Friday 20th October 2017

Ringing Master's Blog

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New Years Eve 2007

II have to admit I'm the first to criticise if someone pulls out of a peal because they haven't been asked twice as has happened to me before. When I ask someone and they say yes I expect that to be the case until they tell me otherwise. After today though, it's probably best I do ask twice!

Every New Years Eve, a peal of Grandsire is rung at Grundisburgh,, normally arranged by Stephen Pettman with very few if any hitches. With the Big P still in South America however, the task had fallen to me to organise it this year. When this morning arrived, we gathered at Suffolk's second 12 and I was happy I had a band. Except the Reverend 'Uncle Ernie' Geoffrey Clement hadn't arrived, which was unusual as he's normally quite prompt. A quick phone call got to the bottom of the matter and left me feeling - quite rightly - a bit of a dipstick. When I'd asked him originally he said yes, before quickly realising that he couldn't make the unusually early start. Unfortunately I forgot to strike him off my list - my fault entirely.

Consequently, we met one short for the planned Grandsire Cinques and with no one feeling confident enough to call a composition of Caters off the cuff, we set off for Cambridge Royal, Don Price kindly volunteering to step down. Sadly, as is so often the case in these circumstances, it was difficult to readjust from Grandsire Cinques and after a couple of attempts we called it a day.

Myself, James Smith and David Rothera had a pleasant and leisurely pint in the Turk's Head in the wake of our early finish, before heading our separate ways. This was the last time we were to see James prior to his return to Hong Kong tomorrow, so it was a slightly lengthier farewell than usual.

Normally on New Years Eve, the Hollesley ringers and friends gather in the Sorrell Horse to see in the New Year. With the uncertainty surrounding that establishment, Alan rather sensibly booked up the WI Hall in Shottisham for this year's partying. Whilst it meant we could be even rowdier than usual (I didn't think that possible!), it also meant we had to do all the work ourselves. Fantastic teamwork - with cooking by various people - meant the night was a huge success. I think the evening needs a separate report!

As per tradition we then made our way to Hollesley to ring in 2008. Somehow we managed Stedman Triples and Cambridge Major, despite it being the middle of the night and most of the band having been drinking since 7pm!

And so therefore, 2007 has come to a close. A year that has seen many highlights on both a ringing and personal level. Mason being born, Ruthie's 18th, Lundy, Darley Dale, the return of Ipswich to the 12-bell, ringing a peal at Redcliffe - I could go on and already have too much, so...

Sunday 30th December 2007

Things seem to be looking up slightly at St Mary-le-Tower on Sunday mornings as we once more rang Grandsire Caters. Hopefully this will continue and improve into 2008. I also managed to get Mum to call a plain course of Stedman Triples for Rosemary again, although she decreed it was for the last time this year.

With no service at Grundisburgh again, there was once more no ringing there, so I made another visit to Sproughton. No Bristol Minimus this time, but we did ring Cambridge and London.

James Smith had arranged an afternoon peal attempt at Pettistree to coincide with his 10-day return to the UK, with the methods being 7 Delight Minor methods. Ultimately this proved too much for us today, although I think we might be able to succeed on another day.

A leisurely few drinks in the Three Tuns gave us the chance to reminisce on 2007, especially the Lundy trip.

Timely indeed as we approach the final day of an eventful year...

Saturday 29th December 2007

Ruthie and I are used to losing/mislaying keys between us, but now it appears Mason is getting in on the act. He'd managed to get hold of my house and car keys and put them somewhere only he knew where they were.

Time was tight as we had to get him back to his mother's and get to the Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds for a peal that had to be finished by 1.30pm for a wedding, so such a delay meant that - even after the successful discovery of said keys and dispatching of said son to said mother's - we were very late for the peal attempt. There was still time or the peal to be rung but only just. After the all the rushing about and with my mental and physical faculties still a little jaded after heaving the 11th in to yesterdays peal, Ruthie and I were relieved to have been delegated the treble and tenor respectively for Grandsire Caters. Unfortunately though, it all came to a crashing halt just over an hour in after some particularly good ringing, but the blow was softened somewhat by Chris Movley's hospitality and guided tour of his extraordinary abode in the west end of the old abbey!

The afternoon saw the next go at a quarter of half-lead spliced Surprise Major, once again at Hollesley. We began well but having rung most of the composition it came to an unfortunate end.

This gave us time to watch Ipswich take on Coventry City in the West Midlands on the TV, some watching at Alan's, Ruthie and I watching at hers. In keeping with the general theme of the day, it started well but finished badly, the Tractor Boyz losing 2-1 rather timidly, once more letting down thousands of travelling fans that had spent what is a lot to them but presumably very little to the obviously over-paid wallies playing for Ipswich.

Our day ended well again as we met up with Kate and Alan (as well as Micky and her three grandchildren) for a curry in the usual place in Old Barrack Road before all retiring - quite tired - home.

Friday 28th December 2007

I often talk about friendships in ringing and how they can develop across the country like no other hobby. Today saw a brilliant example of it. Just a few weeks ago, the Ipswich band were given permission at very short notice to ring a peal at Chelmsford Cathedral as St Mary-le-Tower couldn't be rung due to work being done on the church. On Christmas Day morning as I unwrapped presents, I received a call from a very apologetic David Rothera asking if a peal they were due to ring at Chelmsford (of which I was in) today could be shifted to the Tower as their 9th clapper had broken at Midnight Mass ringing. After checking with Owen and Di and in turn they with the verger, it was all OK'd and as a result we rang a peal of spliced Yorkshire and Cambridge Surprise Maximus - how many other hobbies could do the same so easily in a similar scenario?

Having picked up Mason afterwards, the rest of the day was fairly normal apart from one thing - I have a job interview! It was nothing to do with yesterdays benefits meeting, rather through one of the recruitment agencies I contacted some time back, Find-A-Job. It's on Thursday for a role in a pensions company in Ipswich.

Buoyed by this first job development in a month-and-a-half, I picked Ruthie up from work, had some tea and went to Hollesley, where thanks to a guest appearance from Mike Whitby, we able to ring Rutland Major amongst many other things before I left early with the l'il man.

Thursday 27th December 2007

After the Christmas festivities, it was back to more mundane matters. After over a month of unemployment, I decided it was time to claim some benefits, just to tide me over. I don't particularly like the idea as it brackets me with those who use the benefits system to dodge work, but with bills to pay and Mason to feed, it's highly necessary, so having dropped Mason off at Kara's, I went to the jobcentre in Ipswich for an appointment accompanied by Ruthie. On the plus side, a few opportunities of work have arisen from the meeting although they've warned progress may be slow this week.

Ruthie did a little shopping before heading off on her driving lesson, allowing me to follow up various job leads.

The evening saw us go to Grundisburgh. Practice nights anywhere in the week between Christmas Day and New Years Day can be a little unpredictable, with either a lot people wanting to get out the house for the first time for a few days or not many turning up, preferring to take a week off with the cold knocking on the window. This week was the better former, with the visit of Paul Norris and his daughters and James Smith, enabling us to ring 8-Spliced Surprise Major and Stedman Caters.

A handful of us then retired to see how Clive was getting on running the Turks Head. It was quiet to say the least, but with it being a strange time of year, only time will tell how well it goes. I don't envy anyone who tries to run a village pub these days, so I think they all need our support where we can or else we're going to lose them.

Boxing Day 2007

Another sore head - I'm getting too old for all this drinking, but I have got 10 bottles of beer to get through. There was also more travelling between Ipswich and Woodbridge as Ruthie and I said our goodbyes to a sleepy Chris who was going back to Cambridge today and went to pick Mason up.

From there we were going to Ruthie's grandparents again, but this time it was to be the first time they had met l'il man, so it was extra special. Although the uncles and Freddie weren't there, we had the pleasure of the company of Ruthie's Nan, her Dad's mother. We were treated to another brilliant meal and thankfully Mason behaved impeccably, so we all enjoyed another great day there.

Once leaving there, we followed the same route to Mum and Dad's for more food and beer and for Mason to have Christmas Day 3. His remaining presents were opened with the similar recklessness and endearing lack of understanding as he used to open them on Christmas Eve, but it was still a joy to watch him.

Then it was time to finish Boxing Day in much the same way as we finished Christmas Day - slightly beery and full to the brim.

Christmas Day, 2007;

The big day has arrived! A slight hangover though (where did I get that from?) gave me a slightly subdued sensation when I initially got up from Ruthie's living room floor where I'd spent the night. Ruthie must have been visited by the three spirits (whisky, gin and vodka) in the night as she leapt into the room full of the joys of the season and instantly ripped into the presents under the nearby tree. Up until last night she had been playing it cool to the point we had been calling her Ebeneezer Eagle, aka Ebby the Eagle, so this burst of energy came as a surprise. It did serve the purpose of getting me excited about the day however and after opening a few prezzies, I made my way to St Mary-le-Tower for Christmas Day ringing. Simon was once again there and along with the traditional festive visit of Roger Bailey meant we could ring Yorkshire Max and quite well. Bristol Max for next Christmas!

Grundisburgh were once again not ringing, so I went to Sproughton for the second time in three days. We rang Beverley and Cambridge Minor and once more Bristol Minimus, this time with the treble leading in front as well as the tenor knocking behind which brought up some nice music!

Normally on the 25th December, I would then head to Mum and Dad's for the whole day, but this Christmas was the first one that Ruthie and I were to spend together, which allowed us to go to her Grandparents in Woodbridge for a fantastic turkey dinner first. With her uncle's and their respective partners (plus little Freddie who is just 14 hours older than Mason) there too it was a great atmosphere. After a spending the afternoon there, we went on to the next leg of our festive tour to Mum and Dads where we enjoyed a fine spread with Chris and Uncle Eric and Aunty Marion and had quite a few beers.

I appear to have developed a reputation as a boozer as I received a record haul of 10 bottles of beer, whilst Chris seems to be considered a train spotter by some in the family as he opened a train calendar, notepad and anorak.

The perfect end to a great Christmas Day...

Christmas Eve, 2007;

With Mason spending Christmas Day with Kara, we decided to start Christmas early for him, especially as this was the only chance for Unky Chris to spend some Christmas time with his nephew. Therefore, wrapping paper adorned almost every spare bit of space as Mason giggled his way through his first experience of opening Christmas presents, although he still needs a bit of practice at it!

Chris still needed to do a bit of gift shopping and I still wanted a couple of cards, so leaving the l'il man at Nanna and Granddad's we walked into Ipswich town centre to avoid the horrific traffic. After battling the crowds we returned with our mission completed successfully, but feeling a little bruised and battered.

Ruthie was working today, so having picked her up after a stressful day at the tills, we took Mason back to his mothers and went back to Ipswich to ring for the carol service at SMLT. Simon Rudd normally comes down for this to ring in the handbells in the service and he didn't disappoint tonight, allowing us to ring Surprise Royal, Stedman Caters and a mammoth length of Rounds and Call Changes on 12!

