Wednesday 26th April 2017
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My earliest memories of post-practice drinks at St Mary-le-Tower were in the Great White Horse Hotel next door to the church. It was far before I was old enough to drink and in fact I don't ever remember having an alcoholic beverage there, but the interior was stunning, at least to this youngster's mind. I loved the fact that the courtyard that was once outside was by then indoors and the location of the bar and it is a shame it is no longer open.
However, part of it is now a Starbucks and whilst in Ipswich town centre this afternoon - being productive following an early shift at work - we needed to deal with the mess of one of the boys, as is a frequent occurrence when we are out with them and this was the first place we came across where we could deal with the necessities of such an event. As I sipped on a much-needed hot chocolate as a trade-off for using their facilities, those dim and distant Monday nights came flooding back, having never really thought about this little bit of everyday 1980/1990s ringing history. It made me wish that there were written accounts and photos of these visits to a lost space and reminded me how this blog could potentially offer some kind of insight to ringing and its associated socialising in Suffolk to those hopefully reading this back in the future.
Therefore, going into the annals of history today was Ruthie's visit to Pettistree, which took in another busy practice and a drink in The Greyhound afterwards. Even in the time of this blog those drinks have moved from The Three Tuns which has sadly closed down in recent months and shows how much things can change in just a few years.
My wife was able to attend courtesy of a lift from her mother Kate, who had earlier rung in something that hasn't changed in recent years - the pre-session quarter-peal on this ground-floor six. As has also become the norm on a Wednesday in the years since I began writing the blog nearly ten years ago, there was other activity on the county's bells, with another peal at The Wolery.
It may not seem extraordinary at the moment, but these may be memories we recall fondly one day.
Following on from a general election two years ago and the EU referendum last year, the Prime Minister Theresa May has decided that she wants another GE on 8th June. Goodness knows what the Scots are thinking after their independence vote in just 2014 and another one potentially on the horizon. With local elections due to take place next month, I only hope that the Suffolk Guild's members aren't put off turning up and voting at Saturday's AGM in Beccles!
Meanwhile, members were doing the other thing they do best - ringing! At least in Offton, where a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung on the back six prior to this evening's practice on the ground-floor eight. It's got my vote as my favourite bit of the blog today!
Family, friends and ringing come first as the great loves of my life. Despite everything they have put me through though, Ipswich Town closely come next. Since the first ITFC match I ever watched live as a boy just turned nine years old (which they won!), I have witnessed in front of my very eyes promotions, some of the best players in the world and enjoyed some extremely enjoyable days out, home, away and at Wembley.
In recent years however, it has been a thoroughly depressing experience being a Town supporter, especially this season and in the four years since I began taking Mason along there has been little but defeat and disappointment for him to endure. Yet still he persistently asks when we're next going to watch the Tractor Boys play, so with this afternoon's fixture against Newcastle United dedicated as Sir Bobby Robson Day (with it being a clash between the club with whom he made his name and the club that he supported from boyhood) it seemed the ideal game to take him to. The opposition are one of the biggest names in the country and came to Portman Road in second place and looking likely to be promoted back to the Premier League they were only relegated from last year, a big crowd and therefore super atmosphere was expected and a number of ex-players were due to sign autographs in the Fanzone before kick-off. Plenty to stoke the ten year-old's enthusiasm, the only downside being that the Geordies were so good it was in all likelihood going to be a torrid ninety minutes on the pitch. One could only hope that the boys in blue kept the score respectable.
Therefore, we made sure we enjoyed the pre-match festivities all the more. We bumped into my eldest's classmate Connor, the bouncy castle was briefly taken advantage of, I slipped in a quick pint, grabbed a word with Mark Murphy at the BBC Radio Suffolk tent about the Guild's support of Suffolk Day on 21st June. The highlight ahead of the 3pm start was meeting the legends of this once great club. Martijn Reuser - who scored the final goal of the play-off final victory at the national stadium the last time we were promoted to the top flight seventeen long years ago - was glimpsed among an adoring gaggle of fans, but Mason got autographs from and pictures with Kevin Beattie who played nine times for England and is frequently voted the best ever Ipswich Town player and Roger Osborne who famously scored the winning goal in the 1978 FA Cup Final for the most successful football team in East Anglia.
As predicted too, the atmosphere was electric as over 25,000 people - the highest attendance of the season in what is the penultimate league game of the 2016/17 campaign at PR - nearly filled the stadium. What wasn't predicted though, was that we won! And won well! Over the last year or so the entertainment value with my favourite team has been zilch, the style of football dire and yet against one of the best teams in the division we played exciting, entertaining football and were entirely deserving of our convincing 3-1 victory. To give it a ringing analogy, it was akin to watching a twelve-bell band that usually struggles through a course of Little Bob Maximus suddenly pull a sparkling four leads of Bristol Surprise Maximus worthy of the National Twelve-Bell Final from absolutely nowhere. It was a joy in its own right, but even more so to see Mason's face!
Being a ringing blog though, I ought to mention some ringing I suppose. Whilst there were no quarter-peals or peals recorded on BellBoard in the county, there was a spectacular peal attempt just over the border at Great St Mary's in Cambridge, where a band were going for a 10032 of fourteen spliced Maximus methods, something sadly lost last year for the Queen's ninetieth birthday and sadly lost again today at the end of the second part. God willing they'll go for it again and "third time lucky" will come into play!
There were some impressive successes across the country though. Seven spliced Surprise Fourteen methods were rung at Winchester Cathedral and having partaken in a similar project with Stuart Hutchieson in the past it would have been of a high quality and lots of fun! Meanwhile, former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd partook in a 5017 of Stedman Cinques at St Paul's Cathedral and there was a strong representation from within our borders on the other side of the country where another former SMLT ringer George Salter was ringing in a 5019 of Stedman Cinques at Redcliffe in Bristol - his new city of residence - with two current Tower regulars Louis Suggett and Laura Davies, the latter of whom was rightly chuffed with her efforts on one of the heaviest bells in the world hung for change-ringing!
It was a great day in football and ringing!
When the Dean of York controversially sacked the ringers of the Minster back in October, it was promised that there would be ringing there for Easter with a new band. Well, according to reports, the bells were ringing at this famous venue on this most important of days. Of course, the apparent suggestion at the time that a twelve-bell band made up of new recruits would be manning the bells was predictably wide of the mark, with just the light eight rung by ready-made ringers helping out by all accounts, but it is nice that this grand peal were ringing out again, even if it wasn't by the people that should have been manning the bells as they would've done expertly last Easter.
And it is reassuring to hear that some of the old band have been applying to be part of the new band, which must be a very difficult decision that deserves the full support of fellow ringers, despite - or perhaps even because of - the circumstances. Also reassuring has been the recent revelation that following the initially very badly handled announcement six months ago, that Worcester Cathedral Ringing Master Mark Regan has been guiding the Dean and Chapter through this sorry saga. There are few in ringing more qualified to step into such a role and whilst it seems unlikely that the current authorities are going to be shifted on their position, hopefully Mark's invaluable input will have brought some understanding of ringing to the table.
Nonetheless, I still feel uncomfortable with the stain that this Christian organisation has left upon a number of the ringers who were so unceremoniously discarded as if part of some unsavoury cover-up. Safeguarding is the most important issue for any section of society hoping to attract children to partake, including ringing. It can not be taken lightly and I applaud the Minster's intention to prevent any ambiguity. However, many of the sacked band have had nothing to do with what is alleged by the D & C to have caused all of this and yet they have still been tarnished by the serious accusations that Vivienne Faull and John Sentamu have vaguely waved about in the band's direction, without any sense of clarification. Although most ringers will be aware of the background, many won't as indeed the general public won't, so I hope that clarification will come at least.
Ironically on the Sunday that the largely silent bells of York Minster were rung again, today was a rare Sabbath when I did no ringing as I stayed at home with Alfie and the poorly Joshua whilst Ruthie went singing at Woodbridge.
Later, with a better Mason collected, we met with my wife's sister Clare and her husband Kev and their daughters and Ron at mother-in-law Kate's for a gratefully received roast - thank you Kate!
With no third-Sunday special practice at St Mary-le-Tower due to it being Easter, my unusual Sunday of no ringing was complete and it seemed generally quiet in regards to peals and QPs in Suffolk, although a couple of quarters at Lowestoft started the NDA Quarter-Peal Week off. However, there was an impressive 10080 of forty-five spliced Surprise Major methods rung at Garlickhythe to report upon.
God willing there will be better news to report from York Minster in the coming months.
For our friends Toby and Amy, their wedding day today has been over a year in planning, arguably longer. Anyone who has been involved in arranging such an occasion will be aware of the many, many aspects that need organising. Dresses, suits, venues, caterers, transport and much, much more. Thank God it went to plan for them and as best man I like to think I helped in that from accompanying the groom to the Caravan Cafe in Woodbridge for a full fry-up breakfast first thing and helping ensure he was ready for pick-up to the 1pm ceremony at St Andrew's church in Melton. I remembered to produce the rings when called upon, made myself available for photos when needed at the church and the reception venue of The Hungarian Hall at Pettistree and didn't appear to offend anyone with my speech.
However, things far from went to plan for us personally as first Mason woke up being sick and was thus returned to his mother for the day and then we noticed spots had begun appearing on Joshua. It may or may not be chicken pox, but with at least two pregnant women attending and not knowing if there would be any other vulnerable guests there, we decided it wasn't worth the risk taking him into close proximity to them for the next few hours. Fortunately Ruthie's mother Kate was close to hand to look after him, but understandably at such short notice she had plans for the evening that couldn't be changed and so it meant that our plans to dance the night away as the boys played with their peers were scuppered.
Deeply disappointing as that was - especially as the newlyweds are Godparents to the two missing patients - it ultimately didn't detract from what a wonderful day it was, as the newly married couple fully enjoyed their day, which is the most important thing and with my wife also being a witness to the signing of the register, we were honoured to play our part in their special day.
That said, it was also a full-on day and with the place of worship at the centre of the main event home only to a 10cwt three that is chimed within its slender tower, we had no opportunity to partake in any ringing, but elsewhere there was a quarter-peal of Doubles rung on the front five at Buxhall. Hopefully that was intentional rather than their plans going awry!
Good Friday is a date that I look forward to immensely, as typically it means enjoying the superb hospitality of David and Katharine Salter in between a couple of usually well-rung peals and today was one of its best examples. A brace of performances rung accurately and briskly with feet-tapping rhythm, interjected with a feast devoured gratefully by the band as we welcomed Mick Edwards who has reliably rung the treble to hundreds of peals here, but for whom ill-health has brought his involvement to an end. Conversation veered from family trees to ringers lost in the First World War and much in between and it was a pleasure to catch-up with Alan Mayle - as well as ring in his 1001st and 1002nd peals for the Suffolk Guild - and Clare Veal, whose work commitments have curtailed her ringing in this terraced corner of the county recently.
As alluded to yesterday, the methods pealed weren't taxing, but just different enough to keep us on our toes, thus generating focus and concentration and therefore some extremely enjoyable ringing. Penarth Surprise Major is essentially Cambridge above with a lot of the dodges below replaced by places and was named in a quarter-peal at Penarth itself back in September, but this was the first peal in the method. Xit Surprise Major meanwhile was apparently named by George Thoday as a shortened version of Brexit and is Lincolnshire Surprise Major with the five dodges on the front replaced with four consecutive blows leading whilst another does the same in seconds, the type of variation I dislike. They feel unnatural, to my ear sound wrong and certainly on eight I can't believe there aren't numerous other variations available involving just two consecutive blows together. That said, I couldn't complain about the results this afternoon, with some lovely music and more super ringing, but I can't say it has changed my opinion on such methods!
Nonetheless, it was a great day out - thank you again to the Salters for their wonderful hosting!
The only downside of the occasion was that I wasn't accompanied by the family, with Ruthie practising singing for the big Easter Sunday service, Alfie and Joshua too young to hang around all day and Mason - who would usually make hay with David and Katharine's youngest son Henry on these occasions - still travelling back from a family holiday with his mother in Liverpool. To top a superb day off though, we were all reunited before darkness fell.
It was indeed a Good Friday.
After a late shift at work and ahead of what should be a busy weekend, it was an evening of learning methods for tomorrow's traditional double-header at The Wolery and putting my best man's speech together for the wedding on Saturday of our friends Toby and Amy. Mercifully it didn't take much investigation to realise that the two Surprise Major methods due to be attempted in Old Stoke actually take minimal learning, but the speech still needs some work!
Following on from last night's meal to mark Terry Whale's retirement and celebrate his contribution to ringing at Woodbridge, it was lovely to see a photo from the event on the Guild's Facebook page as he received a bell from the ringers.
The loss of his dedicated service is a further reminder that we need to maintain - and if possible increase - our efforts to recruit and retain ringers and those efforts were in no way harmed by Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge's superb appearance on our county's local BBC radio station this morning, speaking to friend of ringing Mark Murphy about our hopes to mark the inaugural annual Suffolk Day on 21st June. Uncharted territory as this will be, I imagine it will open up opportunities we may not have otherwise had to promote the art within our borders, as well as perhaps ring at towers that wouldn't normally get the chance to ring at in the name of this big day. Having worked with him on St Edmund's Day in the past, Mark was keen to get the ringers on board for 21/6/2017 and Neal spoke brilliantly during his moment on the airwaves - this will hopefully be great PR for the SGR.
Also on the Guild's FB page was a picture of the Otley Ringers' Annual Meal as they used their night-off from their usual practice night during Holy Week to socialise, but elsewhere ringing continued as normal, as Ruthie went along for a Pettistree practice preceded by a quarter-peal of eight spliced Surprise Minor methods and followed by a drink in The Greyhound. Thank you very much to the band for dedicating the QP to Alfie's birthday!
And best of luck to Terry!
Yesterday's blog drew mention of a meal this evening to mark the retirement from ringing of Woodbridge ringer Terry Whale. We were very kindly invited, but with Joshua a little under the whether and logistics hampering us we reluctantly felt unable to commit to the soiree in St Mary's Church House beneath the tower that he has spent so many years ringing in.
It was a pity, as we would've liked to shown our appreciation for his efforts. Like so many across the county, despite not being a star name of the exercise nor partaken in hundreds of peals or held office within the Guild, he is the type of ringer that helps keep Suffolk's bells going in places where otherwise they might not have been rung. He has dedicated countless hours to ringing at this 25cwt eight and helping to ensure that they are rung every Sunday and for weddings and other occasions when called upon. Sharp-witted as he is though, he has cut an increasingly frail figure and understandably has decided to call it a day in the face of the many, many stairs to the long-drafted heavy eight. Tonight's meal was a well-deserved reward for his significant contribution.
Meanwhile, although the SGR AGM at Beccles on Saturday 22nd April looming large, it is due to be followed very quickly by what I consider the most exciting period of the county's ringing calendar - striking competition season. Nothing divides opinion quite like this medium. Some are vehemently against them and reason that it is the same teams and same people who win it, with those people ringing in several teams and they will often suggest they aren't good enough to partake. Quite apart from that being untrue these days (I've explained at length previously as to why), they are missing the point. Like peals, quarters, outings, practices and other aspects of ringing, they are first and foremost a way of progressing one's ringing. The experience of taking part is a valuable one, an opportunity to focus on your striking and although concentration should be maintained at a high level at all times, it is often at its highest at striking competitions. Quite apart from that, they are fun! There is genuine competition from a number of teams across the county in the pursuit of silverware, especially with the call-change elements.
The District contests are pencilled in to start on 6th May with the South-East, who plan on holding theirs at Bredfield and a week later the North-East are due at Metfield for theirs and whilst the North-West aren't holding one, the South-West aim to hold theirs on 24th June at Woolpit, where today a quarter-peal of Hempsted Bob Minor, a first in the method for Lesley and David Steed and Stephen Dawson - well done to them!
However, today I got my first glimpse of details for the Guild Striking Competitions planned for Saturday 20th May. I had heard on the grapevine that the eight-bell competition - the Rose Trophy - was to be held at the wonderful brand new octave of Horringer, a ring that deserve a good turnout of teams. However, I wasn't sure where the six bell competitions - the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy - would be held. I need not wonder anymore, as it has been revealed that they are planned to take place at Walsham-le-Willows, where I always enjoy going. Having the latter competitions in the morning and the former in the afternoon has been a great success since the format was introduced two years ago and should hopefully make it easier for ringers and their teams to attend. It has been a joy to see a wide range of participants from across the county participating in recent years and I hope that continues this year, including from the Terry Whale's of this world!
Occasionally it may appear through my ramblings in this blog that we wish the boys weren't getting in our way. However, although - as every parent of young children can testify I imagine - there are times that their presence prevents us from doing some things and makes doing other things more logistically challenging, we are constantly grateful and amazed by their existence. For all the attention they require, the tantrums and the (mercifully rare now I'm glad to say!) rude awakenings in the middle of the night, they give us far more moments of joy and amusement.
We are blessed to have them, but as we celebrated Alfie's third birthday today we have rarely been more aware of it. The anniversary of his birth on 10th April 2014 naturally brings up memories, accompanied or prompted by photos of his evolution from an entirely dependent and fragile little being to the boisterous, confident boy with a cheeky character, a wide vocabulary and many friends who adore him and who he adores.
Being a Monday, nothing particularly spectacular accompanied the occasion, although it was brilliant watching him rip into his presents and begin playing with his new toys like the new tool bench we got him and particularly his bike and scooter! Thank you everyone for his birthday wishes!
Even if there had then been time to attend St Mary-le-Tower practice afterwards though, there wasn't one anyway as of course it is Holy Week, when it is traditional for bells to sit silent in most church towers. For SMLT that means a spring-clean for the ringing chamber, at The Norman Tower they have a band meal, whilst Woodbridge's ringers will be marking the retirement from the exercise of Terry Whale with a fish 'n' chip supper tomorrow night when they would usually have been practicing. Nonetheless, the Wednesday practices at Pettistree and Sproughton usually - to the best of my knowledge - continue and there will be a session at Grundisburgh on Thursday evening.
Clearly though, it was having an effect on peal and quarter-peal ringing, with none - successfully at least - rung within our borders and recorded on BellBoard today and across the country there was dip in numbers of performances whilst simultaneously a rise in handbell and mini-ring scores perceptively rose.
That said, the half-muffled bells of Southwark Cathedral were prevalent in the media coverage of the funeral of PC Keith Palmer, the policeman murdered at the Houses of Parliament nearly three weeks ago, whilst a peal of Stedman Cinques was rung at nearby St Magnus-the-Martyr in his memory, a wonderful - if sad - example of how bells can speak to a wider audience.
Whilst our day was without bells though, it was still a memorable one personally.
Happy Birthday Alfred! Thank God you and your brothers are here!
There were contrasting fortunes at the heaviest and lightest twelves in Suffolk for service ringing this morning. Whereas a packed ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower included the visits of Katharine Salter and Nigel Newton and the return of Lucy Williamson back from France for Easter enabling us to ring some Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, Grundisburgh was extremely low on numbers, with Grandsire Triples the most we could muster there. Nonetheless, it gave youngsters Yasmin and Maisie plenty of opportunity and bodes well for what God willing will be better times ahead in the little wobbly red-brick tower.
Still, there were fewer people present to man the bells at the latter than were gathered at our house for part two of Alfie's birthday celebrations this afternoon. Tomorrow will - as those of you who have read yesterday's blog will know - be the third anniversary of Alfie's birth and having welcomed his friends Maddie and Robyn and a couple of his Godparents twenty-four hours earlier, we opened our home to both sets of his grandparents, his great Aunty Marian, Aunty Clare and his cousins Katelynn and Annalise today. A lively afternoon of party food, conversation and more exuberant present opening followed.
Whilst we were partying away, other ringers were manning Suffolk's bells. The Norman Tower are to be commended on further supporting SBABC with a 1296 of Julie McDonnell New Bob Caters, whilst more ringers lost in the First World War exactly a century ago were remembered, this time with a quarter-peal of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles at St Cross South Elmham.
However, the headline act in ringing terms was Alan Mayle, a man who has served the Guild as Peal Secretary today rang his one thousandth peal for the SGR. Appropriately it was rung on the east coast at Aldeburgh, where he has rung more peals than any other place, despite being resident in Clare deep in the depths of the west of the county by the border with Essex. Most of those will have been rung on the second Sunday of the month and of course so was this afternoon's 5008 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the 11cwt gallery ring of eight. Congratulations Alan, a landmark well earned!
Nice to end a day of contrasting fortunes for Suffolk ringing on a deserved high!
Midweek birthdays can be difficult to celebrate at any age. In the main, likely guests are at work and school and/or going to be there the following morning. Later in life that makes nights out with alcoholic beverages increasingly undesirable as it takes longer and longer with each passing anniversary of one's birth to recover from such excesses. For children, it means having a limited period of time between finishing their day's education or play and going to bed.
Unless the calendar throws an unexpected and unlikely spanner in the works, Monday will be 10th April and therefore three years to the day since Alfie was born and with the above in mind we have decided to mark the approaching day with a weekend of visits from close family and friends, starting this morning with the appearance of his peers Robyn and Maddie and their parents, which included Alfred's Godfather Nick. It was certainly lively as the youngsters played together, trying out AJM's new roller skates and scoffing the food that was supplied, whilst us adults excitedly discussed houses, weddings and babies. Such is the stage of life that we have all reached.
A quiet afternoon followed, before things got lively again as we entered The Greyhound in Pettistree, which is nearly always busy but was particularly so this evening as about thirty ringers and their families were gathered for the annual dinner for those who ring regularly on the ground-floor six at St Peter & St Paul across the churchyard. As usual, the food and drink were superb, as was the company. Hazel Judge won Mary's 'Monthly' Plate for the hard work she puts in as tower correspondent, Mrs Garner herself and the kilted Ringing Master Mike Whitby spoke briefly but marvellously and the night was rounded off by Ron playing Happy Birthday on the bagpipes as a birthday cake with a candle was generously brought out for AJM, which was of course duly blown out with much gusto by the toddler - thank you to all involved with that!
There was certainly an air of celebration around the occasion for a number of reasons, as there must have been down in London at Southwark Cathedral, where the 5091 of Stedman Cinques was the first peal on the newly restored twelve that is due to hold this year's final of the National Twelve-Bell Contest on Saturday 24th June. It was also the two hundredth peal for Jonathan Slack, son of former Guild Treasurer Gordon and once of Suffolk himself. In fact, his formative ringing was done here in the county at about the same time as mine, the seventy-two he has rung for the SGR is still more than he has rung for any other ringing organisation and despite having left the county many years ago he still feels like one of ours! Congratulations Jonathan and to everyone at this famous landmark in the capital.
Well done to some current resident members within our borders today too.
Chris Davies and Yvonne Lowe are to be commended on ringing more methods in
than they have ever rung with the five methods successfully negotiated at Gislingham,
but even more notable is Gill Durrant ringing her first quarter in
the 1260 of Plain
Bob Doubles at the 8cwt ground-floor six of Holbrook. Congratulations and
well done Gill, hopefully the first of many!
