to reach them, we don't have to convince them to sacrifice their Sunday morning lay-in and we don't have to overcome the often misplaced preconceptions of entering a church building that non-churchgoers have and which put many off taking up bellringing.

However, as has been pointed out, church congregations have generally (though not everywhere of course) been dwindling and ageing, reducing our scope for recruitment. Such people will also often be too busy with preparing for the service (churchwardens, organists, handing out hymn-books, etc) to take part in ringing for it, though this doesn't need to be a huge problem.

This is where we really need to work hard and work savvy to attract those who don't go to church. How we put ourselves across to the large section of society who are suspicious of the church but may well enjoy the science, music and fellowship of ringing if they only knew about it. The Vestey Ring is superb in this aim for taking bells out to people rather than trying to bring people to bells, but we can't just rely on this as the demand on this popular asset is tremendous. I see my job being a focus for ideas and ways of doing this and I will need your help. I'm hoping this blog can now offer an insight into how I am doing this in amongst all the other irrelevant nonsense that I post!

It's not just my job to promote the Guild though, it is everyone's from the way you speak to friends about what you do to arranging publicity for a local ringing event or project. I'm keen to point out that you don't have to go through me to publicise anything and everything ringing related in Suffolk. But it would be nice and useful if you let me know if you're doing anything - if you're successful you could give me some invaluable tips!

Having said all that, my first full day as PRO was not entirely ringing orientated. Mason and I arrived at St Mary‑le‑Tower to be greeted by somewhere between thirty-forty ringers, predominantly due to a touring group of ringers from the Leeds University Society. It allowed us to ring Yorkshire Max, but it was the only ringing I was to do today as Mason and I then headed to meet Ruthie's sister Clare on the outskirts of Ipswich where her and Kev's belongings are stored.

Following our recent washing-machine disaster, Clare and Kev have very kindly allowed us to use theirs, as well as their tent for Rambling Ringers in a few months, but it required getting them out from under lock and key.

Having done that and got Ron to help us install it - thanks Ron - we then went to visit Ruthie and Clare's Nan as today is also Clare's birthday. Happy Birthday you old gal!

At least others were doing some ringing in Suffolk today with quarters at Southwold and Pettistree. Particularly well done to Michelle Williams and Julia Johnson on ringing their first of Stedman Triples in the former and congratulations to Philip Moyse on ringing his 100th at the same time. All good PR!

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Saturday 30th April 2011

The day of my sixth and final Suffolk Guild AGM as Ringing Master and therefore my last day in this honourable post dawned pretty much as all the others have, quietly and leisurely.

The suit had miraculously dried out after a late night of unseasonable full-blast heating and we needed to pick a cake up from Edwin Avenue in Kate's absence this weekend. But it wasn't until after lunch that things began moving quickly.

We arrived at Henley Community Centre - the venue this time round for what every year I have found to be an extremely enjoyable and social date in the calendar - to a busy scene. Henley's football team were preparing for a game on the adjoining football pitch that would see them win the league if victorious. A wedding party were set up in another part of the hall, complete with maypole. The Vestey Ring was erected in the vestry of nearby St Peter's church and Mark Regan was present at the bar in anticipation of the 'fringe' meeting, this year a good natured debate on restoration of bellframes.

With the proximity of the church to this meeting and ringing not due to start until half an hour after its resumption, I was able to catch the beginning of this event and Mark's opening speech. I have been privileged to hear Mark speak many times, at dinners, National 12-Bell Striking Competitions and most recently at Rod Pipe's funeral and he speaks wonderfully. What I caught today, he was on typically good form, but sadly I was unable to listen to it all as duty - for one last day - called.

With the fringe meeting well attended and the Vestey Ring understandably attracting interest, the ringers could've been impractically spread, but actually it worked well until - with the service looming - the rope on the sixth broke, the third time in less than a week I had been present at such an occurrence. It left service-touch plans in tatters, but at least the mini-ring provided an opportunity to ring something, even it was only some rounds on six.

A nice service included a well-rung touch of Grandsire Caters in hand with a band of Christine Knight, Philip Gorrod, Mark Regan, Louis Suggett and conductor Stephen Pettman. It was a nice and different aspect for a Suffolk Guild AGM and hopefully one that will be repeated in the future. There is handbell talent in our Guild, it's a shame we don't use it more.

It became apparent that the local football team had been successful in their day's ambitions as we left the church for what proved to be another brilliant tea, as local residents hooted their horns and huddled together in celebration. Either that or they were unusually delighted to see us converge upon their community hall.

After an hour or so of mingling and catching up with friends familiar and new, the meeting itself got underway and was completed in under two hours. It may sound a long time, but when you consider it is THE one Guild meeting open to the entire membership and it was a typically useful get-together in amongst a day predominantly built around ringing and friendships then it doesn't feel so long.

The formalities were most notable personally of course for me handing over five years of Mastership to Jed Flatters - who due to a pre-arranged holiday was absent today - and taking on the role of Public Relations Officer from Bruce Wakefield. However, the highlight was undoubtedly the presentation of Life Honorary Membership to Trevor Hughes, Mary Garner and Gill Wakefield, three members deservedly recognised for all that they have done for the Guild. It's not just that between them they have given a huge number of years of membership. It is the fact that they have all gone beyond the call of duty, giving over their time and even homes to further the progression and recognition of our Guild. Congratulations to all three of them.

Other things to take note of in the meeting were that next year's AGM Day will be held in the South-West District at Edwardstone and Boxford on Saturday 14th April and an outline of this year's Guild Social in the North-West District on Saturday 30th July were revealed. Also, please take note of details of the Guild Striking Competitions in just three weeks time on Saturday 21st May. There has been some confusion recently over timings and location, but it was confirmed today that the venues are Nayland and nearby Stoke-by-Nayland, with the draws for the six-bell and eight-bell at 2pm and 6pm respectively. Although not my responsibility, I have got David Rothera and whoever he chooses to bring with him to judge and with the transition period likely to take up most of the time up until the day it is perhaps best to send me the entries until we can inform you otherwise. Please do put these dates in the diary and support them if you can.

With much gratitude to Brian Whiting for splicing the sixth rope, evening ringing was able to take place with pieces ranging from call-changes to eight-spliced Surprise Major as I carried out the duties in the new Ringing Master's understandable absence, followed by something like thirty ringers taking over the newly-managed Cross Keys down the road, another fine example of why this day shouldn't be avoided just because there is a meeting involved.

Earlier in the day there were further quarters rung to celebrate yesterday's big wedding at Southwold and Wissett and well done to Ed Rolph for ringing his first away from cover in the latter.

So that is that. When I first took over way back in April 2006 it seemed strange - though an immense honour - to think of myself as the Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, following in the footsteps of so many illustrious names in one of the leading positions of an organisation that I have grown up in. Now I have finished it feels strange not to be Master anymore! I haven't achieved everything I had hoped, but other aspects have greatly pleased me. For example, I had wanted to further the profile of ten-bell ringing in the Guild and although we finished second in last year's Ridgman Trophy, I feel I have failed in that respect. On the other hand, the rise in peal-ringing - something this Guild has a fine tradition of - has been wonderful, particularly with the Guild Peal Weeks and the activity of young ringers in the county see me feeling very satisfied with my five years, even if I can't be credited with all or any of it!

Without repeating my words in the Annual Report too much, thank you to you all, especially the various officers I have worked with, my parents, Kate and of course Ruthie for your support. I hope I've done well enough. If Jed gets even a fraction of the support I've received he'll have a superb platform to work from.

Finally, before I sign off as Master, it was mentioned at today's meeting and many times in recent weeks that this blog would be much missed as a source of communication, information and even entertainment (?!) if I were to stop it and personally I would be sad to finish it, so never fear, it will be continuing. I hope it can continue to be useful in amongst the irrelevant ramblings (not least today's!) that frequent this section.

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Friday 29th April 2011

I'm not a Royalist (nor a Republican come to that), but I was enthralled by today's well-publicised and historic events in London.

The wedding of the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey was a superb occasion with Mason watching fascinated with Ruthie and me as we picked up tips for our own nuptials next year. Trees in St Mary-the-Virgin on 11th August 2012? Now there's a thought...

And with billions watching the world over, it was also a wonderful advert for Britain and bellringing with the brilliant ringing at The Abbey featured heavily both as the soundtrack to the arrival and departure of the happy couple and in pictures as a camera filmed the bells from above. From all we heard of what surely was the most listened to ringing in history it was rung perfectly, presumably under tremendous pressure as a 1013 of Stedman Caters before and a peal of spliced Bristol and London No.3 Royal after were successfully completed. The band were no strangers either to me or to many of you reading this with Chris Rogers and David Brown having strong links to East Anglia and good friends of the Suffolk Guild. Well done to the entire band for representing ringing so marvellously.

GislinghamHere in Suffolk we did our bit too with quarters and peals scored across the county for the event, with a notable success at Gislingham where they rang the first peal on the bells since their augmentation and the first one since 1889. Well done particularly to Kay Lucas
on ringing her first peal in this historic 5040.

However, also particularly well done to Steven Rue who rang his first quarter in the success at The Norman Tower and Philippa Weyers who rang her first inside in the same attempt. Congratulations too to Lesley Wilson who rang her 700th quarter in the Cambridge Minor at Buxhall.

Whilst these were all notable achievements, it was the sheer scale of participation that was breathtaking within the county and indeed across the world. On top of all that was listed on the website and above, quarters were rung at Debenham and Tannington and general ringing took place at Walsham‑le‑Willows, Hepworth and Wattisfield. Whilst in Ipswich I also heard some very good ringing coming from St Margaret's too.

Sadly, the reason I was able to hear the ringing at this town centre eight was because we had failed to add a peal of Yorkshire Maximus at St Mary‑le‑Tower to the impressive list of peals and quarters locally, nationally and internationally (take a look at Campanophile, it's staggering!) as we finally collapsed into a heap after about two hours of truly atrocious ringing. David Potts was badly let down by a band that should've done a lot, lot better and it was only the occasion that led to us keeping it going so long. After a period of quite decent ringing that appeared from nowhere, another AWOL moment brought a sorry attempt for such a special occasion to an end.

However, we consoled ourselves with drinks in The Robert Ransome and I was personally determined not to dampen a spectacular day where I was even able to partake briefly in the street party atmosphere as I visited Lacey Street in the county town, where Radio Suffolk's Lesley Dolphin and Jon Wright - familiar from the time we spent with them on the Big Skill a couple of years ago - were based for the afternoon. Having passed stalls and bunting galore, I found myself sat in somebody's kitchen watching flypasts and Royal kisses on their TV before I was able to impart at least some of what has been and was going on in Suffolk bellringing to mark the big day.

What did threaten to - literally - dampen a tremendous day was the very late night breakdown of our washing machine. On the eve of the final AGM that I need to dress up for, my one and only suit was locked in a machine acting very mysteriously. Thankfully we managed to get the door open and the suit out, but it'll be a race against time to get it dry. Otherwise I shall be a drip literally as well as metaphorically!

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Thursday 28th April 2011

Breakthrough!

MonewdenWe haven't been able to attempt ringing a peal of thirty-five Surprise Minor methods much since we succeeded with the twenty-seven at the end of December. However, it has already followed a similar pattern to previous attempts with losses, but since we upped the number of methods at the turn of the year it has been the first 1440 consisting of all the new methods - especially the sixth-place Carlisle above methods of Morpeth, Canterbury, Whitley and Wooler - that has really tripped us up and we haven't got beyond it. Until today!

In fact, we got very nearly to the end of the fourth extent and the 2880 mark at Monewden this morning before a big collapse in amongst Netherseale, Lightfoot and Wearmouth saw us come out in completely the wrong order. It was simultaneously encouraging and disappointing, but that disappointment was replaced by amusement as the third rope broke whilst we rang down, so we wouldn't have got it anyway!

With time on our hands some of us retired to The Chequers at nearby Kettleburgh, but it had already felt like a long day as I'd been up since 6am in anticipation of a phone interview with Mark Murphy. As always it felt odd listening to the show prior to my appearance on it, but it was as usual a useful PR opportunity.

It was a bit brief so I didn't get the chance to mention everywhere that is ringing over the weekend, but there will be another chance on the Royal Wedding day itself as I will be interviewed prior to ringing in the peal at St Mary‑le‑Tower.

With nothing happening at Grundisburgh, Pete, Susanne and - later - Toby joined us for a few beers at The Cherry Tree in town where we found ourselves taking part in the weekly quiz as The Jig Bugs. Sadly we were no match for many of the other twenty teams, but we still had a great time!

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Wednesday 27th April 2011

I was a bit disappointed to hear less than fifty have signed up for tea for Saturday. Of course there are some who may be about for the meeting and/or ringing but aren't able to make it for tea but it does indicate a very sad level of apathy to an event we've really tried to make encompassing to as many people as possible. A light eight gives us all sorts of opportunities from those who want to ring call-changes to those who want to ring eight-spliced, modern facilities for a comfortable tea and meeting, play area for children and The Vestey Ring for people of all abilities and none on the end of a rope. If you haven't already, please do sign up for tea (even if you do it after tomorrow's deadline) and come and enjoy what promises to be a superb day.

Another day that promises to be enjoyable is the Royal Wedding on Friday. Recently I asked for people to let me know what ringing they are doing on and for the big day and I got a fantastic response wholly representative of all corners of Suffolk. From general ringing at Mendham and Sproughton to quarters at Bures to peals at All Saints, Sudbury, St May‑le‑Tower and most notable the first peal on the augmented bells of Gislingham, there is so much going on and means I can report plenty tomorrow morning when I shall be on Radio Suffolk at 6.20am on the phone. I am then due on Radio Suffolk again, talking to Lesley Dolphin on the day itself at just past 1.30pm prior to the peal at SMLT so listen out or listen again for both! Or not, depending on your preference! Meanwhile, thank you to all who have let me know what's happening, there is now a list on this website.

Today was already an odd day on an odd week. With Bank Holidays shortening the working week to three days, John Catt had decided to shut the office but with many schools coming back from their Easter holidays this week, us in the sales team were offered the chance to come in. With many schools having told us prior to breaking up that they would still be off yesterday, Peter, Maddie and I decided against coming in then. I am peal-ringing tomorrow so can't come in then, but I was able to join my colleagues today on the shortest intentional working week I've ever had.

It was also the only day that Ruthie needed to go down to Colchester Institute this week, but being a Wednesday she was there until late on concert duty, so having rung in Pete Faircloth's first quarter of Stedman Doubles at Pettistree (well done Pete!) and then partaken in the busy and very well attended practice that followed (complete with scrummy cakes made by Daphne - thanks Daphne!) I was making the trip into north Essex to rescue - I mean collect - my better half.

Meanwhile, Happy Birthday and well done to Josephine Beever who called her first quarter in two-call variations and along with the rest of the band was ringing her first in the variations in the success at Great Finborough. Well done to them all.

And apologies to Abby Antrobus who rang her first peal on five in the success at St Lawrence in Ipswich on Sunday but who I failed to congratulate. Well done Abby, hope it didn't upset you too much!

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Tuesday 26th April 2011

Following yesterday's ramble about my magazine article and how we should be using the Vestey Ring (amongst other means) to reach out to people we can't get anywhere near a church, I believe there are still people needed for manning our showpiece PR machine at the Suffolk Show on Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd June. Yes, I am aware that we will be doing this from the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich's own stand so perhaps doesn't ring true to my comments yesterday, but it still takes us (and the church for that matter) to people who wouldn't have been seen dead in church buildings. It will be easier to attract youngsters in particular to an open mini-ring then up a bell-tower and I shall be doing my bit on the Thursday. Please do help if you can, it'll only cost you half the normal price to get in and will still give you the chance to take in the show itself.

All being well it'll hopefully be a livelier and warmer day than today as my weather predictions from yesterday came to pass. It was still lovely and sunny, but a lot cooler, so - once I'd taken Mason back to his mother's - we spent most of the day indoors in the company of Clare who we went with to see the girl's Nan.

Oh and don't forget too to get your name for tea in for Saturday's spectacular!

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Easter Monday 25th April 2011

I was delighted to be asked to write for the latest edition of Awl a'huld recently. The topic was young ringers, but I decided to tie it in with recruitment. With such an important subject to bellringing I was hoping to elicit some response and indeed I have, particularly in regards to the comment about perhaps distancing ourselves from the church.

It was - interestingly enough - a comment originally made by a ringing member of the clergy at last year's Central Council meeting, a rare utterance of note in amongst hours of technical drudgery.

Like him then, I have made this comment more as food for thought rather than a statement of policy either of the Guild or even myself. Personally I feel the recruits we generally have the best chance with are those we can get from the church itself. They are already about in church on a Sunday morning and will tend to be more understanding of some of the quirks of our art and its wonderful characters and the dedication required to ringing. Sadly though - as alluded to in yesterday's blog - there is a decline in church numbers, particularly among youngsters.

There is a huge recruitment pool of potential ringers amongst non-churchgoing youngsters and their families. Many have no interest in the church and - from my experience at least - think that if they went bellringing they would become part of the church, something that puts them off. Therefore, should we not be playing more on the scientific, social and musical elements of bellringing than the links with the church? Given the choice between many bells - and therefore churches - falling silent because we restrict ourselves to churchgoers and having more bells being rung for service by non-churchgoers - with the added bonus of perhaps introducing people to church life who would never have set foot inside a church otherwise - I know which I would choose.

That's not to say we should sever our links with the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich that allows us to use their valuable bells and with whom I consider we have a superb relationship. That should remain as it is and strengthen, but we have to accept that to many not yet in our midst it is an off-putting institution until we can get them close enough to show them what a wonderful community it can be.

And anyway, the reality would be somewhere in between. We already have atheists and even people of other faiths ringing for church services and of course us ringers are already notorious for calling people to worship and then leaving as the service starts, whilst many others are dedicated churchgoers.

I personally feel we ought to be using handbells, the Vestey Ring and the mini-rings at places like The Folly, The Wolery and Mindinho to introduce new recruits to the wonderful aspects of ringing so that they get enthused about it before they can raise any concerns or preconceptions of going into a church. If it means more bells being rung well for Sunday service, it can't be a bad thing can it?

What could be considered a bad thing by many is me getting my legs out. Yes, after days of sweltering weather I decided to put my shorts on for the first time this year, something that is sure to finish the hot spell! If it is to end today, at least it held out for a spot of kite-flying in Elmhurst Park (thanks to Kate for that!) with the obligatory scenario of getting it stuck in a tree when Mason flew too close to them and for the first BBQ of 2011, round at Edwin Avenue where - once Ruthie had finished work - we three joined her mother, sister Clare and a lobster-like creature called Ron.

It was all very lazy I have to admit, so it was good to see others in the county achieving both in peals and quarters.

Well done to the band who rang their first blows in Baden Powell Delight Minor at the tower I learnt to ring in - Sproughton - David Howe who rang his first blows in Beverley Surprise Minor (and called it to boot) in the success at Holbrook and to Janet Sheldrake who rang her first Yorkshire inside in the peal at Bardwell.

The latter was to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Maurice Rose's first peal. I know, he doesn't look old enough does he? Congratulations Maurice!

And congratulations to Peter Doy on his retirement as tower captain at Reydon where a peal was rung to mark his significant contribution to one of Suffolk's greatest success stories. Enjoy your rest Peter!

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Easter Sunday 24th April 2011

There's been a well-documented decline in church numbers. Not at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge. It always has a big turnout when I've attended (and I assume when I've not attended too!) but with it being one of the biggest days (if not THE biggest day) in the church calendar today there was standing room only as Pete, Susanne, Mason, Ruthie and I came down the stairs after a morning's ringing that saw us ringing all eight bells until the rope on the third broke on Bruce!

It was a superb scene (the congregation, not that of Dr Wakefield stood surrounded by a length of broken rope), but wasn't the only success of the early part of the day as it was accompanied by Ruthie ringing in a successful quarter at Pettistree as the li'l chap and I wandered the church and its surroundings on another sweltering day.

So nice was it that once we'd finished church and parked the car up we wandered to Ruthie's grandparents where we'd been invited for Sunday lunch. Once again we were treated to superb hospitality in good company before we walked back home and I was then taken to Hollesley by Kate for what unfortunately turned out to be an unsuccessful quarter-peal attempt of ten-spliced Surprise Major (the standard-eight with Belfast and Ashtead) that had seen 20-25 minutes of good ringing before it collapsed.

Over the last couple of days, Philip Gorrod our Chairman and Jonathan Stevens our Honorary Technical Adviser have sent out emails that point us all in the direction of what should be a superb AGM day as I get used to the idea that this time next week I shan't be Guild Ringing Master. I really can't stress how much this is going to be a worthy and enjoyable day to attend. A lot of effort has gone into setting this up from the Vestey Ring to the fringe debate (Discussion: Repair or Replace) to a lovely tea and good ringing, all taking place in a lovely village with great facilities including a superb play area for kids small and big alike! Please make sure you book your tea with Jane Harper by Thursday!

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Easter Saturday 23rd April 2011

As much as Mason and I enjoyed yesterday's day in Rectory Road, we were able to fully appreciate the outdoors today as temperatures continue to resemble July and August rather than a holiday weekend that only in recent years has given us snow.

Being Easter weekend there was bound to be an egg hunt of course and this morning Elmhurst Park was hosting one that was hugely popular. I've never seen so many people in this usually tranquil setting. The set-up was that there were loads of pasta bows dotted around the park - find a pasta bow, present it to the stewards and receive a goody bag which included an Easter egg, chocolate and a picture to colour in for the children and a guide to Woodbridge and a calendar already four months old featuring pictures of the town, presumably for the adults!