After this it was back up to Woodbridge for our annual Christmas Eve get-together with Michaela, Nick, Toby and Jess, meeting them in the Red Lion along with multiple Santa's and Supermen and Superwomen! We also saw Aaron and with Michaela and co leaving early to avoid too big a hangover tomorrow, we headed to the Bell and Steelyard where we met Annie Brechin who is up from Kensington for Christmas. Annie has been much missed in the Suffolk ringing fraternity, especially in her home village of Burgh, so it was good to see her.

With it getting late though, it was generally considered a good idea to follow the others example and rest our livers in anticipation of tomorrow.

Sunday 23rd December 2007

For the third week running, we were able to ring Grandsire Caters up St Mary-le-Tower on a Sunday morning, a hopeful sign as we head towards a new year. If Ralphy had been able to find a parking space amongst the last minute Christmas shoppers we would've been able to ring on all 12! It seems strange that we'll be back at it in just two days time though.

With no ringing at Grundisburgh, I decided to go back to my roots to help out at Sproughton. This is where I learnt to ring and apart from Mum and Dad, I owe a lot to Ralphy amongst many other people for the early ringing experience they gave me here.

We had a bit of fun, ringing Bristol Minimus with a cover before ringing London Minor. Not many places can claim to ring Bristol and London on a Sunday morning!

Having picked Mason up, Ruthie, Kate and I took him to The Seal pub in Woodbridge to meet Clare's new boyfriend.

Afterwards we went to Grundisburgh for their carol service, where we had ten eventually and admired the tent set up outside for refreshments. Santa and his reindeers were close by so I expect they stole a quick tipple before their busy day tomorrow...

Mason and I headed to Ipswich afterwards to stop with his Nanna and Granddad as his Daddy and Unky Chris went to the local pub, The Man on the Moon to have a drink with our friend Becky who used to be in the same class at school as Chris. Much catching up was done, but soon it was back to Chez Ashcroft to sleep it off...

Saturday 22nd December 2007

A quick bit of hectic present wrapping to complete our duties in that department, preceded a trip to Ipswich for Brian Redger's annual Christmas ring in Ipswich. The idea is to ring all the ringable bells in the churches of our county town from 11.45am-12noon. Apart from St Lawrence which sadly are in no state to be rung at this moment, Brian once again succeeded in this aim. It's incredible that each year he manages to get everyone together. I know from experience that arranging a gathering of just a handful of people can be tough, so it's a true testament to him that he gets the huge numbers of people needed all together.

Whilst Ruthie was ringing at St Nicholas, I was on familiar ground at St Mary-le-Tower. As if to reiterate a point I frequently make, we had a girl from Oxford who knew no one there and whom no one there knew but was still able to participate in the various Rounds and Call Changes on 12 that we rung. We also had a photographer from the East Anglian Daily Times, yet more good publicity.

After a cup of tea in the church centre alongside St Margaret's (others had the mince pies - I hate the things!), Ruthie and I headed back to Ipswich to be collected by James Smith for a peal attempt at Diss. James is back from Hong Kong and has been sorely missed, so it was nice to get the chance to catch up with him.

The peal itself - of Ashstead Surprise Major - was disappointingly lost. It never really got going, but at least it gave us a little extra time in the pub! A peal is rung there every year on the Saturday before Christmas and unfortunately Ruthie, James and I were in last year's failed attempt, but at least we knew the culinary treat awaiting us from Kathleen and Geoffrey Tebble. After each of these peals, they feed and water the band rather well. This year however is the to be the last such meal as Kathleen retired from being tower captain this year, so after many years, this treat will be sadly missed.

Friday 21st December 2007

For a while I've contemplated supermarket work. My brother Chris has done well with Sainsbury's, getting appropriately rewarded for the hard work he puts in there, certainly not something that could ever be said about HSBC or MSC or indeed anyone else I've slogged my guts out for with little more than a 'thanks' (and not even that with MSC). However, I've always been put off by the hours. As you can appreciate from my blog, I'm extremely busy in the evenings and weekends, juggling ringing, Mason and Ruthie - all aspects of my life that are extremely important to me and with which I feel I make a positive difference. I've never seen - and still don't see - why I should be punished financially for working a nine-to-five that fits in with my life and yet still benefits my employer. It's now got to the point though, where the attractive wages in a customer service role I think I would enjoy apart from the hours is becoming the only option - if they'd take me. Even without Mason, it's impossible to live on your own on the average 9-5 office wage, but obviously I need extra money for the l'il man.

With this in mind I went to the local Tesco's store in Martlesham, predictably heaving with Christmas shoppers, to see if they were recruiting. They aren't taking anyone on until after Christmas and New Year, which I expected, summing up the last few weeks in a nutshell. Still, it's definitely an avenue I'll explore in January.

After briefly chatting with a very busy Mrs Nigel, I left the store and did a bit of window shopping in Woodbridge as I waited to pick Ruthie up from work.

Ringing at Hollesley was good, with Grandsire Triples the highlight prior to me leaving with Mason and once Ruthie had joined me at home, we set about the mammoth task of wrapping presents. Still plenty to do as I write, so may be a late 'un!

Thursday 20th December 2007

With time running out, Ruthie and I allowed ourselves some time to do the majority of our Christmas shopping, a little in Woodbridge and then - having left Mason in his grandparents care - in Ipswich. There was still time to check some job agencies, but as usual nothing came to anything. It's highly unlikely now that I'll get anything before the New Year as places begin shutting down if not physically, then certainly mentally for the festive period, but I shall continue prodding and poking companies and agencies alike.

After picking the little chap up, we went back to Ruthie's where she cooked up a mean spag bol before heading off to Grundisburgh. Although I had to leave early with Mason, I ran things in Stephen's absence until I left. Despite the freezing weather it was heartening to see a large group of ringers turn up and we were able to ring up to Cambridge Royal whilst I was there. And in the end, it was quite well rung too...

Wednesday 19th December 2007

Occasionally you can be too organised. At least I can, although those who know me would probably dispute that statement! Recently, with more on my plate and a need to be on top of where and when I need to be, I've taken to putting engagements on my mobile phone's calendar. Today, I checked my phone and saw I had nothing on other than a quarter at Pettistree in the evening.

At quarter past three however, I received a call from the 'mother-in-law': "Have you forgotten Hollesley?" It seemed an odd question, as it was difficult to forget the village of my abode. But all of a sudden it dawned on me that she meant a gathering at Hollesley church at 3pm and quite an important one at that. So with a couple of swear words and an apology, I leapt into the car and headed from Ruthie's - where, sod's law, I was - and to the church at Hollesley.

The event in question was a leisurely ring to aid a chap that had come to give a quote on sound-proofing, something I consider to be very important. As much as we as ringers would love bells to be heard across the fields and towns of our country, many in this increasingly intolerant PC world wouldn't. Therefore we face the choice of either being restricted in our activities in the future or putting in the facilities to quieten the noise down when desired.

In the evening we went for - and got - our quarter of 12-Spliced Surprise Minor before Pettistree practice night, before I went and picked Mason up from nearby Melton. The practice night was pleasant for the unexpected (to me anyway) presence of Paul Norris and Iain 'Mitch' Mitchell. Although it would've been nice to hang around and go to the pub with them, I needed to get the l'il man home to bed before he got too grouchy. I'll leave it to you to guess if I mean Mason or Mitch...

Tuesday 18th December 2007

Only a week til Christmas! I always start getting excited about Christmas with a week to go, though it's tempered slightly by my circumstances at the present. However, Christmas is Christmas, in my mind an extremely exciting time and the only time it seems where everyone celebrates together. With this year being Mason's first experience of the annual festivities it's all extra special, so still plenty to look forward to as we go into the final week before the big day.

Today took on a familiar feeling as I left my car at the usual garage to have it's cam-belt changed, an operation we recently discovered was much overdue. Therefore I spent the day at Mum and Dad's for the third time in two weeks. Apart from more internet applications and rejections, it was an uneventful day, with my car being returned to me late in the afternoon with no further drama's.

Being Tuesday, it was our traditional night in, so once more no ringing, but there is plenty to come in the next week and beyond!

Monday 17th December 2007

More application form filling today. Apart from the tedium of this exercise (especially after so many forms over such a long time), it's frustrating as everything they ask for is in my CV, which I have spent much time and effort preparing. Still it has to be done, so I shall continue until I find work.

During a break from this monotony, I had a look at Campanophile as I regularly do. Like many other ringers, I like to look on here to see what friends are doing both here in the UK and further afield. Although I would never like to see it replace The Ringing World, it has a distinct advantage over the traditional journal in terms of speed, with reports appearing on the same day or the next at the latest as a general rule. On one occasion, I called a peal at Tostock with Maggie Wolverson ringing. She then received a call from a friend in Hampshire asking about the peal she'd only just got home from!

Today, my attention was grabbed by a peal of Orion Surprise Maximus by the Yorkshire Association at Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday. Nothing unusual there you may think. There's lots of clever people ringing lots of clever things out there. But this stood out to me as 7 of the band were ringing it to a peal for the first time and 2 of those were ringing their first blows in the method. Although there is obviously a fair amount of ability in Sheffield (as I believe there is in Suffolk), there are no 'big' names like the Pipe's, Wilby's or Mills' of this world in the peal band. I imagine a lot of hard work, practice, bad ringing, peal ringing and risk went into getting to the point where they could get a peal of the hardest methods around where over half the band had never rung the method to a peal before. It is something I hope to replicate in Suffolk as we go into 2008. Too many ringers in our Guild are ringing far below there abilities either because they or those around them are not prepared to take risks and go through bad ringing to get to a higher stage. I hope this is something we'll all try to rectify.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I couldn't go to St Mary-le-tower tonight as I - along with Kate - was attending Ruthie's A-Level certificate evening at Farlingaye. Thanks and gratitude must go to Mum and David Potts for running the practice in my absence, especially as David had to come from a hard days work in London in order to attend!

The certificate evening was a nice and informal event involving nibbles and wine (though as the designated driver I was unable to partake in the latter) and it's always good to see Ruthie's mates who are a top bunch. Afterwards, we picked Aaron up on the way to The Seal in Woodbridge to enjoy a few drinks, a suitable way to cap a great night.

Sunday 16th December 2007

There was again a good number of ringers at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, allowing us to ring Grandsire Caters for the second week running, which Rosemary rang the treble to very ably.

Grundisburgh was once more a little less well supported, but we still managed Cambridge Major in amongst various bits of Doubles and Minor which was quite good fun.

Yesterday was my Uncle Eric's 80th birthday, so today he and Aunty Marion held a birthday celebration meal at The Swan in Westerfield for about twenty of us. Ruthie was invited too, but it seems she's still struggling to overcome her illness earlier in the week as well as she'd hoped, so she rather sensibly pulled out, especially as she was singing in a Carol Service later today.