What a day of celebrations!
When earlier this week Adrian Craddock requested through the Suffolk Guild's Facebook page for someone to replace him in ringing for a wedding at Grundisburgh this weekend due to him being unexpectedly held up in Somerset, I willingly put myself forward, knowing that I would have finished work already after an early shift at work. What I had forgotten though was that Ruthie and I had booked our car in for a service today.
A couple of phone calls yesterday soon sorted that challenge out as Joanna Crowe very kindly agreed to pick me up from outside the office and take me to ringing for the 2pm ceremony. It went to plan to such an extent that there was even time to pop into the nearby Grange Farm Shop on the way, all in all a relaxed journey in the sunshine. However, as we stood at the bottom of the little wobbly red-brick tower that houses the county's lightest twelve, admiring the quintessential English village scene in front of us on another sunny spring day just twenty minutes before the service was due to begin, it struck us as strange that there was no sign of activity. No ringers, no ushers, groom, guests, vicar - nobody. Here, this seemingly simple acceptance to ring for a wedding took yet another twist on its transformation to something more convoluted. Searching the notice boards for reference to the occasion, hoping that it would reveal that we were there early or even on the wrong day, we were to find that we had the right time and the right day, but were in the wrong place!
Minutes later we were in the correct venue of Hasketon, after a dash to the car and brisk but careful journey through the winding country lanes between the villages, greeted by the sound of four bells being rung by a quartet puzzled by our absence and rightly deciding to get on with things in part with the bride's arrival looming fast. Of course - as is the tradition - she was late, which allowed a decent blast of call-changes on all six, albeit interrupted by false perceptions of her arrival.
Once the star of the show had arrived, we ringers sat at the back, privileged to witness this special event for the happy couple, before we returned to the ground-floor ringing chamber to ring them out. Young Yasmin in particular did well and was upbeat despite yesterday seeing her first attempt at a peal come to a premature finish at the aforementioned Grundisburgh in unfortunate circumstances just a few changes and minutes before the end, which was also a shame for David Twissell whose ambition it had been to ring a peal to mark the forthcoming eightieth anniversary of his birth. Still he too was there with his wife Gill as we did our bit today.
Elsewhere, the FNQPC did their bit to celebrate the fortieth wedding anniversary of former local and current Lincolnshire ringer Janet Clarke and her ringing husband Stephen, as her sister Jenny, brother-in-law Robert and nephew Tom rang a 1320 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor at Earl Stonham in their honour.
At least they turned up to the right place and at least we got our car back at the end of the day. I've discovered life without it can be quite tricky!
We shall be without Mason this weekend as he will be going on a family holiday with his mother and so on a beautiful and warm afternoon that I had free having been on an early shift at work, I found myself having a kick-around in the park at Hasketon in the shadow of St Andrew's round tower which holds the 9cwt ground-floor six with my eldest son. As much as we'll miss the boy over the next few days, it was an extremely pleasant hour or two in gorgeous spring sunshine in a lovely spot.
Later, whilst Ruthie was at choir practice, I was grateful to mother-in-law Kate this evening for looking after his younger brothers Alfie and Joshua at the west end of another St Andrew's church, this time in Melton where at the east end of this particular place of worship I was partaking in the rehearsal of the forthcoming marriage ceremony for our friends Toby and Amy where it is planned for me to best man. Those who have rung regularly at Woodbridge and Ufford in recent years will know of the Reverend Paul Hambling, the larger-than-life rector of this parish and who is due to lead the service and of course the engaged couple have got to know him through making arrangements for the big day over the last few months, but it was amusing witnessing the reactions of those present who hadn't met him before! He certainly left an impression and I think a positive one at that and tonight's proceedings certainly whet the appetite for the 15th April wedding.
Meanwhile, other ringers in Suffolk were providing a super backdrop to some of the many that were probably taking advantage of the great outdoors in our wonderful county by ringing a peal of Doubles at Elmsett, which I imagine was a lovely sound drifting across the picturesque landscape surrounding this 3cwt five.
It was indeed a great day to ring, rehearse wedding ceremonies or play football in our rural communities.
Next Monday will be the third anniversary of Alfie's birth and God willing we shall have a weekend of celebrations for the little chap involving close friends and family. However, my brother Chris - his Godfather - and his wife Becky are unable to visit from Bury St Edmunds this weekend and so with me on an early shift at work and Alfred in Woodbridge town centre having a haircut, we agreed to meet this afternoon at The Red Lion.
What followed was a perfectly convivial couple of hours, with conversation veering from football to house-hunting to ringing before we eventually parted company, presents and Easter eggs generously handed over. Lovely to catch-up with them both.
It was bookended with a brief cameo on Mark Murphy's BBC Radio Suffolk show on a matter completely unrelated to ringing this morning and a peal attempt at The Wolery this evening, which I am glad to say was successful, as we took advantage of Colin's return from university for the Easter break to return to the subject of Surprise Major. On this occasion we rang Wildebeest, an unspectacular but pleasant variation of Yorkshire that brought about some nice music and was different enough to keep people on their toes. Congratulations to Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase on ringing his six hundredth peal in the process!
Elsewhere the county's bells were kept active with three quarter-peals in total accompanying our 1hr49mins of ringing. There was a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at 'armonious 'orringer and as usual the weekly practice at Pettistree was preceded with a QP, with a 1272 of Munden Surprise Minor getting the band up to speed ahead of the session after. However, of particular note was the 1368 of Carlisle Surprise Minor rung at Great Finborough, which was Maureen Gardiner's first in the method. Well done Maureen!
Cake, biscuits and tea succeeded our performance, but with another early start tomorrow it was time to depart sooner rather than later at the end of a long, exhausting, but immensely enjoyable day.
Offton's pre-practice quarter-peal of Stedman Triples is the only ringing that I am able to report in today's blog, with even Michael Wilby seemingly taking a rest from extreme tenor-ringing!
Therefore, here's another reminder that Saturday 22nd April is Suffolk AGM Day, this year due to be hosted by the North-East District in Beccles, but including towers open on two routes in, with Bungay on the western route and Yoxford on the southern route open from 1.45-2.30pm and then respectively followed up by Barsham and Blythburgh from 2.15-3pm and Ringsfield and Brampton from 2.45-3.30pm before participants from both routes should converge upon the 25cwt ten overlooking the Norfolk border between 2.30-4pm. Please do support as much of it as you can.
God willing I'll have more to report in my blog in eighteen days time!
The incredible ringing weekend of Michael Wilby continued tonight as he pulled the tenor in to a peal of ten spliced Maximus methods at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, thus completing three peals of fifty Maximus methods totalling 15,160 changes in eleven hours and four minutes on 123cwt of bell metal in three days. Having done much ringing with Michael during my days in the West Midlands I am not surprised but am immensely impressed at this incredible feat of simultaneous physical and mental endurance and agility.
There was nothing quite as spectacular at St Mary-le-Tower (although that was probably the case at pretty much anywhere beyond the 31cwt twelve in the centre of the UK's second city), we still had an extremely productive session at the weekly practice tonight, with a large crowd that included Hilary Stearn who was collecting her purse having left it behind after Saturday's hugely successful Stedman Triples Course but also found a very useful experience that left a very positive impression on her! It is worth noting that SMLT is open to all.
That is certainly what Richard - a ringer returning to the art after decades out - has found as he returned for a second visit in two weeks this evening. Despite being geographically out on a limb on the Felixstowe Peninsula, he has gone beyond just the lovely ground-floor six at Falkenham and the eponymous 2003 7cwt eight and is doing what all ringers should do if they are able by getting out to as many towers as he can and it seems to be paying off, at least judging by the very reasonable job he made of Grandsire Cinques on this occasion. Interesting to hear from him as well that despite the retirement from the exercise of Gwen and Frank Bloomfield and the sad death of Mike Warren in recent years that ringing on the peninsula is still continuing, although like so many towers across the county and country it can be a struggle from a numbers point of view.
With so many there it would've been lovely to have carried on to the Robert Ransome to share a pint and conversation with some of them, but at the end of a day that started in the middle of the night with a very early shift at work and with another very early shift tomorrow it was far more sensible to return home.
Elsewhere in Suffolk others were also ringing. Well done to Michael Asquith on ringing his first quarter-peal of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the 1260 of it at Norwich Diocesan Association tower Lowestoft and at Thornham Magna to Carmen Wright on ringing her first Minor and to Zoe Wright on ringing her first Minor inside and congratulations to honorary lady David Webb on ringing his fiftieth QP of the year thus far in the Plain Bob Minor at the 8cwt ground-floor six.
And well done to Michael Wilby on his monumental achievements this weekend!
Whether it should be a source of concern or not, I was pleasantly surprised to awake today feeling slightly thick-headed but relatively OK following my rare drinking exploits of last night. It seemed sensible however not to drive into Ipswich and then onto Grundisburgh for Sunday morning service ringing and so instead Ruthie drove us up the road to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where I helped man the eight whilst Alfie sat patiently on the bench behind the sixth which I was ringing, before attending the worship that followed.
By the time we had partaken in tea and biscuits in the Church Centre afterwards and fed the animals at mother-in-law Kate's house in her absence, it was well past the twelve hours it is suggested one leaves it between a heavy bout of drinking and taking control of a car and so we meandered to my Mum and Dad's to collect Mason who had enjoyed helping his Nan make the teas at Sproughton post-service.
Other ringers from Suffolk were in a position to be more active today though, with three quarter-peals rung within our borders since the sun rose on this April day - Yorkshire Surprise Major at The Norman Tower, four spliced Doubles methods at Great Finborough and two spliced Surprise Minor methods at Pettistree.
Further afield there was considerable mental activity occurring at All Saints in Worcester where thirty-nine Surprise Maximus methods were rung spliced in a 5104 in 3hrs15mins. And not just thirty-nine slight variations of Yorkshire either, but thirty-nine separate, different Surprise Maximus methods, nineteen of which were being rung for the first time in a peal. It is yet another example of the limitless nature of the exercise. Very few will get the opportunity to ring in such astounding performances like this - which apart from looking spectacular on paper, will have undoubtedly been rung to the very highest standard - and indeed, although I have had the absolute privilege to have rung a lot with many of the band, I can't envisage ever getting the chance to progress to such extreme heights, but it should inspire and motivate ringers of all abilities to make the most of the chances they have to progress and seek more out. In that way, much enjoyment and satisfaction can be had from the art.
Today's efforts were made all the more incredible for the fact that the ringer
of the 20cwt tenor Michael Wilby was 'fresh' from pulling in the 72cwt tenor
at Exeter Cathedral - the second heaviest bell in the world hung for change-ringing
- to 4hrs27mins
of Bristol Surprise Maximus only yesterday. Either peal is utterly notable
in its own right, but combined over one weekend they are phenomenal, with the
immensely talented Alan Reading also worthy of credit for ringing the 33cwt
tenth in the south-west of England twenty-fours ahead of ringing the eleventh
in the Midlands.
If their heads feel even twice as bad tomorrow morning as mine did this morning then it would have been well-earned!
As themes go, that of attendances at District practices and meetings is one of the longest running. Across the near ten years of blog writing, turning up to events which could be really useful, sociable and enjoyable occasions only to find a tiny proportion of the relevant membership has bothered to make the effort has probably been my main gripe and although it has been commented upon in previous Guild Annual Reports, it seems to have been more of an issue across the four Districts in this year's edition than I can recall previously. If used to their full potential, such gatherings can give many learners an opportunity to progress their ringing that they are unable to get at their local tower, whilst more experienced and confident ringers meet up and coming ringers who may be able to help them to achieve their aims - if someone in Suffolk wants to work their way up to twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods for example, they will need newcomers with the ability to help with that aim in the short or long-term, as the numbers who can already do it inevitably dwindles for a multitude of reasons and that won't happen unless they find learners capable of doing that. The more present at practices and meetings, the more one can get out of it from a social perspective and you leave feeling exhausted, but buoyed.
There is also a lot to be said for more focused and controlled training though. The SGR used to hold annual Training Days and I remember one in particular being responsible for one of the most important breakthroughs in my ringing 'career'. It was in the early 1990's when Amanda Richmond was Guild Ringing Master and whilst I was still at a relatively early stage in my ringing, getting to grips with ringing Plain Bob Doubles had been a particularly frustrating gate to get through. However, after a morning in a theory lesson led by Ann Webb (still to be found regularly ringing quarter-peals in the county) and held in one of the classrooms at Stowupland High School where Amanda taught and then a practical session at Wetherden in the afternoon with the group who were learning to call the method, that particular gate was opened for me, allowing me to travel forth into the wide variety in ringing that has served me so well and still holds my interest.
It was a pleasure therefore to witness others learning from South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson as he led this afternoon's District Stedman Triples Course, hopefully opening gates for the twelve pupils who booked their place, starting with an informative, useful and entertaining theory in a room at La Tour Cycle Cafe in Ipswich town centre and then across the road at St Mary-le-Tower for the practical session. Members from Falkenham to Offton took advantage of the experience available and which committed to this beforehand and there was visible improvement from all present - well done to them and to Mr Williamson on a superb course! Even notorious Stedman-hater Ruthie enjoyed it!
After such a productive post meridiem, the evening was a rather frivolous one in comparison, but it was for a good cause. In a fortnight I am due to be best man to our good friend Toby, Godfather to Mason, as he gets married to another good friend of ours Amy, who is Godmother to Joshua and tonight was the groom's stag do. And quite a refreshing one it was too. In recent years this traditional rite of passage has grown into a full-blown holiday for some, with a weekend or even a week away in some exotic location far away at huge expense. All very well when younger and loaded, but not so when one is responsible for children both in duty and financially. I enjoyed the weekend in Edinburgh for my brother Chris' stag do a couple of years ago, but ultimately I was relieved when Toby announced that despite various suggestions he simply wanted to go drinking in Woodbridge.
Therefore, instead of having to make extensive arrangements to ensure that my wife wasn't going to be left in the lurch with the children, I merely left Mrs Munnings and the two youngest sons - having dropped the eldest off with my parents who were generously helping out by putting him up for the night - to have their tea and made the short walk to The Cherrytree to begin the type of evening out that I haven't had the opportunity to enjoy for several years. A myriad of the many public houses that we are so fortunate to have within walking distance of our abode of three years, as The Anchor, The Crown and The Angel were all graced with our gradually deteriorating presence as not unusually the night ended with a group of men trying to be profound and philosophical with a much diminished vocabulary, before we all made our short journey's home. By which point I wished I'd had more training at this type of night out in recent months.
Note the 21st June in your diary. Because that has been pencilled in as the first annual Suffolk Day, as was excitedly announced on Mark Murphy's BBC Radio Suffolk show this morning. Quite what will be involved I'm not sure, but I love the idea of it, especially as I imagine there are ringing opportunities to be had. Other counties have long had their own county day which have been marked by ringing. Yorkshire's is on 1st August and saw peals of the county's eponymous method at Halifax Minster and Handsworth last year, whilst Lincolnshire's is on 1st October, which in 2016 was celebrated by quarters at Bardney and St Mary-le-Wigford in Lincoln and a 5093 of Grandsire Caters at Inveraray by the Lincoln Diocesan Guild.
Now, I'm not suggesting we nip up to Scotland on the longest day to ring a peal, but I can envisage our members ringing the county's bells on that particular Wednesday. Not just with peals and quarter-peals, but general ringing. Some communities may request ringing and it may also be a chance to get some of the lesser-rung bells within our borders turning over for the occasion. It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out.
For today though, the FNQPC were busy ringing bells on our soil as Robert Scase rang his five hundredth QP in the 1280 of Doubles at Cretingham - congratulations Robert, a well deserved landmark reached!
God willing there will be even more celebratory ringing here on Suffolk Day!
Further details on the recent news about 'Whitechapel's' move to Appleton crept out today as it was revealed that Whites are apparently purchasing a vertical boring machine as they will be tuning bells on their site. However, casting will take place at the Westley Group's Newcastle-under-Lyme site as they have purchased the moulds from Whitechapel. To my mind this remains good news, as whilst it is sad that there will no longer be bells cast on the famous old site at E1 1DY, something has been salvaged from the situation and competition amongst British bell foundries (which has to be noted isn't just restricted to Taylor's and Whitechapel) remains healthy.
All this information was gathered from a reliable source on social media, but I still had an enjoyable read of some printed publications today, as hot on the heels of the latest superb edition of Awl a'huld, the Annual Reports are out. Michelle Rolph has done a super job in getting it out well ahead of the SGR AGM at Beccles on Saturday 22nd April, especially considering that amongst the many logistical challenges of putting this together, she has also got married, a logistical challenge in its own right as anyone who has had to arrange a wedding will tell you! Again she has had necessary help from many people and the result - as far as I can tell following a shifty glance of Ruthie's copy - are great! Behind the green covers lies another informative snapshot of ringing in the Suffolk Guild over 2016. Fascinating to read reports from the BAC - where the projects to rehang Little Cornard and augment Stowmarket feature - and Tom Scase's brilliantly written first Ringing Master's report in particular, but as always it is interesting to take in what the Districts have been up and to see at a glance the peal-ringing exploits of our members in a year that numbers in that particular medium rose again. Sad though to read that many are struggling to attract ringers to events that people spend much time and effort putting together and which if properly attended would be of much benefit to ringers of all abilities as well as a super social outlet for ringers at towers that maybe struggle with numbers.
It was something to reflect upon as I joined three ringers for a quick drink in The Red Lion in Woodbridge - Susanne Eddis, her other half Pete Faircloth and his father Maurice who lives and rings in East Sussex and has been visiting his son this week. Unfortunately my wife couldn't join us as she was at choir practice and generally this informal gathering highlighted how complicated such arrangements are now we are full-time parents. Pre-children (well, pre-Alfie and Joshua at least) I would've simply rocked up at the pub after work and Mrs Munnings I imagine would've wandered down from St Mary's Church Centre and we'd partake in drink, food and bawdy conversation until either we'd had enough or (more likely) the bell rang for closing time, without any thought. With two children in tow though, logistics were more convoluted as I got out of work, gathered up the boys and their mother, dropped Mrs Munnings off at choir and then travelled around the one-way system that takes cars around the narrow streets of our elderly town of residence before finally parking up at the pub, unloading the boys and finally meeting up with my drinking companions, with even a brief cameo from Mike Whitby on his way to Grundisburgh practice to enjoy. It was all over far too soon however, as the little 'uns needed to get home to bed and yet it was enjoyable to have them there, chatting away and generally being very well behaved.
Also enjoyable I'm sure was the 1440 of four spliced Surprise Minor methods at Tostock, which God willing should provide some reading material in next year's Annual Report...
Nationally the headlines were dominated by the triggering of Article 50 and
the start of a two-year countdown to Brexit. You may have heard of it.
However, in ringing, there was a different headline - State-of-the-art centre to train bell ringers could open in Norwich next year thanks to more than £260,000 in funding.
Since it was launched in 2015 to coincide with the three-hundredth anniversary of the first recorded true peal, rung at St Peter Mancroft, the Mancroft Appeal 300 has been an exemplary example of how to promote fundraising for a ringing project. Of course it helps that it is a famous location, as St Paul's Cathedral in London are hoping to capitalise on as they look to raise funds for an overhaul of their bells. And the cause is something that I imagine appears more proactive and useful to the general public - a training facility rather than merely rehanging or augmenting bells (as much as we ringers appreciate the importance of that) can often seem more relevant. But the work that our neighbours north of the border have done, led by former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd has been inspirational. The media coverage, the events, the website - everything about it has been professional and spot on and the awarding of this huge grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund is just rewards for their efforts and means that construction work on this exciting project can begin later this year with hopes that the centre will open in the summer of 2018. Well done to all concerned!
As this good news broke, the boys and I were giving Ruthie a lift to Pettistree to enable her to ring in the successful quarter-peal attempt of Beverley, Cambridge, Ipswich and Surfleet Surprise Minor on the ground-floor six as well as partake in the practice that followed and go to The Greyhound afterwards (although being on antibiotics following her weekend illness she was unable to enjoy an ale as she usually would) before her mother Kate very kindly returned her to us.
Elsewhere in Suffolk, there was also a peal rung at The Wolery, the twenty-third of the year thus far for the SGR and although that is slightly down on this time in 2016, we still have the Easter weekend to come which will usually add a handful from Old Stoke alone to the tallies! Either way, it was nice to see and worthy of more headlines, if only it wasn't for some Brexit thingy going on...
The best case scenario that was expected when Whitechapel Bell Foundry announced it would cease trading from its current, historic premises was that they would move the company elsewhere, with Haverhill mentioned in some circles as a possible location for some reason, though I've never seen any evidence that this was ever actually considered. In the worse case scenario this famous ancient manufacturing company - Britain's oldest apparently, but unsurprisingly - would completely close and all trace of it disappear from the face of the Earth, bar the many bells (such as Big Ben) that it has cast in its long history still ringing out in towers across the world, including a good number here in Suffolk.
According to the news emanating from the media today, it appears that we will be getting something in between. After hundreds of years, the last bell to be cast in the area has been cast and is going to the Museum of London, but in news that could be placed closer to ringers' highest hopes than their greatest fears, the name has been secured and production is set to be undertaken by White's of Appleton in Oxfordshire. Having 'only' been established in 1824, they are mere youngsters in comparison, but are still the oldest bell-hanging company in the country and one would hope that at least some of the expertise from Whitechapel can be taken up the M40.
That said, some questioned how Whites will have the space to cast bells, whilst others pondered how they would be able to create the "unique sound and shape" of Whitechapel's bells, but I'm sure answers to those questions will appear soon and in the meantime I believe - on the face of it - that this is great news for change-ringing, especially when one considers what the alternatives could've been!
Meanwhile, ringing continued on bells not cast by Whitechapel, with quarter-peals of Warwickshire Surprise Major at Bardwell, Bloxham Surprise Major at Hopton and Stedman Triples before the practice night at Offton, whilst we had an evening at home and Alfie had a day out with my Mum and Dad that seemed to have left him exhausted! Hopefully the best case scenario here is he gets a good night's sleep!
With a return to late shifts at work after a couple of weeks of more typical 9-5's came the usual logistical challenges with getting out to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice in time to make my presence in any way worthwhile and ultimately also came the usual failure to overcome those logistical challenges.
Therefore, it was an extremely quiet day on the ringing front, both personally and - from a quarter-peal and peal perspective at least - throughout the county. Hopefully more interesting days lay ahead - please do look at What's On to see all that is planned on Suffolk's bells in the coming weeks!
Mothering Sunday - rather than Mother's Day as has been branded across cards stacked on shelves previously laden with Valentine's Day cards and I imagine soon will be heaving with cards for Easter - was actually originally a day where people would visit their 'mother church', as I'm sure you are all aware. These days though, it seems almost entirely considered a commercial venture in honour of mothers.