It was a superbly organised event, with Mason and me finding a pasta bow almost instantly, allowing the li'l chap to enjoy the slide and swings and me to bump into Matt, an old HSBC work colleague and Richard Haugh who I went to school with and is now well-known to many Radio Suffolk listeners as one of the presenters on the station's Friday night music show. It was good to catch up with them both.

The rest of the day was spent taking in the sunshine both at home and in and around our town of residence as with Kate and Ron away today we were charged with walking Jude and Max.

Let's hope this is the start of a wonderful summer!

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Good Friday 22nd April 2011

After last night it was good to see that the world was still turning and the sun shining so I counted my blessings, picked up Mason and headed to The Wolery whilst Ruthie sensibly dedicated this gorgeous hot day to working on the many essays she has as her three-year course approaches it's ridiculously hectic climax.

It has been traditional in recent years for two or three peals to be attempted on David and Katharine's mini-ring on Good Friday, but Ruthie and I have been unable to join them the last couple of years due to visiting relatives and moving house. So - although my fiancée was unable to join me - I was delighted to attend again, especially as it allowed Mason to spend a day of fun with his contemporary Henry.

Odd as it may seem on such a brilliant day to spend it in a shed ringing peals, this is perhaps peal-ringing at its most civilised. Following the morning peal of Superlative Major (the 150th on the bells and David's 2750th - well done Mr Salter) that consisted of some very good and pleasant ringing, we broke for lunch at the other end of the garden, shared with the boys.

The second and final attempt of the day was of Winchenden Bob Triples, an extension of the Place Doubles with extra places on the front as the treble makes that slightly longer journey to the back and then to the lead again and dodges in 5-6 at the lead-end. Again there was good ringing, but sadly something had gone astray and bells were swapped over as we approached the end. Still, it had been a very enjoyable day in south Ipswich and thank you to the Salter's on their hospitality.

Once I'd dragged the li'l chap away, I met Ruthie at home and we were then off to get fed again, this time round the corner from home at Pete and Susanne's as we were introduced to their friend Eleanor who was down to visit them. After a brief walk along the nearby Deben a lovely evening of dining and wining was had before we settled Mason down, so thanks again guys!.

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Maundy Thursday 21st April 2011

Despite the infrequency with which I've been to Ipswich games in recent years due to finances, masterial duties and family commitments, I have actually been to hundreds of Town games home and away down the years. I've only walked out of a match early on two occasions prior to this evening and never as early as Chris, Ruthie and I left Portman Road during tonight's 5-1 defeat at home to Norwich.

The occasion started so well for us three, with a pint in the Red Lion round the corner from home and then in The Legends Bar in the unusual setting (for us) of the South Stand actually at the stadium. It was a bit of a turn-up compared to the bars behind the North Stand with carpet and seats and pictures such as Mick Mills clutching the UEFA Cup and the League trophy being paraded on the Cornhill appropriately reminding us that despite current pains history still shows ITFC to be the pride of Anglia.

Tonight it was bad though and after their fourth goal went in about 15-20 minutes before the end we cut our losses and got back to the Red Lion and then The Bell and Steelyard to console ourselves.

At least someone from Suffolk was achieving this evening (though ironically in the presence of the Guild's most prominent Norwich fan - well done Philip on both counts!) with much credit due to Alex Rolph on ringing her first quarter inside in the Bob Doubles at Halesworth. Well done Alex and keep it up!

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Wednesday 20th April 2011

PettistreeA stroll up to the post office to collect a parcel before work started was a pleasant beginning to a glorious day of sunshine that carried on through to half-eight when the light finally succumbed to darkness. By that point we were stood outside Pettistree church enjoying the warmer temperature, lighter evening and varied ringing as we were joined by learners from Brandeston and Rendham. It was good to see them, hopefully we’ll see them again soon.

Ruthie had this evening driven not just us but also Kate, Ron, Max and Jude, the latter two angled into her boot (not as bad as it sounds!) and so we partook in a jovial evening at The Greyhound afterwards before the return journey was made with equal amusement!

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Tuesday 19th April 2011

Having spent most of yesterday amongst the bustling crowds and boxed in by huge tall office blocks as Birmingham frantically began its working week and negotiated the busy byways of the A14 and M6 to get there and back, I found myself in a location that was at the other extreme today – Orford Ness. The only sounds on this spit of land merely joined to mainland Suffolk by the narrow Slaughden Quay were that of the waves lapping up along the ten miles or so of coastline at this point and the feet of John Catt employees walking on the ever-shifting shingle.

Orfordness LighthouseIt is actually all very messy, a snapshot of how humankind can wreck even the most beautiful of nature’s settings, but it gives the Ness a real eeriness I’d only ever seen from Orford Quay before and is a consequence of a history that makes it so fascinating. From the fishermen and smugglers of the centuries past (though smuggling is apparently still a big problem on this extremely isolated stretch) to the military research and training carried out here over two world wars and the Cold War and then to the attempts to conserve the rare environment on this side of the River Ore, our guide Duncan was able to give us an extensive, educated and extremely interesting insight into all that has shaped this landscape, both natural and manmade. And whilst the past enthralled us, the future saddened us slightly as it has just been confirmed that the iconic lighthouse is to be decommissioned and with the sea encroaching quickly – as it does in our part of the world – it is likely to be demolished sooner rather than later. The spectacular views of Orford church and castle from the Ness is something that will hopefully be with us for a lot longer though. It is a pity that with the quietness of the eight bells here that it is unlikely they are ever heard out across this restricted part of the coast as I imagine it would be a lovely experience.

The three hour tour was all part of a day out on the company that climaxed with a meal in The Jolly Sailor back over the water in the village as I enjoyed the local skate and a couple of pints of Explorer in this characteristic pub. It was a familiar but gratefully received gesture from our generous employers and an experience I shan’t forget. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone above a visit to the Bullring!

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Monday 18th April 2011

It seemed appropriate that Ruthie and I passed through the country lanes around Grundisburgh and Clopton where the life of Roderick W Pipe began as we travelled to and from the funeral that marked his passing.

We weren't the only ones present at St Martin's in Birmingham for this celebration of an extraordinary life of course, not by a long chalk. For a start my brother Chris joined us as we saw his new home in Cambridge for the first time.

St Martin in the BullringOnce there we were greeted by the sight of a large church of a who's-who of bellringing, all of whom witnessed an extremely moving service that reminded us that for all that he was an incredible ringer respected around the world, Rod was also a husband, father, grand-father, father-in-law, uncle and to most of us present a good friend who was frightening to drive with and be driven by, had a competitive streak even with his five and seven-year old grandsons and a wonderfully quirky sense of humour. Amusing stories abounded as George, David and Mary Pipe gave family tributes, whilst Mark Regan spoke wonderfully on behalf of the huge numbers of friends in the congregation.

Three leads of Bristol Max was rung on handbells by a band including his son and the hymns were sung with gusto from a service sheet fronted by a beaming Rod stood by the banks of the River Orwell.

We had a chance to speak with so many people from David, Cecelia, George and Di to Andrew Mills, Richard Grimmett, John Fielden and Ricky Shallcross and many others in between. Frankly if we'd spoken to everyone we had wanted we would've been there on the other side of Easter, but we had time to join many in the Joint Stock, a pub that I - and indeed Rod - frequented for hours after many lost and scored peals in Britain's second city. It was a fitting end to a fitting day for one of ringing's best ringers ever.He would've approved of Andy Green who today rang his first peal at the tower where RWP first handled a bell, Grundisburgh. Well done especially to Andy but also to Alex Tatlow who rang his first of Cambridge Surprise Major in an effort we actually caught a snippet of as we drove by on the way to the West Midlands.

Well done too to our Chairman who took a break from searching for my replacement to ring his first quarter on a mini-ring in the Stedman Triples at The Folly and also to Deborah Blumfield and Alex again who yesterday rang their first quarter of Little Bob Major in the success at The Norman Tower.

It was said today that the most appropriate legacy to Rod would be to continue his desire to see excellence, ideas and progress in ringing. It's good to see our members trying to do just that.

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Sunday 17th April 2011

The 2011 North-West District Quarter-Peal Week came to its completion today with a final two quarters of St Clements at Earl Stonham and Doubles at Old Newton taking the total - as far as I can make out - to twenty-eight, a phenomenal effort. Well done to all who achieved something over the last nine days, particularly the first quarter-pealers. However, huge credit has to go to Ruth Suggett on another fantastic event that has proved extremely useful for Guild members and for a really good cause in the shape of the MS Society. I hope much money has been made.

Good organisation and a useful step on the path of ringing progression from Mrs Suggett is not unusual, but what is is Grundisburgh getting a bigger Sunday morning attendance than St Mary‑le‑Tower but it happened today.

The latter was missing a number of people as the Easter holidays kicked in, but the former benefited greatly from Katie Hill and Andy Green being up from Bristol as we achieved some quite reasonable Yorkshire Royal and Stedman Caters on a beautiful sunny day.

So sunny in fact Mason and I spent most of the afternoon in Elmhurst Park as the li'l chap made new friends and I took in the sunshine. I could've spent a lot longer there, but quite apart from the fact that even on these lengthening spring days the sun goes in eventually, I was Ruthie and my representative at a quarter of eight-spliced Surprise Major at Hollesley.

It was a pretty decent effort and I even got to ring round the front!

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Saturday 16th April 2011

If you look on the St Martin's Guild website you can find a list of quarters and peals from around the world on all numbers dedicated to Rod Pipe. It is an incredible list that almost leaves you wondering how they're going to fit in anything else to The Ringing World edition that carries his obituary!

After this morning you can add a peal at Pettistree that was arranged especially to celebrate the life of this son of Suffolk and very enjoyable it was too.

There were lots of other footnotes today, not unexpected when you consider that the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continued today. Particular congratulations must go to Clare and Simon Veal and Neal Dodge who all rang their first quarter in the two successes at Great Barton today, but well done also to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of Plain Bob Triples in the 1260 at Ixworth, to those who rung their first silent and unconducted in the quarter of Stedman Doubles at Great Ashfield and to the band who rang their first blows of Francis Goodwill Delight Minor at Barrow. Congratulations to David Howe as well on ringing his 75th in that final effort.

Away from the NW, well done to Gordon Larkins on ringing his first of Grandsire in the attempt at Rumburgh. Well done to all who achieved something today.

Those of us who rang in the peal at Pettistree rewarded ourselves with a drink or two outside The Greyhound yards away before I fetched Mason from Sproughton as he accompanied his grandparents to ringing for a wedding there.

Once back home and we were out again, this time with Ruthie as we renewed the Saturday afternoon tradition of tea at Kate's! Thanks again Kate!

Meanwhile, I took a call from the churchwarden at All Saints, Sudbury where there is a peal attempt of Grandsire Triples there on the 29th April for the Royal Wedding. Having had the East Anglian Daily Times interview her about it, she was hoping she may be able to advertise it to Radio Suffolk too and thought I could use my contacts there. It got me thinking that perhaps we ought to be putting together our plans as ringers as a whole to our local BBC radio station, so please let me know what - if anything you're doing. I know we've got a peal attempt at St Mary‑le‑Tower and there's another one at Tostock, as well as general ringing at Dennington. But what else and where are ringers playing their part. It could be general ringing, a quarter or a peal, but let me know and I'll try and send something to the Beeb.

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Friday 15th April 2011

Almost as soon as I'd handed Mason back to Kara yesterday, I was picking him up again to take him to his Nanna and Grandad's, though I don't mind seeing the li'l chap again of course.

Other than that it was quite quiet on the home front, though elsewhere there is much more going on, most notably the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week where quarters of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pakenham, Plain Bob Doubles at Rickinghall Superior and Chichester Delight Minor at Tostock, with particular congratulations to Chris Davies on ringing his first quarter in the success at Rickinghall Superior.

It's not just in the NWQPW that there were achievements today as Robert Beavis rang his first peal on ten in the 5050 of spliced Caters at Stonham Aspal rung to celebrate Christine Hill's 50th birthday. Well done Robert and Happy Birthday Christine!

Talking of Mr Beavis, it was good to see him and Mr Tatlow getting involved in the hundred-year old Ringing World today. Most amusing...

On a more productive note, good luck to Richard George on his parachute jump tomorrow in aide of Hinderclay bells. Please do give generously if you can.

And finally, hopefully you will have received an email about ringing for St George's Day. Having seen responses to it and read it back it is a little confusing. However, I think the general gist of it is that there is hoped to be ringing for St George's Day - our patron saint until St Edmund succeeds in reclaiming his crown - though as the day itself falls over the Easter weekend it is hoped to take place on Monday 2nd May. Do let us know if you're planning on doing anything and what!

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Thursday 14th April 2011

GrundisburghDespite spending much time unexpectedly gutting fish for tea, I still managed to make it for a rare appearance at Grundisburgh practice this evening. There were only nine of us there but it was still a useful evening for Erin for whom there was much Bob Doubles and Bob Minor, all interspersed with Ipswich Minor, Stedman Triples, Cambridge and Bristol Major so plenty to keep us all interested!

However, it was a comment made by one of those present that got me thinking most of all. It was in regards the superb change-ringing on twenty-four handbells recently which they agreed was magnificent but made them feel their efforts were quite inadequate! I know how they feel as it’s a standard I know I’m not capable of, certainly on handbells which I struggle to keep the right way in rounds! It does indeed make me feel a little inadequate in ringing terms. But there are ringers that think what I do is extraordinary and makes them feel like their ability is not adequate. In regards the ringer who brought this up at Grundisburgh last night, there are ringers who feel what they do is superb and in turn makes them question their abilities. You hear it all the time from ringers all around the world.

But that’s not the way it should be. We should be inspired, not belittled by the things that those further up the ringing chain do. If you are mature learner at a rural five in the depths of the Suffolk countryside you may not reach the heights of spliced Surprise Maximus ringing, but you can be inspired by it to progress further. If you haven’t already, the chances are one day you will have non-ringers sit in on you ringing. It probably won’t matter how good or bad the piece is the chances are they will either applaud you or exclaim how wonderful it was whilst wondering out loud how you do it. That’s because all our members are already extraordinary for what they do on the end of a bell-rope. You may not feel like you are very good at it, but then you control this huge lump of metal and are able to place it at least generally in the right area from rounds onwards. So celebrate the fact that others are amazed at what you do and build on it.

Many have been doing that in Suffolk, but most notably this week the North-West has taken what they know and built on it with their Quarter-Peal Week. I couldn’t comment on a lot of the very recent ones yesterday as Campanophile was down when I checked it, but I missed a lot didn’t I! From Tuesday onwards there’s been Single Oxford Bob Minor at Buxhall, Double Bob Minor at Preston St Mary, Grandsire Doubles at Mildenhall, Doubles at Lakenheath and then again at Eriswell and finally – though not least – Bob Minor at Brandon. A fantastic effort so far, but particularly well done to David Howe on calling his first of Single Oxford Minor and then ringing his first blows in Double Bob Minor along with Richard Brewster.

Meanwhile beyond the North-West, well done to the band that rang their first in Norfolk Punch Bob Major at Southwold yesterday and congratulations to Pippa Moss on ringing her 450th in the weekly pre-practice quarter at Pettistree.

Keep being inspired!

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Wednesday 13th April 2011

King Edward IIToday was the day of Mason's big treat as Ruthie, Kate and Ron took him back to the Didcot Railway Centre, the scene of a very snowy and long day back in December. Because of the problems suffered that day, those stood shivering in biting conditions waiting for Thomas the Tank Engine had been given free family tickets to return.

Sadly I couldn't get the day off as the spare three days off hanging around that I'd normally use for such occasions had been swallowed up by John Catt closing for the three day week between Easter and the Royal Wedding. Though ironically they have now offered us the chance to go in that week as most schools are coming back from their hols then. It was an offer that came too late for me to join my son and fiancée in Oxfordshire, but I was at least able to join them for a meal in The Greyhound at Pettistree, though it meant missing the practice a few yards away.

The travellers excitedly recounted their day in words and photos whilst the li'l chap showed off his Engine Drivers hat as the ringers entered and took it all in as well. Thank you very much to Kate, Ron and Ruthie for looking after my boy and to Kate for generously feeding us.

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Tuesday 12th April 2011

Kate, Ruthie and Ron have got a big treat in store for Mason tomorrow, so unusually I picked up the li’l chap for a couple of days after work, taking in a trip to Tesco too which he enjoyed more than Ruthie!

HenleyMeanwhile, in the absence of much else going on in my day, it’s another good time to remind people (though surely you don’t need reminding now?!) of the Guild AGM day on Saturday 30th April in the accessible and lovely village of Henley just outside Ipswich. In a fit of boredom once I measured on Google Maps that the furthest anyone in the county would need to travel to this light eight is forty miles. It may seem like a long way and of course you’ve got the same distance back, but this is a county event, a once a year extravaganza. In my time as Master I’ve travelled more than that to get to Exning, pitched up in Beccles and driven in the dark with an unhappy toddler to Stradishall. Get a carload together and make a day of it. Pop into Ipswich first if you like that kind of thing, perhaps have a pub meal at the newly owned Cross Keys near the village. There’s lots lined up, many people have been and will be putting in a tremendous amount of time, effort and even money to make sure the day is a success and to make sure that there is a welcome for all ringers of all abilities. Please do support them, after all it is for YOU!

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Monday 11th April 2011

OtleyIt was good to see the peal rung at Otley for Geoff Pulford today. As the footnote points out, he was a loyal servant to this church sat overlooking glorious Suffolk countryside and of course to the Suffolk Guild as I so fondly remembered recently. I would’ve liked to have rung of course and to have attended his funeral here last Friday, but as with not being able to go to Birmingham this evening to ring in one of the many peals in memory of Rod Pipe, it is difficult to get more time off when I already have the day off for RWP’s funeral next Monday.


Talking of next Monday, if anyone from this way is attending the funeral at the Bullring – all the refreshments afterwards are also being held in the church – Ruthie, myself and probably my brother Chris are going so there may be space for a couple in the car if you want to share the long journey.

There will also be no practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower that day as it is Holy Week, but for now it was another busy practice with spliced Surprise Royal, London No.3, another well-struck and well-rung touch of Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Max squeezed in between Plain Hunt and Call-Changes for Sean. However, there is a lot of change to the normal routine for all of us in the next few weeks, with Bank Holidays, Royal Weddings and short weeks, so it is worth noting that David is intending for SMLT to practice on BOTH the Bank Holidays on 25th April (Easter Monday) and the 2nd May. However do check with us before undertaking the journey here. We will then have the SMLT AGM on Monday 9th May which means an 8.30 finish, something else to note!

St LawrenceHowever, it was the plans for ringing at St Lawrence on the usual Wednesday lunchtime slot in the aforementioned Holy Week that stirred some interesting debate during notices this evening. Some were vehemently against ringing bells in this sombre week, which is understandable and traditional. Others were of the view that – quite apart from St Lawrence being deconsecrated and therefore no longer an actual church – that bells should either be rung more or half-muffled, the thinking being that no one really notices the bells not ringing but they might notice them ringing more or sounding different.


I have to admit to not being fussed either way. I have and still do ring at towers and with ringers who go both ways – so to speak – so I can see both viewpoints, so it didn’t trouble me as I took advantage of Ruthie driving us in and partook in a couple of pints at The Cricketers, including a blackberry porter which was surprisingly pleasant!

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Sunday 10th April 2011

When Diana Pipe began organizing this afternoon’s peal at St Mary‑le‑Tower some time ago, it was as a celebratory peal for George’s birthday yesterday. Sadly since then events have altered things somewhat and understandably it took on a different purpose as we rung it to celebrate the extraordinary ringing life of his brother Rod. And there was very much a sense of us doing it for him as we toiled away on these heavy bells on a warm afternoon, the windows wide open and the fan on full-blast.

Apart from the satisfaction of having done our bit as much for George and Di as for Rod, we were rewarded with a feast of food and drink at Lansdowne Road once I’d picked up Mason from his Nanna and Granddad’s and Ruthie from home and Mr and Mrs Claxton had joined us. Better than just a pint in the pub afterwards!

It came after some really good morning ringing at SMLT, with a touch of Stedman Cinques that not only came round but was well rung and without fault! There is a real notion that progress is being made here.

Grundisburgh was a little lower on numbers but a bit livelier as Laura brought two-month-old Rosie who spent most of the time crying before her mother provided her with that which we couldn’t. Still, the bells here have rarely sounded so good!

Meanwhile, the North-West Quarter-Peal Week has got underway with quarters at Bardwell and Elveden (and Ixworth & Thornham Magna. Ed.). This year – as with last year – they are ringing in a good cause, this time the MS Society, inspired by a wonderful character in that part of the world, Sue Munford who sadly passed away last year. I hope it’s a hugely successful event.

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Saturday 9th April 2011

Having admitted to being surprised at how nothing had been rung in Suffolk to mark Rod Pipe's passing, I was glad to see a peal was rung to his memory at the most appropriate tower in the county, Grundisburgh where he began his extraordinary ringing career.

Sadly it clashed with the Pettistree mini-outing so I was unable to ring but our trip out was another thoroughly enjoyable occasion. Traditionally this is low on ringing and high on socialising and so it was today as we rang at three towers, drank in two pubs and went on a couple of walks in and around the A140.