Although I would've loved to have had Ruthie by my side, it was still a memorable experience, with the flying party-poppers reminding me more of a New Years Eve party in Shottisham than a Munnings family occasion! The only down side was it seemed to take an awfully long time between courses, especially as we'd pre-ordered our meals, but the food was good.

Following on from a great afternoon, I returned to Woodbridge to see Ruthie and was heartened to find her feeling a lot better and fully prepared to sing at Melton's Carol Service.

Kate and I dropped her off at St Andrew's as we headed to Ufford to ring for their carol service before returning to Melton to support Ruthie's effort there. She did very well baring in mind she wasn't 100%, but the service itself went on too long for my liking, taking over one and a half hours, rapidly turning from nine lessons and carols into a long drawn out concert. Although this may be normal for St Andrew's, it perhaps underlines why it's so hard to get people into church. Nine lessons is one of the few occasions that people who don't normally go to church come inside and listen and to get in the festive spirit. So to drag out the service to the best part of two hours with some quite long songs from the choir seemed to be discouraging rather than encouraging. Still, I left feeling more Christmassy than when I went so I suppose the job was done and a lot of effort was obviously put into the show.

Saturday 15th December 2007

Mason delivered to his mother's safely, Ruthie and I continued onto Pettistree for a well rung peal of 7-Surprise Minor. A peal is usually rung at this time of year to celebrate the anniversary of the rededication of the bells (1986) and the first peal on the bells after the work (1987), both events taking place in mid-December of those years.

Some of us went to The Three Tuns for drink under the Christmas Tree as we tried to organise and arrange ringing for the next few weeks. I'm not sure when we're going to fit Christmas in!

A rare Saturday afternoon free of ringing enabled Ruthie, Kate and myself to do some present buying in Woodbridge and festive wrapping as we watched the football scores coming in (well done you Tractor Boyz) and then Colchester and Naaaridge battle out a 1-1 draw in their bottom of the table clash. Tis the season to be merry...

Friday 14th December 2007

From our base in the suburbs of Ipswich, Mason and I popped into the town centre for a little more pressing. I didn't spend long in town as there was little substantial could do in person, but I did get to chat to my old HSBC workmate Ele in the main branch for a couple of minutes.

Other than lunch with Ruthie, it proved to be a quiet day, leading up to practice night at Hollesley. Alan seemed disappointed with the standard of ringing, but it was still a level that most towers in a similar position would be proud of.

Thursday 13th December 2007

After last weeks service, realigning the tracking on my car was identified as a priority, so today was marked in the diary as the day to it. With this appointment in mind, I set off from home early, especially as I had to pick Mason up from Melton on the way.

Mum and Dad looked after Wriglet whilst I dropped the car off at the garage near their's and walked into town. There's not a lot I can physically do other than bug recruitment agencies that still haven't found me anything, but it still needs doing.

Having been fed by the folks once I got back, I spent some time with my son whilst searching for jobs online before briefly going round the corner to briefly visit Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric.

Once I'd got word my car was ready to collect, I headed back to Woodbridge, leaving Mason in his grandparent's company for the evening. This was so I could go to Farlingaye's Christmas Concert, a musical, festive treat. Although Ruthie no longer goes to the school, she wanted to participate in the concert as thank you for the part they played in getting her to the Colchester Institute and also because she really enjoys performing. Though parts aren't really my cup of tea, I enjoy these concerts more than Ruthie enjoys going to football and I appreciate the hard work that goes into them. Also, with the McBurnies present, the interval allowed Alan and I to use our ingenuity (I know, I know, you didn't believe we had any!) and three phones to get Micky's mobile working again!

Then it was back to the folks for the night after a quick cuppa!

Wednesday 12th December 2007

Ruthie was still feeling extremely poorly when we woke up this morning so for the first time she called in sick, a sensible decision as going in would probably have made her feel a lot worse and she wouldn't have been much use at Boots in her state anyway, apart from infecting the other staff!

As a result she wrapped herself in a duvet on my sofa whilst I filled in more applications and read the East Anglian Daily Times for jobs. Once more there were promising opportunities and phone conversations but all taken with a pinch of salt as the last few weeks have taught me not to jump the gun, so I'll just have to see how these go.

By the evening Ruthie was a lot better and ready to face a peal of 25 Surprise Minor at David and Katharine's mini-ring. It was extremely well-rung, especially as the Wolery more resembled a doctors waiting room than a belfry!

After a late start and with Ruthie still a little under the weather, we voted for a Chinese rather our usual dash to the Three Tuns to meet the Pettistree ringers.

Tuesday 11th December 2007

Who'd be a peal organiser? As part of my 2nd Tuesday Project, I'd arranged a peal at Tuddenham St Martin, on this occasion for Peter Harper to call. After starting arranging a band later than I would've liked due to a miscommunication with the contact at Tuddenham, I had a band including a reluctant Louis and Ruthie. However, come this morning it was obvious that Ruthie was not going to be in any state to ring as she was coming down with an horrendous cold. My main aim of organising peals is to benefit someone - with this project primarily the conductor - and a lot of work is put into setting it up. However, on this occasion there was no one available to replace Ruthie. There is a distinct lack of keen peal ringers in Suffolk particularly, although it has to be said many try to put time aside at short notice if they are needed. However - in general - there perhaps needs to be a more positive attitude taken to peals. They may take 2-3 hours and may sometimes be somewhat tortuous, but I still consider them to be the best way of getting your ringing - and particularly a sense of striking and rhythm - up to the Sunday morning standard we ought to be striving towards.

That said, tonight's alternative was a nice evening in looking after a poorly Ruthie, so it wasn't all bad! On top of that, the Tractor Boyz managed to beat Leicester City 3-1 at Portman Road and I at least enjoyed watching Liverpool beat Marseille 4-0 in the Champion's League. Although I have no allegiance to Liverpool, it's always good to see British teams doing well in Europe and if those at the top are doing well and pushing to better themselves it tends to filter down to others aspiring to reach the same heights.

When I was a young boy ringing, I looked up to those at the top - not just in Suffolk but across the country - and strived to push myself through the best medium available. I make no excuses or apologies for saying that peal ringing was for me then - and is for those aiming to better themselves now - the best way of doing this.

Monday 10th December 2007

A startling uninteresting day as the search for work continues. After a couple of weeks of this, I'm now getting bored of filling in application forms, something I've never greatly enjoyed anyway.

St Mary-le-Tower practice was well supported tonight, despite the miserable weather. We still got our regular support from across the county as well from Norfolk and Essex, enabling us to ring two lots of Cambridge Max along with Kent Max, Rounds and Call Changes on 12 and an extremely well rung touch of Grandsire Cinques.

It's my last practice before Christmas and the New Year as I'll be at Ruthie's certificate evening next Monday, so it's probably a good point to note how chuffed I am at how the practices at SMLT have gone this year. My original aim was to make sure that we get a minimum of 12 ringers each week, but this has since quickly shifted to getting enough to ring Surprise Maximus, such has been the success of the practice nights, so well done everyone involved! At the same time, there is still a good amount of time where we're able to do Rounds and Call Changes on 12 and stuff on lower numbers, giving us a wide range of abilities, which I'm really pleased about.

After a drink at Mannings and our usual kebab, it was homeward bound - more to be done tomorrow!

Sunday 9th December 2007

Had a text message from Millsy expressing a desire that a heavier bell be cast so he could continue his exploits! The scary thing is I think he might be half serious - or possibly more!

We a good number at SMLT this morning and were able to ring Grandsire Caters. Mason also had the company of Roger and Mary's little granddaughter. All we needed was Pottsy's little girl and Matthew and Ellie Earey and we would've had to put a crèche in!

For once, it was a better attendance than Grundisburgh, where we only had 7. However, it did mean we could do lots for Sarah and Mr Nigel.

After a quick cuppa for Ruthie and I and a feed for little 'un we headed back to St Mary-le-Tower to do our bit for the White Ribbon Campaign at noon. Thanks to Brian, Rosemary, George and Di, we were able to do some call changes, Bob Doubles and (intentional!) firing. I have to admit, I don't know how many other towers have done anything for this worthy cause, although apparently Earl Stonham have done their bit too, so well done them!

Kara and Danny came and picked Mason up from mine having been to see her friend Tracy in Alderton, giving Ruthie and I a chance to learn Rutland half-leads in readiness for adding it to the other five methods we had done recently for this evenings quarter attempt.

If we had succeeded at Hollesley, it would've been 1536 changes, a slightly long-length, something that Kate and Mary could probably have done without after doing a 5376 of Elbut Surprise Major at Aldeburgh this afternoon! As it happened we didn't get the quarter, but we did experiment by starting at different points of the composition, which was extremely useful and should give us the confidence to give it a real good go next time round.

As is the custom after these attempts though - win or lose - most of the band went for a meal afterwards, on this occasion to the Saffron Curry House in Woodbridge, a common haunt for us and a good end to the weekend.

Saturday 8th December 2007

An earlier start than originally planned this morning. Stephen Pocock from Sussex wanted to pull St Mary-le-Tower tenor into a peal, so George Pipe arranged such an opportunity. However, there is much long-term work being done to the stonework of the church, something which wouldn't normally pose a problem, but on this occasion they needed to get a crane down Tower Street and for health and safety reasons the church was out of bounds. Frustratingly, this inconvenience was supposed to have occurred last Saturday, but for some reason it was delayed until today, leading to George being told during the week that the peal couldn't go ahead at the Tower.

Thankfully, Chelmsford Cathedral generously allowed us the use of their bells and good peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was scored.

We were met afterwards by Claire Potts and little Isabel as the peal was rung to celebrate her recent birth. We then went to a nearby pub which - after negotiations by George - dropped their ridiculous protestations at the presence of a 2 month old child that was asleep.

After lunch, it was time for Ruthie and I to pick my own little 'un up on the way to the North-East District Carol Service at Huntingfield. This turned out to be an extremely well-attended event on an horrid evening, so well done to Philip Gorrod and all the other organisers of this festive treat. And well done to Mason, who watched intently and didn't make a fuss at all. I think he enjoyed it!

After taking advantage of the fine spread afterwards, we headed to Hasketon via Woodbridge to pick Kate up. On Wednesday, the current landlord of the Turks Head passes his stewardship to Clive and Pauline from the Sorrell Horse in Shottisham, so this evening he was providing food and drink as he celebrated his departure. We like John and I can't let it pass without saying how much we've enjoyed his sharp wit for the last couple of years or so. Of course with Mason with us we couldn't stop all night, but we - and the l'il man in particular - had a good evening.