They are certainly deserving of it though, usually being the ones that deal with the unpleasant elements of parenthood in the early weeks of a child's life and sacrifice sleep whilst us fathers escape to work and certainly Ruthie has done more than her fair share of that and more. Usually at ringing events she will be left looking after the children whilst my ear is bent, despite the fact that she is generally more interesting to talk to on most subjects. And not only has she done this for Alfie and Joshua, but also Mason, guiding all three boys as they find their way into this sometimes confusing world.
Unfortunately, still feeling unwell and dosed up on antibiotics for the next few days, she wasn't able to fully appreciate the day, nor could we really treat her in the way that we knew she would. No free fizzy from The Red Lion for her nor a walk by the River Deben followed by a well-earned pint. Still, she was able to join us for the service at Woodbridge after I had helped man the front six of the 25cwt eight upstairs, where along with other mothers she was presented with flowers and enjoyed the sermon which this morning was essentially the junior church baking a simnel cake, much to the amusement of the congregation!
Having been defeated by the lost hour's sleep as British Summer Time and present-giving to the mummy of the house, myself and my sons failed to ready ourselves soon enough for ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and seeing my mother. Therefore we hastily made arrangements to visit her this afternoon, clutching cards, flowers and enthusiastic grandsons to wish appropriate felicitations to a worthy case. Like my wife, she has balanced motherhood and ringing brilliantly and is now a wonderful grandmother, so it was lovely to share a cuppa and a chat with her and my father on a long and sunny Sunday at the beginning of BST.
Meanwhile, Suffolk's ringers were marking the occasion. Appropriately there was a mother-son act ringing the back two at Bardwell, as Ruth and Louis Suggett rang five and six to a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at their home tower, whilst the quarter-peals of Grandsire Doubles at Henley, Plain Bob Minor at St Margaret's in Ipswich and two Minor methods at Lowestoft were all dedicated to the day.
However you spent it, Happy Mother's Day to all you mums, especially Ruthie, my mother and of course the mother-in-law Kate. Or should I say Happy Mothering Sunday!
When Ruthie was away for the weekend recently, I alluded to how taking the three boys out can make the task of looking after them single-handed more manageable. The journeying there - on foot or by car - will often encourage Joshua to get the sleep he needs and our destination offers forth space, distractions and/or helping hands. There is little opportunity to put one's feet up and relax or get jobs done around the home with them vying for attention, so I figure we might as well get out and about.
Therefore, with my wife working her first Saturday since her return to John Ives post-maternity leave, I was grateful to have a day mapped out that I was hoping would give me an alternative to spending it pent up in the house with a trio of brothers going through a range of extreme emotions difficult to cope with in a confined space.
In fact I had two options available for the morning. One was to join the Pettistree mini-outing to Essex, always an enjoyable experience that is typically the first steps into a ringing spring and if it were just me then I wouldn't hesitate. However, I'm glad it isn't and conscious that Mason, Alfie and Josh get dragged round a number of ringing events with some reluctance, when we were invited to join their peers from Woodbridge St Mary's junior church to make a simnel cake in anticipation of tomorrow's Mothering Sunday I thought it would be unfair to pass in favour of more watching on whilst I enjoyed myself ringing!
And there were still bells to ring on within our borders, being minded as I was to head to Glemsford this afternoon for the South-West District Practice on a 14cwt six I haven't been to for several years. One of the things I miss about being Guild Ringing Master is such trips out to other parts of Suffolk to renew established ringing friendships and make new ones and so it seemed a nice chance to do just that.
Except with cake in the oven and us lads preparing to wander back for lunch, Mrs Munnings called to say she was unwell, to the extent that she was being urged by her work colleagues to return home to rest. Rather than a pleasant drive through some of our county's most beautiful countryside then, we found ourselves waiting for an out-of-hours doctor's appointment at Ipswich Hospital, scratching around for change to pay the highly inappropriate parking charges at a place that very few people actually want to go to, as my poorly better half sought qualified medical opinion and guidance on recovery.
Of course it was far worse for the patient who felt rotten, but it was a shame not to make it to the SW. Instead, my ringing fix was partially sated by keeping up with the eliminators for this year's National Twelve-Bell Contest at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, St Margaret's in Leicester and Sheffield Cathedral, featuring ringers once of this parish, with Molly Waterson ringing for Bristol, Colin Salter for Guildford and Simon Rudd for Norwich. It was a pity that York had been suspended from the competition, before withdrawing themselves with the dignity that has been the hallmark of how the YMSCR have dealt with the dreadful situation they have been put in and by my calculations the fifteen teams left after their exit is the lowest turnout for twenty-two years. My perception is that politics has partly led to this, which would be extremely disappointing if true and I hope that will have dissipated by the time of the late-November deadline for entrants to the 2018 competition, but for now well done to all those taking part today and in particular congratulations to the nine teams who qualified to join hosts Southwark at the final on Saturday 24th June - Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, the College Youths, Cumberlands, Exeter, Melbourne, St Paul's Cathedral and especially High Wycombe who reached their first final for ten years.
Back here ringers were busy too, with one peal and five quarters successful. Busiest of all was Bacton, where a 1296 of Lincoln Surprise Minor on the ground-floor six at St Mary-the-Virgin on the same day as round the corner in Pretyman Avenue, Jeremy Spiller was ringing his 1700th peal with the 5040 of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods on handbells - congratulations Jeremy! Meanwhile, the band who rang at the 8cwt ring just yards from the village's famous handbell venue, also rang the same lengths of Surprise Minor at three other towers on a productive day, with Kelso rung at Hinderclay, Cunecastre at Redgrave and Coldstream at Wickham Skeith, whilst the Ladies Guild rang three Doubles methods in a 1260 at Thornham Magna which was the first of that many methods for Carmen and Zoe Wright - well done Carmen and Zoe!
It's a shame that I couldn't partake in any ringing myself though!
For all that yesterday was a quiet day for Suffolk ringing, the end of the working week and start of the weekend seems to have brought about a busier day today for the county's ringers with four quarter-peals rung. One of them was rung at one of the Norwich Diocesan Association's towers Somerleyton, but is still pleasing to report. However, it was further south that the biggest achievements were making the headlines. Well done to Chris McArthur and Elizabeth Christian on ringing their first of Lakesend Bob Minor with the FNQPC at Ashbocking and to Sal Jenkinson on ringing her first Treble Bob inside in the 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Wenhaston. Congratulations as well to Chrissie Pickup on ringing her 125th QP in that same success.
However, the biggest fanfare has to go to Paul Ashton, who in bonging behind to the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Benhall was ringing his first quarter! Many congratulations Paul!
Many congratulations as well to North-East District members Ed Rolph and Michelle Williams - Guild Annual Report Editor - who were married earlier this week and who were quite rightly congratulated with a footnote in the quarter-peal rung at their home tower Wenhaston. They are a lovely couple and I - and I'm sure many others - are delighted for them.
They deserve their honeymoon, whilst quite a few ringers in the county enjoy a rest after a busy day of ringing in Suffolk!
From both a Suffolk ringing and personal perspective, it was a very quiet day. No reports of quarters or peals within our borders on BellBoard and no ringing carried out by us, with attending our nearest Thursday night practices at the eight of St Margaret's in Ipswich and twelve of Grundisburgh essentially made impossible by Ruthie's much-deserved break at choir practice.
Instead it is worth noting that God willing there are busier days ahead. Before March is out, the Halesworth Triples and Major practice is due to be held from 7.30pm on Tuesday, where the lighter evenings we'll be having by then I imagine making the welcome even bigger and better than it already is in that part of the world, so do go along if you can!
Typically April follows March and it doesn't appear that there are any plans to alter the normal order of things for 2017 and so the South-East District Learn Stedman event at St Mary-le-Tower on the 1st is only just over a week away and although I believe the twelve spaces for learners are full, if you are an experienced ringer of the principle and you haven't already been approached to help it may be worth checking with District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson if he needs anyone else. If all goes to plan, from there a busy month unfolds with the North-West District Quarter-Peal and Practice at Eye a week later, the Second Tuesday ringing visits St Gregory in Sudbury and the 9cwt six in the beautiful village of Hartest nearby on the 11th, there is an Introduction to Handbells at High Hill House in the aforementioned Halesworth on Saturday 15th, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on the evening of Friday 21st, the Guild AGM at Beccles the next day before we are brought round full-circle to next month's Halesworth Triples and Major Practice on the 25th and the month is then finished off with the South-West District Sunday Practice at St Peter in Sudbury (On the 30th).
Plenty there to ensure that not every day need to be as quiet as today!
If the purpose of today's horrific attack outside the Houses of Parliament was to stop our way of life, it failed miserably, much like every other criminal act inextricably given the publicity-attracting tag of terrorism. MPs and peers plan to return to work tomorrow in the very building they were locked in for several hours following the tragic events in Westminster. Life around the immediate area continued, England's footballers were defeated in a friendly against their German hosts and ringing up and down the country essentially represented the attitude of residents of Britain from Lands End to John O'Groats. Reflecting society's attitude generally, those killed and caught-up in the crime spree across the River Thames were remembered in footnotes to performances on BellBoard and I imagine may well will be in the coming days. But ringing carried on defiantly up and down the land, even just three miles away in the Vestry at St Michael's Cornhill where a 5019 of Stedman Cinques was rung on handbells.
Here in Suffolk our ringers also kept calm and carried on.
A 1600 of eight spliced Surprise Major was rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower, whilst the usual pre-practice quarter-peal attempt was typically successful at Pettistree ahead of a session that Ruthie went along to, topped off by a drink in The Greyhound in good company as per normal.
So whilst our thoughts are with those directly affected by goings-on in the UK's seat of democracy, life defiantly went on as it usually does for most of the rest of us. God willing that's the way it continues.
Last night was a dreadful night, an unwelcome throwback to nights when we were parents of a newborn as we spent most of the hours of darkness awake consoling a very poorly Joshua. So unwell was he that at one point we even contacted 111, only to be reassured, thank God.
We weren't exactly at our most energetic or productive today therefore, as I spent a day at work in a blur - the only thing I really remember being the distraction of the neighbour's across the railway line attempting to fell some trees using an elaborate rope system and a four-by-four - before accompanying Ruthie and the boys to Wickham Market Medical Centre for more reassurance on the youngest son's health.
Mercifully neither of us was needed for the peal of Dereham Surprise Major rung for the Suffolk Guild at Elveden - hopefully none of them had a night as bad as ours.
Security. Not something that typically affects a rural ringing practice, but at a number of urban towers, entrance to the ringing chamber has to be quite carefully considered, due to the higher number of unsavoury folk wandering the nearby streets. When I lived in Wolverhampton and occasionally visited the Monday night practice on the twelve at the Collegiate Church of St Peter, you had to wait until those already present had spotted you on a screen in the ringing chamber connected to CCTV at the outside door and vetted before being let in. At a number of towers such as St Neots in Cambridgeshire, you have to follow instructions to put in a code which would only mean anything to ringers, like Tittums or the lead-end order of Plain Bob or similar.
At St Mary-le-Tower, we have resisted such notions, keen to avoid locking out interested parties and potential recruits, despite a number of visits from people under the influence of drugs, drink or both which whilst not necessarily an issue in itself (the visit we had last month from a self-confessed alcoholic was actually quite uplifting in many ways and certainly not a problem) raises inevitable health and safety aspects. The troublesome ones are mercifully rare, often a once in a year occurrence, if that. However, tonight we were subjected to the most nasty visit we are suffered in my memory.
At the start of the evening, the early arrivals passed a clearly inebriated chap at the bottom of the tower and before long, he decided to stumble up the stairs and attempt to break into this famous belfry quite aggressively. Escorted out, I guess those present hoped that would be the end of it and indeed as I arrived outside I was blissfully unaware anything had happened, the only indication of his presence being the emptied bottle of booze sat by the main doors, although that it was his was unbeknown to me at the time. With some very reasonable ringing well underway, I stood at the top of the stairs waiting for them to finish, with Suffolk Guild Treasurer and former SMLT Ringing Master Owen Claxton joining me. We soon became aware that the sound of extremely violent blows to the aforementioned main doors were echoing around the bottom of the tower and up the stairs. We looked at each other and Owen set off to investigate - I am not one to engage in confrontation if I can help it, but I didn't feel it right to leave Mr C to deal with whatever was happening downstairs...
What did greet us was - it transpired - the drunken invader from earlier in the evening, so hammered that he was unable to figure out that he merely needed to turn the handle to gain the entry he seemingly desired so vehemently and instead was kicking at the ancient wooden doors with a huge amount of unfettered force. Owen and I looked at each other, attempting to gauge what we should do next, unsure if the aggressor might be brandishing a weapon, but also aware that another ringer may arrive at any minute or even (though this was unlikely in his state) figure out how to open the door.
Before we came to any decision though, the piece upstairs had come round and David Potts and Ian Culham had descended to fill us latecomers in on all the dramatic detail. There was (relative) safety in numbers now, but still it was deemed sensible to contact 101 for the police to deal with it, as we felt calling 999 might have been overkill. If any of us could get any signal. Thank God, as Ringing Master David was on the phone a couple of officers had already arrived and having calmed the angry drunk down and sent him on his way even climbed the stairs to the ringing chamber to check everyone was OK - we were grateful for their intervention.
Understandably the ringing suffered with such distractions and yet it held up remarkably well in the circumstances, with Bristol Surprise Royal and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus still squeezed into the diminished time we had, but our unwelcome guest was the main talking point at the notices and in the Robert Ransome afterwards. It is important to remember that such uncomfortable encounters at the county's heaviest twelve are incredibly rare, but after tonight it seems that something needs to be considered if we are to continue being a welcoming, safe and secure place for all to do their ringing.
Meanwhile, we were relieved that Falkenham and Felixstowe tower correspondent Brian Aldous and his wife Christina escaped unscathed when a stolen car crashed into the living room at their Trimley St Mary home last night, a story that not unexpectedly made the local news. I suspect security was on their minds too.
'Orrible 'Orringer no more. I have been rather disparaging of the old eight at St Leonard of Limoges, but I haven't been alone. Although much of what I have said in the past was tongue-in-cheek, they simply weren't very good, although such variety of bells is part of what makes ringing interesting to me. However, what I and others think is entirely inconsequential and unimportant. Those who ring on them every week are the ones whose views matter and they clearly felt they deserved better.
Well after an immense amount of hard-work that has been shared on their Facebook page, they have got the octave that they deserve, a superb ring of bells that go brilliantly and sound wonderful. The rope circle has been moved round so that the treble is roughly where the fifth was looking out down the church from this ground-floor ringing chamber and the removal of some bits and pieces has created more space - I am delighted for the local ringers.
I was even more delighted that we could join them this afternoon for the dedication of the new bells, along with a large crowd that included various dignitaries such as the area's MP and Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase as well as a sizeable number of Guild members. Clearly a lot of effort was put into the occasion by the village and church, especially the choir and it was wonderful to hear the local band ring rounds on the celebrated eight during the service. Bishop Martin - who Mason was delighted to see following his recent visit to Woodbridge - spoke superbly and afterwards we were treated to tea and a wide variety of delicious cake whilst ringing went on and Taylor's presented Sally Crouch with the framed details of the bells.
Earlier in the day I had been ringing at another eight, Woodbridge for service ringing, the bells half-muffled as they usually are during Lent and manned today by an attendance numbering eleven (not including the boys) that enabled us to ring some very reasonable Grandsire Triples before we joined Ruthie for the service and then went on to that dedication at (credit to Jed Flatters for this one!) Harmonious Horringer!
There was murder at the home of mother-in-law Kate Eagle this afternoon, but mercifully it was all pretend as along with Ruthie's sister Clare and brother-in-law Kevin and also Ron, we were partaking in a murder mystery game in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Strictly speaking we should've been playing it next Saturday, but busy diaries meant that wasn't possible, so I shan't give away the outcome and spoil it for wannabe participants. However, I had great fun playing the part of Lenny Oopsidaisy the clumsy butler!
Whilst three Suffolk Guild members were busy trying to work out this whodunnit, others were busier with ringing as two significant peals were rung for the SGR on bells within the county. An original plan to replicate the 10080 changes of Plain Bob Major rung at Debenham almost exactly two-hundred and fifty years on seems to have been altered, but a nonetheless entirely appropriate 5250 of the method were rung in 3hrs17mins at the same venue today. And nearly thirty miles away at Horringer, the historic first peal on the brand new eight were rung, appropriately a day ahead of their dedication and even more appropriately to celebrate the birthday of Sally Crouch who has worked so hard to enable this project to succeed. Happy Birthday Sally!
Meanwhile, although perhaps less historic but still notable, the quarter-peal of St Clement's College Bob Minor rung at Hadleigh was the first in the method as conductor for Kevin Ward and the one hundredth together for Neal Dodge and David Steed. Congratulations to Neal and David and well done Kevin!
And well done to all those who survived the murder at Eagle Towers 2017.
I love football. And despite everything, I love Ipswich Town. But even I wouldn't currently suggest paying to watch them over paying for your ringing, especially with today's price-rises at ITFC to more than ever before for the poorest football seen at Portman Road for a long, long time, exercising the vexation of Tractor Boys across the county and beyond.
With the Suffolk Guild AGM at Beccles just over a month away, where subscriptions may come up in proceedings, it is a timely reminder at just how cheap ringing is in comparison to other pastimes. Those of us paying the annual £15 SGR subscription, would have to pay more than three times that for some of the most expensive seats to watch just one of the Tractor Boys' matches and currently (and most likely next season too) you are likely to get a lot more enjoyment from progressing your ringing than spending an afternoon taking in the depressingly poor quality of football at ITFC.
Sadly we weren't getting our moneys worth today as ours was bell-free, nor - unusually - were there any quarters or peals recorded here on BellBoard, but beyond our borders quite a few ringers were getting value for money in Ireland on St Patrick's Day, including Bardwell ringers Laura Davies and Louis Suggett who were partaking in the 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at Cork Cathedral.
And it was lovely to see the 1368 of Julie McDonnell Alliance Royal rung at Westminster Abbey that clearly meant a great deal to Julie herself, who was treated to a day out at the famous venue which also saw filming done for an episode of Songs of Praise due to be broadcast on Easter Sunday.
If you are looking to spend your money on a pastime, I would definitely suggest ringing over football...
Our house-hunting reached it's first decision dilemma this evening, where following another visit to the house we liked earlier in the week we considered whether we need to put an offer in. It was a decision that needed a drink to consider and so a pint in The Duke of York near our current abode before Ruthie went to choir practice was called for. We shall see what the next few days bring...
I know what today brought at least - more ringing from Suffolk's ringers! An impressive 1296 seven spliced Surprise Minor methods at Tostock ensured there was ringing to report on a day where our thoughts were more with houses than bells!
Understandably, there has been much speculation over the future of Whitechapel Bell Foundry since it announced at the end of last year it's impending closure with the Hughes' family's sale of the historic site that it had traded from since 1570. After all, along with Taylor's up in Loughborough they are one of the two main foundries in the UK serving ringers and their is concern over what it says of the state of ringing and where it might take the exercise's future. Some had hoped that the business would move, with an apparent rumour that it would be relocating to Haverhill, although that it is one I hadn't heard until today. However, many have noted that it would be difficult for it to do so, as they are only able to get around current emissions levels that they seemingly exceed because of something called 'Grandfather's Rights', which essentially means that they have been allowed to continue as they are because they have been there for so long.
Today, most ringers surmised that we have got our answer with the release of a list of equipment from the ancient company being put up for auction which suggests that they aren't planning to carry on. This would be sad news, but not unexpected. There were suggestions in response to the news that perhaps they are looking to rebuild with new equipment and we can but hope that is the case and perhaps there might be opportunities for smaller and/or new foundries, but it seems we as an exercise may well have to get used to their absence.
Ringing of course does continue - and God willing will do for many centuries to come - as was shown this evening at Pettistree (whose front three were cast by the still existing Taylor's) where my wife partook in the pre-practice quarter-peal, which this week was of Dallinghoo Bob Minor to celebrate the forthcoming birthday of local ringer and former resident of Dallinghoo Gill Waterson, before then also joining in another productive session and a drink or two at The Greyhound next door, all following a day when she had visited the house that we saw on Saturday as the house-hunting builds some momentum.
Earlier in the day, another peal called by Louis Suggett to his own composition was rung at Offton, this time of Bristol Surprise Major. On a day tinged with sadness at Whitechapel's demise, young Louis offers forth hope for the future of ringing. Keep it up Mr Suggett!
Another day, another viewing of a house and thus far the best we have seen. The three-bedroom house near the centre of Woodbridge ticked a lot of boxes and gives us plenty of food for thought, although not much time for food to eat as we took up my lunch-break to explore this sizeable property.
There was more time for sustenance this evening though on what is usually a quiet day ringing-wise personally, but we hope that won't be a quiet day ringing-wise on Saturday 22nd April when God willing we shall be in Beccles for the Suffolk Guild AGM, hopefully taking in a tower or two along the way on one of the two routes in. There is much going on over the course of the afternoon, including a raffle and to that end our hosts the North-East District would be most appreciative of prizes (as will the winners too of course!), so please do have a root around for anything you don't want or need but that you think would make a suitable object to give away.
They were busy ringing today in the aforementioned NE as a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Minor was rung at Halesworth, a first in the method for Sal Jenkinson and Matthew Rolph - well done Sal and Matthew!
Another day, more achievements for SGR members.
I had rare treat in the context of recent weeks this evening as I joined my fellow ringers in going for a pint at The Robert Ransome following the practice at nearby St Mary-le-Tower. Since I began the early and late shifts at work for our latest international campaign two months ago, I have either finished at the office too late to make it to ringing or have got such an early start the next morning that I need to get home and in bed rather than sipping ale hours before I need to get up again.
Tonight though, having worked a normal 9-5 at John Catt, I was able to get to practice and go for a drink afterwards for the first time since the immediate cold post-Christmas and New Year days of early January. And as much as the opportunity to sit down and chat with friends over a beer was highly enjoyable, the ringing itself more than played it's part too, with another eclectic and impressive repertoire for a provincial twelve, including Bristol Surprise Royal and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus again.
This evening really was a treat.
I am used to dragging the three boys along to ringing on a Sunday morning on my own whilst Ruthie carries out her singing duties in the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, so the travelling to St Mary-le-Tower and then Grundisburgh to ring on this ante meridiem wasn't very different in my wife's weekend-long absence.
Still, I was pleased to welcome her home this afternoon, as were Mason, Alfie and Joshua, before we made our way to Ipswich to wish Aunty Marian - sister of my father and former ringer - felicitations ahead of her birthday tomorrow. As alluded to previously, these are rarely exciting visits, but rather pleasant and laid-back affairs, with ringing often at the heart of the conversation, although as she is strictly offline, she is usually a few weeks behind us on the news! Today, the latest goings-on at York Minster exercised her, no doubt motivated by letters in recent editions of The Ringing World.
Whilst we were taking it easy there, other ringers in Suffolk were busier. The regular and well-known second-Sunday peals at Aldeburgh continued on this post meridiem with a 5088 of Isle of Ely Delight Major, another first for the entire band and the Guild and a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Minor was rung at Rougham. However, the most notable headline of the ringing day within our borders, was The Norman Tower ringing Julie McDonnell New Bob Caters and thus answering the challenge for as many abbeys, cathedrals and minsters as possible to ring a QP of a Julie McDonnell method for SBABC. Well done guys, I'm chuffed that the county's Cathedral has represented us in this so splendidly and raised some more money for a great cause!