As much as we enjoyed the ringing at Yaxley, Stoke Ash and Thornham Magna, it was the food and drink at The White Horse Inn of the middle village and at The Four Horseshoes in the latter village (Mason loved the well in the bar here!) and the walks around and about this beautiful area in glorious spring sunshine that were the real highlights of the day.

Thank you Mike for organising a wonderful day out.

Having given Susanne a lift out we returned to her's where her and Pete very generously fed and watered us, so thank you to them again!

Well done meanwhile to Alex Tatlow on ringing and calling his first peal of Doubles in the 5040 at Cretingham today and to Ruth Darton on ringing her first quarter inside in the success at Campsea Ashe which also saw Joanne Sharples ring her first on a tenor, showing what a superb and useful addition this new six is to local ringers. Well done all of you!

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Friday 8th April 2011

I was better today, but Ruthie was not well at all. Completely unconnected with my affliction and a lot longer lasting it left her with no voice and with her only duty at Colchester Institute on the final day of term before the Easter hols singing with the choir her break started early.

Today was Geoff Pulford's funeral, an occasion I would've liked to have been in attendance at. Sadly work pressures prevented me, but I was glad to see a couple of quarters rung to mark it, at Ashbocking and appropriately his home tower of Otley. Well done to Tig Sweet for ringing her first of Carlisle in the former.

Well done also to Carl Wilby and David Howe on ringing their first of Grandsire Triples in the success at Ixworth and Sally Mason for her first of Major in the Plain Bob at Rendham.

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Thursday 7th April 2011

‘Rung as a 60th birthday compliment to Mary Garner.’

That’s what the footnote to this evening’s peal at Henley read, but it could easily have had ‘Get well compliments to Richard Munnings’ tagged on the end as at about 4pm I was seriously contemplating dropping out of Mary’s birthday peal, though it would’ve been very reluctantly. I’d left off work slightly early, was suffering what you suffer when you reheat something to eat that shouldn’t reheat and then eat it and was wondering if I should go to Henley both on a practical and moral point of view. Could I last the best part of three hours? Should I, having left work early?

HenleyOnce some of the more disturbing aspects of such a sudden illness had occurred though, I felt much better and decided to go for it. Getting to this lovely part of the world in plenty of time and early evening spring sunshine, I felt vindicated by my decision and had a wander around the village. It highlighted what a perfect spot this is for the Guild AGM on Saturday 30th April. The community hall - which is where this year’s tea, fringe and main meetings are to be held - is just yards from the church, with a football field and modern play area in between. So if you have kids there is more than enough to keep them occupied here with nearby walks through the beautiful open countryside and a nice pub down the road to keep non-ringers happy. The hall itself you may remember if you attended the 2003 Guild Dinner here and has all the facilities you need – we just need people to fill it!

However, once the rest of the band began arriving it became apparent I’d missed an email informing us we were ringing LX Surprise Major, a method foreign to me! A quick inspection showed it to be Lincolnshire messed about and so we were on our way for what proved to be a pretty decent peal and would’ve been a lot more enjoyable if I hadn’t begun feeling unwell again during it. It was touch and go – if you’ll excuse the phrasing – but I held on, though I did find myself at one point searching for a nearby bucket or bin in case the worst did happen!

Mary very kindly offered to buy us all a drink in the reopened Cross Keys – the pub of choice for the AGM day – but I thought it sensible to return home, especially as Ruthie was feeling unwell with a different affliction. Thank goodness spring’s here.

Meanwhile, for those who might want to go and haven’t seen already, Rod Pipe’s funeral is to be held at 2.30pm on Monday 18th April at St Martins' in the Bullring in Birmingham, an event I can imagine will be incredibly well attended.

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Wednesday 6th April 2011

Although Rod Pipe was most famous for his achievements in Birmingham and ultimately spent the vast majority of his life there, he was very much a son of Suffolk, one of our most famous exports. He grew up here, learnt to ring here, his first conducting and composing was done here. He was a proud Ipswich Town fan and from the way he spoke of his home county loved it very much even though he obviously settled in the West Midlands. His father spent eleven years as Guild Secretary and was a huge character in the SGR up until his death thirty years ago. His brother George is of course still a leading figure in Suffolk ringing and has himself held down the Guild roles of Chairman and Master. RWP had a huge number of friends and acquaintances in Suffolk and there are a good number of our members who have either directly or indirectly benefited from his expertise and innovation.

So it seemed strange that five days after his death that an incredible number of peals and quarters had been rung in his memory all over the country and indeed the world and yet nothing in his homeland. Admittedly it came at a time when the significant birthdays of two of our most deserving servants were being celebrated and it wouldn’t be right to tag a footnote to him on the end of peals that have been long arranged to mark these happier events. And of course many people would’ve been in a similar situation to me that with work, children and other things there hasn’t been the opportunity to arrange and ring something suitable, but it just seemed a shame that we couldn’t have done something sooner when everything from peals of London Royal in Yorkshire to quarters of Minor in Kent have been rung to mark his sad passing.

Still, I was happy that we were able to ring tonight’s peal at The Wolery to his memory as I really wanted to show my appreciation for what he did for me. I am also in a peal at St Mary‑le‑Tower on Sunday afternoon that was originally arranged to mark George’s birthday but may well be rung in his brother’s memory, but I also had to turn down the opportunity to ring in one of the peals in Birmingham next Monday in celebration of Rod’s life so I was glad to get something under my and Suffolk’s belt.

Having reluctantly passed up the opportunity of cuppa after the peal I was straight down to Colchester to pick up Ruthie from a concert she had been running and had finished early. As much as she will be sad to leave the Institute, I think Gav and me will be glad that there’s not much more driving up and down the A12 to be done now!

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Tuesday 5th April 2011

Yesterday I reported on the new edition of Awl a’huld and hopefully you will have already/will shortly be reading another superb magazine. In there you will also have found/will find an advert for a very exciting day AGM day coming up on Saturday 30th April at Henley. There’s lot’s going on, including a discussion on Repair or Replace at the start of the afternoon which we are honoured to have the presence of Mark Regan, one of the best ringers in the country and an expert on these matters. I hope we can give him a good turnout to make it worth his while coming over from Worcester.

Today was largely a typically uneventful Tuesday, bar Derek getting stuck in the toilet at work and call from a learner from the South-West enquiring about the Tuesday night bell-handling courses at Sudbury, St Gregory on 12th and 26th of this month. If you can then please do support this brilliant initiative.

Meanwhile, well done to Tom Scase, Maggie Ross, Robert Beavis and Stephen Cheek on ringing their first peal of Little Bob, Peter Harper on his 75th for the Guild and Stephen Pettman on circling Grundisburgh for the tenth time, all in the peal today rung in aide of Rosemary Hill’s 18th birthday. Well done guys and Happy Birthday tomorrow Rosemary!

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Monday 4th April 2011

I was very happy today as Ruthie returned after a long and successful weekend in Glasgow with the Colchester Institute Symphonic Wind Orchestra. You can catch their golden pieces here and here!

Almost as soon as she was back we were then out again for St Mary‑le‑Tower practice. Unfortunately it was a poor one tonight as David was frustrated by people going wrong, not listening to their striking and not doing as they were told when they were being guided, as piece after piece collapsed in a heap. But you get that at almost any practice from time-to-time.

It was sign of how good the ringing was that the arrival of this year’s Suffolk Guild Annual Report was a true highlight of the evening, though it has to be said it has again been fantastically put together. Please do read the reports, and get yourself acquainted with all that has been happening, something that will hopefully help you feel integrated into our marvellous family of members.

I’ve also had a good chance over the last two or three days to read the brand new edition of Awl a’huld which again is a marvellous read and is also a great way to catch up with what’s going on. There’s lots of useful and entertaining articles and good pictures in there, particularly by Phoebe Ruff, a ten year old ringer at Sproughton who has given an interesting insight into what those considering taking our art up – especially youngsters – need to consider. It is predominantly aimed at those who are not yet ringers and so therefore a timely reminder that this magazine is not just for collecting dust in the ringing chamber. The reason so many copies are sent to each tower is so some can be distributed beyond ringing whilst also keeping a copy or two back for the ringer sitting out of a touch at practice night. Give one to the incumbent so he or she knows what’s happening, leave one in the church so that the congregation and visitors can take it in. I’ve even heard of it being left in doctor’s surgeries, a superb idea! Anywhere it can be read by non-ringers. Its purpose is as much about PR for the Guild as it is to interest our members.

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Sunday 3rd April 2011

Mother's Day and Ruthie's continued presence in Scotland saw a slightly different Sunday morning routine to normal.

St Mary‑le‑Tower - with a superb turnout saw some good twelve-bell ringing - and St Lawrence were the norm for the first Sunday of the month, but from there it was onto Sproughton within the earshot of St Margaret's bells and then to Ashcroft Road for Sunday lunch.

After a lovely afternoon with the folks we went off for another feed, this time round the corner from Sun Lane at Pete and Susanne's. No special gravy this time round, but thank you to them and Mum and Dad on some superb hospitality!

Whilst Mason and I were wining and dining at various locations, well done to Abby Antrobus on ringing her first peal of Yorkshire in the success at Grundisburgh this afternoon. Well done Abby!

But I have to save my biggest plaudits for my fiancée and the Colchester Institute Symphonic Wind Orchestra on a brilliant afternoon for them in Glasgow. They achieved a Gold award in this national competition, just short of the top Plantinum award, making their long trip very worthwhile. I'll be glad to see her again though!

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Saturday 2nd April 2011

I became a Catholic today!

Well, not quite. I think. Unless unexpected membership of the Guild of St Agatha, the Catholic Association of Bellringers during their ringing outing in Suffolk converts you.

As I've said many times before, one of the wonderful things about ringing is that you can join almost any ringers anywhere and join in and despite the fact that out of a group of about twenty I only knew Stephen Cheek, Paul and Anne Bray, Tom Sharpe and to an extent Chris Darvill, Mason and I had made a lot of new friends before we left their outing in our part of the world.

With Ruthie having a grand day out and extensive rehearsals in Glasgow prior to tomorrow's competition and the prospect of watching an endless loop of Thomas the Tank Engine DVD's for the third weekend running a numbing prospect, I enthusiastically joined my newest guild at their first tower of the day, Horham. Whilst the light-set trebles made life difficult here, the pictures on the wall reminded me of the active band that was here in the early 1990's when I started travelling Suffolk ringing. Whatever happened to promising young ringers like Michelle Chapman and Joanne Mills?

An opportunity to chat with Trevor and Julie Hughes followed as they let us in at Stradbroke and there was nearly a disaster at the next tower Framlingham as the li'l chaps' Red Bear went missing. Frantic searching ensued before he was found and we were allowed to make our way onto the Turk's Head in Hasketon for lunch, which was lively with six young kids (including Mason) bounding about the place!

We finished our superb day out with new-found friends at the familiar location of Grundisburgh and it seemed apt after yesterday's devastating news that we were here and Hasketon, the spiritual and ancestral home of the Pipes. It was also apt that Birmingham today won through their eliminator to reach the National Twelve-Bell Final, to be held in Leeds on Saturday 25th June. Even though it was on home turf at St Philip's Cathedral, the 92% score was staggering even by Brummie standards and achieved on what must have been a very emotional and tough day and was an appropriate tribute to Rod who has played such a leading role in making them the force they are in this competition.

Well done as well to the other eight teams who qualified from this eliminator and the ones held simultaneously at Coventry and Evesham, including the College Youths. No sign of the Cumberland's on that final list though...

Back in Suffolk, I left the very hospitable members of the Guild of St Agatha as they headed to Woodbridge (and then a quarter at Hasketon to remember their President Patrick Matthews who also passed away this week) and Mason and I joined the South-East District Practice at Orford. Sadly not too many others did as the li'l chap and I made up fifteen present. Most disappointing of all was the lack of members from the host tower and nearby Tunstall and indeed any of those who really would've benefited from a practice on a nice eight in a lovely location on a beautiful spring afternoon.

On this occasion though, there was good reason for many of the absences, most notably in relation to parties to mark the 60th birthdays of two of the most prominent and loyal members of the Suffolk Guild, aptly enough on the 88th birthday of the Guild itself. The first was in celebration of the birthday of Brian Whiting, former Guild Chairman, a composer renowned throughout the ringing world and someone Ruthie and I consider a dear friend. Following a peal at Offton (where better?) a get-together was held at The Sorrel Horse in Barham.

The other was for our former secretary and another good friend, Mary Garner, held at Thong Hall. In the ideal world, I would've loved to have gone to both, but in the end Kate, Mason and I were at Chris and Mary's with many, many others for a marvellous party. But Happy Birthday to both them and the Suffolk Guild!

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Friday 1st April 2011

I write this still in shock at the sudden and completely unexpected death this morning of Rod Pipe, a true legend of ringing and a good friend. Although he became most famous for his incredible feats – particularly in composing and conducting – in Birmingham, we in Suffolk should be proud of this Woodbridge boy who began his amazing ringing adventure in his homeland. Despite his abilities being far beyond all bar the most talented of ringers, he was incredibly welcoming to all newcomers on the Brummie ringing scene, but most of all to those who came from our part of the world. His love of Ipswich Town and the characters of his youth made me feel very much at home when I first arrived as a wide-eyed eighteen-year old in Britain’s second city, as indeed he did for my brother Chris. Perhaps appropriately, he was present at Saturday’s Ringing World Centenary Celebrations – apparently as perky and jovial as ever – to watch the current generation of bellringing superstars produce a phenomenal display of change-ringing on twenty-four handbells. Appropriate because he was one of the inspirations for these ringers – particularly his son David of course - and through his composing and conducting arguably helped pave the way for the amazing achievements of the modern day ringing stars. His legacy of course will live on in David and it would seem his grandson Henry, but our – and I’m sure your – thoughts go out to all the Pipe family, with particular thoughts here in Suffolk to George and Di. I feel honoured to have known him and rung with him.

Such are modern communications and the widespread esteem in which Rod was held, news of his death was all across Facebook and quarters and peals rung to his memory across the country and indeed the world as ringers expressed their shock and respect, but it still didn't feel real, especially as it was already quite a surreal day for me anyway as I found myself at Colchester Institute before seven this morning to drop off Ruthie for her huge coach journey to Glasgow with the Symphonic Wind Orchestra. It felt very odd being at the Institute at the beginning of the day rather than right at the end, but not as odd as Ruthie not being about the house this evening. Still, Mason and I had a conversation with her over the phone once her ten hour journey was complete.

For the li'l chap and me it was a lads night in bar a visit from Ruthie's sister Clare, but elsewhere in the county others were achieving, most notably Sally Mason who rang her first quarter of Grandsire Triples in the success at Rendham. As Rod would've said, well done gal!

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Thursday 31st March 2011

With Grundisburgh practice once again cancelled it was another night in, but this time with the unexpected but pleasant visit of my brother Chris who had been in Ipswich moving some of his stuff into storage. He ended up spending the night and so a relatively boozy evening ensued, though not too boozy as we all have a very early start in the morning.

HenleyMeanwhile, as we leave March and enter April, it is perhaps a timely moment to reiterate that we are less than a month from the Guild AGM, this year being held at Henley on Saturday 30th April. It will of course be the end of my five-year Mastership, so perhaps one good reason to attend would be to make sure I’m going! But after five-years travelling across the county from Stradishall to Beccles, Exning to Harkstead and what seems like everywhere in between, it would be great to see as many of the members I have come across make the relatively easy journey to this lovely little eight. Whilst the meeting lends it’s name to the day’s activities, there’s so much more to it than that and it’s a fantastic opportunity to make new friends and meet up with familiar faces and to either help or take advantage of the help on offer, or even just to soak up what will hopefully be a lovely atmosphere in good weather in a typically rural Suffolk location. Philip and I in particular have been keen to make the day more of an entertaining and social event rather than a formal business meeting and as with the other districts before them, the South-East District have not let us down on that front. There’s an extremely interesting fringe meeting lined up, The Vestey Ring is booked to appear, there’s open ringing that I will make sure accommodates everyone from call-change ringers to Surprise Major ringers, what promises to be a superb tea (maybe we need some of Sean’s New York Cheesecake?!) and of course drinking afterwards.

Even the meeting will hold a couple of surprises. I hope to reveal the judges for the Guild Striking Competitions and there is the small matter of who replaces me, as it is actually an unresolved issue as I write. It is a shame that the person that we had identified has pulled out of the reckoning, but totally understandable. It has meant a lot of behind the scenes discussions and ‘brainstorming sessions’ as we try to identify possibilities, but we would genuinely welcome any suggestions and/or – even better – nominations. I hope that I have shown that almost anyone can do this job. You don’t have to blog, you don’t have to travel or be a Surprise Maximus ringer obsessed with peals. In fact we would more likely welcome someone in a completely different mould to me! Either way, even I don’t know who will replace me – we may have to wait until 30th April!

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Wednesday 30th March 2011

The sight of Geoff Pulford and Jimmy Wightman at South-East District and Guild events always brought a smile to my face as these two old boys from Otley seemed as much a part of a Suffolk ringing event as the sound of bells floating on a summer’s breeze over fields and farms. Jimmy is still a regular around the place, but sadly Geoff stopped coming along a while ago, I believe due to his health, so I haven’t had the joy of seeing him and having a chat about the footy for some time. However, I was still sad to hear of his recent death today.

As our beautiful county begins to bloom, one of the first things I notice is turning up to Pettistree for quarters in broad daylight and so it was today, even on a cloudy and wet evening like it was on this occasion. This week I was accompanied by Ruthie as we were going for spliced-Surprise Minor again, a re-run of a recent attempt. The result was much the same unfortunately and it came crashing to a disappointing halt about ten or fifteen minutes in. We were keen to get something today though as it was the 40th birthday of Paul Norris, a former ringer here, still a ‘dear’ friend of the band and someone with whom Pippa, Mary and Mike had been quarter-pealing with in the Midlands over this last weekend. With Kate needing to leave at seven to collect a body though, it left us with just over half-an-hour to squeeze one in.

Some of my most enjoyable ringing has been done when a band has been under pressure time-wise and been ringing something well within their capabilities. At the Bullring on a Sunday morning (the ring of sixteen, not the neighbouring shopping centre!) we often had a few minutes to fit in the service touch. Usually it was three-leads of Orion Surprise Maximus, sometimes Stedman Cinques, but it would always finish bang on when the second hand brought the time to eleven. The ringing would be fast but fantastic.

On another occasion way back in November 2006 I rang a peal of Grandsire Cinques at Luton, St Mary with the Southwell & Nottingham Diocesan Guild. It was the second peal of the day after one at High Wycombe earlier in the morning and after a carload being driven by someone with the initials RJM got lost in this fine Bedfordshire town, we were running a bit late. This was bad enough with sizeable journeys back for most, but was compounded by the fact that with a concert in the church directly afterwards, we were left with three hours and ten minutes to ring a peal on a set of bells that usually took between 3hrs20-25mins to ring a twelve-bell peal on. We managed it – albeit one minute over – with some fast but again really enjoyable, good ringing.

And this evening, we did a similar job. We rang Doubles – well within the band’s capabilities – quickly but actually quite well. It flowed along at about 2hrs20 speed and whilst even I wouldn’t want to ring that fast all the time, it was a contrast to the slow manner many bells in Suffolk are traditionally rung with all kinds of unevenness allowed to creep in. There was no time for unevenness in this quarter! Happy Birthday Paul!

Kate got off to work, but – after another varied practice that included trying out another new, unnamed method – was back with Ron to meet us in The Greyhound post-practice. A jovial evening followed with one local in particular amusingly tipsy, before Kate invited Ron, Ruthie and myself back to her's for kebab.

Meanwhile, good news! We have judges for the Guild Striking Competitions at Nayland and Stoke-by-Nayland on Saturday 21st May, though I’m not planning on revealing who they are until the Guild AGM on Saturday 30th April at Henley, hopefully another reason to come to the Guild’s showpiece event. I shan’t be Ringing Master by the competitions, but even though last year I didn’t get judges until the week before, I couldn’t reasonably expect my successor to find judges three weeks after becoming Master! With it being in the South-West District it would be great to get teams from each district entering in both competitions. Hopefully, it’ll be one of those fondly remembered events with the sound of bells floating on a summer’s breeze…

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Tuesday 29th March 2011

After losing a few hours sleep in the early hours of this morning I went into work quite dopey (don’t say it!), not helped by meetings most of the morning. I was therefore quite relieved that it was Tuesday and there was nothing to do and nowhere to go other than in front of the TV catching the England friendly against Ghana. Mason was apparently fine today too, just very tired. I know how that feels…

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Monday 28th March 2011

The end of one campaign last week of course means the beginning of a new one this week – no rest for the wicked! I say no rest, but as is usual with any sales campaign we have a couple of days at the start to prepare ourselves, get facts and figure together, all that kind of stuff which is rather like the calm before the storm. We have a long period of selling ahead of us on this one taking us right into the summer, so with the sunny weather we’re currently having Jonathan thought it might be good for us to get out of the office and take advantage of the nearby River Deben.

So armed with £20 of John Catt’s money burning our pockets we walked a fair length of the river to The Waterfront Café for hot drinks and cake, literally in the shadow of the famous Tide Mill before returning to the office, fresh and brimming with ideas.

Preparation is as vital in ringing too and there perhaps wasn’t enough of that at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening as quite a few touches collapsed in a heap, including London Royal which really ought to be at the forefront of people’s mind at the moment. And Little Bob! Why is it that no matter how complicated the method, it is when the method is changed to Little Bob to bring it round that everything collapses! It’s the lead-end at the backstroke, go down when you’re an even place-bell (no matter what way you were going in the previous method) and up if you’re an odd place-bell and dodge in the next position! However, although we were again relatively short (though there were still twenty present) it was another useful evening.