More than worth a mention before I sign off, is the incredible achievement of Andrew B Mills - or Millsy - in pulling in the tenor at Liverpool Cathedral (82cwt) to a peal today. I've known Millsy for years and how much work and practice he has put into this attempt. I couldn't even contemplate strapping such a huge bell to a quarter of Cinques, let alone pulling it in to Cambridge Max for 4 hours and 41 minutes. Those who don't know Millsy probably have an image of a huge muscle man, but in fact he's one of the smallest ringers I know and hardly rippling. Although for such an attempt he has had to go to the gym and keep in shape, his main strength is his technique. It just goes to show that anything is possible in ringing and although we're not all going to pull in the largest full-circle bell in the world to a peal, by pushing ourselves we can reach far greater heights than we can even imagine right now.

Well done Millsy!

Friday 7th December 2007

The main highlight of the day - apart from a hot chocolate with Aaron at the Costa in Woodbridge - was Ruthie's acceptance to the Colchester Institute. She and Val left in the morning with my better half feeling extremely nervous. She came back elated that she'd been given an unconditional offer to the music course there after performing for them. Well done Ruthie!

Another highlight was to have been the Marlesford Christmas dinner at the Froize Inn in Chillesford in the evening. Sadly, we were the victims of this meal's annual success. It is an indication of the astounding draw of the event that there were too many people to fit into the 48-person capacity restaurant. Or perhaps it's the astounding draw of Alan Rogers. It was Alan that informed us this afternoon that - rather seasonally - there was no room at the inn.

As a result, Kate, Ruth and I went to Hollesley instead, where we rang Cambridge Minor in between Plain Hunt on 5, Little Bob Minor and Grandsire Triples.

Some went to the Sorrell Horse for the last time for a while as it shuts to be completely refurbished into a restaurant, with Clive the landlord leaving for the Turks Head. Ruthie and I meanwhile, went home for an evening of Friday night TV.

Thursday 6th December 2007

Didn't get as much done today as I'd hoped - it's hard to keep the intensity of job hunting needed at the same level all the time. Also, Mason - quite rightly - demands attention from his Daddy, something I'm happy to give. As I've allured to previously on this blog, he's a welcome break from the slog of finding work.

Having dropped Mason back at his mother's and with Stephen being away, I was charged with running the ringing at Grundisburgh tonight. Frustratingly, we were one short of doing anything on the 12, but we still made good efforts and Rutland Major and Cambridge Royal amongst other things before retiring to the Turks Head.

Wednesday 5th December 2007

Jobs day today in the East Anglian Daily Times. Although I have been regularly checking the internet, window adverts and any other means of finding work, Wednesdays in the local paper are still the best source of vacant job positions for sheer quantity and range. This week's edition has served particularly well with a number of opportunities which have been acted upon and will hopefully produce results.

Before practice at Pettistree we went for a quarter of 12-Spliced Surprise Minor methods. Despite a good effort, the first go came to a premature end. I was picking Mason up at 7, so unfortunately there wasn't time to fit another attempt in, which was a shame as we decided to have some practice at it in the time we did have and if we'd been allowed to continue we would probably got a quarter.

Having collected my son from Kara's, we returned to Pettistree for a while before we had to leave to get l'il man to bed.

Tuesday 4th December 2007

Christmas has arrived! In my flat it has anyway. The evening was spent by Ruthie and me putting up the various decorations I have accumulated over the years and of course the tree. My front window is now dominated by a lit tree (suitably high enough from the curious hands of a certain ten month old!) and sparkling streamers and glitter catch the lights of my abode. Of course I'm not the first to put them up, many have had them up since last month and indeed many have made a huge effort, particularly in Woodbridge and Wickham Market. Most noticeably, there is a house that has practically disappeared behind lights in Warwick Avenue round the corner from Ruthie. However, it is captivating and has been set up in the name of charity, so it's well worth a visit.

The annual magic of festive decorating was an exciting end to a long day of waiting as I had my car serviced. To my amazement, it came away with an almost clean bill of health, with only the tracking in need of any sort of attention, which it will get next Thursday all being well.

As my transport was being dealt with round the corner from Mum and Dad, Mason and I spent the day round Ashcroft Palace, bar a couple of hours when he went with Nanna and Granddad to Morrisons, whilst I went to Suffolk College on foot to get further advice on taking up a plumbing course. It appears the warehouse job in Claydon isn't going to happen, but it may be a blessing in disguise as it allows me the time to sort out my long-term future.

Kara - who works in nearby Sproughton - picked Mason up for a doctor's appointment as my car was still at the garage, leaving Ruthie and me to put up the Chrimbo Decs.

Monday 3rd December 2007

I saw an interesting - to me anyway - thing today. Whilst waiting with Mason outside the Warwick Avenue Newsagents for Ruthie, there was a group of young teenage boys throwing things around, including a bag of chips. Of course, this promptly landed on the ground and scattered chips everywhere next to the shop door, prompting the owner to come out and ask them to clear the mess up. Primarily well done to him for confronting the issue, but it was their reaction which surprised me. The owner is an Asian and I half expected a volley of swear words and nasty references to his ethnicity, perhaps conditioned to the media's portrayal of today's youngsters and people's general conceptions. Instead, they set about picking the chips up as the shop owner requested. Very surprising to me and it got me thinking a little about children's mindsets today. Are they as bad as they're made out to be? Surely if these set of ordinary teenagers can find respect for the authority of someone whom they actually didn't need to listen to at all - attitudes people thought was considered old fashioned by the modern youth - maybe the leap to kids like this taking up something as 'old fashioned' and 'uncool' as bellringing isn't so great after all.

Ruthie took her flute exam today, something she'd been very nervous about. Her tutor Val went along to the Abbey in Woodbridge with her and seemed to think she did well, which even Ruthie, the eternal pessimist, agreed with. Of course it's sensible to never count your chickens, especially as the result isn't out until Christmas, but it bodes well, fingers crossed!

With Mason with me, the three of us had to leave the SMLT practice early  as usual - including the very welcome return of David Potts - but there were 19 there in total, so we left a healthy number. We rang Cambridge Max, which didn't go as well as it has before, but we rang good Kent Max and as we walked back to the car, Grandsire Cinques sounded like it was going very well.

Sunday 2nd December 2007

Normally, the morning after the night before is tough. A good night - as last night was - usually ends in a bad hangover the next day. Today though, I was OK, which was lucky as prior to running St Mary-le-Tower ringing, I needed to get my car from the Red Lion car park having stopped the night at Ruthie's. With time tight, necessity required a tired jogging pace, but I made it to the Tower on time.

Kara was going to a Christmas party today, so I had Mason today in a slight change to the normal arrangements. I had to try and pick him up between ringing at SMLT and Grundisburgh. Whilst I succeeded in picking the l'il man up, there wasn't really enough time for it to be worthwhile going along to the second bout of ringing of the morning.

After picking up Ruthie, we headed into Woodbridge, primarily to have lunch with Ruthie's friends but also to see the Christmas Fayre.

Following an enjoyable couple of hours in the Thoroughfare and Costa Coffee, I dropped Ruthie off at home as she was going with her mother to ring a quarter at Sweffling. I in the meantime went to Wickham Market to see Michaela and Nick in their new home. Not only was it the first time I'd been in their house there, it was the first time for a while that they'd seen Mason. It was nice, especially as Kala is to be one of his godparents.

After that, I picked Ruthie up and we went back to mine to meet Mum and Dad. Mum was to look after Mason whilst the rest of us headed to Orford to attempt a quarter of 8-Spliced Surprise Major, which unfortunately came to grief, despite several goes. Sometimes it just goes like that. A pint in the Butley Oyster followed and whilst most of the band went on to have a curry in Woodbridge, we headed back to Hollesley to rescue Mason from Nanna.

Saturday 1st December 2007

Sometimes in life, you are privileged to witness truly amazing moments in human history. This afternoon was such a moment. A solution to the Middle East crisis? The first man on Mars? Even the current government not messing up anything for a day? Nope. Today saw the first time that my mother, Sally Munnings, the founder of the Royal Anti-Stedman Society, called Stedman Triples. The scene was Woodbridge, the venue for the South-East District ADM and it was only a plain course, but it was an amazing sight. I was able to view this historic event as part of another hectic Saturday.

It began with me dropping Ruthie off to make sandwiches for that afternoon's tea as I drove to the Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds. A peal of Lincolnshire Royal was scored for the St James' Society. We started late as one the ringers couldn't find parking in Bury, so the amount of time I had spare to see Ruthie before I went to Woodbridge to show my face was a lot less than I'd hoped. However, I did grab a few seconds with her before she rang for a wedding at Ufford.

I was able to help out with some Grandsire Triples and stand behind Rose for the momentous plain course of Stedman, but had to leave before the tea and meeting as I then had to jet to Beccles for a an NDA peal of London Royal (No.3).

This went well and having rung two peals on the 9th of two of our counties ten's I returned to Woodbridge for a well earned night out to celebrate Michaela's birthday and her engagement to Nick.

Friday 30th November 2007

Things were sorting themselves out a little today. Between them, MSC and Barclays had managed to misplace my last wages which should've gone in on Wednesday. After a couple of days tooing and froeing - during which it wasn't 100% assured I would get my money - I managed to get a cheque from MSC which at least means I have money to keep me going till the New Year!

When I was last unemployed in August, before I went to MSC, I approached many recruitment agencies in Ipswich and Felixstowe (Woodbridge doesn't seem to have any) in my attempts to find work. Apart from A&S that found my last job, I was extremely disappointed with the results. I didn't inform many of them that I had found work, perhaps sensing the short-term nature of my stint in shipping, but continued probing every now and then. Even after reawakening them recently, it has taken until today for one of them - Adecco - to find me work. And it's not great either, work in a warehouse in Claydon on just £6 an hour, but I said yes. As ridiculous as it is that an experienced and successful customer service and salesman has to resort to this, I do need the money and will give it 100%. It's supposed to start on Monday, but due to appointments of various kinds, I can't start till Tuesday on this very temporary position, so I need to wait to see if they'll accept this.

The evening was once more a non-ringing one as Ruthie's friend Fergie was back from Brighton University for the weekend, so we went and had a few drinks in The Anchor in Woodbridge along with a couple of others.

Thursday 29th November 2007

I had the pleasure of Alan McBurnie's company in bed this morning. Nothing sordid there thankfully, but it spurred me into action as his phone call jolted me from that 'shall-I-or-shan't-I-get-up-yet' moments.

Such a jolt reminded me that I still had much to do, not only in my search for work, but in my duties as Master. A tower is needed for December's 2nd Tuesday peal attempt and the next 12-bell practice needs arranging. Also need to finalise the details for the Guild Dinner (15th March, 15th March, 15th March!). In between these arrangements I filled out an online application to Royal Mail for some Christmas work, something I've done before.