It was a lovely thing to reflect on as I sat back this evening, relaxed and
enjoyed the company of my wife again!
Managing the three boys together solo is an immense challenge. We love them to bits of course and individually they are delightful and it is a wonder to watch their progress as they find their way into this often baffling world. Collectively though, the logistics are exhausting. Mason veers from over-exuberant playmate for Alfie to annoyed older brother when AJM dares to get in the way of what he's doing, Alfred is too young to understand Joshua's innocent advances upon his toys and space, whilst the two youngest demand attention simultaneously as the eldest sighs in a resigned manner at having to wait for me to deal with them before he gets a sniff!
With Ruthie away until tomorrow, today was to be a big test therefore!
Mercifully though, there was plenty to keep me and them occupied and people to help, something I was very grateful for.
Ringing - not for the first time - offered relief, as I took advantage of Campsea Ashe's weekly Saturday morning practice to give them the space to explore the church whilst I rang upon this superb 6cwt gallery-ring six, with Adrian Craddock - there with little Izzy, another playmate for the boys - a great help in keeping an eye on them whilst I wasn't. Hopefully I was of some help to Ringing Master Glenys Fear who seemed pleasantly surprised by the numbers present that meant we managed some decent Cambridge Surprise Minor and Ipswich Surprise Minor, which followed on from the Stedman Doubles being rung as we arrived and preceded a quarter-peal attempt of Cambridge, although the lack of any report of it on BellBoard isn't a good sign. Still, it is to be applauded, especially on the back of a very positive morning's ringing.
Those who have been reading the blog recently (hopefully there are still some desperately hoping for some interesting content!) will know that we are in the midst of house-hunting and with the disproportionate pricing of properties in Woodbridge, the much more reasonably-priced homes in Rendlesham have been part of our considerations, but this isolated housing estate has pretty much been dismissed as impractical with just one car and the sizeable distance from the centre of most of our typical day-to-day activity and so didn't seem worthy of closer scrutiny. Nonetheless, we have seen a number of homes there online that in different circumstances would have been ideal and whilst just three miles down the road ringing, I thought I would meander back to our current residence via one or two those abodes to get a glimpse of them in the flesh, at least from the outside, but this wasn't to be the only estate-exploring business the boys and I were carrying out today.
A wander around another potential roof over our heads followed, this time in the closer Melton, a three bedroom abode on the site of the old St Audry's Hospital. A thorough inspection was carried out before a tea provided by Ron and mother-in-law Kate was gratefully received by us four lads on a decent day's ringing for Suffolk ringers and ringers with Suffolk blood.
1260 changes of eight Doubles methods and variations were rung at Great Finborough as part of the North-West District's Practice at the 12cwt six (congratulations to Guild PRO on his good news!), but beyond our borders it was the achievements of Salter brothers Colin and George that caught the eye most. The former, younger sibling today rang his first peal of Zanussi Surprise Maximus in the 5088 at Guildford Cathedral, whilst his elder brother rang in a 5016 of six spliced Maximus methods at Cornhill in London. Both have been ploughing an impressive furrow since leaving the county and their parents David and Katharine must be extremely proud and must also take some credit for providing the ringing foundations for these talented young men to take on to such high standards. They also show - as have a number of others before them - what can be achieved following an upbringing here! Be inspired current learners of the SGR!
I am just pleased with the evidence that children do eventually grow up to look after themselves!
It appears to have been a day of travelling for many ringers.
A number of eminent partakers of the exercise are on their way to New York for sightseeing, shopping, drinking and of course peal-ringing.
Still further of the most famous names in the art were converging on Lincolnshire for tomorrow's wedding of current College Youths Ringing Master Rob Lee to his fiancee and fellow ringer Lizzy Stokoe.
And Ruthie was traversing to north Norfolk with Kala - our good friend and Godmother to Mason - for the weekend-long hen do of Amy - another good friend and Godmother to Joshua.
Therefore, it is a lads' weekend for myself and the boys, which started mercifully uneventfully with all three going to bed with (relatively) little fuss, whilst elsewhere in Suffolk things were also going to plan (one assumes) today for the quarter-peal bands at Monewden and Wenhaston, where 1260's of St Clement's College Bob Minor and it's Doubles sister St Simon's Bob respectively were rung, with the former being Elizabeth Christian's first in the method - well done Elizabeth!
Both are well worth a mention, even if the travelling they had to do to get there wasn't as great as other ringers today!
This week has been Ruthie's first back at work following nine months of maternity leave, which now also means that both Alfie and Joshua are at nursery. With me being on early shifts, their collective absence - as missed as they are as a cheery welcome at the end of a long day in the office - allows me some much needed time to do stuff that needs doing and perhaps even more importantly catch up on lost sleep whilst I'm getting up in the middle of the night for work.
My heart sank therefore when I received a call from nursery today saying that Alfred was showing signs of an infectious illness and so had to be collected immediately. Mainly of course for the poor boy himself, although it isn't anything serious and outwardly he was perfectly happy, but also because I knew - with my wife now at the shop working - that it meant the end of any chance of me getting stuff done or getting any sleep! Still, at least I got to spend some unexpected quality time with the boy.
And I still got the opportunity to listen to Thornham Magna Tower Captain Sylvie Fawcett and her husband James sitting on Lesley Dolphin's famous sofa on our local BBC radio station (about 2hrs8mins in), primarily being interviewed about their violin making, but also with a mention of Mrs Fawcett's ringing from about 2hrs24mins into the show. It was interesting to hear of Sylvie's French background and how she started as part of the successful Millennium recruitment drive - well done Sylvie (and James) on a great bit on the airwaves!
Otherwise it was quiet on the ringing front in our county, but just over the border in Cambridge, George and Diana Pipe's fourteen-year-old great-nephew Henry was calling his first tower-bell peal. In Norman Smith's twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods of course. Extraordinary, even in that family. Congratulations Henry!
I'm glad that his day went to plan!
In our current circumstances, only one of us can go out ringing on an ordinary evening and Wednesdays tend to be Ruthie's turn to venture forth, usually to Pettistree. So it was tonight, as my wife journeyed to the ground-floor six to ring in the 1272 of Carlisle Surprise Minor and attend the practice that followed, whilst I was left at home to put Alfie and Joshua to bed and find something on TV. Typically I will get the boys asleep but then find nothing on the box or I'll find something I want to watch and then struggle to get one or both of them to sleep. Well, normally Josh these days.
This evening though, I struck gold on both fronts. AJM and JB well settled down for the night, I decided to take in some football on television, which turned out to be one of the most spectacular games in the history of the sport as Barcelona beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 deficit from the first leg of their Champions League tie to become the first team to overcome such a large scoreline in modern European football, getting the final three goals that they needed in the last seven minutes. It was a proper sporting 'where were you?' moment - I was at home, watching it unfold as it happened, an unexpected bonus of not being able to go out!
So late in the match was their comeback, that even Mrs Munnings was able to witness the exciting climax having returned from a productive few hours of ringing, which she enjoyed immensely with a good turnout.
Their quarter-peal wasn't the only one rung in Suffolk today, with Andrea Alderton and Maureen Gardiner ringing their first of Duke of Norfolk Treble Bob Minor in the 1296 at Tostock, which was also Andrea's seventy-fifth QP with Pam Ebsworth. Well done to the former pair and congratulations to the latter.
And well done, congratulations and thank you to Barcelona FC on keeping me entertained on my night in!
We often worry ourselves with the future of ringing, but listening to our local BBC Radio Station this afternoon following an early shift at work, I was reminded that in the scheme of things, we don't do too badly. Mention was made of the perilous plight of Woodbridge Horticultural Society, who after one hundred and sixty-five years is in danger of closing in the midst of a raft of officer vacancies and an ageing membership with apparently little sign of younger folk coming in to replace them.
Meanwhile, the Suffolk Guild continues to fill all bar a handful of roles (although sometimes it is with much persuasion and arm-twisting!) at District and Guild level, with a decent range of ages from the very young to the less very young. Our Young Ringers do well in a large rural county where all non-drivers have to rely on the goodwill and generosity of those who do drive in order to get around to events. Friendships and support extends from Felixstowe to Brandon, Wrentham to Haverhill with an active membership of hundreds and even if you think that a tower or group of towers is a more appropriate comparison to the troubled WHS then I think we still stack up favourably. Yes, many bells are regularly unmanned, but there is a network of support for those towers and ringers who would otherwise be cut adrift and there are few bells within our borders that haven't been rung at all in recent years. And of course that stretches far beyond our county in this most close-knit of hobbies. Our circumstances aren't ideal and we can't be complacent, not least because we should be doing much better in recruitment, but when I consider the position some other pastimes find themselves in, I feel very fortunate.
Part of that active network is the band at Theberton, who seem to be held in high regard by the residents and churchgoers in the village and whose ringing was also mentioned on Lesley Dolphin's show on the airwaves this afternoon as they are ringing ahead of Seraphim's concert at the church on Sunday evening. It is nice to see ringers appreciated!
And further evidence of the support network that ringing offers could be seen tonight with Ipswich ringer Sue Williamson ringing her first quarter-peal of Grandsire and on eight in the 1260 at Offton with a band that also included SGR members from Hasketon, Haughley, Stowmarket and even Essex. Well done Sue!
We mustn't be complacent, but compared to others such as Woodbridge Horticultural Society, we're doing alright. Let's keep it up!
The typical form after a successful peal is that some - and often all - of the band retire to a pub for a well deserved drink (not always alcoholic these days!). In most cases the local population is usually apathetic. It might get noticed and commented upon in passing in much the same way as they might if the weekly bus is a few minutes late. Of course there are ever so occasionally complaints and they tend to make the headlines.
Also ever so occasionally though, there are favourable reviews of peal-ringers. Just today I came across an article on page three of The Southern Cross - the 'official' newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide - which reported very positively on the visit of 'The Grand Tour' to the city's Roman Catholic Cathedral to ring a 5090 of Bristol Surprise Maximus exactly a month ago, one of seventy-three quarters and peals on three continents and in five countries across two months and involving thirty-three ringers - including many familiar to ringers in Suffolk - and which has come to a climax with three peals in Zimbabwe. And straight after peals I have been the beneficiary of lovely gestures. If memory serves me correctly, along with my brother Chris and the rest of the band who rang in the 5008 of Stedman Cinques at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham to welcome John Sentamu (now viewed a more controversial character among some ringers for his perceived role as Archbishop of York in the sacking of the ringers at the Minster) as the eighth Bishop of Birmingham back in 2002, I was given a medal for my efforts and when myself and nine others had descended the stairs from ringing a 5040 of Isleworth Surprise Royal at Beccles (location for this year's Guild AGM on Saturday 22nd April - if you haven't already, book your tea!) almost exactly eight years ago, we were greeted by two members of the public clutching ten bouquets of flowers they had purchased to show their appreciation for our efforts!
However, the most wonderful post-peal welcome I have thus far heard of is over the Norfolk border at Great Ryburgh where they are commemorating the tragic deaths of all the men in the village who lost their lives in the First World War with a peal precisely a century to the day since each death, a project that began on 1st November 2014 with 2hrs47mins of Stedman Doubles and sadly has already seen sixteen peals rung at the church, albeit one on handbells in the building's St Thomas' Chapel and which are well covered on their website. Apparently, the band are then met with a plate each and an amazing spread of food that not only splendidly rewards the ringers for their efforts, but also movingly represents the homecoming meal the villagers lost at war didn't get to savour. Although for very sad reasons, well done and thank you to the residents of Great Ryburgh for doing this.
Although I'd noticed the many peals rung at the 12cwt six in a round tower, the first I had heard of this special reception for the peal-ringers was tonight at St Mary-le-Tower, where two of the participants in the most recent effort on Saturday Jed Flatters and Amanda Richmond glowingly recounted their experience to me, during a jovial practice. My missing the treble sally and nearly taking out Amanda on the second whilst retrieving it caused much mirth, as did Craig Gradidge and Jed's dancing to Sonia's errant mobile phone ringtone, whilst the picture of Colin Salter's new haircut doing the rounds on Facebook elicited much positive comment in his absence.
There was much focus too though. Not everything went, of course. This is a practice after all and as I've pointed out before I have been to practices at the Bull Ring and for the College Youths where not everything goes to plan, but that is the nature of progress. However, we had another impressive repertoire of methods that many provincial twelves would be delighted with as we made our way through - amongst much else - Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, Stedman Cinques and Bristol Surprise Royal, with that last piece in particular very well rung.
It was a good night, but sadly there was no welcoming party when we got downstairs!
It would be interesting how many towers in Suffolk ring half-muffled during Lent as they do at Woodbridge - none come to mind!
This morning saw me ringing upon the bells in our town of residence for the first time in this year's most sombre of periods, with some decent Grandsire Doubles on the front six before we attended the service, accompanied by a lively bunch of children at the usual gathering place for families at the bottom of the tower.
From here things slowed down on the ringing front though. A trip out to get new shoes for Alfie and Ruthie going out to sing for Evensong was about as exciting as it got, but elsewhere, my wife's mother was partaking in the 1260 of Stedman Doubles at Pettistree and well done to the entire band who rang their first quarter of Yaddlethorpe Place Doubles in the 1320 at Great Finborough where next Saturday the North-West District are planning on attempting another QP and holding a practice afterwards - please do support them if you can, whether they're half-muffled or not!
We rarely miss a South-East District event, especially since Ruthie was Secretary and saw just how much work is put into arranging them. Having ranted tirelessly on this blog about low attendances at these occasions, I am keen to lead by example, but every now and then circumstances mean that we can't get along to support the SE - my problem has never been with members not attending because they are unwilling to drop everything, rather with those who could be supporting the hard-working officers but instead sit at home watching TV!
With that caveat then, we didn't make it to this afternoon's practice at Grundisburgh, but it was with good reason as we were invited to the annual meal of E B Button, the business run by Ruthie's mother and uncles and which naturally enough had the feel of a family meal accompanied by those who work for and help out at this funeral directors throughout the year. A convivial and leisurely dinner at The Bull Hotel followed, which was immensely enjoyable but ultimately meant that we were unable to attend the ringing on Suffolk's lightest twelve.
Mercifully, we weren't missed though, as another decent turnout of over thirty went in our place according to Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson's welcome update on the Guild's Facebook page informed us.
Elsewhere, others were also busy on the end of a rope, with 1320's of Cambridge Surprise Minor and Shields Road Bob Minor at Barrow and Thurston respectively, the latter being the first in the method for the entire band - well done all of you! A little more productive than us.
Mason is still recovering from his operation and so hasn't been to school all week, but he is getting better and was able to enjoy a trip to Colchester Castle with my Mum and Dad before being dropped off at ours for his first weekend here since his minor surgery and in the process presented a rare opportunity to photograph the three boys together - they are rarely still long enough!
At the end of a week of late shifts there was no opportunity for ringing, but the FNQPC were on the end of ropes with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham including birthday boys John Taylor and Robert Scase, two dedicated members of the South-East District.
It was a quiet, but positive Friday.
Every now and again, ringing gets a mention on TV or radio at an unexpected moment. With Ruthie out at an unexpectedly prolonged choir practice and the boys already in bed, I happened across the start of a series on BBC 4 called Sound Waves: The Symphony of Physics, presented by Dr Helen Czerski, who in this episode announced that when she was a youngster she was a bellringer. She offers forth no further information such as where, how long for and how proficient she became (why would she?), but she joins Jo Brand, Timmy Mallett and Alan Titchmarsh in the list of 'celebrity' ringers past and present.
Although no actual change-ringing featured, there was quite an in-depth feature on the science behind the sounds that come from bells - most particularly Big Ben - which I imagine would be familiar to many at bell foundries and was fascinating for me.
Ironically, there was little to report in regards to actual noises being made by bells in the county or at least not anything that appears on BellBoard, but I might listen to them slightly differently next time I ring!
Being Ash Wednesday, not only is today the first day of March, nor just the first day of meteorological spring, but also the first day of Lent. Some bells will be half-muffled for the duration (Woodbridge's eight usually are) culminating in Holy Week when (as mentioned a few days ago) ringers will need to be conscious of practices going ahead as normal as much as sessions being moved or cancelled and then the Easter weekend itself when extra services will require extra ringing for some.
The Saturday after that of course - as with every year - the Suffolk Guild AGM is due to be held, this year by the North-East District in Beccles overlooking the border with Norfolk. Even though I no longer hold an officer's position in the SGR, as someone for whom the Guild has played such a positive role in my life, I am keen that it remains strong and to my mind an essential part of that is that members meet together at events like this, the Striking Competitions on Saturday 20th May in the North-West District and the Social on Saturday 16th September in Sproughton in the South-East District. Not only will that make these occasions more enjoyable, but it should strengthen the network of ringers across the county that God willing will allow the standards of ringing to improve more than if we struggle on relying on small pockets of ringers. Even in this time of easy and instant communication, nothing beats meeting face-to-face, so please do all you can to go along and encourage your ringing colleagues to do the same - if you allow, it should be a super day of ringing, mingling and eating, topped off by a pint - if you so wish - in a lovely place for pubs.
That is due for the other end of Lent, but today it started with Ruthie going to church to sing with the choir for the Ash Wednesday service and Pettistree's ringers rang a quarter-peal before the service there, picking things up again afterwards for a truncated practice.
Elsewhere, a 1296 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland and well done to Deborah Blumfield and Rowan Wilson on ringing their first QP of Uxbridge Surprise Major in the success at Elveden. And congratulations to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge and Ringing Master Tom Scase on ringing their twenty-fifth peal together and to Mary Dunbavin and Neal on also ringing their twenty-fifth together, both landmarks reached in the 5040 at The Wolery tonight.
On the basis of today, it seems it may be a busy March, spring and Lent.
If yesterday was a bad news day for the National 12-Bell Contest, today saw some positive media for the biggest ringing competition in the world with the release online of an article printed in the latest edition of the Ringing World and reproduced with the kind permission of their editorial team. It is a fascinating piece on the closest thing there is to professional ringing, focusing mainly on the background to the judging but also gearing people up for the 2017 contest which starts in twenty-five days with the eliminators at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, St Margaret's in Leicester and Sheffield Cathedral.
However, it also touches on hopes for the future which include a possible new competition running alongside the current one, with the aim being creating a stepping stone for inexperienced twelve-bell bands which maybe - just maybe - might benefit teams like Ipswich or indeed The Norman Tower. Who knows?
Perhaps we may even see the competition return to Suffolk, with a number of venues having been visited a number of times in the twenty-six years since the last contest was held within our borders.
Back to the here and now though and it was an impressive day of ringing on lower numbers throughout the county, most notably with a peal of twelve Surprise Major methods spliced to Louis Suggett's own composition rung at Bardwell. However, also of note was the eclectic mix of methods rung to quarter-peals upon our bells, with St Clement's College Bob Minor at Bures, Yorkshire Surprise Major at Gislingham and Ipswich Surprise Minor at Weybread.
Positive news all round then!
To my mind, today is a sad day for the Church of England.
I don't agree with what has happened in regards to York Minster's dedicated and accomplished bellringers. In my humble opinion it was a disproportionate response to unproven accusations, handled inappropriately for a Christian institution, in the process besmirching the reputations of many good people in the YMSCR in a mixture of seeming naivety, confusion and lack of insight. However, I can just about accept that they did it all with decent intentions, reacting in a way that they perceived was preferable to the way that organisations like the CofE, BBC, FA and others are alleged to have previously dealt with such issues. And of course in the broadest sense they are right.
However, it is hard - from this distant perspective at least - to justify the decision of the Dean & Chapter at Sheffield Cathedral to ban the York ringers from ringing upon their bells in the National 12-Bell Striking Contest eliminator in just under a month, as they had been drawn to. It is presumably rooted in the decision - as I understand it - to ban from all Yorkshire towers the ringer whose alleged misdemeanours are supposedly at the centre of the whole sorry saga in York. Except he isn't - again, as I understand it at least - even in the band. So either it is an action taken in careless ignorance believing they were enforcing the edict from above against the said ringer or it is a vindictive move, punishing dedicated bellringers and churchgoers by association. It reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story of those attacking paediatricians in their pursuit of 'justice' against paedophiles.
As with the original decision of the Minster authorities to ban the ringers in York, the authorities in Sheffield have every right to stop whoever they want from ringing in their building. Whilst many bells are paid for and maintained by ringers, it is the goodwill of the church that allows us to ring bells, But the way that this has been dealt with is so far removed from Christian values that it makes me - and many others - decidedly uncomfortable.
Back here in Suffolk, a late shift at work ultimately put paid to going out to St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice and it seems to have been a quiet day ringing-wise throughout the county, at least judging by BellBoard. Not so yesterday though, with three quarter-peals rung but remissly overlooked in my blog. A 1260 of Double Oxford Bob Minor at Henley, the same number of changes of Cambridge Surprise and Plain Bob Minor at Lowestoft and a 1280 of Grandsire Doubles at Rougham were all positive stories emanating from churches.
Pity the same can't be said in Sheffield.
I did something today that I have never done before. With Ipswich Town taking on our fierce footballing rivals Norwich City north of the Suffolk-Norfolk border, I purposefully did all I could to avoid it - and succeeded. Such behaviour from this Tractor Boy would've been inconceivable not that long ago. Indeed, I have often dropped everything to watch what is usually my team's biggest match, anxious to follow every kick and header, keen not to miss any of the talking points that are subsequently analysed in great detail at work, ringing and in the pub over the days and weeks that follow.
However, dragged down by years of defeat, thrashings and gloating Budgies, I was dreading an uncomfortable lunchtime (the ridiculous timing this fixture has had to endure in recent seasons) listening to something metaphorically akin to a loved one being tortured, with nowhere to watch it on TV. Or at least not anywhere we could view it with the boys. Therefore, the radio went off at noon, I stayed off the internet and I busied myself taking my mind off proceedings up the A140.
Mercifully I had plenty to occupy myself on a hectic day that started with wishing my mother a Happy Birthday. Whilst she is Mum to Chris and me and Nan to Mason, Alfie and Joshua, she is better known to many in ringing as Sally Munnings (or Sally Diamond to most ringers in the East Midlands from her days as a prominent ringer in her native Northamptonshire), regular supporter not just at Debenham, Grundisburgh, Offton,,Sproughton and St Mary-le-Tower, but also at just about every South-East District and Guild event, plus occasionally the other Districts.