It wasn’t the end of my night however, though I didn’t realise it. With midnight approaching, tea consumed and thoughts of bed in mind, I received a call from Kara. Mason was complaining that his eyes hurt and they were looking red and almost swollen. NHS Direct suggested he go to A&E and with his mother having to stay with his little sister it was down to me to collect him (having only dropped him off this morning!) and take him to Ipswich Hospital. By the time we got there he had stopped complaining about his eyes hurting and they were fine, but of course it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even in the middle of the night the stretched staff were busy, but though again there was a lot of waiting around the doctors and nurses were superb. The li’l chap was given the all-clear and finally returned to his mother just after 2am, but I was very tired!

Also waiting for the all-clear is ringing at Ufford which has been stopped whilst work is carried out to the tower, so please don’t turn up there on a Tuesday night expecting a ring!

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Sunday 27th March 2011

A couple of years ago, Ruthie and I were honoured to be in attendance at Philip Saddleton and Anthea Edwards' wedding in Birmingham when the first ever public performance of change-ringing on twenty bells was achieved. It was spine-tingling stuff and although it's not the same viewing it over a computer, we got that same feeling as we viewed some very good You Tube footage of yesterday's first ever public performance of change-ringing on twenty-four handbells, again featuring many ringers I (and indeed we) have had the great fortune to ring with, including an Ipswich and a Naaaaridge fan!

It was phenomenal stuff, essential viewing and one of the many images and films filtering through today from what was apparently a superb day yesterday, even if the ironic protests (how many policeman's jobs could've been saved with the money spent on policing the huge demonstrations?) made getting about to the numerous events a lot more difficult.

Tales from those who went - including my parents - were a big part of this morning's conversations at St Mary‑le‑Tower where our ringing was rather more mundane than that produced by Messrs Earis, Pipe, Wilby, Eccleston (who only the day before had been ringing a handbell peal with our very own Louis Suggett) and Brown yesterday, we were still able to produce some very good ringing on half the numbers (all that was available to us of course!) with the help of Stephen and Janet Clarke who were up visiting family in the area.

They were at Grundisburgh too and although we didn't have quite enough to ring all twelve we were still able to ring some reasonable Grandsire Caters, this time without embarrassing handling issues!

In complete contrast to the day that many ringers had yesterday though, things quietened down in the afternoon with no peals or long drawn-out meals or even a quarter so the highlight was a second trip of the weekend to the little play area opposite St John's church. With British Summer Time having started though, the lighter evening brought its usual uplift to the soul, along with videos of top-class and extraordinary ringing!

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Saturday 26th March 2011

Ruth got married today.

Not mine of course, but rather Ruth who a few years ago learned to ring at St Mary‑le‑Tower, the venue for her big day today. Having left us to go to university in Canterbury she has subsequently given up our fine art, but we thought it would be a nice gesture to ring the bells for free, incorporating ringers from Sproughton where she also went regularly and so the front eight rang out joyfully to see them on their way.

Prior to this, I accompanied my Ruthie whilst she ticked off one of the many, many jobs to be done for our own wedding on August 11th next year as she got measured up for her dress at Just A Day before I dropped her off at Ipswich Railway Station. She needed to be in Colchester this afternoon for rehearsals prior to what proved to be a fantastic and well-received concert in front of a big crowd at the Lion Walk Church this evening.

Having returned to Woodbridge and left Mason in the trusty care of his Godmother Kala and her husband Nick, I was able to meet her there and watch for myself Ruthie's hugely successful Symphonic Wind Orchestra on their last big performance before next weekend's competition in Glasgow. Judging by tonight they should be just fine!

The only downside to this was that we were unable to attend today's Ringing World Centenary Celebrations in London, though cost and the huge protests (and the inevitable trouble that accompanied them) were factors too. Whilst the actual birthday was on Thursday, today's events were the main focus with exhibitions, tours, mini-rings, open ringing, competitions and the much anticipated change-ringing on twenty-four handbells that should make people realise that the leap from six to eight and even eight to twelve isn't actually that great! Hopefully everyone who went down had a great day though.

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Friday 25th March 2011

Today was the last day of selling on The John Catt Guide to International Schools, one of two international publications we produce and although we don't spend as long as we do on the other international publication (the mammoth IB World Schools Yearbook) it has seemed a long one with lots of coming in early and stopping in late. This is hard enough on its own, but almost the moment we started this year's campaign, disaster has befallen countries around the globe, having a major impact on communications with schools in the affected areas. There's been uprisings in most of the Arab world, floods in Australia, earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan (complete with tsunami of course) and war in Libya, so we're quite relieved to be done with it all in all. Expect to see the world settle down now...

Our last day today was a late shift and so Kara and I repeated the same process as last Friday as Mason got to see where I work again before we settled down for a typically quiet end of week evening in.

Not so everywhere, most notably with the gang who rang a quarter of Worcester Delight Minor at Tostock today, the first time for any of them. Top work guys!

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Thursday 24th March 2011

Ruthie and I had a hilarious evening at the Swinburne Hall at Colchester Institute tonight, all in aid of the Symphonic Wind Orchestra’s forthcoming trip to Glasgow for which they are still raising money. This event was not a grand musical performance on this occasion, but rather an entertaining and at times amusingly unruly quiz titled University Challenged based on the long-running and successful TV version that has featured such personalities as presenter, actor and comedian Stephen Fry, BBC journalist John Simpson and some ringer currently residing in Hong Kong called Smith. No such star names this time, but rather a staff and five other teams from the various courses run at the Institute battled it out in two semi-finals of three to reach a final starring the last two standing. Or sitting in this case.

Classical Music fell badly at the first hurdle much to my fiancée’s frustration as she had turned down the chance to sit on a team that promptly got answers wrong that she found quite simple! Never mind! Instead, Musical Theatre won through to face the staff, with the students winning through on a fantastic night out that will have greatly swelled the coffers for the trip! We even won a couple of prizes in the raffle, though by the time our tickets were drawn out we were ‘reduced’ to a sparkly notepad and a signed picture of Charles Hine, the ‘Head of Performance Studies’, SWO conductor and this evening’s quizmaster. Best not to ask.

It was perhaps appropriate that this tenuous link to TV occurred a few hours after I had received – as part of a nationwide mass mail-out – an email from the producers of John Bishop’s Britain, an entertainment show on the BBC presented by the scouse comedian who lends his name to the show. I’ll be honest and admit I’ve never watched the show, but it is apparently a mixture of sketches, stand-up and real-life stories that focus on a different topic each week. British hobbies is to be the topic on one show in the next series and the ringing producer who sent the email is keen to get bellringing involved, so is looking for ringers with amusing stories to tell for the show. Not having watched the first series I don’t know how it works at all.

On a slightly more down-to-earth but very exciting and happy note meanwhile, news has come through that the project to work on the bells and tower at Helmingham has this week received a £50,000 grant from the Lottery Fund meaning they are now ‘just’ £17,000 short of their target. It is tremendous news and a huge step forward to seeing these historic bells ringing again soon.

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Wednesday 23rd March 2011

The early shifts at work can be both a blessing and a curse, which was perfectly displayed today.

As always, the 6am clock-in meant a lunchtime finish which allowed me to wander the country lanes around Bob Champkins’ Garage as I awaited news of my car - in for its MOT – on a beautiful sunny spring day. Once there I was then taken by Bob to Bridge Garage in Charsfield (where Gav had been tested successfully) on a delightful journey through Bredfield and Dallinghoo with rural Suffolk looking at its finest before I returned to Bob’s to tie up some paperwork and have a chat with Clare and Kev’s former lodgers, bridesmaid Christal and her fiancé (Kev’s cousin if you’re keeping up with this!) Shane who were there on account of Bob and Roz being her parents. Got that?

It was all very pleasant and of course not possible on a usual workday and what is more, even with all this I was still able to be the first one at St Mary‑le‑Tower for this evening’s monthly peal of Surprise Major on the front eight. Normally the five o’clock finish at John Catt makes meeting up for these peals difficult, but no such problems today. However, the downside of the dawn start began kicking in during the peal as I have to admit my brain was a bit dozy this evening.

It kept going for us to score a very reasonable peal, with much credit due to David on calling it flawlessly – well done David! And thankfully it woke up enough to get me to Colchester Institute to pick up Ruthie and then get us both back safely for a very late tea. I was shattered by the time I went to bed though, relieved that we shan’t have to be in that early again for a few months! Talking of Ruthie and her music, if you’re not down in London for The Ringing World centenary celebrations, you might want to consider going down to Lion Walk in Colchester on Saturday evening where Ruthie will be performing with her world famous Symphonic Wind Orchestra. Or even popping in on the way back from the day’s events…

Pettistree Quarter Peal BandMr Potts wasn’t the only one succeeding in the county today. Indeed he wasn’t the only one called David succeeding in the conductors stakes! Well done to Mr Howe on calling his first quarter of Plain Bob Doubles at Preston St Mary. The biggest congratulations of the day though are surely due to Bill Lloyd who rang his first quarter at Pettistree this evening. Having seen Bill from scratch I know how well he has done to get to this point and he looks like being a useful member of our band in the future. Keep it up Bill!

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Tuesday 22nd March 2011

Ruthie doesn't have anything to go into Colchester for on a Tuesday and so today's early shift was another nice opportunity to spend time with my fiancée, this time without the need for shifting her sister’s furniture. We still took the chance to see family though as we popped into to see her Nan on another interesting and laid back afternoon in the company of her and her one-eyed cat before the inevitable torture of Tesco.

A long day was finished off with a short trip to Bob’s next door where we were joined by Paul, another one of the neighbours in the mini-community that is our short row of houses. I was ready for bed though!

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Monday 21st March 2011

Back in the day when we most recently entered an Ipswich band in the National 12-Bell Striking Contest, we would regularly have a Sunday evening practice. They were very useful, but sadly once we dropped out the enthusiasm waned and the hour-and-a-half practices stopped.

Now David has resurrected the Sunday evening practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower every other month, specifically for the method of the month, which perversely runs over two months. At the moment that is London Surprise Royal (No.3) and although I couldn't make it due to my pre-booked efforts at Hollesley, there was such a practice last night.

However, at the twelve-bell practices a few years back I found that the attendance at the normal practice the following evening was considerably lower and so it was tonight. It is understandable, especially as so many of those that come in come from tremendous distances and so asking them to do it two evenings running can often be a big ask especially with current fuel prices, but it's a shame.

That said, we still got fourteen, were still able to ring an abundance of stuff (fitting plenty of Plain Hunt in for Sean who did very well with that) and although our first attempt of London went the same way as three-spliced Surprise Royal and collapsed in a heap, the evening's ringing got better and better, culminating in a very decent few leads of the method of the moment and then some nice rounds on twelve with Sean trying his luck round the back end, again to good effect.

AshbockingIt was an evening of progress elsewhere too, particularly at Ashbocking where George Salter rang his first quarter inside. Well done George!


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Sunday 20th March 2011

Today was a strange mixture of success and failure from an unexpected quarter-peal success to a lost peal attempt to Mr Pettman's attempts to handle a bell.

Stephen's bizarre flapping with the third as he tried to ring it as the treble to Grandsire Caters at Grundisburgh came at morning ringing, though even on inspection upstairs no one could quite work out what had happened.

The peal attempt was our first for some time of the thirty-five Surprise Minor and despite our familiarity with Brandeston bells and the presence of David Salter (who is quite experienced in these matters!) we couldn't prevent a lost peal and then quarter attempt, though the latter was down to a complete mind-blank as I forgot the name of that big town a few miles the other end of Ipswich Road, as rustiness in this genre proved fatal!

Having picked up Mason from his Nanna and Grandad's and put a sleepy boy to bed under Ruthie's care, I was then out again to Hollesley for the unexpected quarter success. Not that I was going there thinking that we were going to lose it, though the fact that it was Belfast meant the odds were stacked against us more than on other occasions. But after two dismal attempts on what fast seemed like a useful evening of practice, we decided to see how far we could get and then promptly scored it in quite reasonable fashion!

After some decent ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning, the day was finished off with one last success as my better half produced a very tasty apple crumble to reconfirm herself alongside Claire Monk as a crumble queen!

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Saturday 19th March 2011

Not every Saturday has to be busy, though my preference is to be doing something. It was nice today however to do nothing more than wander down Elmhurst Park with Mason and Ruthie on a beautiful sunny day.

Ruthie was later whisked away by Kate to Great Bromley in Essex to sing in a concert where she also bumped into a surprised Gerald Rouse, one of our regulars at St Mary‑le‑Tower!

Meanwhile, yesterday was a busy day for ringing in the county, including another Ringing World centenary peal to join those rung already at Palgrave and Leiston. It's good to see Suffolk doing its bit, but away from here it was very well done to Alex Tatlow and Andrea Alderton on respectively calling and ringing a quarter of Stedman for the first time in the success at Tostock and to Podge, Robert, Reginald, Richard and Robert and Jenny Scase on ringing their first of College Exercise Treble Bob Minor in the quarter at Earl Stonham.

Also happy birthday to Gill and Lesley!

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Friday 18th March 2011

Gav my car has served me well and for his age keeps going against all preconceptions of some. Since I bought him five years ago he's done 80,000 miles and has safely taken Mason, Ruthie and myself all over the place including to Somerset, Devon, Birmingham, Wales and Newcastle amongst others and not forgetting getting me about Suffolk for my duties as Guild Ringing Master. And all with relatively little trouble.

Predictably though, when he comes out of his MOT there is normally a fairly sizable list of things that need doing to get him roadworthy. So it was today as I left him in Bob Champkin's reliable hands. So it's back again next week to get the list sorted.

With my car being a fifteen minute walk away, me being on a late shift, Ruthie travelling back from Colchester and Kara heading to work this evening, it was necessary for the li'l chap to be dropped off at John Catt this evening before we both made the walk to his Uncle Bob and Aunty Roz's to pick Gav up and then settled down to another worthy but fairly dull evening of Comic Relief.

Meanwhile, not an impressive response from Fynn Valley Golf Club after their lengthy dinner service last week. Not great customer service either at the time or in their responses since, so certainly not going back there!

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Thursday 17th March 2011

St Patrick’s Day, but not a drop of alcohol passed my lips, Guinness or otherwise as I was on cheerleading duties. For it is competition time at Colchester Institute – at least for the talented musicians there – and more specifically this evening was the woodwind competition, so Ruthie was in action. Whilst the soloists were competing for The John Myatt Cup, Ruthie was in her brilliantly named Quartissimo and the flute choir competing for the Brooks Trophy for the ensemble section. Whilst sadly neither was able to pick up the trophy, it was a useful evening in these musicians’ education and my fiancée was still very happy to see her friends Ben Hill and those in the clarinet choir claim the prizes. It was a long evening, especially after another early start at work, but nonetheless a very enjoyable night.

In ringing related issues, a last minute plea on behalf of Jonathan Stevens who has done – and continues to do – sterling work on behalf of not only the Guild but its steeple keepers and belfry workers, offering support, guidance and advice. In recognition of their hard work and support though, he has set-up a Steeple Keepers Bring-and-Share Supper (tomorrow) at the lovely – and extremely central – Stowupland Church Hall. However, the response has been extremely disappointing, so I would urge steeple keepers and others involved in the maintenance of their bells to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to socialise and exchange tips with other steeple keepers. There’s no catch, just a useful chance to share the extraordinary knowledge that we have amongst our steeple keepers and BAC officers in an extremely informal setting.

On a more positive note – sort of – the report of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 has now also appeared on Campanophile with a picture of Theberton church accompanying it, a fine example of the beautiful rural quaintness amongst us.

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Wednesday 16th March 2011

We had the best and worst elements of Pettistree this evening. As usual the ringing was good and varied, even during the quarter attempt of eight-spliced Surprise Minor lost after three attempts before the practice. But having recently felt that spring was on its way with milder weather and daffodils and blossom coming out we have been plunged back into cold temperatures the last couple of days and we really felt it in the church that is such a pleasant benefit during the summer!

SouthwoldThat combined with having had no tea and me feeling the effects of another couple of days of early shifts – and another one tomorrow – we reluctantly left early, whilst at Southwold they stuck it out to the end to enable Katie Wright to ring her first quarter of Bristol. Well done Katie!


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Tuesday 15th March 2011

A change in their circumstances means that Ruthie’s sister and brother-in-law Clare and Kev are moving out of their abode in Felixstowe, whilst Clare completes training on a new career. As I had worked an early this morning I was available to help Ruthie to help them move their stuff into storage, a task we were rewarded for with tea and computer games!

It was all a welcome diversion from another heavy home defeat for the Tractor Boys as another season limps to a close. Hope you got enough at Debenham Robert!

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Monday 14th March 2011

I finally whacked off a report on Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 to the usual outlets of The Ringing World, Campanophile and the website today. It's taken a while, partly through being a bit deflated about the end result of SGPW11, but also through a heavy workload and working through the stats of all five Guild Peal Weeks since I reintroduced them back in 2007. It was interesting stuff!

As was St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening once we'd got started. Whilst George and Sean had been up the tower since just after seven, a substantial crowd were gathered outside unaware that people were already in the ringing chamber. It was only once I'd nipped to Church House, saw the belfry lights on and climbed the tower that I realised the situation. Still, through the ingenious method of ringing bells - cheaper and quicker then text messages - they all became aware of our presence and the basis of another decent attendance came pouring in.

Despite the late start David somehow managed to cram even more in than last week and we managed Spliced Surprise Royal, London Royal and Cambridge Max, all interspersed with rounds and call-changes on eight, ten and twelve for Sean and a good course of Little Bob Max to finish.

Meanwhile, following the success of George's course last Saturday, I hope learners are primed to attend the South-West's handling course at St Gregory in Sudbury this Saturday. These events really are aimed at the learners and improvers to help them, there's no point in them being shy about it. Go along and help us to help you!

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Sunday 13th March 2011

I’m not really one to complain or get too hot under the collar about things. I’m very much of the opinion that things are not going to go right all the time and so long as all concerned are trying 100% then I can’t moan. However, I think I shall after this afternoon’s St Mary‑le‑Tower Dinner at Fynn Valley Golf Club. Although sadly as we were having it on a Sunday Ruthie couldn’t make it as she was working, it was as usual a jolly good social occasion and the food was nice, with Mason having a lovely time. The li’l chap needed to be at The Red Lion at Martlesham a few minutes drive down the road for his best mate Cory’s birthday party, but not until three and with a 12.30 get-together it seemed we were in for a relaxing dinner.

Two-and-a-half hours later and with Mason having to forgo his pudding (which was only ice cream, a very difficult pudding to cook obviously…) we were racing over to Martlesham, struggling to get him to the party on time. I prefer a gentle dinner, but for me anything over an hour-a-half and certainly over two hours, especially as we had pre-ordered (and pre-paid at that) our meals days ago was not acceptable, especially with kids (Mason wasn’t the only youngster there) having to wait so long – bizarrely they brought their food out last which meant the li’l chap was sat there restlessly waiting for his grub as others around him had received theirs.

It all contrasted with a laid-back morning of ringing in Woodbridge (with Pete and Susanne making up for missing ringers this morning, though they were caught out by Bruce’s touch of Grandsire Doubles!) with the bells half-muffled for Lent, a church service and then cake for the 95th birthday of a member of the congregation in the church rooms afterwards.

And it also contrasted with a relaxed evening as my brother – who eventually escaped from Fynn Valley over half an hour after me – came round to see us and stay the night. It coincided with Toby fancying a drink in Orford and so he drove us all over to first The King’s Head and then The Jolly Sailor where we watched the old boys there try and teach some American tourists how to play good old-fashioned British dominoes!

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Saturday 12th March 2011

I have just a month-and-a-half left of being Suffolk Guild Ringing Master and although I haven't been to as many towers in this vast rural county as I'd have liked over my five years of mastership, I have been to a lot. Some places I seem to have been to a surprising amount of times. Pakenham is one such place and Mason, Ruthie and I were there again today.

PackenhamBut for once – though I felt I ought to be – we weren’t there because of my role. Rather, we were there because George Pipe was running a morning course on handling on this anti-clockwise six and had identified Ruthie and David Stanford as two of the best handlers in the Guild to be demonstrated to a large and keen group of learners and helpers from Great Barton, Mildenhall and the host tower. It was indeed a fantastic turnout and George – very much in his element – was great in using everything from darts to cricket to tug-of-war to highlight the importance of good handling. He’s absolutely right of course as one the many things I have noticed on my travels across Suffolk are the number of learners that have handicapped themselves significantly by not handling properly.

It was particularly good to see so many youngsters who are of course at the right age to change any bad habits and whilst Ruthie and David set about guiding and advising half the group in the ringing chamber upstairs, George took the other half down to the superb meeting room down in the church to give a talk over tea, coffee and biscuits on the importance of striking, before swapping groups.

From what I saw it was a hugely successful morning and I would urge others around the Guild to take advantage of George’s vast knowledge, experience and expertise on what is perhaps the most vital part of ringing. Well done to Ruth on getting everyone together and to all who took part.

It was an event suitably finished off at The Dog at Norton with a lovely lunch before we headed off for what seems to be establishing itself as a pleasant Saturday afternoon/evening tradition (for us at least!) of tea at Kate’s which was typically top nosh. Thanks again Kate!