It was then off to Melton to pick Mason up from Kara's after his morning appointment at the hospital in which the doctors inspected the infection in his leg. It'll need further inspection on Saturday, but in the meantime the skin on his legs doesn't look great after being in plaster almost continuously for two and a half months. Going on to Ruthie's for lunch, it didn't seem to bother him too much though, as is his nature, although he's still struggling with the loss of strength and support from his legs.

An afternoon in Woodbridge as Ruthie waited for the driving instructor that never showed, saw me return with an application for a part-time job at the Co-Op. It may be that a couple of part-time jobs may be my best way forward in the initial future so that I at least have some funds coming in.

With Mason getting tired and neither Ruthie or I feeling at our best, we decided not to go to Grundisburgh. Hopefully it went OK especially as it's Stephen's last practice before he and Liz go on holiday to South America until the New Year.

Wednesday 28th November 2007

Mason's casts came off this morning. I didn't go in as Kara's other half Danny went in with her, which I don't mind at all. Little man is too young to appreciate the significance of today and Danny is extremely good with him. Apart from a slight infection in one of his legs, the hospital are happy with how his feet have turned out. Ironically he can't stand up now as he has no strength in his calves, but that will come shortly, even if he is a little frustrated and confused as to why his legs aren't functioning as they were!

My day, apart from lunch at Ruthie's, was spent internet searching, although frustratingly I'm no further forward than I was when I woke to a flat reeking of the burnt chips from last night. Still, I shall persevere, especially as I have no choice!

Pettistree's practice was kicked-off beforehand by a quarter of Dallinghoo Bob Minor, which - after a false start - was well-rung. It was specially arranged to celebrate the birth of Oliver Benedict Waterson a few weeks ago, Gill's first grandchild. She lives in Dallinghoo and we'd been practicing the method for months in anticipation of Oliver's arrival. On the face of it a simple method, it is 4ths place Armitage-Is-The-Name which in turn is St Clements with 4 blows lead, dodge, 3 blows 2nds instead of lead, 3 dodges. This creates a misleading sense of security whilst also throwing in some parts which seem unnatural. However, it highlights how simple it is to learn a whole range of methods if you learn the basic ones properly.

The practice itself went well with Norwich and spliced Doubles & Minor the highlight prior to us congregating in the Three Tuns for some well-earned drinks.

Tuesday 27th November 2007;

Still no work, but an early start today as I had the pleasure of Masons company today, so I needed to be round Kara's by 7.30 so I could collect him prior to her leaving for work. We gave Ruthie a bit of lay-in on her day off however - beware a Ruthie scorned after an early wake-up! I made her a cup of tea though, the best way to placate her!

At this crossroads in my life, I've taken a good hard look at what I want to do in the future. As part of this examination I've decided I really ought to take up a trade. It's not going to be an instant and immediate career and it needs to fit in around a normal job for the time being, but without that leap it appears I'm stuck in a rut of mundane jobs that never quite pay enough to comfortably cover the bills. With this long-held distant notion now at the forefront of my mind, I did see a gentleman last week about getting enrolled on their course to become a plumber. However, it would cost over £1000, money I just don't have spare and with these type of companies you can never be sure they're entirely kosher. So today I decided to head to Suffolk College - with Mason and Ruthie in tow - to see what was available. It proved a useful trip as I came away with details on what I need to do if I choose that route. It also offered up a chance meeting with Adrian 'Arnie' Knights as he stole a moment to have a crafty fag round the back of his work!

I only had Mason for the day today, so we dropped him off at Kara's before heading to Ufford for a rerun of the recently lost half-lead spliced. This time we scored a quarter, mainly down to Maggie's good luck charm! They didn't work later in the evening though, as her and Phil immediately headed down to Portman Road to watch her team Southampton get beaten 2-0 by the Tractor Boyz!

Ruthie and I were driving to Norfolk in the meantime - Pulham St Mary's to be precise - to partake in a Paul Norris production. It's been a while since we've rung in one of Paul's quarters, but they're usually a good laugh. A mixture of Norfolk and Suffolk members, including my counterpart from the NDA, Mike Clements, we/they normally push themselves. Tonight was no different as we went for Glasgow Major, with myself attempting to call it. Unfortunately it came to grief, but we spent the evening practising over and over and certainly came out of the belfry with a stronger knowledge than when we went in.

The evening was rounded off by a pint in the local in neighbouring Pulham Market, as I (Ruthie was pretending to be uninterested) enjoyed listening to the tail of Ipswich's footy success tonight. I didn't even mind Norwich winning!

Monday 26th November 2007;

Mondays have come to represent the renewal of hope these days, an interesting inversion of the normal order of things where they signal another week of drudgery and mundane slog! Whilst my weekends continue to be busy (this one particularly so) and enjoyable, not an awful lot can be done on the job front as many places of employment have a couple of days off. However, once Monday comes there are opportunities to phone companies and hand out CV's as well as upping the internet searches.

I've nearly always got time to have lunch with Ruthie at the moment as I did today and it's good to see her getting on so well at Boots and enjoying it so much too. Whilst she returned to the shop for the afternoon, I returned home to do more job chasing.

After an hour or two though I received the pleasant surprise of a phone call from my brother Chris, whom I spoke to for over an hour before I had to leave to pick Ruthie up from her flute lesson. He seems to be getting on well and should be back for our Uncle Eric's 80th in a few weeks and then Christmas, so something to look forward to Uncle Ernie.

Ruthie went ten-pin bowling with the Brownies whilst I watched some TV at hers (she gave me the keys!) and then we went on to St Mary-le-Tower. It was a good practice, with two well rung half-courses of Cambridge Max despite attempts to spike from members who should've known better!

Our Monday night kebab wrapped up a good start to the week, let's hope it carries on in this vein...

Sunday 25th November 2007

Today, a star was born! Well, not quite, but it's probably the closest I'll get to fame. At 7.30 on a Sunday morning, it was early (especially for me!), but there I was in the studios of BBC Radio Suffolk, face-to-face with Rachel Sloane, the Breakfast Show presenter. I was there to explain our involvement in The White Ribbon Campaign, a worthy cause and something there are further details about elsewhere (Webmaster: See What's On in December) on the Guild website. It was surreal to listen to the show as I drove into Ipswich as they primed their listeners for my arrival and even more so as I chatted with the voice that had been on my car radio just minutes earlier. The set-up there is impressive, with the presenters constantly having to flick switches, check clocks, look through papers of information and all whilst showing a (genuine) interest in what their guest is discussing.

Once my five minutes of stardom were over, I explored the empty streets of the town centre, with over an hour until the start of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. This morning, we rang a haphazard half-course of Cambridge Major after some good 6-bell ringing.

Things were better at Grundisburgh as the Sanderson kids, James and Ruth paid a surprise visit and allowed us to ring some good Stedman Triples.

Already two towers and a radio interview down and not even midday!

From here it was to Orford to ring a quarter of Grandsire Triples to mark the visit of the new Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Right Reverend Nigel Stock, to bless a statue dedicated to St Bartholomew, the saint which the church is dedicated to.

We were able to introduce ourselves to the Bishop, who seems a nice chap and judging by our discussions seems to have had close a relationship with and understanding of bellringers, which is a good sign.

After our fleeting chat with the Bishop, Ruthie and I headed off to Wickham Market, driving past my old house in Tunstall. The little pink cottage on Orford Road was the first place I lived on my return to Suffolk and indeed the first place I lived in on my own. I have a tremendous fondness for Tunstall and the immediate surrounding areas and providing the circumstances were right, would love to return there to live.

We stopped only briefly to drop a birthday card off at my friend Michaela's. Her boyfriend Nick took her big day as an opportunity to ask for her hand in marriage (absolutely fantastic news!) so we also dropped off an engagement card for them both.

However, our main destination was the home of Saska, a ringer at Wickham, who was generously hosting a social lunch for both their ringers and Pettistree ringers. Many contributed to the fantastic spread of food, but particular thanks have to go to Saska Bierowiec and Mary Garner for the arrangements. In total, 37 people filled her house, almost a Guild AGM attendance and it was mooted that perhaps we should've had the meeting there and then!

We enjoyed a good couple of hours there and yet we were still far from done! After here it was briefly back to Ruthie's (she remembered her keys today!) before we headed back to St Mary-le-Tower for a quarter of Lincolnshire Max, all part of our build up to the 12-bell Contest. Three homes led to a slightly long length, but it proved worthwhile as we finished well.

Once more we were on the move, this time to Ufford where Susan Schurr once again kindly hosted Pettistree's AGM. Despite it's informality, the meeting serves an important purpose for a very active, social and large band. It also gives us a chance to sample Susan's rather fine nibbles!

A cup of tea at Ruthie's finally brought a very fulfilling day and indeed weekend to an end - and sorry Uncle Ernie, no sign of my brother!

Saturday 24th November 2007

Early start today as Ruthie and I headed to Horringer to ring a peal to celebrate John Banks' 100th birthday. Reaching your century is an extremely impressive achievement. Just think about everything that has happened since 1907 and what Mr Banks must have witnessed over his lifetime and your mind will boggle! Mine does anyway. And looking at the sprightly gentleman that listened to the end of the peal and posed for photos afterwards, it looks like he may have a few years left in him yet! We were only able to muster 6 ringers for one reason or another, but nonetheless a very good peal of seven surprise Minor methods and Jack (as he's known) seemed well chuffed with it.

Unfortunately, Ruthie was still feeling a bit unwell from earlier in the week and with a peal attempt at Bramfield in the afternoon, she rather sensibly decreed she wouldn't get through a whole peal at this rare tower. Jonathan - having just rung in the peal at Horringer - very kindly agreed to replace her at extremely short notice, so I undertook to return her home for a cup of tea and some lunch. Here was where Richy & Ruthie Key Incident No.4 began. Lunch was purchased and we were ready to make it disappear. However, Ruthie had already succeeded in making her house keys disappear - on the inside of the house. With sister Clare at work and mother Kate in Shottisham discussing plans for a future ringing trip with Alan, the only option was to take her to mine and leave her there for the afternoon. After lunch and that cup of tea, it left me a little tighter for time than I would've liked, but I made it and a well-earned peal of Doubles was scored on this 5 that hadn't been pealed for 81 years.

With the first peal ever scored at Worlingham in the morning it meant three peals were got for the Suffolk Guild today, a total that has taken the Guild a month to get in the past! On the downside, an attempt at Stowmarket was lost.

Eventually, Ruthie was reunited with the inside of her house and happily settled down to another cup of tea and Match of the Day - a good day indeed!

Friday 23rd November 2007

I love Mason to bits, but every now and again I need to hand him over, especially when so much needs to be sorted out. Apart from my continued search for employment and sorting out my finances during this period of low income, I am determined to keep my Masterial (is there such a word?) duties up to date. I am currently arranging 4 peals, a quarter, a 12-bell team, Guild Peal Week, the Guild Dinner and dealing with our involvement in the White Ribbon Campaign in the next four months. All this whilst trying to find time for my poor girlfriend Ruthie!