Appropriately enough myself, Alfred and Josh imparted our felicitations at the aforementioned SMLT for morning ringing and where we were unusually low on numbers, before we then went on to the also aforementioned Grundisburgh, where despite Ringing Master Stephen Pettman's absence we were unusually high on numbers, with Call-Changes on Twelve greeting our arrival and followed by much including Grandsire Caters and Yorkshire Surprise Major. Among the crowd at the little wobbly red-brick tower was Alan McBurnie, once Ringing Master at Hollesley but now doing much of his ringing at a variety of towers in Norfolk. There was a time when Ruthie and I would see Alan on an almost daily basis and we still fondly remember the Sunday evening quarter-peal projects at various local towers, such as the half-lead spliced Surprise Major which was such fun, but it is a while since we've had the pleasure of his company, so it was nice to catch-up with him on this unexpected visit.
Pancakes at the post-service tea and biscuits at St Mary the Virgin back in Woodbridge followed when we picked my wife up and our day of activity continued to an unusual photoshoot in the ringing chamber at Ufford. Over the past week, we have been looking after the nursery teddy bear Barney, the idea being that we write-up a report on what AJM did with his cuddly friend, complete with pictures. It would be remiss of us not to feature the one thing that none of our son's peers will do with the well-travelled bear and take him ringing and after I had forgotten BB this morning in the typical rush to get the boys out of the house first thing on the Sabbath, mother-in-law Kate generously gave us the keys to Ufford's bells and we popped up there for some 'action shots', prior to the real highlight of the day for Alfie.
For he had been invited to the birthday party of one his contemporaries, being held in Clopton Village Hall in this idyllic rural community where our destination this afternoon is some distance from the 12cwt six restored in 2013. Not that this mattered one jot to the two-year-old who played games, danced, ate and watched in awe as Steff and Nonsense entertained him and his excitable mates.
He was worn out by the end of it all and bed was not far away and for us adults there was the treat of watching a short piece on the restored bells of Southwark Cathedral, briefly featuring former Suffolk ringer Jonathan Slack but more prominently Hannah Taylor - nee Wilby - who I enjoyed ringing with fairly regularly in my former ringing life in the Midlands and who I thought came across extremely well in this, about ten minutes into tonight's episode (Songs of Praise).
All of this offered distractions to that which was happening at Carrow Road. And in the end? Well, a diplomatic and pleasantly unexpected 1-1 draw that will hopefully have pleased ringing Canaries like North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod as much as it did me. I'm still glad I avoided it though.
It is the final weekend before Lent and this Wednesday - being Ash Wednesday - there will no doubt be changes to some who practice on that night. Such as at Pettistree, as once they have attempted their usual midweek quarter-peal will then take a break for the annual Ash Wednesday service before reconvening at 7.50pm to continue with the session.
That is nothing compared to the changes that will be occurring during Holy Week, which starts this year on Sunday 9th April and will see some practices cancelled (such as St Mary-le-Tower), others moved and still others replacing their weekly session with a party, meal or meeting. Some (such as Pettistree and Sproughton) will still run their practice. Ultimately though, check before you do and don't go out ringing that week!
Today was a lot more straightforward for us as we stayed indoors, but others were ringing upon Suffolk's bells, with the Ladies Guild successfully completing a quarter-peal of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles at the ground-floor six at Thornham Magna. Well done to Carmen Wright, Sylvie Fawcett and Zoe Wright on ringing their first in the method.
Here's to more of the same over Lent!
With Mason still recovering from his operation earlier in the week we are without him this weekend, a metaphor for a very quiet day personally, at the end of a week of early shifts.
A little more was happening elsewhere in Suffolk, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Wenhaston.
It should be more lively on Saturday 22nd April when the North-East District are hosting the Guild AGM and this week the finer details have been released, with two routes of open towers along them taking ringers from the west and south to the ultimate destination of Beccles where ringing and a service will precede the tea and meeting at Hungate Hall. I enjoy the notion of everyone converging from different directions to the same location, ringing SGR bells along the way, but it hasn't happened for a while so I hope that plenty of people join the ringing on offer so it is deemed worthwhile doing again in the future. And I hope that as many members as possible support the NE's considerable efforts generally. Yes, it is a long way for most of the county's ringers, but to my mind it is entirely worth it. The meeting itself rarely takes very long these days, with much of the business that would've once been dragged out at these events often dealt with via social media, emails and the better communications that we have these days. That leaves more time for ringing, socialising, eating and of course a pint or two afterwards!
Please do support it and make the 22nd April more interesting than today!
It was the day of Storm Doris. Or Doris Day as it was labelled with no little wit.
Seriously though, it was a nasty day to be outside. Sadly someone did die in my old stomping ground of Wolverhampton, but although mercifully there were no reports of deaths in Suffolk due to the incredibly strong winds, there was considerable disruption across the county. The Orwell Bridge was closed not just to high-sided vehicles as you might expect, but to everyone and so the whole area was gridlocked. Trees came down (including down our road), electricity went off (not including down our road) and bits of tile came off our roof.
Still, in amongst all of this and more, a band were able to gather to ring a quarter-peal laden with firsts. First on the entire new octave at Horringer. First of the eponymous Bob Triples method rung. And first on eight for Joanne Crouch. Well done to all, but especially Joanne. Indeed, well done on just getting out and about safely!
Since a month or two before Joshua's birth and ever since his 11th July arrival, our ringing-time generally has diminished, but especially peal-ringing. In fact, up until now I have only partaken in three in the medium since that special day, one of which was to welcome JB. Weekend peals have been a rarity for a while as it is when we see Mason, but getting settled into a routine of feeding two young boys and readying them for bed and helping Ruthie in the demanding duties of being parents to a baby and a toddler dictated that I stepped back from my monthly midweek attempts in Ipswich at St Mary-le-Tower and The Wolery.
The former will be difficult to return to just yet, with the immediate post-work starts meaning that Ruthie would be charged with looking after Josh and his older brother Alfie for more than twelve hours straight, a task that will be unreasonable for a little while yet. However, the 7pm starts for the latter at least allow me to help with the bedtime preparations and spend some time with the boys first, as I discovered this evening when I returned to the Salter's eight in their shed in Old Stoke.
David very kindly announced how good it was to have me back, although it was probably as much to do with the loss of some peal-ringing regulars here as anything else. Since I last rang a peal on these bells, George and Colin have moved out (the former engaged in his new city of residence Bristol tonight with an impressive 5040 of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods), Mick Edwards' can no longer come along and Clare Veal's work commitments have curtailed her visits to Suffolk's county town for peals, whilst even Ian Culham who has started joining the usual crew on Wednesday nights will now apparently been unavailable for selection.
Still, Neal Dodge has been a welcome bonus, clearly progressing on both six and eight and tonight's attempt of six Surprise Minor methods was for him. Very well he did too - I know from experience how easily the different frontworks of the otherwise identical Allendale, Fryerning and Westminster can be muddled up!
And I was pleased to be back too. These are hugely enjoyable performances, usually rung with an exhilarating but precise pace that rarely occurs in any of my other ringing which I have missed. Nice as well to ring with George Thoday again, muttering away as he typically does, castigating himself severely for any slip he perceives to have made!
The tea and cake post-peal was something else much missed by myself over the last few months and so I appreciated the refreshments after our 1hr44mins of ringing, but another early start in the morning (though not as early as Mr Thoday's 2am wake-up call tomorrow!) meant I didn't have the luxury of hanging around too late. Thank you for inviting me back though guys!
Ours was not the only ringing within our borders recorded on BellBoard today, with three quarter-peals also scored. Well done to Pam and Paul Ebsworth on ringing their first blows of Doxey Bob Minor in the success at Great Finborough, whilst a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at St Mary-le-Tower and a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Pettistree.
Earlier I had visited the resting patient Mason this afternoon following yesterday's operation, actually looking rather chipper and enjoying the life of Riley, as he is entitled to after his minor but painful surgery. He's certainly not upset at missing school! Thank you again to the many ringers who have asked after him. It has been further evidence of the caring nature of the wide but close-knit ringing family.
It will be interesting to see what response will come from that family to the advert for volunteer bellringers at York Minster to replace the experienced and highly accomplished band sacked by this Christian institution in a manner entirely lacking in any elements of Christianity in October. Even putting aside any opinions on that action, the advert - laden with language full of religious sentiment completely at odds with their actions thus far - did seem to give rise to some confusion amongst ringers. A process of recruitment beginning before the Head of Ringing (for whom one of their major tasks is recruiting a new band) is appointed seems odd and lends weight to those who suspect - rightly or wrongly - that all of this is all about the Dean & Chapter having complete control. For all that is wrong with what has happened here though, I again hope that those who do put themselves forward are allowed to do so without fear of verbal abuse for doing so.
I shan't be applying though. I've not quite got the time.
Mason had an operation today. Nothing particularly serious, just a bit of minor surgery. He was in and out within the day and it was only at Ipswich Hospital rather than the Great Ormond Street Hospital that he was once so familiar with, but still a big deal for a ten-year-old, no matter how many times he has been in hospital for operations in his decade thus far. However, he was by all accounts very brave about the whole process, though very drowsy when I spoke with him afterwards.
Our thoughts were with him all day of course, even - or indeed especially - when we made an initial foray into what will God willing be the next big step in our lives - buying our first house. We've partly reached this position due to years of careful - if occasionally imperfect - financial management, hard-work and the generosity of those who gave so abundantly towards our house-fund at our wedding, but such is the ridiculous state of the housing market that even then it took the death of Ruthie's Nan last year and her kind bequest in her will for us before we could even contemplate finally purchasing our own abode.
This afternoon was essentially an exploratory viewing of a house. We went open to the idea of it being somewhere we could live, but there are of course many factors to take into consideration before we part with a six-figure sum of money for what we hope will be our home for decades to come. Mason is of course one of them. Or more to the point the boys as a whole are a vital factor and particularly where they sleep. Ideally we would like to be in Woodbridge or Melton. After all, that is where we work and where the boys are being educated and even aspects of our life of church, choir and the travelling distance to our usual ringing haunts - less important as they may be - need to be considered. And with just one car between the pair of us, we want to avoid my wife feeling cut-off in an isolated community when she is off work looking after the children.
However, there is hardly an abundance of houses in our town of residence at a price we could afford (one new development claims to include affordable housing and yet I am unable to locate any costing less than £975,000!) and so when a property came up just round the corner from my mother-in-law Kate at quite a low price we felt duty-bound to at least look around it. Whilst it was a nice little place with a big garden and we are considering three-bedroom places such as this, one of those rooms would need to be big enough to fit two of the kids in and this house simply wasn't sizeable enough for such an arrangement.
Still, it was a useful experience and gives us a benchmark of sorts as we explore and we're in no great rush at the moment, so life goes on. The early shift that gave us the freedom to view the house also saw me flagging come the evening, but there doesn't seem to have been any such trouble for the ringers at Offton who preceded the weekly practice with a quarter-peal of Uxbridge Surprise Major, not something that huge numbers of rural eights (and those who know Offton will know it is very rural!) will achieve.
In fact the ground-floor ringing chamber at this picturesquely located eight is a seemingly safe oasis in a busy, sometimes nasty world, but not every ringing chamber is it seems as social media reported the unsettling theft of a ringers bag by a non-ringing visitor at Christ Church Swindon. Containing phone, cards, keys and all the usual things one carries with them, it was taken when the thief wasn't being watched and just before he made a sudden and quick exit down the spiral staircase. Thank God it is rare for ringing chambers to be the scene of such a crime, even in this day and age when for some nowhere is sacred and everything is up for grabs, but it should be a warning for ringers to be a little more watchful of their possessions, especially at GF rings, sad state of affairs which that is.
I prefer to focus on the nicer side of humanity to finish with though and thank everyone who has sent good wishes to Mason. The world isn't all bad!
When Nigel Newton and I stood at the top of the stairs to the ringing chamber of St Mary-le-Tower listening to Lincolnshire Surprise Royal coming round, it was the start for us of a practice with a delightfully varied repertoire of methods that many - possibly even most - provincial twelve-bell towers could only dream of. Although the Cambridge Surprise Maximus that myself and Mr Newton were immediately placed onto the eleventh and tenor for on entry into the room was aborted after a couple of attempts, it seemed to kick-start a spate of decent, well-struck ringing, some of it superb.
Sonia trebled well to Plain Hunt on Nine, as did Sue Williamson to Kent Treble Bob Royal, whilst I was on the same bell to call four leads of confidently rung Bristol Surprise Royal, before the night was rounded off by Stedman Cinques, interspersed with Happy Birthday being sung to Lucy Williamson ahead of her twenty-first tomorrow and the chocolates she brought in for the occasion devoured. It was also nice to see Alex Tatlow on a visit back to his home county.
And that was just for the sole hour that I was there for after a typically hectic evening of getting two young boys fed and readied for bed, made all the more rushed by a delay in picking Alfie up from nursery as the playdoh he had stuck up his nose was removed... Although his evening got better as he was allowed to take the class teddy bear Barney home for the week.
And my evening got better with that session at SMLT.
Subdued seems to be the most appropriate word for this Sunday.
We were missing Bruce and Gill Wakefield at Woodbridge, meaning we only had enough to ring the front six, although whenever we leave the 16cwt seventh and 25cwt tenor down that delights Mason and Alfie who are then able to have a tug whilst we're ringing!
Numbers were lower than usual downstairs as well at the morning service directly afterwards whilst Kev the Rev has been off ill for a few weeks and is likely to remain so for a little while longer, so there is natural concern for the popular rector here.
And with the start of another week of early shifts at work in the morning, the eldest son was returned to his mother's after tea and I retired for the night not long after his younger brothers went to bed.
It wasn't so for many of Suffolk's ringers I'm glad to report. An impressive total of four quarter-peals were rung in the county today, from the far east to the far west. Well done to Sue Bowerman on her first of Minor inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Hollesley on the coast and to David Lee and Kevin Ward on making their debut on ten in the medium with the 1259 of Grandsire Caters at St Peter's in Sudbury on the other side of the Diocese, whilst there were performances of seven spliced Surprise Minor methods at Bardwell and the same number of spliced Doubles methods at Buxhall.
God willing next Sunday will be more upbeat for us too!
Usually our radio is tuned to BBC Radio Suffolk. Thankfully not for the music which is essentially the same five songs from the sixties and seventies on a loop. Typically though, it features places and people that we know, including a healthy amount related to ringing, directly and indirectly.
This morning though, our kitchen was filled by the sound of the British Broadcasting Corporation's Radio Five whilst I prepared breakfasts for the family, as I listened out for Julie McDonnell's interview on the national airwaves. Such is the busy nature of the morning routine these days that I missed all bar the last couple of minutes in real time, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology I was able to listen to the eight minutes or so that she was on air on iPlayer, from about 2hrs25mins into the Breakfast Show. I've never met Julie before, although I feel like I know her and this was the first time I have heard her speak. It was an inspirational listen. Someone with such a positive attitude, despite all that life has thrown - and is still throwing - at her and so lively. I imagine that bubbly personality has helped her through these tough times, but undoubtedly has also helped launch the ringing-based fundraising that has thus far raised an incredible £7m in little over six months which has seen participation from those in various five and six-bell towers packed full of learners finding their way through Plain Bob Doubles to the ringers of St Paul's Cathedral. Indeed the sound of superb ringing upon the famous 62cwt twelve can be heard part-way through the interview. I'm so glad I tuned in, for many reasons!
Although unlike the last couple of Saturdays we were not ringing anywhere, it would've felt incredibly slothful after listening to the Hasting ringer on R5 to just sit around all day and so our afternoon was occupied with a sort of early spring-clean which is more akin to the painting of the Forth Bridge with three young boys in the house! Apparently the constant repainting of the famous Scottish crossing is a thing of the past, but you get the idea.
And it was quiet across the Guild, at least according to BellBoard, although within the county but within the Norwich Diocesan Association's area, there was good representation from SGR members in the peal of Putney Surprise Major at Lowestoft to belatedly celebrate the seventieth birthday of David McLean, a ringer local to the coast around the most easterly point of the UK but who - like many in that part of the world - do much ringing south of the Diocese's borders.
There is much to celebrate in ringing, even if not all of it makes it onto national radio!
The amazing Julie McDonnell is now well and truly getting the recognition she deserves. In a world where there is so much bad news, her upbeat personality, can-do attitude and the incredible ringing project she has inspired is a wonderful beacon of light in The Telegraph today, whilst she is due to appear on BBC Radio Five at 8.30 tomorrow morning. Please read and please listen out!
Extraordinary in a completely different and more frivolous but still fun manner, the Grand Tour 2017 continued on to Africa today with a 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major at St George Parktown in Johannesburg, via a quick 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major on Wednesday at Harlington back here in Blighty (presumably in between flights at Heathrow next door!) and forty-three days after the first peal at Auckland in New Zealand. This tour is certainly living up to its name!
Reassuringly ordinary though, was the
a 1272 of Norwich
Surprise Minor at Brandeston, another quarter remembering another life lost
one hundred years ago in the First World War and a reminder - like Julie McDonnell's
courageous battle for life - of how precious life is. Make the most of it.
The future of rural churches and therefore the rings of bells housed within their towers has been of grave concern for a while now. It was a big shock to me though to read today of the threat to Guildford Cathedral as it faces possible (indeed "probable closure" according to the headline I saw) as plans to build houses on land to raise much-needed funds for the upkeep on this building not completed until the 1930's were rejected by the local borough council. In turn, that raises questions about what would happen to the 30cwt twelve here, where a thriving band currently includes Ipswich ringer Colin Salter whilst he is in the area on his studies and has a team entered in this year's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest as they partake in the group competing in Birmingham on Saturday 25th March.
Hopefully it will all be resolved soon, but it should serve both as a reminder of how fortunate most of us are that there is no immediate uncertainty over where we ring, as well as a warning at how things can change.
In that context it seemed a bit of a waste not to be taking advantage of Thursday night practices near us like Grundisburgh and St Margaret's in Ipswich. However, with Ruthie's weekly visit to choir practice finishing too late to make a useful contribution to any practices, it was another ringing-less night in. I hope the ringers of Guildford Cathedral don't get too many of those in the future.
It was quite a busy day of ringing in the county.
Well done to Matthew Rolph on ringing his first quarter-peal of St Clement's College Bob Minor in the 1260 at the ground-floor six of Blythburgh and congratulations to Neal Dodge on ringing his fiftieth peal for the Guild and Ian Culham on his 275th in the medium altogether, both achieved in the 5040 of nineteen spliced Surprise Minor methods at The Wolery.
In addition, another QP of Julie McDonnell Delight Minor was rung at Pettistree, as this tower continues to do its bit for a marvellous cause and at this point I should perhaps shoehorn in an apology to Jed Flatters and his fellow dedicated band-members at The Norman Tower for recently suggesting they haven't done anything for 'Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer'. Indeed they were one of the first to ring a quarter in the name of SBABC, a 1284 of Swindon Surprise Royal way back in June, although they are yet to partake in the 'Cathedral Challenge'. Therefore I guess this an apology laced with a challenge, which I'm sure the talented ringers of Bury St Edmunds are up to!
Back to today and Ruthie was able to partake in the ringing when she joined her mother Kate in going to the practice at the aforementioned Pettistree, followed by a pint well-deserved after a day that was busier more with toddler tantrums and baby mess than with ringing, whilst I happily had a lad's night in with Alfie and Joshua.
God willing I will get the chance to partake in some ringing soon too!
The cynical would say that Valentine's Day is just another way to make money. And they would be right.
Yet Ruthie and I have always used it as an excuse to treat ourselves and since we have been blessed with full-time parenthood it has become even more important to do that. Wonderful that our children are and as much as we love them, because of our responsibilities to them we are unable to go out together without imposing on someone and so usually time spent together in the evening is usually at home. The 14th February therefore nowadays gives us the opportunity to do something different under our own roof.
Tonight we indulged in a meal and champagne, a romantic night in with just the two of us. Oh, and the occasional interruption from Joshua.
Others nobly continued in the exercise meanwhile, with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton being particularly significant for Lucy Williamson, who in the week before her twenty-first birthday rang her fiftieth QP in the 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major on the ground-floor eight. What is more, it was her first of Surprise as conductor, so congratulations and well done Lucy! Not bad for someone who currently lives in France!
Still, although it involved no ringing, we enjoyed our Valentine's Night in.
As feared, Saturday's unfortunate but extremely rare incident at Worcester Cathedral did attract a wide bout of media coverage today, with some of it wildly exaggerated with breathtaking inaccuracy written - it seems - on the back of Chinese whispers with some guy in the pub. Perhaps unsurprisingly the Daily Mail and The Sun were the prime culprits, exclaiming excitedly that Ian Bowman was "whipped" and "dangled" one hundred feet into the air in a tower that is only two hundred feet tall in total.
However, other reports such as those in The Telegraph and on the BBC website were far more measured and factual and John Humphrys' interview with Cathedral Ringing Master (or whatever title John tried to give him!) Mark Regan on Radio Four (about 2hrs48mins in) was superb. There are few in ringing who speak as well as Mark, as those who saw him orate at the Suffolk Guild's AGM fringe meeting at Henley in 2011 can testify and he has actually managed to turn this into a relatively positive bit of PR for the exercise!
It all rather overshadowed the launch of the redesigned website of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, but already there has been some strong criticism, most notably by Philip Earis who considered that whilst a lot of work has been put into the redesign, it wasn't a great first impression for non-ringing members to be greeted by three 'In Memoriam' notices under 'latest news'. Important as it is to remember on the site past members who have died, hopefully something more positive and topical will instead be placed in these prominent positions, as otherwise the new design is a vast improvement.
On a sadder note, I was sorry to hear today that Susan Dalziel, a former ringer at Tunstall, died recently. When I was a resident of this proper east Suffolk village in my little pink cottage on the Snape Road junction, she lived directly behind me and I have fond memories of being invited over to partake in food and some of fellow local ringer John Calver's homemade booze! She was quite an eccentric character, a lively dear who always acted much younger than her age. Sadly we only found out about her passing because of the footnote to the quarter-peal today on the lovely 7cwt gallery-ring of six that was once her - and my - home tower after her funeral as we would've liked to have attended, but I am sure was given a jolly good send-off.
Instead, it was a non-ringing Monday for us as my late shifts combined with helping Ruthie get the boys ready for bed conspired to prevent me getting to St Mary-le-Tower, which although necessary and in its own way delightful seems to have become the norm every other week whilst I am on these international campaigns.
Mind you, if you believe the Daily Mail and The Sun, it was probably unsafe to go ringing anyway.
As with Mason and Alfie before him, we have been blessed that Joshua settled down relatively quickly into sleeping through the night, but various ailments converged upon the poor little mite overnight, combining to make it our worst with him for a few months. Regularly waking and clearly not a happy bunny, very little sleep was had by him or us, especially when Alfie briefly joined in. Waking for the bi-weekly early start to get the three boys ready to take into Ipswich for service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower was even more difficult than usual therefore, as breakfasts were prepared, children dressed and potty usage supervised with a tired mind and body.