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Friday 11th March 2011

Ironically on a dramatic day of earthquakes, tsunamis and potential nuclear meltdowns around the Pacific, closer to home I was otherwise thinking what a lovely day it was. The hat that seems to have been glued to my head for the last few chilly months was off in very pleasant spring-like conditions and it was broad daylight as I left work at five.

The spectacular though tragic events in Japan were gripping viewing once I'd put Mason to bed and looked to occupy myself whilst Ruthie was at Rendham knocking behind to a quarter of Erin Triples.

She and the others weren't the only ones ringing in Suffolk today on a busy Friday of quarters across the county. Amongst those of course were many achievements and well done to the band that rang their first of St Clement's College Bob Triples at Ixworth - and congratulations to Alex Tatlow on calling his 50th in the same quarter - and the band who rang their first of Frodsham Bob Minor in the 1260 at Buxhall.

Peals were also getting a look-in today and although it was rung for the Norwich Diocesan Association for historical reasons, the peal at Leiston today was to all intents and purposes a Suffolk peal and well done to Maggie Ross on ringing her first blows of Oxford Treble Bob Major in the success and congratulations to Tom Scase on ringing his 250th peal. I remember what seemed not that long ago him mentioning a peal we'd just rung was his 25th!

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Thursday 10th March 2011

For various reasons not all of my making, I haven’t been to Grundisburgh practice for ages and it seems to be one of those sad situations where others haven’t too. Attendances have been well down from the heady days of just five or six years ago when we would regularly ring Surprise Max and there was a big push on ringing Bristol Royal on a Thursday night. In fact on some occasions there has been no practice at all recently. Partly this is a Catch-22 situation as many who once attended came from long distances and it’s harder to justify travelling all the way out to the sticks – particularly on a dark winter's night and with fuel prices soaring again – only to find just two or three others have turned up.

However, this evening I made it and there seems some hope. Erin has long been coming on – though she is one of those who could benefit by going out and about rather than being restricted to the handful that come along to Suffolk’s lighter twelve – but now she has been joined by the slightly older but still encouragingly youthful Aaron who is just starting his bellringing odyssey. There were six of us plus these two this evening, still not a huge number compared to past practices but enough to be helping Stephen’s learners along in call-changes and Bob Doubles.

Elsewhere and yesterday, others were progressing at another stage of this lifetime’s hobby and well done to Richard Brewster who not only rang his most methods in the quarter at Great Finborough but also – along with David Howe – rang his first of Thelwall and Allerton Bob in the 1440 at Preston St Mary. And from today’s quarter’s, Happy Birthday to Ruth Suggett!

Meanwhile, I left for Colchester straight from Grundisburgh to pick up Ruthie from watching her friend Emma win a trumpet competition! Happy days!

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Wednesday 9th March 2011

Emails are a fantastic way of communicating. It’s easy to bang off a message to someone when you think of it from almost anywhere and you can just await their reply if needed. When it works that is.

Following my peal at The Wolery last month, David asked me if Ruthie would be able to ring for this month’s peal. We left it that if she couldn’t I would let him know, if he didn’t hear anymore from me then my fiancée would be able to take part. As it happened Ruthie could’ve as she wasn’t needed for this evening’s competitions, but as usual there was no way we could’ve ensured that far enough in advance so I sent Mr Salter a mail saying as much. Arriving to a sea of disappointed but unsurprised faces, it was immediately apparent the email had not got through and so the in-house reserve George was called upon and seven Surprise Minor methods turned into eleven Doubles methods with the youngster knocking behind.

As it happened it was quite interesting as peals of Doubles go, as apart from in the Grandsire there were no bobs at all and we finished with a flurry of forty-two rows of rounds in as many courses!

Still, it is lucky we’re not relying on email communication to get Ruthie to our wedding on 11th August next year, which is lucky as plans are already progressing at quite a pace. The bride’s dress is nearly paid for, a family friend is sorting the flowers, the church is ours and The Abbey is now officially booked as this morning (before another 10-6 shift) I wandered up to Woodbridge School (it’s senior school) to exchange contracts and hand over a deposit. All very exciting!

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Tuesday 8th March 2011

My heart was in my mouth when I heard the words 'church in Ipswich devastated by fire'. Fortunately from a ringing perspective the destroyed place of worship was not one with bells, but rather the long neglected St Michael's in a run-down part of the town. It was still sad of course, especially for the Muslim charity who had hoped to renovate the building but had no insurance. Ouch.

Our next door neighbour Bob has been away since before Christmas for an operation but last week returned to the house adjoining ours, so we were invited round his for some lager and a catch-up before making the long journey home to find out that all the hope built up by Saturday's Ipswich result was knocked back down again by a truly woeful performance in the defeat to Reading this evening.

Still, at least others in Suffolk were doing well this evening, albeit in the ringing chamber rather than on the football pitch, not least John Malster who rang his first of Eight-Spliced Surprise Major in the quarter at Offton. Well done John!

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Monday 7th March 2011

Not many places in the world will be ringing Cambridge, Yorkshire, Superlative No2 and London No3 Surprise Royal at their practice night. But St Mary‑le‑Tower is. At least we were tonight on a varied evening that also crammed in call-changes on ten and twelve and Little Bob Max for the twenty-plus crowd present. There are still issues over concentration and striking, though over the last few weeks these have improved and all-in-all it seems a vindication of the 7.15 starts and focus on that intermediary level on ten.

The day started with me taking Mason to school before a 10-6 shift and finished with a drink in the Red Lion in the company of his Godfather Toby and his new girlfriend, a highly satisfactory day.

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Sunday 6th March 2011

It was an afternoon of good intentions met short.

The North-West District Ten-Bell Practice on the simulator at The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds this afternoon sadly saw Mason and me turn up to make eight. With Mason not quite ready to ring we rang a useful touch of Cambridge Minor and rang down in silence, something which greatly amused the li’l chap and if we’re honest us too. It was a big shame for Alex in particular - a youngster we ought to be doing all we can to encourage – who had been chomping at the bit to run what would have been a fantastic opportunity for many if they had turned up. I know how he feels!

We at least had ten at St Mary‑le‑Tower a couple of hours later as having dropped the li’l chap off at his grandparents and picked Ruthie up straight from work, we gathered for another quarter-peal attempt of Superlative No2 Surprise Royal. Sadly we couldn’t replicate what was achieved here a couple of weeks back and after three or four attempts we rang a plain course and called it a day.

It was disappointing, especially as we should’ve got it with the band we had and having followed hot on the heels of some decent ringing at the same location this morning, though we hadn’t quite got enough to ring all twelve. With it being the first Sunday of the month we then went onto St Lawrence and the boy and I then continued onto Grundisburgh where with Stephen back we had a much better turnout than last week’s dismal turnout. We even rang all twelve with Mr P on 1-2. We could’ve done with a few of his type at The Norman Tower in fact!

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Saturday 5th March 2011

It was a chilly, drizzly, grey afternoon and the towers chosen were on the face of it quite unappealing. Woolverstone are a three, though better than I recall. Stutton are hard-going and rung from a cramped ringing chamber. Tattingstone are... Well Tattingstone are a six.

WoolverstoneBut quite apart from the fact that if we just rung at the nicer rings of our district it would be extremely boring, this afternoon's South-East District Meeting was the ideal opportunity for learners to expand their ringing experience, both from ringing on different bells that go differently to their own and by practicing what they need with perhaps a more experienced band than they might normally ring with. We could have done with some more of those experienced ringers in particular to encourage the good number of youngsters we had there and it was a shame there weren't more members from the hosting towers - an indication of what we're up against with our plans for training the Guild - but it still proved a useful afternoon for all concerned.

As expected, the meeting - held in the warmed chapel at Stutton church along with a superb tea - lasted little more than half an hour and allowed those members present to take in and contribute. Even the service was interesting, led by Geoffrey Clement the notorious ringing rectum, with an amusing choice of hymns!

Mason, Ruthie and I didn't go onto Tattingstone to experience the nice five with somebody else's treble tacked on the front. We had already done a fair bit even before the afternoon started at the three (with Ipswich Girl's School the nearest building some distance away, what a superb peal factory this would make if a six!) as we visited Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric, sandwiched in between the li'l chap and I picking up my car from where it was left in Edwin Avenue last night and a trip to McDonald's.

It was a good to choice to leave early as Mason dropped off to sleep instantly and Ruthie and I listened to Ipswich Town's late kick-off in Cardiff which saw us beat our hosts 2-0. Along with performances and results since Paul Jewell arrived, it undoubtedly bodes well for the future, but with no real chance of us reaching the play-offs this season, taking points off one of the promotion chasers does Naaaridge more favours than us, but I'm always happy when we win!

Some who were at this afternoon's highly enjoyable event had also been busy by that point and rung in quarters at Wilby and Monewden this morning, with particular mention due to Malcom Westrup who rang his first on eight in the former. Well done Malcom!

Well done too to Alison Evans on ringing her first of Double Oxford Bob Minor in the success at Nayland, as well as to Richard Brewster on ringing his first of Norwich Surprise Minor and David Howe on calling his first Surprise, both in the 1320 at Higham.

What a highly useful day!

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Friday 4th March 2011

Another early start at least meant an early finish and enabled me to have a snooze before taking delivery of Mason (who excitedly informed me he had been feeding the ducks!), picking up Ruthie from the railway station, having someone bump me from behind and then spend an evening at Kate's where we were also joined by Clare, Kev, Sasha and Milo to celebrate Max the dog's birthday from yesterday.

It was a very fun night - and thanks again to Kate for feeding us - but came at the end of a long week of early starts, meetings and travelling mixed in with a lot of socialising. There's more socialising to do tomorrow, but I'm definitely having a lay-in!

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Thursday 3rd March 2011

As with most things in life, you get out of ringing what you put in. We have an awful lot of people amongst our circa 700 membership who never step outside their local ringing chamber. They will be limited to what the ringers around them can do, who have probably also never been out and about much, if at all. The result is their experience of ringing will often be a dull one and/or very frustrating, if they stick with it at all.

For some this seems to be out of choice, as bizarre as it may seem. For others they haven’t got the time or means to get out and about. But for many, there is a desire – not always obvious – to make the most of ringing. They may not be looking ultimately to ring spliced Surprise Sixteen, but they do want to progress from the stage they are currently at. The problem is that they don’t really know us and we don’t really know them.

This is where our deanery reps come in. We need them to be our researchers, our eyes and ears, someone from the Guild that these ringers will know. Nothing too time consuming, just an occasional trip out to the towers within their deanery to help identify who needs and wants help. They will then report that to their district Recruitment & Training Rep and the R & T will take it from there. Simples. It’s a plan that won’t necessarily help everyone, but if it can help connect even just a handful of people in each district with the Guild and help them enjoy their ringing as much as possible – and therefore benefit the rest of us - then I feel it will be worthwhile.

So currently our R & T reps are communicating this message to the deanery reps, hopefully in the manner that the South-East were doing in the new meeting room at Edwin Avenue this evening. It was a useful little get-together involving all bar one of our deanery reps as Alan and I imparted our grand vision. It also proved a useful little forum on R & T and one of the issues that came up was the depressing attitude that some experienced ringers in this county have. They seem to have little interest in helping out learners and indeed often look down on attempts to progress them, such as district events like Saturday’s South-East District Meeting. They’re often the first to bemoan the lack of good-standard ringers willing and able to ring what they would like to do. It’s a small minority thankfully, but still damaging when we need every experienced hand on deck.

Once finished I couldn’t hang around munching on the biscuits kindly supplied by Kate, but had to head off to Colchester for the second night running to collect her youngest daughter. Once there, Ruthie and I joined her friends in The Playhouse to further celebrate Emma’s birthday, itself a continuation of an evening that started with a surprise Chinese for the birthday girl. The pub is a Wetherspoons and a superb visual experience with the old theatre preserved and celebrated, the balcony full of models bedecked in Victorian costume. However, after an early start today and another one in the morning I was feeling it a bit so we left them to it!

Meanwhile and coming back to the original theme of today’s blog, very well done to Susan Densham on ringing her first inside and Michelle Williams on her first as conductor, both achieved in the quarter at Reydon today. Good to see people making the most of ringing and others using their experience to help them. Keep it up!

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Wednesday 2nd March 2011

Following another early morning and a productive afternoon of wing-mirror fixing, bill-paying and credit-topping, I was collected by Kate for an evening of brass and wind in Colchester. Ruthie was performing at Swinburne Hall with the award-winning Symphonic Wind Orchestra who were also busy raising money for their trip to Glasgow (donations still gratefully received!) with homemade cakes and donation buckets prevalent. However, the highlight – apart from an unintended Benny Hill sketch in the corridors at the interval – was Ruthie’s quartet which was top brass. Or top wind. Or whatever the term is.

It was also the 21st birthday of Ruthie’s uni mate Emma the Horn who plays the trumpet, so Kate and I joined a large crowd in The Marquis afterwards for a celebratory drink before the mother-in-law-to-be drove us home. Thanks Kate!

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Tuesday 1st March 2011

The early starts make for a long day at the best of times, but today it was even longer as after an initial hour or so in the office I had a meeting in London. Once again I found myself waiting for a train at Woodbridge Station overlooking the peaceful River Deben, the fields and woodland surrounding Sutton Hoo and tower of St Mary the Virgin, finding it bizarre that in the next moment I would be in the human cattle market of the Underground and amongst the famous sights of our capital.

Not that it took just a moment of course. As we dashed through the Essex countryside, a glance around me was a depressing reminder of how lucky I am to only have a five minute walk to work!

The meeting was with the International Baccalaureate and was very formal (though the huge lunch and wine brought in half-way through livened things up!) and is perhaps a good time to remind members again of this Saturday’s South-East District ‘Meeting’. Unlike today’s lengthy two-three hour marathon of stats and forecasts (as important as they are), Saturday’s ‘meeting’ will be an informal catch-up of what’s been happening and will be happening. If it goes much beyond half-an-hour I’ll be amazed and if previous experience is anything to go by it will be held in a friendly and jovial atmosphere. This isn’t really a meeting at all, so none of this ‘I don’t like meetings’ as an excuse!

After our meeting in the extremely posh surroundings of the Institute of Directors near Piccadilly Circus, eventually it was time for our friends from the IB to return to Cardiff on St David’s Day and for us to head back to Suffolk where credit is due to Tess Blowers and Rona Sporle on ringing the most methods they’ve ever rung in one go and to Sarah Plummer on calling the most methods she’s ever called, all achieved in the success at Worlingham. Well done guys!

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Monday 28th February 2011

It's back to early shifts this week, so I was back in at 6am and having taken a brief break to take Mason to school (thank you to Ruthie for getting him ready!) I was back at home just after 1.30pm.

So I was mildly surprised that after a couple of weeks that I was still going when it came to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening. I may have been awoken by another near-thirty attendance and a much better practice than we had last time we had these numbers. David's message of striking and concentration seems to be getting through, though there is still a way to go and all experienced help is much needed.

Which also goes for district and Guild events and there is one coming this Saturday which needs the attendance of both learners and experienced people. It is the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Woolverstone, Stutton and Tattingstone. It is impossible to get out to all towers and help members achieve their goals, so these occasions are ideal monthly (yes, only MONTHLY, not daily, weekly or even every other week!) opportunities for learners to improve and experienced ringers to help if they can't travel around the county helping out bands who may well offer those we need to continue a high standard of ringing in Suffolk. Not only that but they are incredibly laid-back social events with other ringers. PLEASE book your tea and turn up to help us!

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Sunday 27th February 2011

A day after going to Lavenham, I was back in the South-West District at another tourist hotspot. Although Kersey is considered by some the poor relation to its busier neighbour, I have to admit that I prefer this lovely little village, which I find much more quintessentially rural Suffolk. Even though it was far nicer weather today than yesterday and despite its recent fame as Meerkovo from the meerkat adverts, there was just a handful of visitors snapping away as I wandered down the hill to the famous gushing stream, taking some photos myself as I waited for what was to prove the last peal of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 and indeed the last peal of SGPW ever, under my stewardship at least.

And although this year’s Peal Week has been disappointing, today’s peal highlighted why I reintroduced it four years ago and how actually this week has still served it’s purpose, if not to the extent that I had hoped. That Derek Rose has never even attempted a peal seems incredible and before his first one today he seemed quite daunted. However, he took it in his stride and seemed ever so assured. Well done Derek! Well done too to David Howe who I finally got to ring with after reading and writing much about him. Today’s effort was his first of Major and was also an assured performance.

I can’t honestly say that SGPW11 was anywhere near as successful as I hoped. Much was gone for, but not much scored. At least six peals have been lost and I’ve had to call off two because of a lack of interest which was a big shame. Regardless of whether this was my last year as Guild Ringing Master, it had perhaps run its course for now. That said, this week still saw eight peals scored (much more than in the average week), saw two first conductors and a first pealer and saw peals rung in each district, with particularly impressive efforts from the North-East and North-West. And the five Peal Weeks have produced many, many achievements, something we should be proud off. I would like to apologise and thank in equal measure respectively all those I have let down and those who have helped out and congratulate all who have achieved something, not just this week but over the last five Peal Weeks. But I’m glad I haven’t got to organise another one!

One destination where I had to cancel a peal was St Mary‑le‑Tower where I had been planning a peal of Yorkshire Royal for this afternoon. However, the disappointment here was dulled by a good morning’s ringing, though it was promptly followed up by turning up just four at Grundisburgh and so – not for the first time in the last couple of years – we left without touching a rope. We did enjoy sitting out on the bench on a lovely sunny morning though!

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Saturday 26th February 2011

It was very much the morning after the night before as four and a half hours of merriment took its toll. We could have done with a lay-in, but as Kara had kindly looked after Mason last night so we could enjoy yesterday evening's social highlight it was only fair that I went and collected him early on.

We obviously missed him too, but besides that his presence was desired for an important occasion as we popped over to Ipswich to celebrate his Nanna's birthday and partake in some chocolate cake. Happy Birthday Mum!

From here we continued beyond the county town and onto the tourist mecca of Lavenham, which even on a cold, wet and miserable February afternoon was heaving with visitors wandering its ancient streets. We were not there for the sightseeing however, though it is always a lovely part of the world to visit. No, we were there to partake in the South-West District Practice in what I have always felt is one of the most daunting ringing chambers in Suffolk as it rises beyond the many old beams. It didn't discourage the district members though and as usual there was another good turnout from the SW, with most bases covered from call-changes to Stedman Triples and Cambridge Major.

It was a good afternoon's ringing and socialising and also a good moment to bring up the fact that due to St Peter Sudbury's recent incapacity the Beginners Ten-Bell Practice booked for Monday 14th March has been moved to St Gregory, though the eagle-eyed amongst you will have realised this of course won't be a ten-bell practice now!

Mason, Ruthie and I enjoyed a pint at The Cock Inn opposite as the start of the England-France rugby match kicked off on the TV, though we didn't hang around too long for that as we contemplated the long journey home.

Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 continued today as this morning's peal at Theberton at least meant that this disappointing event has equalled the number rung in the first reintroduced SGPW back in 2007. Well done Julie Rapior on ringing her first of Minor.

And away from SGPW, well done to Sandra Chenery who rang her first away from cover today at Monewden. All good stuff!

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Friday 25th February 2011

It was one of the highlights of my year this evening, the Pettistree Dinner. You may have noticed that most - if not all - of my highlights of the year seem to be drink and food related, but whilst I quite obviously enjoy a drink and good food - no matter how criminal that might be these days - it is the company and friendship in a jovial and laid-back atmosphere at such events that I really enjoy and look forward to.

This evening's social gathering at The Greyhound next to the church that links us all was no different, with good food and good drink alongside it too. There was a gathering of twenty-six in the end with some unfortunate absences, an impressive turnout that reflects the wide variety of ringers and ringing that we have throughout the year. Mary's 'Monthly' Plate this year went to Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend, an appropriate award though a difficult choice with so much competition. Well done Mrs Roger!

Pettistree is of course one of the most active centres of ringing in Suffolk, but there is much else going on across the county, especially during Guild Peal Week. And even on what has been quite a quiet Peal Week the firsts keep coming, usually from Alex Tatlow who just days after calling his first peal called his first of Major in the peal of Plain Bob at The Folly this evening. Well done to Nicholas, Robert and Abby on joining Alex in ringing their first peal on a mini-ring too. Well done all of you!

However, quarters have continued to keep pace with peals this week and credit has to go to Stephen 'Podge' Christian on ringing his first of Cambridge as conductor in the 1260 at Kettleburgh today. Well done to him as well as to Michelle Williams and Philip Moyse on ringing and calling their first of Norwich Minor respectively, both in yesterday's success at Blythburgh. Keep it up everyone!

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Thursday 24th February 2011

I have sat in many job interviews over the years, providing some of the most terrifying moments of my life as my destiny hung on impressing people I’d never met in unfamiliar surroundings. However, for the first time, today I was the interviewer – along with Alex – as we look for someone to help us for a few weeks with this current international campaign. It wasn’t a difficult job on this occasion as the candidate was perfect and will be starting Monday, but it was an interesting perspective for someone so used to being the interviewed.

Ruthie's New FluteYet I was still not having as an exciting day as others, not least Ruthie who by the time I had even got to work at ten was in Cambridge collecting a new flute through the generosity of her mother both in the transport and financial aspects. Suffice to say that it has already been well used today!


And still more has been happening on the end of a rope as Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 kicked back into gear today. And how, with Robert Beavis conducting his first peal in the Plain Bob Major at Henley. Well done sir! Hopefully now we can round a slow Guild Peal Week (we still haven’t rung as many peals in the week as we did in one day recently!) with a flurry.