This morning I needed some time in Ipswich town centre as I swept up as many recruitment agencies, including one that was following up an internet application I'd made yesterday. Therefore my Mum and Dad came to the rescue, not only taking care of the little man for the morning but also rather kindly giving me some dinner when I got back from my travelling!

After gratefully accepting this feed and free babysitting, Mason and I headed back to Woodbridge to pick Ruthie up from work. Arriving early, me and my boy explored the newly (as of yesterday!) WH Smiths in the town. I do like Smiths - especially at this time of year as it provides most of the presents for this lazy Christmas shopper - but I, having been to the Ipswich one just a few days earlier, was a bit disappointed by the lack of range there. Still, it's good to see one so close.

Looking back, I've had Mason much of this week, which has been an absolute pleasure, but Kara also wants to spend time with him, so I reluctantly handed him back before Ruthie and I carried on to Hollesley for our Friday fish n' chips.

Mason-less, we were both able to stop on at Hollesley practice the whole evening. It was interesting to see what happens at the practice after quarter past eight! The highlight of the evening personally was a well rung course of Cambridge Major with an entirely local band, though as usual I was delighted to help the future Surprise Major ringers with Plain Hunt, Bob and Grandsire Doubles and Cambridge Minor.

Ruthie and I didn't go to the pub tonight, taking the opportunity to enjoy an evening in without chasing a ten-month old with go-faster casts!

Worth making a note is that between 7 & 8 on Sunday morning I'll be on Radio Suffolk to discuss our part in The White Ribbon Campaign, so listen out!

Thursday 22nd November 2007

Mason didn't go to sleep until nearly midnight last night. Apparently happy as he giggled like a Scotsman at England's footballing failure, he was just full of energy. The result was a lay-in that caught Daddy out as he didn't rise until 11! Hastily putting his stuff together, I got the little man together for lunch with Ruthie before dropping her off for her piano lesson and I went into Ipswich to sort out various issues arising from my unemployment.

Ruthie unfortunately felt unwell, so didn't join Mason and I for our brief stint at Grundisburgh. No doubt sooner or later I won't be able to practically take him to practices as we get him settled into an earlier routine, but for now he seems to enjoy his trips to the various belfries we frequent. We (the ringers, not Mason!) managed Cambridge Royal before my son and I left, so I was at least able to offer some help!

Wednesday 21st November 2007

Another day, more job hunting. Internet, papers, door-to-door enquiries, etc - every avenue has to be taken. It is nice to not have to race to meet deadlines, to take my time, but I'm aware that I need to find something soon.

Once again I've got Mason for a couple of days, which is a really nice opportunity to spend quality time with him and I picked him up before going to Pettistree practice. They were successful with their quarter of Norwich Minor and it was good to see Jonathan Stevens again, whom I haven't seen for ages. Also making a guest appearance were two of the Whitby 'kids', James and Sarah. Although they don't ring anymore, they still pop along every now then. Sarah's sporting a new red (sorry, orange) hairdo and James was trying to fool his dad with a fake tattoo, but Jonathan was thankfully the same as ever!

As usual, I left early with Mason. It served me as a useful excuse to watch the football at home, but having watched England's overpaid players fail dismally, I then spent the rest of the evening wishing I'd stayed at Pettistree! I imagine these players talk a good talk when it comes to their salary negotiations, but sadly they fall well short when they pull on the famous white shirts.

It does gall me slightly that I find myself in my predicament when I consider I am an intelligent, hard-working chap who does what he does well (I don't think I'm over-selling myself here) and yet there are people in high-powered, well paid (Steve McClaren apparently got £2m for his failure) positions in England's national football set-up and in government/HMRC who either don't try hard enough or are completely out of their depth.

Never mind, at least it means there should be some more jobs to go for very soon!

Tuesday 20th November 2007

An early wake-up call from Mason was just what I needed. The weather outside was disgusting and normally the sound of knock-over wind and persistent rain at 8 in the morning when I have no work to go to would see me stretching for the 'snooze' button. Mason doesn't have one of these however, so I was up early printing CV's in between feeding the little man and generally looking after him as he trashed my flat!

Despite the horrendous weather, it was imperative I got out there and handed out more CV's in and around Woodbridge. Once again there was a positive reaction but no promises, but if I take enough shots, maybe I'll score a goal.

Having done as much as I could at that point, I headed into the town centre and wandered the town centre, half Christmas shopping, half keeping an eye out for job opportunities. I had a nice hot chocolate in Mrs Pipers as I fed Mason and then went to Boots to wait for Ruthie, bumping into Kate and Helen Yates as we conducted our very own ringers convention in the middle of one of the main stores in Woodbridge.

Ruthie finished just after one, so we had lunch at hers and Mason and I left her to practice playing the flute for her forthcoming exam whilst we visited Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric.

Uncle Eric was the one that first got me and Chris watching Ipswich Town and Aunty Marion - although now an ex-ringer - takes a constant and welcome interest in mine and Chris's ringing, so I always enjoy visiting them both and talking football and bells.

After dropping Mason off at Kara's, Ruthie and I enjoyed an evening in off wine and cheese, very pleasant!

Monday 19th November 2007

More job hunting, although until I get interviews, there's not a lot more I can do other than fill application forms in and hand my CV out to companies who appear impressed that I'm making such an effort to gain employment, but unfortunately have nothing available at the moment. I can but try.

I've agreed to look after Mason tomorrow as Kara is at work, an opportunity that I don't normally get of course as I'd usually be at work, so I picked him up from his mother's in Melton.

Being St Mary-le-Tower practice night it's not ideal having him for the night as it means leaving the practice I run early, but I don't like to pass up the chance to see him. However, tonight we were very short, so I felt a little bad leaving them. Although we still managed to ring on 12, with reasonable touches (in the circumstances) of Kent Max and Grandsire Cinques, it was the first time for a couple of months that we haven't attempted Surprise Maximus. Still, I'd like to think people still got something out of the night and thank you Owen for running the rest of the practice.

Sunday 18th November 2007

Hollesley bells on a Sunday morning, drifting across the village on a cold November morning is a marvellous sound. Unfortunately, the fact that I was listening to them from my front doorstep meant that I was extremely late for St Mary-le-Tower! My alarm hadn't gone off and with Mason deciding that he was going to have a rare lay-in, it wasn't until 8.30 that I rose (rather quickly!) from my slumber.

We made it to the Tower just after 9.20, so I was able to enjoy the last twenty minutes or so of ringing. Owen had been running the ringing in my absence and with much gratitude I decided to let him finish it off. Once more we were low on numbers, particularly with the Pipe's in New York and Brian Redgers apparently not feeling well enough to come up, but we were bolstered by Ralph Earey's presence, so we rang some Grandsire Doubles on the back 6.

Arriving in Grundisburgh, a quick nappy change (for Mason, not me) and I went up to the belfry, meeting up with Ruthie once more. Lincolnshire Major and Stedman Triples were the highlights here and even Ruthie enjoyed the Stedman, albeit from the sidelines.

Mason was dropped off at Kara's after a really enjoyable few days and having downed a cup of tea, I saw off Ruthie and Kate on the way to another lost Cumberland peal attempt; at Grundisburgh this time.

Tonight was our monthly attempt at half-lead spliced surprise Major at Hollesley. It's essentially the same band that goes for the normal spliced at Ufford, but with Phil Gorrod and Maggie Wolverson coming down from Halesworth.

We were agonisingly close to getting the quarter-peal, the whole piece collapsing unfortunately at the beginning of the 5th part. However, the ringing had been extremely good up to that point, with some really good striking, so we can be heartened by that.

With Micky, Chris and Pippa joining us afterwards, 11 of us sat down to eat at the Wilford Bridge pub in Melton, where I thought I'd done the whole telepathic food ordering thing again, this time on Ruthie's lasagne. It did arrive in the end though and everyone enjoyed themselves, another fine example of the way ringing should be - success or failure, rain or shine, it's always most enjoyable when you can gather together afterwards either with a pint and a bit of grub or some other way of enjoying friendship.

Saturday 17th November 2007

Ironically, when unemployed, you never have a day off. Every hour is an opportunity to find a job, each shop, office or place of work a prospective employer. So with this mind, I headed into Ipswich town centre with Mason. He loves all the activity, I guess much like any child his age, but it's a joy to watch his face as new sights are spotted.

Although, nothing concrete came about on the job front, I was able to get my first Christmas shopping done. Normally I wouldn't do my Christmas shopping this early - not down to any principal, more disorganisation - but Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick were coming down from Lincoln on what would be the last time we'd see them before the festive season, so I needed to get their presents pronto!

The visiting relatives arrived at Mum and Dads at dinnertime and having spent some time cooing over Mason and grabbing lunch, we set off for a model railway exhibition at Copleston High School.

Now, I have to be honest and admit that this isn't really my kind of thing, though a little of the small boy was rekindled within me. Things like this and trainspotting often make me feel relieved to be a bellringer, as whilst we are blessed to have people of all ages and personalities, model railway enthusiasts have the reputation - rightly or wrongly - of all having a large anorak collection. Indeed, looking round, I only saw one young man, looking a little awkward in his bright yellow jumper with some model railway badge on. However, I also saw the large sports hall where the exhibition was being held was swarming, not just with avid enthusiasts but also interested families. The kids loved it, though Mason slept through it all!

It got me thinking how other people viewed bellringing. Do they believe it's just old men in braces? And how could we get such a large turn out to a ringing event? It is a subject too in depth to go into on this blog, but it did give me a new found respect for the model railway enthusiasts and trainspotters of this world. They are - just like us - enthralled by their hobby and just because we all spend a lot of time on our hobbies it doesn't make us sad - it just means we have something other than staring at the goggle box to do in the evenings.

Staring at the box is what I ended up doing this evening however, catching up with Ruthie at hers after her 50% success rate on her two peals for the Cumberland's peal weekend. Although a member of the superior society (!) and therefore pardoned peal duties for the next two days, it's good to see so many Suffolk peal ringers being so active this weekend. We watched (although Ruthie and Mason slept through most of it) two football matches, neither of them involving Ipswich or England directly, but still conjuring the nerves. First, unlucky to Scotland on their gallant failure against Italy, but well done to Israel on their stunning (and much welcomed!) victory over Russia. Bring on Wednesday night!

Friday 16th November 2007

Although not looking to get used to this unemployment lark, I've been finding more advantages to my current status today.

Having Mason with me all day may have been considered a hindrance in a practical sense, but it turned out to be quite the opposite! He offered me a welcome break from the constant CV sending and online applications and allowed me to do all the jobs that don't get done often enough when one spends the whole day in an office. The car got a clean out, the washing done and the house tidied as much as I could without Mason tearing it apart again.