We made it though, although only just in time for some Grandsire Caters that developed into Plain Hunt on Nine and some quickfire Call-Changes on Twelve, all under the watchful eye of Jonathan Williamson in David's absence, before the young trio and I made our way to Grundisburgh where it was nice to see Don Price, even though he wasn't ringing due to an injury he suffered recently when he slipped on the ice. However, for me the highlight was the eldest son having his first proper go at handstrokes after years of understandably only being brave enough to do backstrokes. Yet again he proved he has the timing to make a good ringer, but there still doesn't seem to be a burning desire from the ten-year-old to take the art up seriously and of course there is absolutely no point forcing it. God willing he'll suddenly decide to take it up properly in the future and have the skills developed in the meantime to make a decent fist of it.
Hopefully he and others won't be put off by the news emanating from Worcester, where today it was reported in the Torquay Herald Express that a Devon ringer by the name of Ian Bowman injured himself whilst ringing on the Cathedral's 49cwt twelve on an outing. It led to a rescue that looked more dramatic than it actually was by all accounts, with the fire brigade having to lower him through a trapdoor in the ringing chamber floor to the church eighty feet below. He is apparently already released from hospital and so presumably not really badly hurt and as local Ringing Master Mark Regan pointed out, "it was a freak accident" and was quick to reassure those who may get the idea that the exercise is a health and safety risk that this is a safe pastime. And he is right. Tens of thousands of ringers ring every week at thousands of towers and have done for centuries and yet the total number of incidents of this nature are minuscule. Let's hope the reporting of this doesn't get out of hand.
As if to ram home just how rare such occurrences are, aside from the two towers that I rang at this morning and the many others across Suffolk where morning worship and evensong were rung for, two quarter-peals and a peal were rung within our borders today, with a 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Royal rung at The Norman Tower and 1280 of Plain Bob Doubles at Rushmere St Andrew, whilst a 5056 of Valise Surprise Major was rung at Orford, all - as far as I am aware - without incident. Well done to Deborah Blumfield on ringing her first in the method with the success in Bury St Edmunds.
Our afternoon was altogether quieter, although not quiet enough. We could've done with more sleep...
The ringing family will often come together like no other for fundraising, as has been superbly demonstrated by the exercise's response to Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer. On one occasion at school when myself and my peers were challenged to get as much sponsorship as we could in the name of some good cause I can't recall, I was given special mention for not only getting the most, but by far the most. All thanks to the generosity of ringers.
In July, Bardwell and St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies is due to cycle from London to Paris in aid of MacMilan Cancer Support, along with a number of her work colleagues from Greene King. As can be seen from her JustGiving page, she is hurtling towards her fundraising target of £1,600, again in no small part to generous ringers, including this morning at Bardwell during the North-West District Practice where tea and cake were served to help the cause. And how! £411 was raised as ringers - and admittedly some non-ringers too, flocked from across Suffolk and even beyond to donate and in the process get their fill of confection of many flavours from chocolate to lemon to gin and tonic!
Oh, and to do some ringing, as in between scoffing we and others worked off the extra calories by climbing the many stairs to the 11cwt eight, where even in the short period we were there for, Yorkshire Surprise Major, Kent Treble Bob Major and Stedman Triples were rung, but as usual it was the social side which was the real highlight, particularly as it is rare for us to make it up to this corner of the Guild. Some of our extended family were caught up with as we chatted with Maurice and Anita Rose and my brother's father-in-law Stephen Munford as well as David and Lesley Steed and Neal Dodge amongst others and there was a strong turnout from the locals.
As is usual for NW District Practices, it was all preceded with a quarter-peal, which today was a 1250 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major and was the SGR's PR Officer's two hundredth in the medium - congratulations Neal!
Meanwhile, whilst we went home via some Dad's Army location-spotting, some continued on to Great Barton for a peal, whilst our neighbours from the Ely Diocesan Association rang a 5040 of twenty-three Surprise Minor methods spliced at Tostock.
It was a day of impressive efforts, especially from Laura and the ringing family.
There has been a lot of work on London's bells in recent years. Rehangs, recasts, augmentations, even completely new rings of bells where none were before, all a sign of how the ringing scene at the other end of the A12 is thriving.
A lot of it has been motivated by the tireless enthusiasm of Dickon Love, such as the completely new ring of twelve at St Magnus-the-Martyr in 2009 in a tower previously empty of bells.
The replacement of the much-maligned twelve at Cornhill followed a couple of years later, although the uncertain future at this church threatens to take the gloss off that particular success.
Only in the last few weeks, the restored twelve at Southwark Cathedral have been put back in, with a first quarter-peal already rung on the refurbished middle six, as this corner of the capital prepares to host this year's final of the National Twelve-Bell Contest on Saturday 24th June.
However, perhaps the mother of them all has been set in motion, as the Evening Standard carried news - that I read today - of the launch of an appeal to raise a staggering £360,000 to restore and rehang the famous ring of St Paul's Cathedral. Presumably the warning that they may "plummet" from their supports is not too urgent as ringing wouldn't be allowed to continue on them. It is daunting to simply step into the ringing chamber here, let alone contemplate rehanging and restoring a 62cwt twelve that has rung for some of the most auspicious occasions throughout the history of one of the country's most well-known landmarks. Raising such an amount of money, planing the job and actually carrying it through is likely to take some time, so they are right to act now and although some have quite correctly suggested that the amount the Cathedral takes in fees from tourists means there are more deserving cases for exposure in the pursuit of funds, I hope ringers can rally round to ensure this showcase ring of bells can continue as a positive, famous representation of our art for many decades and centuries to come.
Tannington and Wenhaston may not be as grand and glamorous as their counterparts in the Big Smoke, nor their ringing generated as much media coverage as that at St Paul's Cathedral, but for this blog that focuses on Suffolk ringing it is as newsworthy that quarters of three and two Doubles methods were rung at this brace of rural sixes respectively today.
Nothing quite as active for us personally, as an early shift at work allowed me time to collect Mason from school ahead of the half-term break, as well as the time to take in the latest of long line of exciting projects in London's ringing scene.
It's not often that I highlight a job advert on here, but then it's not often that a paid position in ringing comes up. You can earn a living with the Ringing World and the world's various bell foundries, but I can't recall one ever coming up for a role within a ringing chamber, although I'm sure someone can put me right on that if I am (as is probably the case!) wrong!
However, if you fancy it, you have until 5pm on 26th February to apply for the position of Head of Bell Tower at York Minster. Since it was announced that this was what was the Dean and Chapter's intention in the wake of the confusing dismissal of the vastly experienced, high-quality band back in October, this has been long-awaited in the ringing community. What exactly would it entail? Who would it be open to exactly? How many hours would the successful applicant be working? And what would they be paid?
Well today we found out.
Over an initial twelve month fixed term, the 'lucky' person "will be responsible for the recruitment and development of a skilled band...to lead change ringing for Sunday services and for other special services and occasions." Essentially what most tower captains and many more have done for free over centuries.
Still, that aside, this will be open to "experienced bell ringers". Quite how experienced isn't specified and one wonders who will be overseeing how that will be applied. Some of the longest-serving and best ringers are or would be - to put it bluntly - appalling teachers. How this will be discovered between application and the first lesson seems to this outsider difficult to fathom in this unprecedented process, unless there is an experienced ringer helping them to choose an applicant...
Apart from six times a year when attendance will be required during office hours for training, the role will only take up ten hours a week, which makes sense as the band that he or she will be tasked with recruiting and teaching is going to be voluntary and fitting ringing in around their full-time job, as most of us have to, although that presumably reduces the pool of applicants, especially as the resulting salary is just £7,000 per annum. Dream as it would be for most ringers to be paid a substantial wage for the hobby they enjoy, such a part-time role would not be enough for any right-minded person to up sticks from their full-time job and/or home and move to York for.
By now you will have gathered from my meanderings today and previously that I am at best sceptical over this. However well-meaning the actions of the Dean, she and her peers in authority have - to my mind, for what little it's worth - gone about it in the wrong way. Whilst their business doublespeak and changing story suggested a certain cunning, their understanding of ringing has appeared naive and the standards will be unlikely to ever get as high as they were four months ago, particularly as this 59cwt twelve are far from the ideal bells to teach a band upon, unless investment is also being made in a ringing centre similar to that at Worcester Cathedral or planned for St Peter Mancroft in Norwich. Even if you accept that the D&C are clearly uninterested in having a band capable of partaking in the National Twelve-Bell Contest (incidentally, the former Minster ringers are entering a band in this year's competition), they have treated some very decent people in an extremely un-Christian fashion.
However, whoever does get this job should be given a chance and not vilified for taking it on. For all that very few of us wanted this position to come about, this will be a fantastic opportunity for someone and it would be a travesty for this magnificent ring to remain silent. Even if they won't be rung anywhere near as well as they were by a group of some of the best ringers in the world with decades of ringing at the highest standard under their belt.
Times may continue to be troubling in York, but not so back here in Suffolk at Horringer, where the first quarter-peal there since the brand new eight were installed was rung today, albeit on the back six. Another happy landmark for this ground-floor octave.
For us though, it was a quieter day, as a week of early shifts predictably caught up with me. Tough as those starts in the cold morning darkness are though, I won't be applying for that Head of Bell Tower job!
Friendships made in ringing can often evolve, even after ringing is no longer the focus of the relationship.
Ruthie's with Mike Whitby's daughter Sarah began as one of siblings of ringers, then briefly as fellow ringers. Whilst Sarah's dalliance with the art didn't continue, their friendship has with occasional social meetings and this afternoon they took advantage of their friendship to set up a play-date for Alfie, Joshua and Miss Whitby's delightful daughter Eliza for the first time, as my wife and sons were invited to Sarah's home. And as I was on an early shift at work I was in the happy position to join them for a lovely couple of hours of catching-up to a backdrop of toys being strewn across our host's living room floor and noisy youthful exuberance.
After a busy few days of partaking in the exercise, our visit to this former ringer was the closest that we got to any actual ringing, as Mrs Munnings had a girly night out with her sister and mother watching Riverdance at The Regent in Ipswich after I had attended Mason's latest - and his most positive to date - parent's evening, but elsewhere they were busier within our borders, most notably at Beccles where a 1260 of Plain Bob Royal was rung in memory of former ringer at this grand detached tower, Chris Plummer. It was also Rona Sporle's first of Royal inside - well done Rona.
In addition, a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Great Finborough, whilst Sarah's father was calling another quarter of Julie McDonnell Delight Minor at Pettistree, as ringing friendships manifested themselves in a more traditional way across Suffolk.
George Pipe is not only famous in Ipswich for all he has done at St Mary-le-Tower, taking a band that was ringing Plain Bob Doubles on the middle five when he and his wife Diana returned from their travels, to one of the best twelve-bell bands in the country in the 1980's who were three-times finalists in the National Twelve-Bell Final, recasting and rehanging the county's heaviest twelve along the way.
Nor is he just famous in Suffolk for all he has done for the SGR as Ringing Master and then Chairman of the Guild beside much else.
Nor even just in the UK, where as well as being part of the famous Pipe ringing dynasty that began with his father Cecil and step-mother Sylvia, continued with GWP, Di and his brother Rod and now carries on with his nephew David, his wife Cecilia and now their young sons Henry and Alfred, George has carved out a tremendous reputation for his ringing feats and is held in high regard by the Ancient Society of College Youths and beyond.
No, he is well respected worldwide, his well-being often asked of when anyone from within our borders enters a ringing chamber and reveals where they're from. Partly for ringing in the first peal on the bells of Washington Cathedral in the USA and then helping teach a band there, but predominantly for his time in Australia where he was instrumental in the formation of ANZAB - Australian and New Zealand Association of Bellringers - and is fondly remembered to the extent that in Adelaide Cathedral there is a room named after him - The George W Pipe Library.
It was here today that a handbell peal was rung, which is what prompted my recalling of just how widespread my brother's Godfather's fame and reputation is cast.
The 5120 of London Surprise Major was of course part of the staggering Grand Tour 2017, whose totals were brought to forty-nine peals and quarters since it began over a month ago wuth this and the 5040 of Stedman Triples on the Cathedral's 41cwt eight also rung on this summer's day Down Under. I assume they're coming back one day!
Ringing itself was briefly famous amongst Britain's toddlers and their parents on this winter's day, as My Story on CBeebies featured ringing on the 18cwt octave of Chichester Cathedral in West Sussex, but my ringing was a bit more low-key as I went to Ufford practice for the third week running, with a number of regulars at a Burns Night event in Pettistree. As with the previous brace of sessions here, it was a productive but jovial evening.
Though not as glamorous or exciting as George Pipe's ringing career or the Grand Tour 2017!
Although the ridiculous charging for parking in the car-parks opposite St Mary-le-Tower would have you believe that Ipswich town centre is crammed full of cars bringing thousands of people in on a Monday night and scrapping over spaces to park, this is an area that is essentially closed after everyone has finished their working day. That is except for McDonald's and the odd pub dotted around the north end of the centre, which are presumably predominantly full of people who haven't (or at least shouldn't have) driven in. And also - regrettably - the occasional dubious character.
Every now and then, they find their way up to the ringing chamber of Suffolk's heaviest and oldest twelve, although it is rare and even rarer for them to cause any actual trouble. However, whilst we are keen to welcome visitors and especially to encourage them to return and take up the art with us, we are also wary that we are partaking in an activity involving ropes pulling many tonnes of metal in a confined space usually containing a large number of bodies that it is potentially dangerous for anyone not used to being in an active belfry. Much more so when they are unpredictable, fuelled by drugs and alcohol, even if they are ultimately harmless, as they typically are.
When a worryingly gaunt, heavily tattooed skinhead about my age, with a slight whiff of drink entered the practice tonight therefore, I hate to admit there was a distinct sense of unease, although we welcomed him in as we always intend to do. There was absolutely nothing to worry about. Clearly he is fighting some demons as he himself admitted, but he did as he was told when we gave him safety instructions, he was courteous and it even transpired that Amanda Richmond and Owen Claxton used to teach him in a moment that was quite amusing! Indeed, in many respects I found it quite an uplifting experience as he seemed genuinely moved by his visit and it was a reminder not to judge a book by its cover.
It was a positive night on many levels beyond that though, with the return of Melvyn Potts for the first time after his recent health issues, looking well and insisting that he never really felt that ill! Nonetheless, we were all delighted to see him back on an evening when the ringing was of a high standard too. Lincolnshire Surprise Royal was well rung, especially considering that our non-ringing visitor entered during it, unaware as he understandably was of entrance protocol at SMLT (as are some regulars it seems on occasions!), whilst Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques were also rung, the latter quite superbly to round off a productive couple of hours that importantly also saw some Plain Hunt on Nine for Sonia and Little Bob Maximus as the necessary path of progression was maintained.
Earlier in the day, I started work at an insane hour in complete darkness, but across the country the Sapphire Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to throne exactly sixty-five years ago was marked by much ringing, though without quite as much fanfare as with previous royal events like the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. Still, the sound of Westminster Abbey's bells pulling off featured on BBC Radio Suffolk, presenting more good PR for the art. Nothing from within our borders strangely though.
Although with another early start in the morning I passed on a raising a drink to the Queen in the pub post-ringing, this was still a positive night.
What a phenomenon 'Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer' has been. For an art that by its nature is used to complaints and that has recently been beset by bad news from York Minster and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, it has been a wonderful antidote.
Many will know the story that has inspired this project - or at least should - but I am happy to recap for those who don't in the hope that it will motivate more ringers to arrange quarters and/or peals. Back in the summer of 2015, Hastings ringer Julie McDonnell was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia and was only saved from her terminal diagnosis by a stem cell transplant. Not only was this to be a happy outcome to a potentially tragic tale, but it ultimately set in motion the challenge to raise the awareness of her condition and the other 136 different types of leukaemia, as well as money through sponsorship of a set number of quarter-peals. The initial target, set in June of last year was to ring a hundred QPs of Julie McDonnell Bob Doubles - a variation devised especially for the cause - by Christmas 2016. Such was the response that this was soon raised to two hundred and various other challenges set, more detail of which can be found on the Central Council's website and the challenge's own website.
Since then, there have been some amazing performances. A 1260 of the eponymous variation was rung on the back five at the 41cwt twelve of St Mary-le-Bow and if that wasn't staggering enough, the feat was repeated by a different band on the back five of the heaviest change-ringing bells in the world at Liverpool Cathedral, with the 82cwt tenor being strapped by Matt Warburton and Len Mitchell in a mind-boggling physical feat. Meanwhile, Julie McDonnell New Bob Cinques was rung for the first time at one of the most famous ringing locations, St Paul's Cathedral, part of the Cathedral Challenge that I imagine the Norman Tower are already making plans for taking part in! And an impressive sixteen quarter-peals were rung on one day in Derbyshire in December. Thus far, an incredible £7m has been raised.
Here in Suffolk, six quarters had been rung for the cause before today, with the main protagonist within our borders being Mike Whitby and Pettistree, a combination that allowed Ruthie to partake in the project at the end of November, but I hadn't yet been a participant myself. Until this afternoon that is, when I partook in what appears to have been the first of Julie McDonnell Delight Minor in the northern hemisphere, rung for evensong at the aforementioned ground-floor six where my wife broke her duck in this challenge, a 1320 that was pleasing not only for the reason behind it but for being one of the best QPs I have rung in for some time, with the only deviation from faultless ringing being the occasional, almost entirely self-corrected flinches. It was a delight to ring in more than one sense.
With Adrian Craddock joining us, the post-quarter, pre-service ringing was decent too, with the newcomer doing well with a touch of Cambridge Surprise Minor, despite Mary Garner turning the lights off halfway through!
That wasn't the only service ringing I carried out today, as this morning I helped man the front five of the eight at Woodbridge before going downstairs for the ante meridiem worship, whilst there was ringing for others on the county's bells. Congratulations to Craig Leach on conducting his twenty-fifth quarter-peal in the success at Lowestoft and Alan Mayle on conducting a peal for the 650th time in the 5040 rung at Stoke-by-Clare in memory of long-serving local ringer Val Jay, whilst there was also a 1344 of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Bardwell on a busy day of ringing here.
I'm just glad to do my - admittedly small - bit for SBABC, at last!
Having had to work on the morning that last month's South-East District Practice at Hollesley took place and his election at December's ADM coming too late to move it to the afternoon with it already advertised in the village at that time, today's 2 - 3.30pm SE Practice at Sproughton saw Jonathan Williamson's return as District Ringing Master begin in earnest.
And what a start. Aided by a very reasonable turnout of thirty-to-forty members gathered from in the region of fifteen towers from Tattingstone (where I was delighted to hear that the six with the odd treble are being rung regularly) to Debenham, Hollesley to Offton, the new RM ran an extremely productive session that incorporated much from Call-Changes to London Surprise Minor and much in between (I rang in a touch of Double Court Bob Minor for example) for an attendance with a range of abilities and ages. Although I always think more can come to these events from a membership of nearly three-hundred, it was refreshing to see a number of unfamiliar and lesser seen faces in this gallery ringing chamber and enjoying the much appreciated refreshments, cakes and biscuits down in the church. In pretty much every respect, it was exactly how such an event should be and I hope that we see the same not just at Grundisburgh next month, but also at Bardwell for next week's North-West District Practice and the North-East District's Practice and Meeting at Reydon, as well as later in the month at Hadleigh for the South-West District Practice on Saturday 25th.
In addition to the numbers from within in the District, it was nice to see some returning visitors, such as Mike Burns, Claire Haynes and James Smith and good to catch-up with them on a very positive afternoon. A quick, informal and encouraging meeting saw three new members elected and was followed by some extra ringing, but we bade farewell and meandered back to Woodbridge for tea with former SE District Ringing Master Kate Eagle, along with Ron, Ruthie's sister Clare and her family, with tales of the mother-in-law's recent trip to Lanzarote abounding - thank you Kate!
Elsewhere meanwhile, well done to Andrea Alderton, Neal Dodge and conductor Stephen Dawson on ringing their first quarter-peal of College Exercise Treble Bob Minor in the 1272 rung at Great Barton and to the entire band on their first of Quernmore Bob Minor in the 1260 rung at Woolpit. Congratulations to Lesley Steed too, on ringing her 1700th in the medium in the latter success, a well deserved landmark for someone who has done much for ringers and towers throughout Suffolk with her quarter-pealing.
With Jonathan's flying start in the South-East District, it has been another good day for the county's ringers.
Congratulations to all at Horringer! Yesterday, the brand new octave were rung together for the first time ever and there is video evidence on the project's Facebook page (PEAL APPEAL - St Leonards, Horringer) which has kept those on social media up to date from the fundraising through to this momentous ring. Compare them to the old eight which can be heard in all their 'glory' in a YouTube clip of a peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Major rung there nearly four years ago. I'd say it has certainly been worth it!
And while it was a typically quiet Friday on the ringing front personally, elsewhere others were continuing the feelgood factor in Suffolk ringing today, with the FNQPC doing what they do best with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Earl Stonham, whilst another experienced band of top quarter-pealers were ringing a 1440 of five spliced Surprise Minor methods at Tostock. Congratulations all round!
With parenthood comes teamwork and when one half of the partnership is unable to function then the other has to step up.
So it was today, as illness overcame Ruthie and drained all her energy. Without children, I would reluctantly leave my better half to recover in her own way and in her own time, but today someone still needed to take Alfie to and pick him up from nursery, clean bottles for Joshua's sustenance and give it to him, change him and generally attend to his regular needs. Therefore, I took the day off from my understanding employers and set about doing all that my wife usually has to do everyday on her own whilst I am at work.
We at least had the light relief of a visit from Mrs Munnings' best friend Fergie, but such were the depths of the patient's ailments that she unusually missed choir practice. And whilst that briefly raised the possibility of popping along to Grundisburgh practice, the notion of going out anywhere in such circumstances was ultimately a far-fetched one.
It appears to have generally been quiet on the ringing front in Suffolk, with no quarters or peals rung upon the county's bells, according to BellBoard at least, unlike yesterday when a quarter-peal was rung at Pettistree, a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor. All thanks to teamwork.
Bar the obvious major ones dominating the news currently, loneliness is the big issue in the media currently, with a commission started up to tackle it. Today I read an article on the BBC's website on the subject, which amongst others, suggested learning something new and/or joining a club and it struck me just how well placed ringing is to help, in the process boosting its own numbers. After all, we offer a lifetime of stimulation and friendship, whether that be just within one's own community or beyond, for an amount of money that equates to practically nothing. Whether young or old or even with a young family or a disability (those blind or in wheelchairs have and do practice the exercise), this is a flexible art that can give practically anyone a social outlet. Either as a Guild or individual towers, we perhaps ought to be more proactive in encouraging those to us who may be looking for company and/or something to do.
Not that we were particularly proactive tonight, as my late shift at work and a tough day with Alfie and Joshua for my wife caught up with us and saw us forsake the practice at Pettistree and all that fellowship which ringing offers.