Outside of SGPW11, Mr Beavis wasn’t the only one achieving a first in conducting. Well done to Michelle Clutten on calling her first quarter-peal in the success at Reydon. As with Robert and Alex from earlier in the week, hopefully the first of many. Which one would I give a job to though?

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Wednesday 23rd February 2011

In a spectacular lack of luck/planning I have been on 10-6 shifts at work this week. Although I managed wriggle out of this commitment on Monday, the rest of the week I have been unable to ring any of the evening peals so I haven’t even been able to use myself as a fallback like I have in the past. Thankfully I haven’t been needed yet and peals have been going ahead or are planned for most evenings during Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011. However, this year seems to have been a story of the valiantly lost, harking back in fact to the very first Peal Week I organised in 2007. There have been four scores since we kicked off on Saturday, one called off and with the addition of two peals lost today – at Great Barton and Ardleigh – five lost already. Last year’s total looks a long way off, let alone twenty. Still, the main point is people are giving things a go and hopefully it is useful experience for many ringers.

At least our quarter-peal ringers are still succeeding with scores of Durham Minor at Pettistree and Doubles at Preston St Mary, with credit due to Andrea Alderton and David Howe on ringing their first in Eynsham, St Leonard and April Day in the latter. Well done guys!

Although the late shifts have curtailed my peal activities, I was still able to travel down to Colchester to join Ruthie for an evening of bowling at the Colchester Tenpin with her uni chums. There was a large crowd of us, all of whom seemed to have a great time before we retired to The Albert for a drink and a discussion on their forthcoming trip to Glasgow for which donations would still be gratefully received!

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Tuesday 22nd February 2011

As ringers in Suffolk - and indeed the UK generally - we think we have problems to deal with. Getting a band for a peal or quarter-peal, ensuring there's enough to run a practice at some rural outpost in the middle of the winter, the odd broken clapper or the occasional complainant.

Christchurch CathedralBut at least we don't have to deal with earthquakes of the size which hit Christchurch in New Zealand today and that in amongst much devastation brought down the tower at the Cathedral, taking with it the 24cwt twelve that was housed inside. There were far more tragic consequences to this natural disaster than the loss of a peal of bells, but such is the instant nature of communication these days we were able to almost immediately hear and read how upsetting losing a presumably much cherished ring in such a way has been. Imagine it happening to your own.

We were at least able to ascertain that all the Christchurch ringers had been accounted for despite rumours of people being trapped in the destroyed tower, but there is something somehow more distressing about seeing an iconic landmark felled in such a way. 9/11 was horrendous just purely because of the death toll, but it seemed even worse as the Twin Towers - up until that point a seemingly permanent and immovable feature on a famous skyline - had been reduced to rubble. The residents of Christchurch probably feel much the same way now as indeed we would if say Big Ben was brought crashing down. I'm sure all our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

In comparison the everyday trials and tribulations of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 seemed quite trivial, as indeed they are I suppose, though today was the first blank day of the week.

Which was a bit like Ipswich Town's strikeforce, though the 2-0 defeat at runaway leaders QPR wasn't exactly unexpected as even the new and improved Tractor Boyz haven't quite caught up with teams of this quality.

RuthieHowever, the blow was softened by the first drawing of our new barrel of homebrew which was well and truly tested tonight!


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Monday 21st February 2011

As I have said before, the one week of the year when I need things to go as smoothly as possible is Suffolk Guild Peal Week. However, it is perhaps inevitable that with so many people involved in so many peals at so many locations across our vast county, many on workdays or after a day's work that challenges will arise. This year it is harder than ever as my workload at John Catt is so much bigger after my promotion, so sadly I had to admit defeat on a peal I had been arranging tomorrow afternoon at Horringer.

That wasn’t where things stopped going wrong however, as with our next attempt of the thirty-five Surprise Minor methods lined up for this evening at Metfield I had a call from Mary Garner who had to race away to a family emergency that understandably and quite rightly took precedence over any peal. It left me a few hours to find a ringer who could get to one of the far corners of Suffolk by six and ring such an abundance of Surprise Minor methods whilst I was also busy at work with meetings and the like. It obviously wasn’t going to happen, but I was eternally grateful to Philip Moyse who at very short notice and with a great deal of help from Maggie in the transport stakes came over and assured that a peal was attempted and ultimately scored in a quick (looking at my hands and judging my erratic tenor ringing, perhaps too quick!) fashion. Still, it was decent effort by the band, especially in the circumstances and I hope a useful evening for young Mr Moyse.

It wasn’t the only success either as for the first time in SGPW2011 there were two peals scored in a day. Congratulations and well done to Alex Tatlow on calling his first peal, only a year after ringing his first one in last year’s Guild Peal Week. This is the type of achievement that I hoped would shine through and be highlighted when I first reintroduced the Peal Week and Alex joins a long list of others who have called or rung their first peal over the Peal Weeks down the years. It is also worth noting that Grandsire Triples isn’t the easiest thing to call for even the most seasoned peal conductor. Well done to Abby Antrobus too, who rang her first of Triples inside in the same peal at Palgrave which also doubled up as a repeat of the peal rung there and recorded in the first edition of The Ringing World.

It was a good result on a difficult day that also saw a peal lost at Tannington. Good to see people going for stuff though.

Although I didn’t really know him, those who did may like to know that the funeral of Bernard Pollard, the tower captain at Walsham-le-Willows for many, many years and who passed away last week will take place at St Mary’s, Walsham-le-Willows on Thursday 3rd March.

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Sunday 20th February 2011

A morning and evening walk for Max – the latter of which doubled up as a mission to retrieve my car from where it was dumped in Edwin Avenue yesterday afternoon – sandwiched a very quiet day as Mason and I did our bit by going to church at Woodbridge. I had a ring beforehand on the new – but impressively not too springy – 6th rope and a baptism provided enough of a gawp factor for my son so we were all happy!

Others meanwhile were achieving and well done to Suzanne and Jonathan Stevens on ringing and calling their 50th peals respectively at Pettistree in the second success of Suffolk Guild Peal Week. Ironically though, it was a quarter that really caught the eye today as five rang their first of Superlative Royal (No.2) and David Potts called his first in the method in the 1440 at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening. Well done to Diana Pipe, Anne Bray, Stephen Cheek, Tom Scase and Ralph Earey on a tremendous achievement for which much work has been put in over the last few weeks.

On the subject of SMLT though, please don’t forget there is NO practice there tomorrow night!

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Saturday 19th February 2011

Although I've always found them productive and social and though they've hardly been a great impingement on my life as they only occur three times a year, I can't honestly say that GMC meetings have been a highlight of my five-year Mastership.

However, as I gave my last Master's Report to a well attended committee and received thanks for my efforts from it's members that I was extremely grateful for, I felt slightly moved. Without these meetings a lot less would happen in Suffolk ringing and as usual much was discussed, organised and moved forward from this dedicated bunch.

Arrangements for the Guild AGM on Saturday 30th April at Henley were confirmed. There is so much effort going into making sure this is a useful, entertaining and interesting occasion. Please, please, PLEASE do attend it so it isn't wasted. There will be ringing on the lovely eight there, a superb tea in the modern and comfortable community hall opposite (which you may recall we held the 2003 Guild Dinner in, a fringe meeting on whether bell-frames should be repaired or replaced, a chance to have your say on the new Guild Magazine, Awl a'huld and hopefully The Vestey Ring will be on show.

On the subject of The Vestey Ring, it was mentioned in the meeting that perhaps we aren't using it to it's full potential within the Guild. It is being booked by plenty of people from across the country which is good as it brings much needed money into the coffers, but very few from Suffolk are using it. That said it will be on the Diocese's patch for the Suffolk Show on 1st and 2nd June and volunteers are needed to man it! Ideally those manning it should be able to ring it, but training can be given! Either way, this is a vital tool for promoting the Guild and recruiting people if used in the right way, so please use it and help out if you can!

An aspect of being Guild Ringing Master that I have genuinely enjoyed has been going around the county testing the various projects that the Guild has given grants to, from Stradishall to Fressingfield, Bardwell to Ipswich, St Lawrence and whilst no applications for grants were made atn this meeting, the issue of whether the substantial donations we make to many projects down the years have paid dividends in regards to ringers came up. It was an interesting point and it was generally felt that they do. New members have come from places like Fressingfield and Wissett, whilst the enthusiastic band at Campsea Ashe have and will benefit from having a fantastic little six that are well worth the effort visiting rather than the terrible four that was there before.

There was much more discussed of course, including the fact that once again - barring any huge unforeseen disasters - there will be no increase in subscriptions next year, and that on Saturday 19th March there will be a Steeplekeepers' Supper held at Stowupland Church Hall, but it was all expertly wrapped up after two hours by Philip and Kate - who I was giving a lift to - and I were leaving the old haunt of Old Newton (Stowupland, the now usual venue was unavailable today) and I left the world of GMC behind for the foreseeable future.

Having been reunited with my son and fiancée, we then headed up to Edwin Avenue for a generous roast, accompanied by Clare, Kev and both their dogs on a lively evening! Thanks Kate!

We returned with Max as Kate does some more house-sitting, news of at least one success on the first day of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 ringing in my ears! Well done to the North-East District band on ringing a peal of Spliced Surprise Major at Wilby, a fantastic start to what will hopefully be a very successful nine days. Meanwhile, the youngsters at Tostock kept up the tradition of losing a peal on the first day, but did at least score a couple of quarters with two of Robert Beavis' brothers. Well done to Mr Beavis on ringing his first blows of Warkworth and Kelso and Alex Tatlow on ringing his first blows in the former and then to the same pair (I think!) on ringing their first blows of Chester and Munden and to Alex for ringing his first blows of Carlisle. Phew! What a busy day!

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Friday 18th February 2011

At least when we have the early starts for our other international publication, the IB World Schools Yearbook, we are doing it in the summer with bright, warm mornings and long sunny evenings and there feels a little more motivation to stay awake and enjoy my waking hours. At this time of year though, it feels so much harder with cold, dark mornings and short daylight hours and it is a little less enticing to stay awake for sideways rain. So I was actually not surprised at all that three days in these conditions saw me snoring on the sofa by 9.30pm and in bed not long after. In fact Mason nearly stayed up longer than me!

Thankfully others across the county were more awake and energetic than me and on the eve of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 it was good to see quarters still fighting for the headlines. Well done to the youngsters Craig Gradidge and Alex Tatlow on ringing their first of Kent in the success at Tostock, with Alex calling it into the bargain. Also well done to another even younger Alex, that of the Scase variety who rang his first quarter on a working bell in the Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham and to the slightly older but still youthful Robert Beavis who called his first of Grandsire in the 1399 at Otley. Nice work all you and the future of the Guild looks bright on the basis of these achievements.

Talking of Guild Peal Week - sort of - it starts tomorrow of course and could I ask all conductors to send details of successful - and indeed unsuccessful - peals to me or put them on Campanophile rather than send them up to the Ringing World as with previous Guild Peal Weeks I shall send them up to the RW myself as part of a report on the week. Good luck everyone!

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Thursday 17th February 2011

Another early start as we really got stuck into speaking with people coming to the end of their day as ours is starting, all for our Guide to International Schools.

Following an afternoon of filling spaces for Suffolk Guild Peal Week and shopping at Tesco I was ever so slightly shattered though!

Meanwhile, Ruthie too is working hard as she approaches the final months of her course and also for a trip that her successful orchestra are making to Glasgow at the beginning of April, a reward for their wonderful performance in the band festival held on their own patch at the end of November. The problem is that they need to raise £6,000 for the trip, so are looking for donations. Apparently Colchester Institute have been a bit slow initiating formal fund-raising for this exciting opportunity and it has been left to the orchestra themselves to raise the money, so any donations and/or fund-raising ideas would be much appreciated!

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Wednesday 16th February 2011

When loved ones and those close to me have passed on from this life, what has made it easier is the esteem and love that others showed they had for someone I felt was mine and who I was proud of, culminating in the funeral itself. I've always found the sight of a church packed with people who have taken time out of their day to demonstrate their appreciation for someone close to me and to show I wouldn't be the only one to miss that person an uplifting one and usually the point where I feel I can move on.

Although Stephen Young's cremation had been a family and close friends affair earlier in the day, I hope the turnout at the service of thanksgiving for his life at Hopton this afternoon helped Ruth and Stephen's family in the same way. All Saints was heaving with people from all aspects of his life, most notably ringing and having made it just in time, I had to queue to get a ring afterwards on this now lovely little eight.

From the Whiteley's from Bedfordshire to my mate Oggy from Taylor's to many from the Guild including former residents like Matt Cracknell, Sam Maynard and Claire Monk, and of course the Bedford brothers Stephen and Vernon supporting their sister, ringers had come from near and far. With a big spread of sandwiches, crisps and cake in the village hall afterwards, the occasion had more of a ringers tea feel about it on an upbeat afternoon.

There were also quarters rung at Bardwell, Ixworth and Southwold today in his memory alongside the many peals and quarters rung since his death. I hope it helped Ruth as similar gestures have helped me and others in the past.

I was back in time for Ruthie and me to attend Pettistree practice where Mrs Roger rang her first blows of York Minor in the successful quarter beforehand, though we seemed a little short of numbers this evening.

However, we decided against going to The Greyhound afterwards as a long day - that had started at 5.30 this morning as we began early shifts at work for another international campaign today - was beginning to catch up on me!

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Tuesday 15th February 2011

Tacky Love Day + 1 turned out to be superb, certainly in the evening as Ruthie and I marked it with a full-on three-course meal, with broccoli & Stilton soup made by her ladyship, roast beef by both of us (and a lot of it!) and banoffee pie made by our good friend Mr Tesco.

It wasn't just this that made our night though as Ipswich Town amazed us - and no doubt quite a few others - by winning 6 (yes, six!) - 0 AT Doncaster. It's a long, long, long time since we won like that!

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Monday 14th February 2011

Don’t let it ever be said I don’t know how to treat my valentine on the 14th February. What lady could fail to be charmed by an evening at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice?

To save myself from accusations of being as romantic as a stack of shelves, I should at this juncture point out that Ruthie and I have decided to mark our first Valentine’s Day as an engaged couple tomorrow evening as with her being back at uni this week and therefore at orchestra practice she was getting back late again tonight. So instead I picked her up from Ipswich Station as usual and we both went to what proved to be the best SMLT practice for some time. Although there weren’t quite as many as last week we still had twenty-one and a good range of ringing, all of which came round and was interspersed with some good striking, though concentration – particularly in Stedman Caters and Cinques – was again sadly lacking.

Still, it was a good night and it took us merrily on our way to Tesco to grab the goodies for tomorrow’s meal on Valentine’s Day + 1.

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Sunday 13th February 2011

Once again there were good Sunday morning turnouts at both St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh today, the latter helped by Molly Waterson who was up to see Ma and Pa and both the Pilgrims, with Anne filming our efforts. It meant we had enough to ring all twelve at both towers, though with Stephen ringing 1-2 at Grundisburgh which Mason was keen to point out to me!

The evening was set aside for me to go to Hollesley for a quarter attempt of Belfast Major. It was ultimately successful, but such are the standards we set we weren’t entirely happy with it. Still, it was good practice and well done to Philip Moyse on ringing his first in the method.

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Saturday 12th February 2012

It struck me today that I have just two-and-a-half months left in a position that at times has felt like a permanent one. One of my few regrets is that I haven't been round to anywhere near as many practices as I would've liked to across the county. It's mainly been down to finances, work and parenthood and I hope to be able to show my face at one or two more practices before the end of April, if nothing else to make them aware there is a Guild outside the walls of their ringing chamber poised to help them if and when they want it.

However, in the meantime I have visited - and today continued to visit - the numerous useful and highly enjoyable district events across Suffolk. Having missed their ADM in November, I was keen to touch base with the North-East District again and this afternoon's Quarterly Meeting at Rendham was the ideal opportunity to do so, especially as it was combined with a training session on eight. It was something that many took advantage of and it was good to see so many in the hall after the service and prior to the brief meeting tucking into the substantial tea as supplied by all present, including a delicious lemon cake made by my fiancée.

One thing that came up from the meeting that is particularly worth noting is that on the first Wednesday of March, June, September and December the district will be running the 10 bell practice at Beccles. (There is a 10 bell practice at Beccles every first Wednesday). This will be a fantastic chance for people to get used to ringing on higher numbers and in the process help improve their general ringing. Please support it, especially if you are in the North-East of the county.

There was ringing at Sweffling in the evening, but Mason, Ruthie and I returned to Woodbridge to help Kate with her homebrew along with Ron before we walked home nicely watered!

Meanwhile well done to David Howe, David Steed and Lesley Wilson on ringing their first blows in St Simon's Triples in the quarter at Gislingham and congratulations to Mr Howe on ringing his 50th quarter at the same time. But particular congratulations to the other David, Mr Steed on ringing his 400th quarter in the Hereward Bob Minor at Pakenham. With the tremendous number of quarters being rung by this band then these numbers are bound to rise even further beyond my time as Ringing Master. Long may it continue!

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Friday 11th February 2011

Ruthie was out at Rendham this evening quarter-peal ringing, so Mason and I had a lads evening in.

Well done to those who rang the Ipswich Surprise Major with her, but particularly well done to Abby Antrobus and Alex Tatlow on ringing and calling their first quarter of Double Court respectively in the success at Ixworth and Felicity Brasier on ringing her first quarter of Carlisle at Ashbocking.

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Thursday 10th February 2011

St Andrew, WissetI love all those quaint corners of Suffolk of which there are many. The abundance of scattered villages overlooking rolling hills and soon-to-be-sold-off forests, their narrow lanes steeped in history, straw-topped cottages, timbered pubs, rustic farms and of course ancient churches. Wissett is one such place, with a lovely little church and a round tower that is generally unique to East Anglia, but having picked Mary Garner up we didn’t pick a good night to appreciate this community's finer points as we travelled on a cold, wet and foggy night to partake in the joyous occasion of the first peal on this wonderful six since they were rehung last year.

The peal was much better than the weather and a fine example of the good work going on amongst the Blyth Valley Ringers and Jonathan Stevens deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done to get the sound right in the ringing chamber. Gone is the booming sound of the tenors and instead we have an even noise thanks to pipes and tubes that he has installed.

Mary and I declined a drink in the superb Wissett Plough as we aimed to return to our loved ones and tea for me and ceiling dodging for Mary.

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Wednesday 9th February 2011

Pettistree was its normal thriving and productive self this evening, from the decent quarter of Lincoln Minor before the practice to much knocking behind for Bill, ringing the treble to Doubles for Sam and both for Derek (who continues to be a great example of what can be achieved if ringers spread their wings and stop just ringing at their home tower) to Bill sorting his electrics out half-way through to our first mixed-variable-treble-Doubles-and-Minor, all topped off by a jovial evening in The Greyhound where we were met by Ron and Jude. Top stuff!

As was Richard Brewster ringing his first quarter of Stedman Doubles in the success at Preston St Mary today. Well done Richard!

Also, don’t forget the events in the North-West and North-East this Saturday (See What's On). Your support would be much appreciated I’m sure, especially as they’re on the same day again!

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Tuesday 8th February 2011

Home BrewTo most a dentist appointment, lengthy meeting, negotiating more roadworks on the way to Colchester and a trip to Tesco sounds like the perfect nightmare. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded though as I got a reasonably clean bill of health at the dentist's, the meeting at work about our magazines was very productive, there was a pint of beer at The Marquis with Ruthie’s uni mates Katie and Tim at the end of my journey to pick my fiancée up and once we’d returned from our necessary trip to the supermarket we began transferring our second batch of homebrew into the barrel, which was very exciting! Now we just have to sit and wait for a couple of weeks. Don’t expect anything much to happen in the next fortnight…

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Monday 7th February 2011

When you have nearly thirty at a practice night as we did at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening, it can get very difficult to run. Yes you can fit more people into each touch, but of course the ringing takes longer. With regulars from as far apart as Bury St Edmunds and Shottisham, Reydon and Essex it is hard to strike the balance of giving everyone a fair go at progressing whilst also trying to produce some really sparkling ringing. So David did well tonight, although as I know, you need people to be co-operative, both in grabbing hold and keeping right when they should know better. Nothing encapsulated this better than the final touch, where with the compline looming at 9pm a touch of Stedman Cinques was called for. He wanted a good band to finish with a well-struck touch of Stedman Cinques. Not the easiest thing to do as experience has taught us, but well within the capabilities of those gathered there. Except people started disappearing and those left faffed about so much that we had to resort to a touch of Stedman Caters which (bearing in mind that with the time restriction was only going to be five minutes at the maximum!) people still couldn’t concentrate in.

However, it was good to see so many there, it’s what we need, though we need those who know better to do better to help out those feeling their way on the higher numbers. There were some high points with Craig ringing three leads of Kent Max fantastically, but we generally have to work harder. Keep coming though and keep giving David these problems on how to run the practice! Sorry Mr Potts!