Understandably, he got a little bored and agitated being in the house all morning, as did Daddy with both of us being fans of getting out and about and seeing people, so after lunch we headed into Woodbridge. A quick look in the jobcentre again and a wander around the town centre gave me no immediate hope of any reasonably paid work, although I was able to briefly see Ruthie at work in Boots, which seemed quite busy.

With Ruthie picked up, we headed off to the fish n' chip van at Hollesley, where we witnessed a little girl not once but twice getting run over before her petrified and angry dad banished her to the car. On one occasion she was marvelling the exhaust of a car from close range as it backed towards her! I guess I've got all that to look forward to...

Hollesley practice was once again enjoyable with a healthy turnout and though there wasn't enough for Surprise Major, we did ring a very good touch of Cambridge Minor to which Nigel Bond rang the treble very well. With Mason in tow though, it was another early exit and an evening of Children In Need.

Thursday 15th November 2007

One of the few advantages of unemployment is the opportunity of a lay-in. When I haven't been working, I've been looking after Mason - who doesn't seem to share my passion for lay-ins - or getting up early to ring. So the first morning since being released by MSC was actually greeted with a degree of relief as I benefited from having no early-morning deadlines.

However, I couldn't afford to enjoy it too long as although my former employers will still be paying me until the end of next month I need to find work sharpish. Therefore I jumped on the computer to update my CV and put it on the Monster website before heading to Woodbridge to look for work in the more traditional way.

Ruthie only works Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so after parking up my car outside hers, she accompanied me into town and the jobcentre. Some leads were picked up and shall be followed.

As is the norm, I picked Mason up from Kara's. With my Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick coming down from Lincolnshire on Saturday, I have him until Sunday morning so they can meet him for the first time.

With Mason in tow and well wrapped up as a passable impression of a mini-Dunlop Man, Ruthie and I went to Grundisburgh practice, a welcome relief from the pressure of job-hunting. Unfortunately the numbers were relatively low tonight. Although during the summer Grundisburgh enjoys a healthy attendance at practice on a regular basis, the cold and bitter winter appears to put off even the most hardy travellers, which is a shame as Stephen runs a good practice. Nonetheless, despite this, we were still able to partake in 8-Spliced Surprise Major before leaving early to get the little man to bed. I don't expect I'll get a lay-in tomorrow morning, but with more frantic job-hunting to be done that's no bad thing.

Wednesday 14th November 2007

It was an extremely mixed day today.

It started early as I dropped off Ruthie at Boots for her 7 o' clock start, so I decided to head straight into work, even though I wasn't due to start until 9. I thought it might be helpful, in keeping with my general attitude to this relatively new job. Not that it helped one iota. I was called into a meeting outlining that they weren't happy with the way things were going and by the end of the day I was out of a job. The fact that my boss who I thought I was getting on fine with disappeared home leaving a poor HR girl to give me this news just weeks before Christmas shouldn't have surprised me bearing in mind the shabby way the same company treated Ruthie a couple of months ago, but it still took my breath away somewhat. Although this isn't the place to air my grievances about the 'disgusting' way I had been treated (not my words but those of my colleagues), it seems a shame that it is no longer good enough for you to give up your whole week and work your hardest for these large companies, but in fact you need to be some kind of miracle worker.

The day got better though as I met Ruthie and after some tea we went to The Wolery in Ipswich, home to David and Katharine Salter's mini-ring for a peal of Morpeth Surprise Minor. Although there are 8 bells there, we have rung some cracking peals on the back 6 there this year. We've been working our way up to 41-Spliced Surprise Minor and have reached 32-Spliced. Tonight was an exercise in getting familiar with arguably the trickiest of the 41. Apparently only a handful of peals of Morpeth alone have been rung, but we got to grips with it well. At 1hr 38mins, the concentration and speed of thought required for this is phenomenal and ranks right up there with anything I rang in Birmingham.

After a cup of tea, Ruthie and I joined the Pettistree ringers in the Three Tuns for a drink, reminding me that despite the massive blow I'd taken today, I am still very lucky to have bellringing and the friends I have made through it. There are folk a lot worse off than me.

Tuesday 13th November 2007

Evenings after work are probably the most difficult time to ring peals. However, it can be done. When I was in the Midlands, we used to ring all sorts of complicated things in Birmingham after a day at work - and indeed they still do as a regular look on Campanophile and through The Ringing World shows.

A cold November night and a peal of seven surprise Minor at Rushmere St Andrew was - on this occasion at least - not to be though. It was freezing, even in a compact belfry and ringing at a 2hr 30mins speed and the good band gathered didn't do the nice bells there justice. It goes like that sometimes though and we'll do it again next month.

I'm arranging these second Tuesday peals for two reasons. One is that Ufford - where I get the majority of the peal band from - don't practice on the second Tuesday of the month, the other is that I'm keen to get lots more people conducting peals in Suffolk. For the last few years the number of conductors have dwindled and we have been increasingly reliant on Stephen Pettman and David Salter. I certainly have nothing against these two fantastic ringers - indeed David was in the attempt tonight - but it's not fair to rely entirely on them.

The bonus of losing the peal - and without a suggestion of a quarter in site! - was we were able to go to the pub early and not just enjoy a drink but a good bit of grub. We went to the Falcon just outside the village, which seems to be a bit of a hidden gem for food - to me at least. Despite trying to telepathically order my food due to a communication problem that was entirely my fault, I was able to tuck into the 'Monster Burger'. Made out of real monsters, it was huge and a bargain at £4.95 - I hope you're paying attention mother.

Apart from being asked out for dinner by Mary - she was actually asking me about the Guild Dinner on the 15th March (PLUG ALERT, PLUG ALERT!) - the evening slipped away uneventfully until a blind taxi driver backed into Kate at the petrol station on the way home. It was one of those nights.

Monday 12th November 2007

A fairly uneventful day all in all. Work was fairly hectic due to the bad weather and I was glad to get home!

However, no sooner had I got home, it was time to get changed, jump back into the car and go to St Mary-le-Tower, picking Ruthie up on the way.

Tonight's practice was mixed, starting fairly badly, but improving as it went on. There were three pieces of Cambridge Max as the first piece fell apart and as a result we didn't get the chance to ring Lincolnshire as I'd hoped. Nevertheless, there's always next week and I was happy with the way things went.

Sunday 11th November 2007

There can be few couples who have been involved in as many key incidents as Ruthie and I. Back in March, when we went on Alan McBurnie's trip to Darley Dale, Ruthie realised she had lost the keys to our cabin, prompting panic and involving Paul Norris' van and the site's security on a snowy Sunday evening. Having been let into the cabin and contemplated the bill for a replacement key, Ruthie decided to check her pockets for the first time, to find - the keys to our cabin.

The following month it was my turn. We were taken down to Chelmsford by Stephen Pettman for a peal at the cathedral. My car was in Woodbridge, my abode was in Shottisham. Unfortunately, having arrived back in Woodbridge after scoring the peal, it dawned on me my house and car keys were in Chelmsford Cathedral belfry. It required a trip to David and Sue Rothera's house by Kate (for which I am eternally grateful) to retrieve them and enable me to continue my life!

This morning we contrived jointly to deprive me of my keys. I'd stopped over at Ruthie's after yesterdays long day and having put my keys in her bag - after taking them with me to Hertfordshire for some reason - she set off to Pettistree for a quarter. It was only when I was preparing to go to St Mary-le-Tower to run the ringing that I spotted my lack of keys. However, from this point events conspired in my favour. First, Ruthie's sister Clare happened to be about to take her boyfriend Aaron to work by the Copdock Interchange so she rather kindly offered to take me into town after dropping him off. This in itself wouldn't have aided me if it wasn't for ringing at the tower being at a later time due to the Remembrance Day parade which meant that instead of arriving at ringing ten minutes late I arrived twenty minutes early!

Ringing itself - with Clare sat in the belfry looking a little bored as non-ringing sibling of a ringing mother and sister - once again only attracted 8 ringers, although the standard was good. Of course ringing of a high standard should be strived for all the time but Remembrance Sunday is surely one in which it is essential we achieve good ringing so I'm happy we succeeded in this aim today.

With the later ringing time at St Mary-le-Tower and a lack of car keys I was unable to make ringing at Burgh, though I would've liked to as they've been out of action for a while. It's good to know they're back though.

The evening saw the return of our Sunday evening 12-bell practice in anticipation of the 12-Bell Contest in March. These practices are a useful supplement to our increasingly successful Monday night practices and enables the 12-bell squad to start focusing on the contest in earnest. This year will be tough as the test piece is Lincolnshire Maximus, a method which most of us haven't rung regularly for some years. Indeed, special mention has to go to Maggie and Louis as they rang their first blows in the method tonight in what was a good practice.

After that it was to the Cricketers for some contemplation and planning and then home to relax after a busy weekend.

Saturday, 10th November 2007

Another early start - Ruthie's getting used to them - this time to get Mason back to Kara, his mother and to Kate's to be picked up at 8 by Alan and Micky, who were kindly giving us a lift to Hertfordshire for the Hollesley outing. It was a slow beginning to our journey as it took about a quarter of an hour to find any available diesel in Woodbridge or Martlesham. Some was found eventually, as was air for the tyres, although it was a rather longer pit stop than Lewis Hamilton would've put up with.

The outing itself was a tremendous success. I think ringing outings are an incredibly important part of ringing on so many levels. For one they offer the vital social aspect that bonds ringing and as a result produces good friendships and good ringing. But on a more practical side, they give ringers - and in particular learners - a vital opportunity to ring on different bells, some good, some bad. Although you're always conscious that you don't want to produce bad ringing as you're on somebody else's bells, the Hollesley ringers gave a very good account of themselves, with good pieces of 8-Spliced Surprise Major, spliced Minor and various other methods on 6 and 8.

The reason for going to Hertfordshire was that it was Peter and Jane's old stomping ground. We went to Welwyn Garden City, Codicote - the Harpers' old tower - Knebworth, where Alan was whipped by Ruthie and asked for more - not enough time to explain further - Datchworth, Aston and Benington, where I was designated to be in charge.

A perfect day was completed by Ipswich's 6-0 (yes 6!) of Bristol City and Naaaridge's 3-0 defeat at Plymouth. If only we could reproduce the same form as Hollesley ringers on the road...

Friday, 9th, November, 2007;

Waking up, there was thankfully no obvious change in my surroundings. The roof was still on and the carpet was dry. As the morning went on, it became apparent that although parts of the East Anglian coast, particularly in Norfolk, had suffered flooding, the area as whole had escaped unscathed bearing in mind the gleeful predictions of catastrophe from the media last night.

Unfortunately, the nature of my work is that when any of the nations port's are closed - especially when it's Felixstowe - our workload is increased severely as are the stress levels, so I was away from work slightly later than usual, though we were able to mark my colleague Christine's 59th birthday with pavalova, so it wasn't all bad!