However, as we enter the shortest month of the year, there is a vast list of events planned across Suffolk for ringers, that those lonely or otherwise could take advantage of in the coming weeks. Most immediately, Saturday sees not only the South-East District Practice at the easy-going and easily-accessible gallery ring of six at Sproughton from 2 - 3.30pm, but from 10am-noon a coffee morning at Little Cornard in aide of the bell fund there. A week later, another coffee morning accompanies the North-West District Practice at Bardwell, this time in aide of Macmillan Cancer Support, whilst in the afternoon the North-East District hold their practice and meeting at Reydon. The Second Tuesday Ringing is being held at Debenham and Tannington if you want to treat your other half on Valentine's Day and later in the week the Monthly Practice at Helmingham will be held on the Friday, before February is due to be rounded off with the South-West District Practice at Hadleigh from 3-4.30pm on the 25th and the Halesworth Triples and Major Practice on the evening of the 28th.
There's every opportunity to avoid loneliness this month!
Shortness was a theme of the night.
Shortness of numbers at Portman Road where the 14,719 who did turn up to watch Ipswich Town's 3-0 capitulation to Derby County in the 30,000 capacity stadium was the club's lowest league attendance at home for more than seventeen years.
Shortness of time this evening, as following another late shift at work there was a limited period spent with Ruthie and the boys before I then left again to go to Ufford practice for the second week running.
And shortness of rope at the aforementioned eight that saw a vast array of boxes employed. I always try to avoid using a box if I can help it, as I tend to walk a bit when ringing, but even I had to admit defeat and mount them to partake in a productive session that saw much rung from Norwich Surprise Minor to Plain Bob Triples to Cambridge Surprise Major. We were not short of numbers here at least.
Nor were they short of endeavour in the quarter-peal at Gislingham, where twenty-one Surprise Major methods were squeezed into 1280 changes rung upon this 14cwt ground-floor eight.
I'm glad they didn't come up short!
Back to late shifts at work this week and therefore greater difficulty in getting out to evening ringing, especially on Mondays where the combination of children, food, a twenty-minute journey to the centre of Ipswich and then trying to find somewhere to park the car makes going to St Mary-le-Tower practices generally impractical.
So it was tonight. Instead, it was a night in that included taking in Helicopter ER, a documentary following paramedics as they travel to emergencies via helicopter. One of the cases featured in tonight's episode was that of Robert Wood, a ringer from Yorkshire who seriously injured himself in an incident amongst the 18cwt eight of Middleham. Robert will be known amongst some reading this and I recall how he very kindly phoned me to offer support at the peak (or trough) of the publicity over peals at Aldeburgh nearly ten years ago, whilst he has also been a sane local voice on the subject of the sacking of York Minster's ringers (incidentally, in other news the 59cwt twelve were rung again yesterday, though not by members of the YMSCR), so it was good to see a happy ending to the whole thing, but it does make for gruesome watching. Be warned if you want to watch it!
I think he enjoyed yesterday, but today was the day that Mason was really looking forward to, as his continued birthday celebrations took him to Flux, the 'freestyle jumping' venue in Ipswich's Cardinal Park that has become a familiar scene for such occasions in recent months. This was the party for my eldest son and his peers, predominantly made up of classmates, but also Henry Salter, whose own birthday party here back in September introduced us to this excitable space and first sowed the seeds in Mason's mind for having his own in this noisy corner of the county town.
Henry's presence was not only delightful for my boy but also for me, as it meant the company of his parents David and Katharine following their family day out in Oxfordshire yesterday that saw Mr Salter ring peals at Bletchingdon and Cowley, whilst today another of their sons, George, showed signs of settling into the ringing scene in Bristol he has recently joined by impressively conducting a 1344 of four spliced Surprise Maximus at Redcliffe.
Nothing quite so impressive for myself this morning, though I was pleased to make ringing at St Mary-le-Tower which climaxed with a course of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the back eight and saw us welcome Abby Antrobus to service ringing following her move to the community from Bury St Edmunds over the last couple of weeks and other ringers were busy in Suffolk, with three quarter-peals rung within our border. One was rung at NDA tower Lowestoft with a 1264 of Plain Bob Major, but there were also 1260s of Plain Bob Minor and Badgeworth Bob Minor at Kersey and Great Finborough respectively, with the latter being David Steed and Stephen Dawson's first in the method - well done David and Stephen!
Unusually for a Sabbath morn that began at SMLT, that was the end of my ringing for the day, as instead of making our way to Grundisburgh, the birthday boy and myself wandered up Tavern Street and Westgate Street to Moss Bros. In April I am due to be best man at the wedding of our good friends Toby and Amy, so this morning I joined the groom-to-be and his step-father-in-law Bill for some suit measurements in anticipation of the big event, whilst Mason watched on patiently.
It is an exciting date on the horizon, but for today the most important thing was that Mason enjoyed himself. I think he did!
A party with his peers is planned for tomorrow, so today Mason's tenth birthday celebrations continued with a day of hosting various friends and family, starting with his Godparents Toby and Kala and their respective families and then finishing with his grandparents, Great Aunty Marian, Unky Chris and Aunt Becky, albeit at the home of Ruthie's mother Kate which we are currently looking after - along with her various animals - whilst she is away.
More presents and cards were opened and food devoured, whilst the conversation ranged from children and house-buying in the morning to ringing and football in the afternoon, but most importantly the birthday boy seems to have enjoyed himself.
There was no time left for ringing personally, but there was for others on Suffolk's bells. Well done to Carmen Wright on ringing her first quarter-peal inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Thornham Magna for the Ladies Guild, as this weekend of celebration continues.
When I first discovered I was going to become a father, the notion was mind-boggling to me. Today, I am the father of a ten-year-old, as Mason entered his second decade and entered double-figures. It is just as mind-boggling.
With his mother and I parted before he was even born and the first few years of his life marked by numerous operations as doctors in Ipswich and Great Ormond Street Hospitals worked to fix the club foot he entered the world with, his upbringing has been far from ideal and yet he has thus far developed into a kind, thoughtful and generally cheerful young boy. He isn't perfect of course, as none of us are, but I am delighted with how he has grown up to now and am eternally grateful to Ruthie in particular for her support in helping him to become what he is on his tenth birthday.
Meanwhile, there was another birthday being celebrated by the FNQPC as the 1320 of Double Court Bob Minor rung at Ashbocking which was the first in the method for at least some of the band was dedicated to felicitations for Liz and Podge Christian's grandson.
Happy Birthday to him, but especially to Mason!
Tomorrow marks precisely ten years since Mason was born and as most readers will be aware, I like to arrange a peal to mark the occasion. This year was no different and indeed I was particularly keen to arrange and ring one for him as he is now appreciating the efforts. Poring through old annual reports at Grundisburgh has become a habit for him on the Sunday mornings that I drag him along to the 9cwt twelve, along with the only ringing he does, so it seemed appropriate to celebrate his tenth birthday with a 5010 in the wobbly red-brick tower today.
Still, the last few weeks reminded me how difficult it is to organise peal-bands. January often catches me out organisationally. It seems an age away before Christmas and yet come New Year it is of course instantly upon you and this year I have to admit I began arranging the annual ringing felicitation to my eldest son later then I would've liked. Therefore I decided against pitching it on a weekend, figuring that most ringers would already have something organised over what is usually the busiest couple of days of the week for the exercise. Instead, I thought I'd take advantage of the free afternoons following my early shifts at work and arrange it for today post-lunch. I expected many to be unable to come along because of work, but was also aware of the healthy number of retirees in our midst and those who in my experience are happy to work around their peal-ringing. However, a common response seemed to be "usually it wouldn't be a problem, but"...
Eventually though, I managed to gather an octet of ringers for an attempt, particularly grateful to Jo Crowe on helping out at short notice and Sue Marsden and Nick Elks who travelled all the way from Peterborough. However, I was grateful to all who humoured me and came out for the ultimately successful 2hrs49mins on the back eight of Suffolk's lightest duodecimal which the birthday boy will hopefully enjoy hearing and reading about.
Those of us who then went for a pint at The Turks Head in nearby Hasketon were joined by Ruthie and Joshua for relaxed conversation which veered from York Minster to Julie McDonnell to local peal attempts and was a pleasant way to round off a satisfying day.
There was no haggis in the household on this Burns Night, no visit to Pettistree on this Wednesday evening or indeed much activity generally midway into this week from a personal perspective, as early shifts at work and parenthood took over. The traditional Scottish dish may have been a step too far for Alfie's largely fussy palate, especially with his parents drained of energy and an early night called for. That was also the reason for our absence from the weekly session at Ruthie's home tower, although they carried on regardless - as you would expect - with a pre-practice quarter-peal, whilst there was also a peal at The Wolery which was George Thoday and David Salter's three hundredth together - congratulations George and David!
I'm glad they all had the energy!
I may no longer be Suffolk Guild Public Relations Officer, but I am still engrossed in the SGR's publicity and so I was delighted to read the article in the East Anglian Daily Times' on the exciting project at St Margaret's in Ipswich. I declare a particular interest in this story. This was where my Granddad Jack rang for many years and indeed it was somewhere that my parents took my brother Chris and me to on a weekly basis on Sundays and on every other Thursday for practice. The eight that rings out across Christchurch Park holds a very special place in our family.
Although now a couple of days old, the article didn't come to my attention until today, but it made for good reading, despite the fluctuation between the use of the incorrect 'Gert' and correct 'Girt' in the photos featuring the tower captain John and will hopefully boost not just the band at the 14cwt eight, but bands across the county by drawing in interested recruits.
Another octave within our borders with plans is Offton, where fundraising continues with the aim of replacing the 500-year-old sixth in this ground-floor ring. Next up in that regard is a concert on Saturday 25th February, further details of which can be found on the project's website, but this evening normality carried on with the usual pre-practice quarter-peal, which this week was a 1312 of Rutland Surprise Major.
Meanwhile, I mustered enough energy to make it to Ufford with Kate unable to make it for work reasons, as I joined them for a useful night that saw Clare Goodchild ring her first blows of Norwich Surprise Minor with much aplomb. Certainly worthy of mention on this blog, if not the EADT on this occasion.
Driving through fog so thick on the country lanes north of Ipswich that I had to practically stop at points, I did consider turning back on my journey to St Mary-le-Tower practice tonight. I'm glad I persevered though, as understandably for a session that relies a great deal on those travelling in from across Suffolk and beyond we were a little short this evening.
That said, we did benefit from dedicated regulars from Essex and Bury St Edmunds amongst our restricted number on a useful night for homegrown ringer Sonia in particular who got the opportunity to treble to Plain Bob Minor and Plain Hunt on Nine, whilst the night was climaxed with a very enjoyable course of Bristol Surprise Major on the heaviest eight in Suffolk which backed up a discussion that myself and Ian Culham were having earlier in the night about how much easier the back bells at SMLT are to ring when allowed to move along.
It was all made possible by Peter Davies, who despite being unable to ring due to an injury to his ribs, opened up for tonight's and yesterday morning's ringing, his actions made all the more laudable for the generally unpleasant weather conditions outside tonight.
Prior to proceedings we had enjoyed the hospitality of mother-in-law Kate as she tested out her new oven on our tea, but a post-practice pint was never going to happen with an extremely early start for work in the morning and at the end of a very long day that began in the middle-of-the-night in the office getting in touch with schools in New Zealand, Australia and the like.
Besides, I was keen to get home sooner rather than later in that fog...
I had a good relationship with the former Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, Nigel Stock. Not best mates, meeting down the pub regularly and exchanging Christmas cards, granted. But in my previous role as Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild when he was President of said organisation, we were on friendly terms, having shared a radio studio to bang the drum for St Edmund, dined together at the top table of the 2008 SGR Dinner and attended various dedications and other events in our respective roles. It always amazed Ruthie and me that regardless of the hundreds - perhaps even thousands - of people he and his wife Carolyne were obliged (willingly or otherwise!) to converse with over the course of a year, they always remembered what li'l ol' us and our family were up to.
However, now voluntarily stripped of Guild responsibilities, I have not had the opportunity to meet his successor The Right Reverend Martin Seeley in his eighteen months or so in the job. Until this morning that is, as he visited St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge to take the service. There was no opportunity to have any meaningful conversation as this was a meeting non-ringing related and I was but another member of a large congregation, albeit as the father of two young boys who along with their peers from junior church had caught his attention as they returned dressed as bishops!
He seems a generally good egg based on my limited interaction with him, with a sense of humour (he suggested that a collection of his kind might be termed a "nuisance of bishops") and a friendly manner with the children. I hope we get to meet him again in his position as the Guild's President.
Bar a quick cuppa, we left our fellow churchgoers to mingle with the head of the Diocese, with Mason returning to his mother's for his brother Max's first birthday party and the remaining four of us making our way down the hill to the Golden Panda for a Chinese in honour of Ufford and Woodbridge ringer Susanne Eddis' forthcoming birthday. We were joined of course by her other half and fellow local ringer Pete Faircloth, as well as her father and a couple of work chums for what was not only a lovely meal (and new experience for Alfie!), but also an extremely pleasant walk by the River Deben in glorious winter sunshine, before a warming cuppa back at Pete and Susanne's abode. Thank you for inviting us Susanne and Happy Birthday for tomorrow!
Although I did join the ringers at the eight in our town of residence pre-service, whilst we were busy celebrating this afternoon, other ringers within our borders were more active on the ringing front, with five quarters and a peal rung upon the county's bells. The 1260 of Brimton Common Bob Minor rung at Earl Stonham was not only the first blows in the method for the entire band, but also included Neal Dodge's 250,000th change in the medium. Well done to Neal and the rest of his fellow quarter-pealers! There were also QPs of Hull Surprise Minor at Ashbocking, Plain Bob Triples at Henley, Doubles at St Margaret's in Ipswich and Plain Bob Minor at Rougham, whilst a 5040 was rung in memory of Robert Beavis' grandmother Joan at Pettistree and nice that Robert was able to ring.
Meanwhile, thank God for the close escape at Wetherden, where an electrical fire at the church was only nipped in the bud because of its timing, coming whilst the church was still busy at the end of this morning's worship. As a result, no major damage seems to have been caused, mercifully so from a ringing perspective as well as the church's, as judging by the photos in the report on the East Anglian Daily Times website the focus of the firefighters' efforts seem to have been at the west end of the nave next to the tower which houses the 11cwt six.
I expect the Bishop was relieved too.
So quiet was today for us personally that some of the household didn't even venture outside for the entire day, although with freezing temperatures out there it was understandable!
Still, others - more specifically members of the Ladies Guild - stepped outside to travel to Thornham Magna and ring a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles. Well done to Zoe Wright on ringing her first quarter-peal inside. It was certainly better than ringing it outside today.
A big day in the USA as Donald Trump was inaugurated as President after more than two months of anticipation/dread.
Here though, it was much quieter for us personally as a week of late shifts at work came to an end ahead of a short weekend and it seems it was quiet for most of Suffolk's ringers generally, with nothing recorded on BellBoard within the county, which now has a monopoly on such things since Campanophile's recent demise.
Perhaps they were all watching that inauguration.
Regular readers of this blog will probably be familiar with how difficult getting out to ringing is when I am on late shifts, especially with young children, delight that they genuinely are. Regardless of when I'm at work though, Thursday's are usually impractical for ringing anyway, with Ruthie's choir practice finishing too late for either of us to make it to the nearest practice of the night at Grundisburgh and so it was tonight.
Still, others in Suffolk were picking up the slack, as Andrea Alderton rang her first quarter-peal of Woodbine Delight Minor in the 1320 at Tostock - well done Andrea!
At least I'm not on late shifts every week.
It is a time when ailments are prevalent and even more so when young children are about. Not surprisingly, our household is suffering, with sniffling colds, raspy coughs and gammy eyes meaning our living room more resembled a doctor's waiting room. Whilst I felt fine and made it to work, Ruthie had a tough day and ultimately didn't feel up to going to Pettistree, but elsewhere they were clearly feeling better, with the peal rung at The Wolery being the sixtieth consecutive year that George Thoday has rung one in the medium. Congratulations George on an impressive display of longevity and good health!
Today's blog is brought to you by BBC Radio Suffolk. Our local station was an interesting accompaniment to a spot of washing-up as Mark Murphy discussed village life and invited contributions from listeners on the subject. It seems that despite the bizarre "stand-off" between police and a possibly armed man in Crowfield, rural life still has lots of plus-points, but is fast losing facilities, such as pubs, post offices, shops and public transport links. There was the usual myth that there is nothing to do in these communities in the countryside, despite the fact that many of them will have a set of ringable bells, either with a struggling band or no band at all. Perhaps on the back of debates like this we should be making it clear that there is a social life in their local church tower that will not only keep them occupied in their neighbourhood, but also countywide, nationwide and even worldwide. If only it were so easy...
One band that appears to be doing something right is the one that regularly rings on Sundays and Tuesdays at the lovely little ground-floor six in Theberton and who got a glowing reference from the churchwarden there on Lesley Dolphin's show on the county's BBC radio station after the village transpired to be the answer to today's 'Dolphin's Dart'. Well done to the ringers there, you are clearly much appreciated!
BBC Radio Suffolk were also commentating on tonight's football, but I chose to watch it on the TV instead and promptly wished I hadn't as Ipswich Town somehow managed to embarrass us supporters even more by getting knocked out of the FA Cup at the first opportunity for the seventh year running, this time away at Lincoln City. A turgid evening was lightened only by occasional camera shots of the wonderful cathedral there and the fact that it cheered at least some ringers - other than Norwich fans like David Brown and Sue Marsden - up as a quarter-peal rung at St Botolph's near the football ground was dedicated to their team's 'shock' victory!
Back here there was further success to ensure that at least ringing was giving our part of the world a good name. Well done to David Lord on ringing his first quarter-peal of Oxford Treble Bob Minor in the 1272 at Lakenheath and to Nicholas Elks on ringing his first peal of Uxbridge Surprise Major in the 5024 at Ixworth. Although neither were reported on BBC Radio Suffolk.
Today marks the beginning of months of late and early shifts at work as I get in touch with schools across the globe (the glamour of the salesman!) and this week we begin with the former. As necessary as it is (this is what pays the bills!), the effect that it has on my ringing is generally a negative one on these weeks. Once back in the evening, there is barely enough time to get home, changed and fed before leaving for a practice night. Throw in Alfie, Joshua and their needs and getting out in time to be of any use on an evening session is largely impractical.
So it was with St Mary-le-Tower tonight, as a night of ringing Bristol Surprise Royal amongst much else was exchanged for a quiet one at home, catching-up on ringing's social media discussions. The state of The Ringing World was brought up again by a picture on Facebook of a pile of them still in their packaging, whilst a statement on an injunction from controversial Kent ringer Chris Cooper for an injunction against the Dean and Chapter of York Minster in order that they be "forbidden from frustrating the long-serving team of York Minster ringers in continuing their voluntary Godly duties of ringing York Minster's bells for services according to Minster customs" kept me occupied for a while. The whole thing is convoluted and coined in legal jargon, but the long and the short of it seems to be that this is an attempt to fight back against the D & C at the Minster on behalf of the ringers. Unsurprising as it is that Chris is the one who has brought this (those familiar with him will know what I mean!), it is an extension of what many ringers are thinking. However, it is a reminder that whilst supporting the YMSCR is noble, the wider ringing community would probably serve them better by staying out of things, particularly as we aren't fully aware of all the facts.
It is also a reminder that we are very lucky not to have the same situation in Suffolk, even if my late shifts in the office prevent me from taking full advantage.
Getting to St Mary-le-Tower on a Sunday morning is a logistical challenge. In order to get three young boys and me to the centre of Ipswich for the 8.45-9.30am service ringing via a twenty minute journey involves getting up very early to raise three sleeping children, provide three breakfasts (one of which I have to feed to Joshua in a delightful, but time-consuming exercise) and get three kids dressed. Add to that Alfie's potty training and that at this time of year even rising at seven in darkness feels like the middle of the night and it is far from the relaxing occasion that many consider the second day of the weekend to be and it is rare for me and my sons to get to SMLT for anything but the last two or three touches.
Still, I like to make sure that I get there to help out in whatever way I can, especially as it is now essentially a bi-weekly excursion with our duties in Woodbridge and I was particularly glad to have made it this time as we were a little thin on the ground. Indeed only eleven plus a collection of children were present, but we made the most of it to produce - at least in the short period I was there - some well-rung Call-Changes on Ten and then an immensely enjoyable service touch of Grandsire Triples on the back eight.
We seem to be suffering a little on the Sabbath morn with the departures of brothers Colin and George Salter, but also the absence of Don Price who for various reasons is unable to travel down from Reydon to join us these days, although he was at Grundisburgh where we four next visited. Even so, there was still a distinct shortage of ringers here too, as only eight turned up, with one of us required to sit out to keep an eye on the children, though it is rare for all twelve to be rung here at any point these days, let alone on a Sunday.
There did seem to be a shortage of people around generally, with low numbers at church where Ruthie was carrying out her singing duties for the choir, but for ringing chambers everywhere, morning service ringing can see numbers stretched, especially at towers with more bells. Whereas a band can benefit from the help of ringers who attend two, three, four or even five practice nights a week, there is a limit to how many towers one can get to over two hours, especially if those towers are located over a large area. On Suffolk's heaviest twelve for example, we are greatly helped by regulars from the Bury St Edmunds area and Essex, but of course most of them have services to ring for in their local area. It is something that will only be rectified by recruitment and both the towers I rang at this morning have attempted to address that, with the 35cwt twelve holding annual, positive open days with some success and Stephen Pettman at the 9cwt twelve guiding another youngster through our art in the form of Yasmin. Buoyed by her first quarter last month, she continues to progress, ringing inside to Plain Bob Doubles and on the treble to the Minor variant with an assured manner that bodes well for the future.
Progress was also being made when I returned to the 'Tower' this afternoon - this time with my wife accompanying me, as my parents generously looked after the two eldest boys - for the first monthly special practice here of 2017. It was also the first one we had attended in its new time-slot of 3.30-5pm to accommodate the church's experiment of a 5pm evensong, but it doesn't seem to have had a negative effect. Indeed, having only expected enough for some spliced Surprise Major practice, we ended up ringing London (No.3) Surprise Royal, Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Maximus, rung with a confidence that appears to be increasing throughout the band.
Confidence was clearly high amongst some of our neighbours north of the border. For once I'm talking about Norwich's football team, but the NDA members who rang a touch of Stedman Triples on the eight of Dordrecht in the Netherlands whilst fellow Norfolk ringer David Brown conducted it via FaceTime from Brisbane in Australia, where he also rang a peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at the Cathedral there, the ninth of a tour that has also taken in New Zealand. It is a tiny world now.
There wasn't anything quite as extraordinary within our borders today, but still worthy of mention, particularly at Buxhall where star-of-TV Paul Ebsworth was among the band ringing their first quarter-peal of Hammerton Street Bob Minor, complete with a footnote that seems appropriate considering his appearance on our screens on Friday night! Meanwhile, there was also a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung at Hollesley on a productive day for ringing in the county.
On top of all that, I also got to read a super article in The Guardian that used the 'baptism' of Southwark Cathedral's restored bells this week to highlight how their sound can act as a "prompt" in people's lives, expressing similar sentiments to my Christmas Day blog, only more eloquently written! To echo those sentiments, bells are a familiar and mainly enjoyed sound that we are privileged to be able to ring. Which makes it all the more worthwhile getting the boys ready on a Sunday morning!