Afterwards we went to The Cricketers for a pint before we headed home, but is worth noting that there will be no practice at SMLT in two weeks time due to the over-powerful (and to my mind inconsiderate) choir who insist we drop everything at their every whim. Just my opinion mind…

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Sunday 6th February 2011

Best laid plans and all that. Almost since the very day we got engaged in the summer, Ruthie and I have been working towards a 7th July 2012 wedding. It had no particular significance, but was rather a date of convenience, designed to avoid the football European Championships of the month before and therefore any potential clash between our big day and a big day for England (even in the unlikely event that they do something at a major tournament) and the Olympics. However, despite planning so far ahead (especially for us!), it became apparent that the world and his wife-to-be were getting married on the same day and had already snaffled the venues around us, including the one we had our heart set on, The Abbey School right next door to St Mary the Virgin where our ceremony is taking place. Unless we wanted to pay roughly the same amount as my parents paid for their house for a reception at places like Seckford Hall, Butley Priory or Woodhall Manor, we would have to move the date.

And so it was confirmed today as we got the OK from Kev the Rev that our wedding will now be taking place on Saturday 11th August 2012, with the reception at The Abbey. It may well coincide with the start of the footy season, but that’s something we can live with after the weeks of considering what part of Tesco we were going to have to hold our wedding breakfast in.

St LawrenceThere was no special ringing to mark this momentous shift (and not that we expected any!) but rather a solid if unspectacular morning’s ringing at the trio of towers that now marks my traditional first Sunday ringing, with good numbers at St Mary‑le‑Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh.


With no peal this afternoon and Ruthie working on a day where her value at work was finally recognised with a fantastic review, it was Mason and I all the way before my fiancée arrived back from work with James and Sarah Whitby for a prearranged visit for drinks and tea. Although I had to take Jimmy back for the return of the other half, Mason enjoyed entertaining the three of us remaining as we all caught up until Daddy Whitby came fresh from the successful quarter at Pettistree to pick up his daughter.

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Saturday 5th February 2011

WoolverstoneOn the face of it a South-East District Practice at Grundisburgh on a dark February evening wasn't the most enticing event and if I'm honest I wasn't expecting many to join Mason, Ruthie and me there tonight so it was a pleasant surprise to find a belfry full of nearly thirty people struggling to find somewhere to put themselves and taking full advantage of all this sort of event offers, though again we were short of enough experienced ringers to make the most of it. I hope many more of them can make it down to the Quarterly Meeting at Woolverstone, Stutton and Tattingstone in exactly a month from today. Whilst a large proportion of the ringers at our lightest twelve tonight were visitors on a ringing weekend from across the country, many local members would've thrived on the help that more experienced ringers give them, especially those experienced in higher number ringing.

As it was, a fair amount of Call Changes on Twelve and Grandsire Cinques was interspersed with Little Bob Max, Yorkshire Royal and Cambridge Max, all to a very decent standard.

A social evening was topped off with an aborted visit to The Dog across the road which was packed out, leading us to The Turk's Head in nearby Hasketon, which was still very busy but at least had an available table and where we bumped into Derek who used to ring at Copdock.

It all followed on from one the most extraordinary afternoon's football I ever witnessed without ever seeing a ball being kicked as there were a record number of goals scored in one day in the Premier League (including Newcastle coming back from 4-0 down against Arsenal to draw 4-4), Naaaridge losing and Ipswich winning 3-0. Impressive stuff!

As was the quarter rung at Redgrave today with a full compliment of Monks for the first time for years and well done to Denise Monk on ringing her first inside, David Lowe ringing his first covering and Richard George on his first as conductor.

Belatedly, well done too to David Howe on ringing his most Surprise Minor in the 1296 at Great Finborough on Wednesday and congratulations to Alex Tatlow on ringing his 100th quarter.

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Friday 4th February 2011

With Kara helping out at a charity event in Hadleigh this evening, John Catt very kindly allowed me off work an hour early to pick up Mason. It was the first time Ruthie and I had seen the li'l chap since he'd had his cast taken off and a splint put on each leg. Despite our fears, he was dealing with it in typically cheery fashion, showing off his 'boots'.

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Thursday 3rd February 2011

Details for a service of thanksgiving for the life of Stephen Young came through today. It will be at Hopton at 2.30 on Wednesday 16th February. I hope to be there as I hope and imagine many, many others will to celebrate knowing a man who did so much for Suffolk ringing as well as just being a lovely man to be friends with.

Thursdays have become incredibly hit and miss for ringing in recent months as attendances at Grundisburgh have dwindled and quite often practices have been called off. I don't know how this evening's went as I didn't make it - it's hard to keep going out when only two or three turn up. This evening I was otherwise occupied though as Ruthie put the vital finishing touches to an essay due in tomorrow and I supported her with cups of tea and proofing (desperate as she is) before - having taken delivery of the ingredients earlier today - we set about starting to make the follow-up batch of beer as our current barrel already nears the bottom after a weekend of parties and visitors.

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Wednesday 2nd February 2011

It has been suggested I believe that the optimum speed for peals of Surpise Minor at The Wolery is twelve minutes an extent, 1hr 24mins. Not so fast that no amount of good ringing will save it from sounding like a kid running a stick over railings, but about the right speed to indicate that the peal was well rung and mistake free. This evening we managed 1hr 33mins which sounds a long way off the pace. However, we were regularly at thirteen minutes an extent and it was the few mistakes we made that made such a difference – at that speed, any mistake and the subsequent recovery can make a big difference to the time.

Ultimately though it isn’t the time that we’re after but good ringing and although it wasn’t our very best effort we got some decent stuff with some unfamiliar methods.

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Tuesday 1st February 2011

Although it is a week later than usual, Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 is fast approaching as we now turn into February and I would urge organizers to let either myself or the webmaster know if you are organizing a peal during the week as the question I am most frequently asked at the moment is ‘is there a peal being organized on this day?’ and I have already seen some confusion with people not sure what time something is happening or potentially being double-booked! I know it feels a little like tempting fate announcing a peal before you’ve even rung it and indeed before you’ve even got a band, but it would help greatly.

WorlinghamThis year has seen a fast and good start to peal-ringing for the Guild, but I’m glad to see that quarters are fighting back today and well done to Janet Sheldrake, Gordon Slack and Doug Perry on ringing their first quarter of 8-Spliced Surprise Major at Offton this evening and Rona Sporle on ringing her first of Cambridge Minor and Tess Blower on her first of Treble-Bob in the forty-five minutes of ringing at Worlingham. Keep it up guys!


Did any of you couch potatoes catch the bellringer – Alex Foster from Nottingham – on Come Dine With Me today? He is one of five contestants hosting a dinner party at 5pm on Channel Four each day this week and this evening was his turn to host, complete with attempts to get his guests ringing rounds on handbells! Not entirely successful, but actually not too bad an advert for ringing, albeit only a brief one.

Ruthie and I meanwhile stuck to dining with no ringing this evening, instead basking in the glory of a very rare away win for Ipswich, on this occasion at Derby County.

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Monday 31st January 2011

Stephen Young was one of those characters that I have always associated with ringing in Suffolk. He has done so much for the Guild, especially through teaching many learners and through his and Ruth’s efforts the far north of the county has long been a hotbed of activity. His sense of humour matched his stature and one of my fondest memories was when Ruthie and I went to Bardwell with The Ramblers a couple of years ago, before they were done up and augmented and when they were still an anti-clockwise rough six hung in an odd ‘circle’. They were difficult enough to ring as it was, but some wag (in the scally sense rather than the footballer’s wives sense!) suggested that with the ringing family from Holland the De Kok’s present we ought to ring call-changes in Dutch. Steve – having opened up for us – ended up calling them in an impressive show, though with just about every conceivable circumstance going against us it predictably collapsed in a heap to much laughter.

HoptonHis death in the early hours of this morning after a long illness means we have lost a dear servant to the Guild and of course our thoughts and prayers go to Ruth. I am delighted that he was able to see the project at Hopton come to fruition and indeed the last time I saw him was when Jonathan and I presided over the test ring there and saw first hand what a superb job had been done. They are a very appropriate legacy.


Ruthie’s essay writing is reaching fever pitch this week and sensibly choosing to miss St Mary‑le‑Tower practice I went alone this evening. Again it was a fantastic attendance with twenty-three crammed into the belfry, though one of them was Amanda who is nursing a shoulder injury (but was still a brilliant stander-behinder) and another was Mike Whitby’s non-ringing daughter Sarah. As with last week there was much improvement in the ringing, with a mixture of good ringing and not so good ringing weighted heavily in the positive before I returned to the stressed student!

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Sunday 30th January 2011

A good day's ringing today, from a very rhythmical piece of Grandsire Cinques (helped by and notable for a distinct lack of mistakes) at St Mary‑le‑Tower, a big attendance at Grundisburgh that allowed us to ring the same (and well done to Adrienne on ringing Stedman Triples so well when thrown in the deep end!) to my return to the county's lightest twelve in the afternoon where a decent 5184 of Four-Spliced Surprise Major for Mason and Freddie's fourth birthday was rung. Thank you Stephen for calling it and everyone else in the band for ringing.

Turk's HeadWith the li'l chap having tea at Nanna and Grandad's (having gone with them from SMLT this morning telling me to 'have a good time'), his uncle and I had a pint at the Turk's Head (those interested in going on Stephen's Italy trip in October look out for info in the next few weeks, it's definitely happening) before picking him up and putting him to bed.


With Chris spending the night at ours, we enjoyed a pint or two of homebrew with Pete and Susanne popping round and reflected on a lovely birthday weekend for the boy.

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Saturday 29th January 2011

In his four years and two days thus far, Mason has developed a delightful personality. He's a real people person, friendly and happy almost no matter what life throws at him. So today he was well in his element as Ruthie and I hosted another birthday party for the not so li'l chap.

We haven't got space for huge numbers of people on these cold winter days when we are restricted to partying indoors and certainly no room for other kids to dash around with him, so whilst we would've loved to invite more round, especially contemporaries like Freddie and Poppy, we stuck to a select but appropriate crowd with his Nanna, Grandad and Unky Chris joining Aunty Kate and his Godmother Kala, though with his new role at The Ship and desperately short of staff, an extremely busy Godfather Toby was unable to come, much to his disappointment.

Ruthie doing her bar job...Mason opening presentsMason blowing the candles out on his cake

With food prepared and the homebrew set up in the kitchen, the four-year-old got stuck into present opening with much relish, immensely delighted with everything that was revealed, as he was with the caterpillar birthday cake that my parents had brought. It was a superb occasion that Mason never tired off telling us was very enjoyable.

Even once everyone had left the presents didn't stop coming as Kev popped round after attending an open day, clutching a watercolour Thomas the Tank Engine set that was instantly put in use!

Thank you to the Pettistree ringers too for his card, it was much appreciated.

Meanwhile, I had to rub my eyes in disbelief as I read Campanophile. The Suffolk Guild today rang six peals, the most I can remember the Guild ringing in one day and well done in particular to Alex Tatlow on ringing his first on ten in the peal at The Norman Tower and Abby Antrobus on ringing her first Major and first inside in the success at Debenham. Also, congratulations to Neville on fifty years of peal-ringing as marked in the 5040 at Sproughton and Happy Birthday to Robert Beavis and David McLean. An incredible day's ringing and well done to all concerned! If we can manage this during Guild Peal Week I'll be over the moon!

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Friday 28th January 2011

Having picked up my new grown up son - 'I'm a big boy now' - and put him to bed it was an evening of preparing for his next birthday party tomorrow as I went to Tesco for party food, as well as nipping to Saffron for a takeaway curry as we were feeling a little lazy!

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Thursday 27th January 2011

Four years ago today a tiny little thing was born, fragile and sleepy. Today that tiny little thing was dashing around, jumping off things and play-fighting with his mates as he celebrated the anniversary at a party held in his honour at his mother’s house. It was a joy to watch as I popped round after work and it was good to catch up with others there. Happy Birthday Mason!

The AnchorTo celebrate – though he wasn’t with us by that point – his Unky Chris very generously took Ruthie and me out for a meal at The Anchor (officially my favourite place for food in Woodbridge and was again superb this evening), before we had a pint each in The Mariners and then the Red Lion. Thanks Chris!


Well done meanwhile to Ruth Suggett on ringing her first quarter of London Major yesterday at Ixworth. Ruth works hard in her role as North-West District Ringing Master, forever trying to get people enthused in order to help others on and so I’m glad she still finds time to do stuff for herself. Nice one Ruth!

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Wednesday 26th January 2011

Most of you will know how much I am a fan of peal-ringing. I enjoy the good ringing that you often get after a few thousand changes of concerted effort and practice, the sense of achievement it can bring when you succeed, the entirely selfish pride when you see your name up in lights and the fellowship of spending two or three (and on a handful of occasions four) hours in the company of a band of ringers, especially when that continues onto the pub or with a cuppa afterwards.

It’s not always enjoyable however and tonight was one of those rare occasions as we gathered for the monthly peal attempt on the front eight at St Mary‑le‑Tower. This time it was Superlative, with David Potts calling again and he did extremely well, especially in the face of a band having an extremely off night. Somehow it limped on until with just two and a half courses to go it came to an abrupt end with the kind of firing we’d be proud of at a wedding. Of course it was very disappointing to lose a peal that close to the end, but we live and learn from these events and it’s times like these that remind us what a achievement ringing a good peal actually is.

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Tuesday 25th January 2011

I was nervous and I was sat in a pub about ninety miles away. The nerves must have been exaggerated even more for the fans in the Emirates Stadium and then even more for the players as little old Ipswich Town faced up to one of the best teams in the world in one of the biggest and best football stadiums in the world as 60,000 fans looked on in the ground and millions more watched on the TV. Arsenal are desperate to win some silverware this season after six years winning nothing, whilst we were on the verge of possibly getting to our first major final for thirty years.

With all this it was unsurprising that eventually the Premier and Champions League team ran out comfortable winners, but that statement alone belies just how well our boys did. With half an hour left we were still holding on, still poised to reach next month's final at Wembley, valiantly defending whilst also creating the odd chance ourselves. Then they scored. And then they scored again. The stuffing was knocked out of us from that point on and it felt all over long before the third goal went in to hide just how close I got to seeing my favourite team in a final for the first time in my memory.

While Pete from work went down with 9,000 other Ipswich fans to watch the game from pitchside, Ruthie and I watched it with another Pete along with Susanne in the Red Lion, enjoying the communal experience usually only reserved for England games in big tournaments having been unable to get tickets.

Our visit to the local was sandwiched in between rigorous testing of our homebrew, ready for tasting exactly one month after it was excitedly unwrapped. Suffice to say we've done very well!

All this excitement came at the end of a day dampened by Mason's visit to hospital with his mother to have his cast taken off. It should've been a happy step towards his recovery and indeed everything on his problematic left foot has gone well and he is due to have a splint put on come Monday as planned. However, very unexpectedly we were also told he would need a splint on his right foot too, a bit of a blow to say the least. Still, as always he was ever so cheery, bizarrely taking more joy from having the temporary cast put on than having the old one taken off! He'll get there and maybe one day he might be playing at The Emirates in front of 60,000 people.

Meanwhile, if you didn't catch it, have a listen out on iPlayer for Jonathan Steven's appearance on Radio Suffolk this afternoon. More good publicity for ringing.

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Monday 24th January 2011

St Mary‑le‑TowerA new girl, Christina, started with us today, instantly able to help us on one of those rare envelope-stuffing occasions before a much more productive practice night at St Mary‑le‑Tower than last week. Touches came to their conclusion, there was some good striking in more than just the call changes and Sean did well bonging behind to Grandsire Triples on the front eight. There were still regular lapses in concentration however, something we really need to sort out.


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Sunday 23rd January 2011

There was a tremendous turnout at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning, helped by the return of Brian Redgers and Amanda Richmond and the visit of Hedley and Hazel Basford from Canterbury with two of their grandsons. Although Superlative Major crashed appallingly, Sean excelled at Call Changes on twelve and we finished with a decent half-course of Yorkshire Royal.

The attendance was much lower at Grundisburgh, sadly, as we met six, although there was some very good ringing with Double Oxford and Norwich going well.

BrandestonMason meanwhile had gone off with his grandparents after SMLT as after a visitation from Pete and Susanne on the occasion of her birthday and lunch with Ruthie, I had a peal attempt at Brandeston and more specifically our latest go at ringing thirty-five Surprise Minor methods. Encouragingly we breezed through the new methods only for me to miscall the second half of that first 1440. I should have called Cambridge, Cambridge, bob and then Beverley, Berwick, Hexham, Surfleet, Beverley, bob. What I actually called was Beverley, Berwick, Hexham, Surfleet, Beverley, bob and then Cambridge, Cambridge, bob. Whoops. It was a shame but we seem to be getting to grips with the extra methods better than we did last time we added some new ones.

The early finish gave me time to pick up the li’l chap and meet my better half briefly before she nipped out for a quarter of eight-spliced at Ufford and prepare Marmite pizzas. Less Marmite next time though me thinks!

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Saturday 22nd January 2011

I know it causes consternation among some ringers that we as a Guild seem very strict on our conditions when approving grants given from our restoration fund for projects across Suffolk. However, others also feel that we give too much money to the various augmentations, restorations, rehangings, etc that we have supported over the years and/or feel that the Guild subscriptions are too high as 50% of them go towards the restoration fund that feeds these generous grants.

Therefore it is absolutely vital that we justify ourselves against such arguments by making sure we don't hand out thousands of pounds to projects in a 'that-will-do' manner. Everything from grouting to the go of the bells, to whether there is a sufficient sound management system in place if the worst does happen and local residents complain against the bells has to be considered by Jonathan Stevens and myself particularly and the Belfry Advisory Committee (BAC) and Guild Management Committee (GMC) generally before we sign off such vast funds. It is also essential to make sure that often after years of fundraising and hard work that the local bellringers have a ring of bells that their efforts deserve and not a project that might need more work doing to them a short while down the line or find themselves shut-down after a particularly vociferous resident finds sympathy from the council.

The most important part of the process of approval is the test ring, where Jonathan and I get to see and hear first hand what has been done and if anything else needs doing before we sign off a grant. Today was Campsea Ashe's turn.

Campsea Ashe, St John the BaptistAn out of tune four where the ringers were hidden away in a small claustrophobic ringing chamber is now an easy going superb little six with the ringers open to the church on a brand new gallery and although there are one or two issues still to address I am extremely happy for Tim Holmes and Glenys Fear who have been through years of fundraising and suffered the heartache of having four bells stolen (including the old third which was to have been a part of the new ring) that we have got to this stage and all their efforts have reached fruition.

Campsea Ashe, 22/1/2011Campsea Ashe, 22/1/2011Mason, Ruthie and I joined Jonathan and the newest member of the BAC, Martin Croucher, who apparently adds even more appropriate qualifications to a committee apparently brimming with more qualifications than many of the bellhangers. Whilst Martin watched Jonathan looking at things upstairs, Ruthie and I took instructions via walky-talky, ringing bells up and down as requested.

Shortly we were joined by others to ring all six, including Kate who then invited the three of us back to hers where we were met by Clare and Kev for sausage and mash and the first testing of Edwin Avenue's homebrew, further whetting the taste buds for our own brew's 'release' in a few days.

It meant dropping the car off at home first of course, but despite missing most of the goals in the ten minutes walk back to the newly extended abode, Ipswich's exciting 3-2 win over Doncaster made the walk home a lot easier!

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Friday 21st January 2011

It was a little crowded at work as teachers from various prep schools descended on John Catt prior to a meeting at Milsoms for one of our magazines, so we all had to be on our best behaviour!

There was a fair bit of organisation in getting people together from across the country for the gathering, as there is in getting people from across the county and beyond for Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 and following on from yesterday's appeal for organisers to let me know what they're planning I'd like to thank those who have responded and point out that you can also now contact the webmaster directly to have peal attempts for the week put on the SGPW2011 page. This facility has not been set up to tempt fate (by putting it up on the page we cannot guarantee success!) but rather to help all those organising peals (myself included) over what could be quite a hectic nine days.

St Mary, ChedistonDespite peals being foremost at the front of my mind at the moment, I still love to see quarters being rung and well done to Alex Rolph who quickly followed up her recent first quarter by ringing her first of Minor yesterday in the success at Chediston. Top stuff and hopefully we'll see more from Alex in 2011.


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Thursday 20th January 2011

There was more helping Ruthie sort out her essay and popping down The Mariners with Toby tonight.

It's getting to that stage of the year where plans for Guild Peal Week are in full swing and I've heard great things of people arranging peals left, right and centre so keep it up! If people could let me know exactly what they're organising then I'll try and avoid any of my arrangements clashing!

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Wednesday 19th January 2011

Those of you who have been to uni will appreciate how vital and hectic the final year and last few months in particular are and Ruthie is in that period right now. There's a big dissertation to be written and so after ringing in a decent quarter of Northumberland Minor before the practice at Pettistree and hanging around long enough to help Elaine ring a very reasonable course of it inside I returned home to offer support and help out. Yes, she is that desperate.

After a couple of hours of feverish writing we both decided that she had earned a couple of pints and so we took Toby up on his offer of a drink as we celebrated his promotion to manager of The Ship in Blaxhall by having a pint or two in The Mariners and Red Lion.

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Tuesday 18th January 2011

Work. Tesco. That's about it on a very quiet and uneventful day of which the highlight was finally making use of the Marmite recipe book we received for Christmas!

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Monday 17th January 2011

St Mary‑le‑TowerSome like it short and stiff – mainly tall people with strong hands – but the state of the ropes at St Mary‑le‑Tower tonight perhaps contributed to an unusually poor practice. Being the only place to regularly have a go at higher number ringing in Suffolk, we’re used to some things going and some things not. In fact, that’s the nature of a practice night anywhere. But bar Rounds and Call-Changes and superb ringing from Sean, practically everything collapsed in a heap or had no rhythm and apparently no attention paid to the striking from Little Bob Royal to Grandsire Cinques and Superlative Royal. It was a very frustrating evening, no more so than for David with whom I can certainly empathise! However, as he pointed out at the end, we need to put it behind us as everyone there could do and has done better. We need to concentrate, a lesson for any ringer at any practice.

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Sunday 16th January 2011

It was appropriate that the day after the Recruitment and Training meeting set out to try and make sure all ringers in Suffolk had the opportunities to go as far as they wanted that somebody gave us the perfect example of what we’re talking about. Richard Moody has been running ringing at Orford for the last few years, but as has been documented before this lovely eight is a bit of a geographical outpost, a one-road-in-one-road-out village miles from everywhere and is perhaps the ultimate in isolated bands in Suffolk. To make things more difficult for Richard, he works away during the week and so weekends are his only real chance to progress his own ambitions. If he just rang at Orford he’d get nowhere as there aren’t enough ringers able to ring things like Stedman and Surprise with him and so he called upon the his neighbours.

Not that things have entirely been going to plan in regards to his main aim of ringing a quarter of Stedman Triples as for reasons from everyday quarter-peal loss to over-running weddings it had become another one of those ‘will-it-ever-happen?’ things. This evening though, it happened and I was delighted to be a part of the band that rang in the successful quarter at Hollesley that finally saw him achieve this aim.

It was in fact the only ringing I did today – and indeed all weekend – as with Ruthie on a rare Sunday off, we decided to go to church at our chosen wedding venue, Woodbridge. Sadly however, we were too late getting ready to get there in time to help the four who were ringing and as we sat there with Mason, we were whisked off to a separate kiddie’s service in the church hall across the picturesque churchyard. It was a nice idea, but was perhaps a little too formal for a child of my son’s age and ironically if we’d stayed in the church he would’ve had more space at the back to wander around and plenty of toys and books to boot! Still, it was an interesting morning.

Ruthie did have to go in to Boots at one stage to help cash up as the girl who’d come in to cover her had left sick, so the li’l chap and I went to the park for a while before we all returned home for tea and I then headed off for Richard’s moment of glory, Ruthie reluctantly passing on the chance to ring Stedman. You know how much she loves it!

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Saturday 15th January 2011

There are thousands of bells under the care of the Suffolk Guild and its towers and yet only about 700 members to ring them. It's therefore no surprise that there are many examples of towers where the bands are isolated with talented individuals capable of progressing - and therefore helping others to progress - limited by the four walls around them when they ring. They usually get frustrated and give up and the lifetime of fulfilment and enjoyment that ringing can offer that person is lost and that person's talents are lost to ringing. In a society where there is so much for people to do it's talent we can ill-afford to lose.

What they need is a link to the opportunities that our wonderful hobby offers us and ringers that can help them onto the next stage each time they get there. Surely there are few better examples of what an organisation such as the Suffolk Guild is there for. And at the latest meeting of the Recruitment and Training Committee at Stowupland Village Hall this morning we got a step closer to offering help for these ringers.

Deanery reps should be prepared for contact from their R&T reps and/or district Ringing Master, for they are central to kicking this off. We're not expecting them to do too much, but rather to be what deanery reps should be - the Guild's eyes and ears. What we would like them to do is to be in contact regularly with the bands within their deanery and ideally attend a few practices within their area. We're not expecting them to teach or interfere with practices, nor are we expecting them to go out every night of every week, but rather to occasionally go along and find out what ringers in their deanery need. So - for example - if they find out there are a number of ringers who are trying to learn Bob Doubles inside but are doing it alone in different towers with bands that are unable to support them practically in this aim, we as a Guild can help in whatever way is best in the circumstances.

As you read this, meetings for the deanery reps are being arranged for them to ask questions and find out more. If you are a deanery rep and you haven't heard anything then get in touch with your R&T rep, district Ringing Master, Alan McBurnie or myself. We need everyone's help, no matter how small!

My mother was at a meeting too this morning - for her it was the local allotment association that she is an active member of - but my father was still willing and able to generously look after Mason whilst I attended Guild business before a quiet afternoon.

However, the evening was more lively as the two of us accompanied Ruthie to what has become a lovely tradition for me in recent years, that of celebrating her grandfather's birthday round her grandparent's now very familiar abode. As with the many previous occasions I've been round here we were more than ably fed with superb hospitality and once again surrounded by a large gathering as all of my fiancée's uncles, their partners and children were present, with the li'l chap having a fantastic time with Freddie and Poppy, whilst Lucy - still a little small to get involved in the rough and tumble of toddlerhood - watched on enviously. It was - as usual - a very enjoyable evening.

Meanwhile, on a day that the Guild strode towards helping as many members as possible take advantage of the opportunities available, there were some perfect examples of those already doing just that today. Well done to Richard Brewster on ringing his most methods in the quarter at Marlesford and to Alison Evans and David Howe on ringing and Lesley Wilson on calling their most Minor methods in the success at Kettleburgh. The perfect example of how ringing should be carried out.

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Friday 14th January 2011

Whilst I was sadly unable to get tickets for the second leg of Carling Cup semi-final against Arsenal and what would be a spectacular evening if we got through, Ruthie's day was more productive as she was picked up by Mike Whitby to ring a quarter of Annable's London Surprise Major at Rendham as Mason and I had a lads night in.

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Thursday 13th January 2011

Despite a very hoarse voice after last night's joyous exploits, I still managed to carry out my job, negotiate a trip round Tesco and go for drink or two at The Mariners with Toby.

Meanwhile, well done to Alison Evans and David Howe on ringing and calling their most methods respectively in the quarter at Preston St Mary yesterday.

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Wednesday 12th January 2011

I’ll be honest. I’ve lost an awful lot of enthusiasm for football, not helped by it being a very, very expensive business nowadays. I hope it’s not because I’m a fickle football fan – if I had the finances I’d be at every Ipswich game home and away – but it’s been nearly six years since anything exciting happened to our local professional club. Apart from a last day and unlikely brush with the play-offs one season and regularly beating some extremely poor Naaaaaridge teams, there’s been no exciting promotion pushes, no cup runs, no big teams to speak of visiting. The attendances have got lower and lower, the atmosphere poorer and poorer and even quite bitter and unlikeable. All in all, Portman Road has been an extremely depressing place to attend, a big shame for somewhere that I have so many fond memories of.

Tonight though, that all changed!

We were up against Arsenal in the first leg of the Carling Cup Semi-Final, a stage we have only reached three times before in the past and the stage where many – most of us fans included – thought would be our final one for this season as we faced up to a near full-strength Champion’s League team, one of the best in Europe. All the big names were there like – and apologies to those who have no interest in football – Cesc Fàbregas (part of Spain’s World Cup winning team), Theo Walcott (one of the best England players around) and Andrey Arshavin and they desperately want to win this trophy having not won one for six years. Frankly, I and many others gave us no chance.

How wrong we were!

Portman RoadDespite a large proportion of the neighbouring car-park being taken up by an ice rink and funfair (well done to the council on that one!), 30,000 people crammed into this small corner of Ipswich, big screens hailing the arrival of our new manager Paul Jewell and a chance to welcome him in the flesh – though he wasn’t actually in charge for this game – and flame-throwers, flags and cheerleaders beckoning the players onto the pitch as the sky cameras watched on. This was the type of big occasion we haven’t had here for some time and it obviously spurred the crowd and players onto a magnificent evening. The banter between the North Stand – where we were of course – and the near 5,000 away fans was fantastic fun, the noise generated amazing and the goal…


We were in line with Támas Priskin’s shot that settled this match at least and could see a second or two before most of the ground that it was going in. Our cheers were shortly engulfed in scenes of unbridled joy. It was an amazing sight.

Yes, it’s only the first leg and the odds are still stacked against coming away from their ground with a sufficiently good result to get to Wembley, but it has truly rekindled my love of Ipswich Town. This is how it used to be in the old days.

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Tuesday 11th January 2011

More desk shuffling this afternoon as Peter and I swapped round as we continue to strive to get the office layout right. Still not sure it is!

What we did get right was our choice of evening entertainment as we partook in our next theatrical engagement, this week a bit closer to home at the Seckford Theatre. It allowed us not only to walk rather than drive, but also to enjoy a fantastic tea including (ahem) dumplings provided by Kate in her brand new dining room with Clare, Kev and Ron, prior to the performance.

And the play was typically superb, a production from Eastern Angles who we have come to see regularly at this venue over the last few years and once again this year’s play – Gills Around The Green – had us laughing out loud!

Whilst the others returned to Edwin Avenue to go their separate ways, we were halfway home and so headed towards Sun Lane, though we did pop into The Mariners on the way back.

Meanwhile, well done to Louis Suggett on ringing his 100th peal in one of the handbell successes at the Spiller’s this evening. Good to see him putting his uni holidays to good use!

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Monday 10th January 2011

Neatly sandwiching a terrible weekend for Ipswich Town, my favourite football team officially replaced Roy Keane with Paul Jewell as their new manager, a man who has taken two teams up to the Premier League but also taken another down without winning a game all season. After the disaster that was Keane I'm cautious to say he is the answer to all our problems, but I shall support him, starting with the big Arsenal game on Wednesday night which seemed increasingly like £40 down the drain with every Chelsea goal scored yesterday!

It should be a big attendance though and although St Mary‑le‑Tower can't compete on numbers to the town's other big player, it was still a healthy turnout for tonight's practice which helped towards a pretty decent half course of Superlative Royal (No.2) and included the return of Sean after his wedding over Christmas. It was marked with a presentation of a peal-card from the 5088 of Lincolnshire Major at SMLT from a few weeks back which was rung to celebrate the then forthcoming marriage. Sean was genuinely touched I think.

For Ruthie and me it was back to Woodbridge and - having grabbed a McDonald's before practice and therefore negated the need for tea later - we checked some bread I'd abandoned earlier when my fiancée had informed me a lot sooner than I'd expected that she was soon to be standing in the cold at Ipswich station. and headed up to the Mariners for a couple of drinks with Toby.

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Sunday 9th January 2011

I achieved something I've always wanted to do in a very masochistic way today - I rung a peal at Stonham Aspal. It was an aim achieved as part of someone else's aim, namely Roy LeMarechal wanting to peal all the ringable ten's across the world and so the band was largely a Winchester & Portsmouth one, but it was this band with whom I experienced my shortest ever peal attempt at this very tower a couple of years back and so there were friendships renewed.

Actually, for all the fact that they have to be worked at, they're oddstruck and it's a struggle to hear them over the huge amount of rope rattle, these bells didn't prove as horribly difficult as I thought they would, though I still don't know how that band of College Youths managed to ring a peal on them on that sweltering hot day back in July! We greatly helped ourselves by moving them along though, not allowing them to be awkward and helping foster a good rhythm quickly.

The presence of Hampshire's finest in our part of the world saw Grundisburgh benefit this morning with the presence of the Hills Peter, Christine and Rosemary enabling us to ring 8-Spliced Surprise Major after I'd just made it to St Mary‑le‑Tower to practice my Grandsire Caters (albeit bonging behind!) and reunite Mason with his grandparents for the afternoon whilst I went peal-ringing.

Having listened to four of the seven goals that Chelsea put past Ipswich in the FA Cup on Radio Suffolk whilst picking the li'l chap up and returning him asleep to Sun Lane with me, Ruthie and I had a quiet night in, partly accompanied by Toby who popped round.

Well done to Mary Dunbavin on ringing her 1200th peal in the first Aldeburgh peal of the year and to Philip Moyse not far away in the quarter at Halesworth as he completed the standard eight to peals with this effort of London Major.

And finally, an event I forgot to mention from yesterday's meeting in Bury St Edmunds was 2011's Guild Social, to be held this year by the North-West District. There's no concrete plans yet, but please keep Saturday 17th September clear in your brand new diaries!

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Saturday 8th January 2011

I am a very content chap and have no desire to wish my life away, determined to enjoy every moment. But there are two particular points of most years that I often look forward to for some time. One is Christmas and then once that has passed I think ahead to spring, the gateway to summer.

As I sat in the bright side room of The Flying Fortress pub on the edge of Bury St Edmunds overlooking the beautiful countryside of west Suffolk as it glistened in sunshine from a clear open sky I momentarily felt like the first signs of spring were appearing. It was lovely but it is of course a long time until daffodils come out and blossom appears, but it presented a neat contrast with the same Saturday last year.

You may recall that that was in the depths of a particularly cold snap when the huge amounts of snow prevented us from attending the North‑West Quarterly Meeting. However, there were no such problems today, greatly helped by the superb suggestion of Maurice Rose to hold the meeting at the aforementioned drinking establishment following a lovely carvery at an earlier time to the traditional ringing meeting.

I have to admit I am rather fond of the ringer's tea in a quaint village hall after an afternoon's ringing that I grew up with and having a carvery with every district meeting could get quite expensive for members, but the notion of having a pub lunch and warm venue to entice people out to some of the winter get-togethers is one I'm quite enamoured to after the success of today's event.

The Norman Tower.It followed on from morning ringing at The Norman Tower with a good attendance from all across the district and particularly the youngsters of Great Barton. It was great to see, but not unusual for such an enthusiastic corner of the Guild. This enthusiasm is highlighted by Ruth Suggett, the district's Ringing Master, but she - like me and all the district RMs - needs help and most particularly between five and six on Wednesday's at Bardwell to help some youngsters and at Mildenhall. Please do contact Ruth if you can help, however little it may be.


It's not just in the west of the county that there are young learners coming along and congratulations to Alex 'Flea' Rolph and her father Ed from Halesworth who rang their first quarter at Rumburgh today. Well done, hopefully the first of many!

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Friday 7th January 2011

It had been coming and for many it was a source of surprise and disappointment that it hadn't happened a long time ago. Ultimately it was the right decision I believe, but I was still very sad to see Roy Keane sacked this morning by my beloved Ipswich Town.

As with everything involving Woodbridge's most famous current resident - that's Roy, not me - today's announcement saw much national press coverage, but didn't distract me from sending in my last report as Guild Ringing Master for the Annual Report. This one is a little more reflective of my period as Master as a whole rather than just 2010, though it applies just as much to this last year as to the previous four. However, as usual there just isn't enough space to write everything I'd like to and so I'm grateful for the opportunity that this blog gives me to get more across, even if it isn't to as wide an audience as the report. I think Ruth might still need to do a bit of squeezing and editing though!

Earl StonhamOver my period as Ringing Master it has been a privilege and honour to serve many ringers who have done much for the Guild over the years and whom I look up to. One such ringer is Muriel Page and so I'm delighted to echo the sentiments of the band which rang with her at Earl Stonham today and wish her a very Happy 75th Birthday!


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Thursday 6th January 2011

BrandestonIt was perhaps always going to be a tall order. Just a week (is that all it was?!) since we finally laid to rest our attempts to ring twenty-seven Surprise Minor methods at The Folly, we found ourselves at Brandeston in the dark going for thirty-five methods.

The band was again slightly different with Louis - now a forty-oner after his exploits in Birmingham - replacing Mary Dunbavin and Maggie returning in Ruthie's place - but the endeavour was still there. We were introducing eight methods all with Carlisle above-the-treble, half of them sixth-place variations and so methods like Morpeth (my favourite of the 'standard' forty-one), Canterbury, Whitley and Wooler entered our minds on top of all those we had spent the best part of a year getting to grips with.

The composition called for a 1440 of twenty-three methods, with all the new ones crammed into the first half of that and so the hardest bit was always going to be the beginning. We didn't get any further than the 720 mark where two bells had swapped over, but that belies what a good effort for our first go it was. The ringing in the main was confident and ultimately it was undone by understandable method mistakes as people tried to process what names went with what underworks!

Whilst some of the band headed to The Queen's Head nearby, I returned home for tea with my fiancée before we popped out for a drink or two with Toby at The Mariner's and then the Red Lion. No doubt we'll be out again soon with Mason's Godfather and we'll definitely be going for the thirty-five again soon!

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Wednesday 5th January 2011

The festive spirit probably left when I woke up with a sore head on New Year's Day and almost certainly on my return to work yesterday morning, but the season has actually continued through it all and today was the twelfth day of Christmas. What started with that excited present opening on the 25th officially finished for us as Ruthie spent the morning dismantling the tree and we at work pulled down the remnants of the decorations that had mostly been falling down over the last couple of days. Ah well, only another six months before the Christmas cards are back in the shops.

Whilst it is always sad to see the tinsel come down, it at least represents new beginnings and so it was appropriate that my destination tonight was The Wolery and the first peal attempt of 2011 on this mini-ring. On this occasion we were going for twenty-five Surprise methods, including many new ones to Tom and me, apparently part of an ultimate master-plan to ring forty-two Surprise Minor methods with all-the-work. We were successful this evening though it was probably one of our poorest efforts. Hopefully the rest of the year will be better! Happy Birthday anyway Mick.

After some chocolate roll, biscuits and cup of tea, I was off to The Greyhound to meet up with Ruthie and others who had been to Pettistree practice and partaken in an apparently very well-rung quarter of Lightfoot.

Preston St MaryMeanwhile, well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first quarter of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the success at Preston St Mary as that group of ringers also gets under way for this year - no doubt the first of many!


And whilst we finish our Christmas off, according to one of my presents - a Simpson's calendar - tomorrow is Christmas in Armenia, so season's greetings to my Armenian readers!

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Tuesday 4th January 2011

At the start of today it felt like an eternity since I was last at work. By the end of the morning it felt like I'd never been away. The general inactivity of the days leading up to Christmas was today replaced by a fully attended office, meetings and general hustle and bustle at John Catt.

It was almost the complete opposite to our evening as Ruthie and I enjoyed our first Tuesday night in of the year. However, that's not to say it was entirely a lazy one as a trip to Tesco where we bumped into Toby and his mum Debs who I haven't seen for years (she used to run The Green Man in Tunstall with her son) preceded Ruthie transferring our homebrew into its barrel.

I would've helped but I was on the phone to my brother who was busy informing me he is moving house next month, so no rest for him! Eventually our night was topped off by Toby popping round for a bit as we all sat back and relaxed into normal life again.

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Monday 3rd January 2011

Ruthie got a new phone from her sister at Christmas, I purchased one yesterday and with brand new calendars and diaries aiding us into 2011 it was perhaps inevitable that with our track record the odd date arranged before the festivities kicked off would be missed.

So it was today as we were reminded this morning that we had been invited to the panto at The New Wolsey Theatre tonight by Kate, the invitation given out but not noted sometime in the December hustle. Our main problem was that we have Mason until tomorrow morning and with most of our usual babysitters either at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice or due to be at the panto with us, Ruthie and I were extremely grateful to Kala for coming over to look after her Godson.

The panto itself was superb, a rock 'n' roll version of Jack and the Beanstalk, with old predictable humour mixed in with some really very funny stuff. It was a fantastic night and thanks to Kate for taking us and of course Kala for looking after the li'l chap. It all worked out well in the end!

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Sunday 2nd January 2011

It is that short period between getting over the festivities and getting back to the normality of everyday working life for most of us where nothing much happens. It can get quite quiet which was certainly the case at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning with only eight ringers present, including Mum who was continuing her recovery.

Ipswich, St LawrenceThe vast majority of the band continued on to St Lawrence for first Sunday ringing however, where we were joined by Ros Butler from Cambridgeshire, ultimately helping us achieve a superbly struck touch of Stedman Doubles.

At any time of the year numbers are low at Grundisburgh, though on this occasion they weren't far behind SMLT with seven ringers.

From here though it was a very quiet day in for Mason and me as Ruthie was already experiencing that back-to-work sensation and having drunk and eaten far too much over the last couple of weeks our evening promised to be a bit of a comedown after recent festivities with us electing a sober night! However, a visit from Toby - also on a sobriety trip - helped enhance our evening as we attempted to solve Miss Marple murder mysteries and went through all the famous people we knew or had met. You'd be amazed how many celebrities go through The Ship's doors!

Meanwhile, the first Suffolk Guild peal of the year was rung at St Peter in Sudbury and well done to Ruth Suggett on ringing her first of Grandsire Caters and Alan Mayle on ringing his 1550th peal. We're already one up on this stage last year! More importantly it's hopefully the start of a year of achievements and a good moment to remind people of the forthcoming Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011. Please take advantage of this last Peal Week (organised by me at least!) and let's see what we can achieve at the end of next month!

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New Year's Day 2011

Ufford churchA new year and a new role as I found myself running the South-East District practice at Ufford with Kate laid low with the lurgy. As seems traditional for the South-East and the Guild's first event of the year, there was a big turn out and members from Rushmere, Ipswich, Hollesley, Pettistree, Wickham Market, Felixstowe and many other places across the district rang a varied mix from Call-Changes to Double Norwich to Bristol and Mum had her first proper go at ringing for over a week as her elbow continues to recover. However, my position as SE Ringing Master was strictly temporary and in no way an indication that I would like to take on the role permanently when Kate vacates the role at the end of this year!

Oh Dear, Richard!!With Mason in tow having picked him up (very late!) in the morning, ourselves, Mike, Pippa, Susanne and Pete went in search of a pub that was actually open, eventually ending up in The Anchor in Woodbridge before the li'l chap, Ruthie and I went onto the latter's Deben Road abode where we were generously fed ham, wine and homebrew. Although it was less than two weeks ago that we were last here to celebrate their new home and Pete's birthday, it seemed an eternity ago as we faced out to a 2011 completely unwritten and yet no doubt full of twists and turns, ups and downs. I hope it is more good than bad for all of you.

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