Mason found himself back at Flux today, an excitable place in Ipswich that enables him to use trampolines for what he uses our sofa's at home for. Once again, it was for the occasion of a peer's birthday.
We occupied Alfie away from an activity that he would dearly like to partake in but for which he is too young for, but otherwise it was a very quiet day for us and ringing in Suffolk generally. There was the North-West District ADM, as usual a civilised affair taking in a meal at a pub that will have hopefully warmed the cockles of those who attended on a chilly day, but nothing reported in the county on BellBoard.
At least the eldest son had fun though!
As was alluded to in yesterday's ramblings, it is some time since snow has bothered Suffolk, especially for us near the coast. Indeed, so long is it since the white stuff fell upon us that in his two years and nine months thus far, Alfie had never witnessed this phenomenon. For him it had an essentially mythical status, existing only in fantasies and Christmas stories. Imagine his excitement therefore when this morning a sizeable flurry dropped from the skies and whipped around in a frenzy, even temporarily settling. Mercifully it was enough to get Alfred excited but not of a quantity to disrupt life. Even the feared flooding from the tidal surges between Lowestoft to Felixstowe (and far beyond our borders) didn't materialise and so society continued largely unabated.
Reassured, we settled down for the TV appearance of Woolpit ringer Paul Ebsworth on Great British Railway Journeys, the asorbing programme presented by Michael Portillo as he travels the railways of the UK, focusing on places and things of interest along the way. In tonight's episode he was traversing between Stowmarket and Harwich, via Halesworth and just after three minutes in he pays a visit to the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway Museum at Brockford, where Paul is a driver and who this evening featured as the man overseeing the former MP's attempts to drive one of the steam engines in this beautiful part of our county.
Well done Paul, it made for comforting viewing as we sheltered from the great snow of 2017!
Many will be aware that the bells of Southwark Cathedral were removed last year to be restored and in some cases recast. The coming days are due to see them rehung in this famous venue, well in time for the hosting of the final of the National Twelve-Bell Contest on Saturday 24th June and today we were able to catch-up on a news report that appeared on London's local news yesterday. It again shows how - like Horringer here in Suffolk - an engaged, big project can bring great PR for ringing that takes such projects beyond something merely engineering. Well done to all involved!
Up here away from the busy streets, tall buildings and the millions of people of the capital, a peal was being rung in the picturesque village of Grundisburgh by the green. However, it was doing more than providing the backdrop to the activities of those in this community and the surrounding fields, woodlands and country lanes, as Ruth Suggett was ringing her first of eight Surprise Major methods spliced, whilst Stephen Pettman was ringing his four hundredth on the bells he is synonymous with. Well done Ruth and congratulations Stephen!
The lightest twelve within our borders were silent this evening though, as the now regular weekly practice night was cancelled, understandably so with a session that attracts ringers from a wide, rural area on a freezing night where snow was threatened and the whole coast just a few miles down the road was on high alert for storm surges and floods. Snow didn't arrive of course in a part of the world where such weather hasn't ventured for years, but it was a thoroughly unpleasant night with high winds and rain.
In such circumstances, the report from Southwark Cathedral was very good news!
January is a busy month for the birthdays of Suffolk ringers past and present and those linked to them, as highlighted by the quarter-peal rung at Pettistree before tonight's practice. Felicitations were recorded in the footnote to the 1320 changes of the the aptly named Happy Birthday Delight Minor to occasional Clopton ringer Tim Stanford, his mother and Rendham and Sweffling ringer Suzanne Stevens, former Wickham Market ringer Iain Mitchell for his significant fiftieth birthday, Hollesley ringers Anne Buswell and Micky McBurnie, tower correspondent Hazel Judge, recently moved former St Mary-le-Tower band member and now Bristol resident George Salter and local Ringing Master Mike Whitby and his youngest son Ed.
For Ruthie, this was the start of a welcome evening out after another day of getting Alfie potty trained whilst also looking after Joshua as I spent the day in the office. Despite a slow start to the session that followed on from the aforementioned QP that saw five of them kicking their heels for twenty minutes until Hilary Stern arrived announcing that she would like to ring some Morning Exercise Delight Minor (such is the varied repertoire of methods at this ground-floor six on a Wednesday), she had an enjoyable few hours topped off with a drink at The White Lion at Ufford with Stuart and Louise at The Greyhound next door to St Peter and St Paul still on their well-earned break following Christmas and New Year.
The quarter my wife participated in wasn't the only one in the county today though, with Maureen Gardiner and conductor Stephen Dawson ringing their first of Ribchester Bob Minor in the success at Buxhall. Well done Maureen and Stephen and Happy Birthday to all who have got a birthday this month! Which seems like most people.
Ringers get everywhere it seems and so we found ourselves in the Co-op in Woodbridge organising a quarter-peal with Mike Whitby over our lunch-break, but this was as close as we got to ringing ourselves today.
Meanwhile, last night's pub-topic of electing non-resident members as resident members spilled over onto Facebook. It still wasn't clear what the exact procedure should be, but there were some wise words spoken as it was suggested that common sense should be entertained and perhaps we shouldn't get too tangled up in rules, not something we as ringers - not just here, but worldwide - are very good at!
I'm just glad we didn't get started on it in the Co-op!
Surely a truly productive practice requires some things that don't go entirely well. It is a sign that learning is being done, of progress being made. A session that is completely without blemish will ultimately go stale. Even those I have attended at the Bullring and with the College Youths have - in my experience - included a smattering of slips, although it is all relative.
Some pieces showing off the band's best ringing is still desirable of course, both to prevent heads dropping but also to motivate and inspire those aspiring to reach such levels, but there has to be the opportunities for them to get there and therefore we have to accept the missed dodges, dropped backstrokes and occasionally ropy striking.
That is precisely what we got at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. There was opportunity for those climbing the higher number ladder, such as Peter Davies, Ruth Suggett and Sue Williamson and the positive results are already showing. However, there was also the showcase stuff, most particularly a touch of Stedman Cinques and half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus that were both rung superbly.
Following last week's bank holiday, this was also the first practice in three weeks and of 2017 and so it gives us optimism for the year ahead. Such optimism is all the more pleasing because it comes after the departure of the two young Salter brothers Colin and George, the former to university in Guildford in September and the latter just last week for Bristol and a life of unfettered ringing, romance and washing machine usage, now he knows how to use it. In their wake though, we have been extremely fortunate to have the regular company of Bardwell trio, Ruth, her son Louis and his girlfriend Laura Davies who have been a huge bonus for us.
The latter is planning on cycling from London to Paris in July to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and as part of the fundraising effort she will be hosting a coffee morning with the North-West District Practice on the 11cwt eight in her village of residence. I am always keen for members to support District and Guild events, but this one in particular would be worthy of your attendance.
Post-session drinks in The Robert Ransome saw the subject of her impressive ambitions come up, but also tandem bikes and the procedure for electing a currently non-resident Suffolk Guild member as a resident when they move into the county. You would have thought that with a former South-East District Secretary, Guild Ringing Master and the current SE District RM and SGR Treasurer around the table we would be able to come to a conclusion. Our productive evening wasn't to end with a conclusive answer though!
Whereas peals are measured and recorded to within an inch of their life, information on quarter-peals is thinner on the ground. For example, I can tell you without too much effort that today's peal at Aldeburgh was a 5054 of Superlative Surprise Major rung to an A J Cox composition that began with a snap start and included fifty-seven crus, eighteen 8765s, twenty 8756s, aswell as twenty 5678s, 6578s, 8765s and 8756s off the front and tittums and backrounds. It took two hours and forty-three minutes to ring, bringing the band's collective peal-total to 7,683. Tom Scase was conducting a successful peal for the eighteenth time and Alan Mayle was ringing the tenor in the medium for the 703rd time.
Yet I couldn't tell you how long it took to ring the 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Bardwell, 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower or the 1260 Doorman Bob Minor at Buxhall or what composition was rung, although I know that the latter performance was the first blows in the method for the entire band, so well done to them!
One can easily discover that only eight people have called more peals of Yorkshire Surprise Major since 1950 than Stephen Pettman, Christine Knight rang seven peals in 1988 and I have rung seventeen peals of Grandsire Cinques. Yet I couldn't say with any confidence how many quarters I rang in 2007, what number I have conducted and when I rang my one hundredth. Indeed, I couldn't tell you how many I have rung full-stop.
Which is why the analysis by Neal Dodge of QPs rung in Suffolk during 2016 made such interesting reading this evening. For a start, I hadn't realised that I had rung five quarters on the county's bells over the twelve months, but it makes more fascinating reading than that. An impressive 387 different ringers rang at least one of the 499 QPs rung in the county over the 366 days that preceded Sunday's introduction of 2017, with 86 of them sharing the conducting duties. There was a healthy mix of young and mature who rang at 98 different towers, many of which were being rung upon thanks to the dedicated efforts of David and Lesley Steed who head up the leading ringers list with 129 and 127 respectively, quite some way ahead of any others. Along with Pettistree which leads the towers list and Mike Whitby who called more than anyone else in the county, they have been largely responsible for the wide variety of methods rung and over 75% of the numbers rung within our borders being of Doubles or Minor. I suspect it will be even more engaging study in years to come, but for now the most immediate interest is in comparing with 2015's totals, where it seems to show a downward trend. Fewer quarters rung by fewer ringers called by fewer conductors. Hopefully we can pick things up again this year as along with peals the medium is invaluable in progressing ringers. It can't all be left to David, Lesley, Mike and Pettistree...
That said, neither Ruthie or I today contributed to any potential future analysis, but I did partake in some ringing as I climbed the many steps to man the bells of Woodbridge before the service which I attended either side of accompanying the boys to Junior Church and a spot of crown-making.
The main reason quarter-pealing wasn't on the menu on this Sabbath was simply that we weren't asked, but even if we were there would've been little time for such activity as we were promised to another engagement in Leiston where we were celebrating the recent birthday of my Goddaughter Maddie at the abode of her parents Toby and Amy in the company of various family members, other close friends Kala and Nick and their daughter Robyn. Much conviviality was had as we let the children loose with each other, before retiring at home for a quiet read of those quarter-peal stats. Well done and thank you Neal!
Last year, the South-East District took the decision to cut-back on some of its monthly events, with some of them so poorly attended that they were a complete waste of time. The long haul out to Tunstall and Iken a couple of years ago readily comes to mind. Personally I would prefer that more members from the largest District with the best transport links in the Guild came out to support those who work so hard to put together and run these occasions and most importantly take advantage of the opportunities they offer and/or aide others. However, this is clearly not something the majority of them are able and/or willing to do, so it made sense to cut their losses, for want of a better phrase.
January's practice was one of the few that survived the cull though, typically attracting thirty-to-forty people and sometimes even more. Still a relatively small sample of the three-hundred or so whose membership of the SGR is through the SE, but in reality a sensible core from which to work with over a one-to-two hour session. I've never been fully certain of why this and February's should be so popular compared to the summer ones. After all, you'd think spending part of a freezing cold winter's day in an old church that is often colder than the outdoors would be a big turnoff, whereas on a roasting hot day a cool church in picturesque surroundings (granted it depends where you are!) followed by a pint outside a pub sounds ideal! I guess though that come June and July, people are away or are tempted by what they perceive to be more exciting activities out and about. In these cold months though and particularly at this point in the calendar just after the festive season when folk may have spent lots of time pent up at home, the thought of getting back into the swing of things and into some fresh air is quite appealing.
So it was this morning as a large crowd squeezed into the ringing chamber at Hollesley. This was a real test of that January effect, as although these are one of the finest - if not the finest - octaves in the county, it is a long way for most, located as it is on the Bawdsey Peninsula, overlooking the bleak North Sea and yet there were ringers from as far as Debenham, Offton and Sproughton present, as well as others from beyond such as Nigel and Astrid Gale from Woolpit. It was a pity that new Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson was elected too late for the timing of today's practice to be changed to accommodate that he was working this morning and unable to make his first event in the role, as the 10.30am - midday slot had already been announced in the village press. However, that large crowd meant that his temporary replacement Chairman Ralph Earey had a lot to work with and saw a wide repertoire from Plain Hunt on Eight to London Surprise Major, with some very good ringing. All in all it was a productive session, but also a nice social occasion as we caught up on what friends had been up to over Christmas and New Year.
As nice as our morning was, the less said about our afternoon the better as I endured listening to Ipswich Town's embarrassing 2-2 home draw with non-league Lincoln City in the FA Cup on the radio whilst doing the washing-up (I'm not entirely sure which was less enjoyable). Therefore, I am delighted that there was some better news on the ringing front to report on within the county, with the announcement that the project to restore and rehang the eight - amongst much else - at St Margaret's in Ipswich has received a grant of £163,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the total cost of £272,000. With other donations - including a grant from the Suffolk Guild - made, work is due to start soon and finish in 2018.
There was also a notable quarter-peal at Halesworth. Not only was it Nicole Rolph and Peter Lock's first of Rutland Surprise Major, for which felicitations are due to the high-achieving pair. But it was also significant for being Nicole's one hundredth QP and North-East District Ringing Master and former Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod's one thousandth, both landmarks well deserved. The former is a youngster who has progressed tremendously and has been a part of the SGR's successful team in the National Youth Ringing Contest, whilst the latter has done so much for ringing in the NE and particularly in the Blyth Valley over the last decade and a bit - many of his quarters have helped progress others. Congratulations Nicole and Philip!
There's been a lot of Suffolk's ringers getting out and about today!
Normality appears to be back, judging by this generally mundane day. Of course there were highlights, such as collecting Mason for the weekend, a happy routine on a Friday, but generally it was quiet and uneventful in our household.
Elsewhere things were also normal, although more interesting. There was a 1260 of Doubles rung at Wenhaston, whilst the FNQPC continued their success into 2017 with a 1284 of Plain Bob Minor at Earl Stonham which - as has become tradition for their first of the year - was dedicated to Suffolk Guild stalwart Muriel Page's birthday. All reassuringly normal.
More media coverage for Horringer today, with Ruthie catching a report from ITV's Anglia News on the installing of the new eight at St Leonard of St Limoges after a couple of days in the church being viewed by the public. Brilliant PR for local ringing.
Whilst it is the start of a wonderful new chapter at 'eavenly 'orringer, this evening was the familiar end of another chapter as the arrival of twelfth night decreed that we took down our Christmas decorations and put them away in a subdued and ordered fashion that was in complete contrast to the excitable recklessness in which we put them up just over a month ago. It is sad to see them go, as they have accompanied us in our living room throughout the festive season and much of the build-up (if you conservatively consider that it only starts at the beginning of December), but as shown by Suffolk's newest octave there is much positivity around. We're getting an increasing amount of daylight each day, tomorrow is Friday even though today only felt like a Wednesday and Ruth Suggett rang her first of Coldstream Surprise Minor in the quarter-peal at Tostock. Well done Ruth!
And well done to all involved in the project at Horringer. As featured on ITV.
Fond as I am of Donald Carter's seemingly inane footnotes to peals (the most recent of which was last Friday in Bovey Tracey and was recorded as his 150th on a Friday) or those which Alex Tatlow attached to many of his quarter-peals when he was younger and less discerning (the quarter at Monewden on 12th August 2010 is a particularly memorable one), I have tried to avoid such behaviour, upright and respected as I am in the community. However, it struck me that due to illness, appointments and holiday, today was the first Wednesday I had been to work since the middle of November as we gradually return to the normal routine.
In another sign of normality creeping back into our lives, one of us finally did some ringing for the first time since Christmas Day, as Ruthie joined her mother Kate in going to the first Pettistree practice of the year. A convivial and productive session apparently unfolded, which included some Stamford Surprise Minor to test my wife's little grey cells and was preceded by what is already the second QP of 2017 at the leading quarter-peal tower in Suffolk for the last few years and followed by a drink at The White Lion in Ufford, with Stuart and Louise at the usual watering hole of The Greyhound taking their well-deserved post-seasonal time-off.
The 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor on the aforementioned ground-floor six wasn't the only performance within our borders recorded on BellBoard today either, with a 1280 of Ashtead Surprise Major rung at Bardwell too.
However, the closest I got to ringing was watching quiz show Pointless where a round on bells saw one couple bizarrely pronounce that the name for bellringing was "wassailing", rather than what I thought was the fairly well-known term 'campanology', but although that makes my day sound dull, this was in fact a significant one in our household as Alfie suddenly decided that this was the day he was going to start using his potty. There were a couple of accidents and a bit of muttered cursing from his Mummy as he went through various clothing, but by the time I returned from the office and was left with him whilst Mrs Munnings went ringing he had really got the hang of it!
Not enough for it to be granted a footnote though.
Exciting times at Horringer. Subject of mild mockery amongst ringers and known as 'orrible 'orringer no more, as today eight gleaming new bells arrived at St Leonard of Limoges in its picturesque setting at the gates to the grounds of Ickworth House from John Taylor & Co, met by the county's media. Relayed to the world via the East Anglian Daily Times and BBC Radio Suffolk, it was wonderful PR with Paul Stannard giving a super interview on the airwaves, although the otherwise welcome publicity from the local newspaper was tarnished with the usual slapdash mistakes that often occur when journalists grapple with our art and its terminology. It's hard not to roll one's eyes when the headline includes the phrase "eight peel of bells" in large font, but those involved in this project can be quite rightly chuffed with the coverage their big day has got as they eagerly anticipate the hanging of their new octave and first ring on them over the next few days.
It was a welcome highlight on what could be considered as the most depressing day of the year - the return to work after the Christmas holidays. However, although I can't say I won't miss the time spent with the family and the dearth of pressing deadlines or need to be anywhere by a certain time, my return to the office at the beginning of January is rarely as much a shock to the system as it is for others. My commute is a short ten minute drive across Woodbridge and although we go back with renewed zeal and professionalism after our break, the general absence of most independent schools at this point means the reintroduction to working life is a gentle one for us in the sales team.
That said, after an active start to 2017 over its first forty-eight hours, ringing within our borders appeared to take a brief break today, at least judging by BellBoard, with the closing of Campanophile sealed with the last performance recorded on the site yesterday - the 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major at Alrewas in Staffordshire sadly bringing the curtain down on the groundbreaking site. No one should forget that when the now defunct digital tome was introduced, we ringers had to wait weeks to find out about most performances at towers that we are now able to marvel at instantly and that it was only Tony Parry's illness that ultimately brought about its sorry demise. As much as I like BB, I shall miss its forerunner.
Hammering home the evolution of the connectivity of a ringing community that before Campanophile's birth relied almost entirely on a weekly paper journal, in the absence of Ruthie or I doing any ringing ourselves we were tonight able to listen via YouTube to the impressive peal of Stedman Cinques rung at Liverpool Cathedral on New Year's Day. These are exciting times for ringing. Especially at 'eavenly 'orringer.
New Year's Day falling on a Sunday very happily gave me an extra day on the end of the festive time with the family today, but it very much had the end of holidays feel about it. Mason returned to his mother following his valiant attempts to get to midnight on Saturday night, but the rest of the day was a rather lazy one, albeit with the purpose of keeping Kate and Ron's dogs Mia and Clio company whilst their owners returned from their brief trip away.
The dates falling as they have over the Christmas period may have worked out well for time away from deadlines and targets in the office, but not so much for ringing. Yesterday's late start meant an unusually bell-free Sabbath for myself, we missed Pettistree's practice last week for a seasonal gathering with friends and for the second Monday running, there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower due to it falling on a bank holiday. Holding practices on such days can be more unpredictable than usual in getting an attendance together big enough to make a session worthwhile, so it is entirely understandable, but God willing there should be a practice in a week!
There was ringing elsewhere in Suffolk though, with a 1260 of Minor for the Norwich Diocesan Association at Lowestoft, one of the towers within our borders that falls under their reach and a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Hasketon with a very good band.
However, it is the next couple of days that offers forth the most excitement for the county's ringing community as it was announced on Facebook that the eight new bells to be hung at Horringer will be delivered tomorrow and be rested on the church floor - hopefully with suitable security - for people to view until Wednesday, so get along quick if you want to catch a glimpse of them ahead of their installation!
It is a more active start to the New Year than ours!
The notion of entering a new year is on the face of it an odd one. It is essentially an arbitrary point - today felt no different to yesterday. TV schedules are as bad as they have ever been and having eventually notched a record-smashing 334 peals in 2016 with the 5040 at Marston in Oxfordshire, Colin Turner continued his peal-ringing exploits without missing a step as he rang his first of this year over 170 miles away at Liverpool Cathedral. And as I traversed the streets of Woodbridge this afternoon, it struck me how timeless much of it looks, with many of the buildings looking pretty much no different in 2017 as is 1917, 1817 or even 1717 in some cases.
Yet it is a good point to reboot, to reconsider what we're doing and gives a yardstick by which we can aim to improve, whether that be in our work, family life or ringing and having reflected a day ago on what had passed in the previous twelve months, we naturally find ourselves considering what may lay ahead in the next twelve months. Of course we can't possibly know, with last year reminding us of the folly of feeling certain of what is yet to come.
So what might this year hold? Restricting it to just ringing, it will be interesting to see what happens at York Minster and Whitechapel. On the former, many ringers - myself included - hope that a way can be found to reinstate the ringers sacked in October that is satisfactory to them and the Dean and Chapter, whilst on the latter there have been encouraging noises on the grapevine, although huge hurdles will need to be overcome to ensure that they can carry on in business, albeit elsewhere.
Locally, the three main annual Suffolk Guild events of the AGM, Striking Competitions and Social are pencilled in for Beccles in the North-East District on 22nd April, the North-West District on 20th May and Sproughton in the South-East District on 16th September, where a barn dance is planned for the Tithe Barn there. All being well, more immediately, there is a packed programme for January, starting - as it usually does - with the SE District's first practice of the year, which this time is booked in at Hollesley for this Saturday morning. Please do look at What's On and make a note of the events on there and support what you can.
Personally we're hoping to be a little more active in our ringing this year as God willing managing the three boys with ringing becomes a little more practical. In turn, that will hopefully make this blog a little more interesting, as it limps towards what would be its tenth anniversary later in the year. That's if it keeps going. I am aware - over the last week or so in particular - that from a ringing perspective it has become more of a spectator than a participant of the ringing scene, but anecdotally at least, it seems to be read by more and more people and largely with positive feedback. I don't make New Year resolutions (they rarely last more than the first few days), but perhaps one for 2017 might be to do more to make the blog more relevant to readers.
That said, in this respect it hasn't started well. After the excesses of last night and early hours of today, we thought it prudent not to jump into the car for Sunday ringing this morning and with the trio of sons remarkably allowing us a lay-in until almost 10am. Indeed the only thing we did all day was to up sticks and move ourselves to mother-in-law Kate's to look after the dogs whilst her and Ron made an overnight trip, but ringing has already got underway for the year for some ringers in the county, most notably at Pakenham where Sal Burrows was remembered one year on by a peal-band featuring my brother Chris, his wife Becky (in a very rare, but welcome appearance in the medium) and her father Steve.
Happy New Year!