After picking up Mason and then Ruthie, we enjoyed our traditional Friday night fish 'n' chips from the van that visits Hollesley every week and then went to practice night. In the short time I could spend there with Mason, the normal impressive range of ringing was achieved, from Plain Hunt on 7 to Superlative Major. Once more it's worth noting how good the practice is bearing in mind Hollesleys geographical position.

Thursday, 8th November 2007

Two things jumped to my attention on my search through the internet today.

The first was on Campanophile, where I see Tom Scase has called his first peal at Dore in Yorkshire. Although it was for the Sheffield Universities Guild of Change Ringers, Tom is very much a Suffolk lad who we will hopefully see back in Suffolk permanently when he finishes his course next year. Even if he chooses not to come back here (and let's face it, following his chosen career path is his priority), I think we can all be very proud of Tom's achievements.

The second noticeable online success was that the Suffolk Guild has rung 100 peals in a year for the first time this century - and we're not done yet! I think that a healthy peal total contributes to a healthy Guild and vice versa, so I think we can be well chuffed at this landmark. More can be done of course, particularly on higher numbers and this is something I'm looking to rectify in 2008.

From these already recorded events to something which will shortly be highlighted on the net that we are to be involved with. How much so depends entirely on the reaction of Suffolk's ringers as we have been asked by the organisers of the White Ribbon Campaign Against Gender Violence to do some special ringing. It is a worthy cause to mark and could also see some very positive publicity for the Guild, so I hope as many people as possible take part.

Normally on a Thursday night, Ruthie and I go to Grundisburgh practice but on this occasion we were meeting my friend Becky who I spoke of last week. Taking Mason down to the Black Tiles pub in Martlesham, we completely lost track of time and admittedly left a little later than we intended, although Mason slept happily through it all and it was great to catch up with her for the first time for a while.

Watching the news when I got home, I became aware the coast very close to me was under threat from flooding. I'm unaware of any danger to myself or even to Hollesley, but it may be interesting to see what greets me when I get up in the morning...

Wednesday, 7th November 2007

It was an early start this morning. By Ruthie time an extremely early start, but entirely necessary and something she needs to get used to. For it was her first day at Boots. Yesterday she had an induction in Ipswich, but that didn't start until 9. Although today she was starting in the Woodbridge store, it was a 7 o' clock start, so we rose as it was still dark. For someone who isn't normally keen on getting up before Neighbours comes on it was an impressive effort and she even admitted to enjoying her day and it's early start.

For me, it was the usual day at MSC, although being on the early shift enabled me to leave at 4.30 and pick Mason up. I've got him until Saturday morning and although Mum and Dad will look after him tomorrow and Friday whilst I go to work, I'm looking forward to the next three (admittedly tiring!) days as I really enjoy these prolonged periods of time with my son, even if it means I have to leave practices early. Whilst I'm on the subject, if you want to see a picture of Mason, go to www.dentinox.co.uk and feel free to vote for him in the online competition if you like as the winner gets £50 worth of vouchers to spend on various baby products!

Pettistree was once more encouragingly busy as York and Durham spliced was rung along with Cambridge and a quarter of Norwich was scored beforehand. Congratulations also to Gill Waterson who became a grandmother on Monday - and of course to Ben (her son) and Lucy, the happy parents of newly born Oliver Benedict. Ben now lives down in Southampton, but used to be a regular ringer here in Suffolk as I was growing up and learning to ring, so we signed a card for all them and our best wishes go to them.

Tuesday, 6th November 2007

Today is my brother Chris' birthday, so Happy Birthday Chris. He wasn't doing anything special today, except not going to work, but I got the chance to chat to him on the phone for the first time since he came back from Italy recently.

It was mine and Ruthie's usual Tuesday evening off ringing, so we relaxed in front of the TV watching Liverpool win 8-0 in the Champions League, although once more Ipswich were losing 3-1 at Sheffield United at a much lower level. I'm not too upset as I wasn't expecting anything from a team who haven't won away from home since March and at least it gave Mitch something to cheer about!

Monday, 5th November 2007

Now is probably a good time to make a correction. Ruthie helps out with the Brownies and not the Guides on a Monday evening. Having been a member of neither I have to admit I was a little vague on the difference, but rest assured after last Monday's blog I was made aware!

Having picked my better half up from helping with the Guides - sorry, Brownies - we zipped down to St Mary-le-Tower for the practice night. Again the numbers were good, but on this occasion the striking was not as good which was slightly disappointing. However, what I have learnt from watching this group of ringers develop over the last few months is that although sometimes they take a step back they then take two forward. Ringers who a few months ago were nervous at even stepping into the belfry are now producing increasingly confident Cambridge Maximus - which was still rung well even tonight.

Sunday, 4th November 2007

Phew! What a day! Apart from those who work on the Sabbath, there can't be too many people that are as busy on Sundays as regularly as bellringers are.

It started typically at St Mary-le-Tower where we had enough to ring Cambridge and Yorkshire Major and Stedman Triples. Although still a disappointing turnout for a 12-bell tower, there can't be too many towers in Suffolk that would be unhappy to ring that on a Sunday morning.

A similar attendance at Grundisburgh enabled us to ring Stedman Triples again as well as some Bob Doubles for Sarah.

Then down to the nerve-wracking part of the day. Local derby football matches between Ipswich and Norwich are rarely relaxed affairs for me or thousands of others both blue and yellow blooded, but this one had extra bite. Their new manager, our new-found fortune, the fact that we were expected to walk this in some quarters meant I was particularly nervous as I watched it all unfold on TV. We found ourselves 2-0 up at half-time - rather fortunately - but there was that niggling doubt that comes with being an avid Ipswich Town fan and that this was all too good to be true. And so it proved to be as the Canaries fought back to draw 2-2, although I would've taken that before kick-off. It was hard to tell who was happiest. Norwich really needed to win this one, though by the end they were probably happy to get anything and showed enough to suggest they won't be relegated as I had hoped after all! We in the meantime would've been happy with a draw beforehand as it took us up to 4th again, but of course we're disappointed to not have held on for all three points.

Having calmed down again after such a fantastic game, we headed off to Pettistree to ring a 1284 of Ipswich and Plain Bob Minor in celebration of Susan Schurr's 84th birthday. Susan is an extraordinary woman who didn't learn to ring until she was in her 70's and yet now rings Cambridge Minor inside. Unfortunately a long-running back problem prevented her from ringing in the quarter, but she sat in the belfry watching and listening and was able to ring in a couple of touches for evensong.

Then it was straight to Ufford for our monthly attempt at a quarter of spliced. The plan was to ring a 1792 all-the work of the standard eight, but it failed to come round. However, the main purpose of these attempts is to improve the band's standard of ringing and to this end it has certainly worked over the years the band has been meeting.

The day - perhaps predictably(!) - ended in the pub as some of us had some grub in the Wilford Bridge pub in Melton as we reflected on a weekend of near-misses and maybes.

Saturday, 3rd, November 2007

It's always disappointing to lose a peal, but even more so when success would have particular significance. So it was when we lost a peal this morning at Otley for what would've been Kate Eagle's first as conductor. An unfortunate muddle and a missed bob for which I feel partly responsible led to our downfall, but we'll go for it again - this time without Bob Minor!

A quarter of Cambridge Minor was scored instead. I have to be honest, the last thing I want to do when a peal has been lost is refocus on a quarter, but I never like to refuse if others are keen. On this occasion it was nice to get something as a birthday compliment to Peter Harper on Tuesday and Alan Rogers from the previous Monday and it was a good effort in the circumstances.

After a drink or two in the lovely Moon & Mushroom pub in Swilland and myself, Ruthie and Kate headed to Parham for a wedding. Mum, Dad and Gordon Slack met us there, as did a visitor from Weston Supermare as our visit was to later develop into a South-East district practice.

The wedding went well, although the bride was a quarter of an hour late, leaving us ringing for sometime in uncertainty. We were then joined by a huge crowd of people, some coming from Leicestershire, although it's a very small belfry at Parham so any number of people looks like a crowd!

Probably the main reason for the larger than usual attendance is that Parham is still a grab for many, even Suffolk ringers as they were only augmented from a 3 into this delightful 6 last year. It is a great little job done by Hayward Mills, but not everyone is happy with it. A neighbour is particularly unhappy at the new sound meandering across this perfect rural scene and regularly complains, as he did today. Whilst I have no sympathy for people who live next door to churches and then moan about the bells, it does perhaps highlight the need for sound-proofing to be installed as standard in new rings of bells. It seems an awful shame that new rings are put in and are then limited or even shut down due to the complaints of neighbours unused to regular ringing.

After a busy day ringing, we picked up Aaron (Ruthie's sisters boyfriend) and headed to Christchurch Park in Ipswich for the spectacular fireworks display, this year set to a Queen theme. As usual it was brilliant and seems to get better and better each year, although the Queen tribute band were a little ropey, with the lead singer more Freddie Flintoff than Freddie Mercury!

Friday, 2nd, November 2007

Sometimes you just can't spread yourself far enough. I had a message from my friend Becky asking if I wanted to come to her Halloween party. It would've been great to meet up with her as I haven't seen her for ages. We keep trying to arrange to meet up, but what with Mason and the fact that she is a single mother with two children it's hard to find an evening that we are both kids free!

Also wanting the pleasure (???) of my company was my friend Toby. Along with his mother Debbie, they ran the Green Man pub in Tunstall when I lived there up until last year, but his girlfriend lives in Basildon (or Bas Vegas as they call it) and his work also takes him down to Essex frequently, so he doesn't get to come out so much.

Indeed a lot of my friends are forced indoors by further responsibility as am I. My football and pulling buddy from before we were settled was Rusty. He too has recently become a father to little Caitlin. Michaela the bar maid from the Green Man has just bought a house in Wickham Market with her boyfriend Nick, so they too can't get out as much.

Up to the beginning of last year I would've gone to the Halloween party and then out in Woodbridge but time has moved on, so instead I found myself up Hollesley for the first half of the practice with Mason. Not that I mind though. I enjoy helping out at Hollesley and every minute spent with Mason is well worth it.

After Cambridge Minor and a well-struck touch (until it was miss-called!) of Bob Triples, I left early to put little Wriglet to sleep and enjoy Have I Got News For You and QI!

Thursday, 1st, November 2007

Crikey! November already. It feels cold enough to be the month before Christmas, but then it's felt this cold since July!

The main highlight of the day was the two-page feature in the East Anglian Daily Times on our trip to Lundy Island in the summer. Weeks after Don Black contacted me after reading my report on our holiday, the spread looked impressive, although the large photo may well have put a few people of their food. It also appeared to lead to an unsubstantiated claim that it was maybe Alan McBurnie that had just ploughed £40m into Ipswich Town in the absence of any pictures of the mysterious millionaire heavily reported in the same paper...

Seriously though, it was a good piece for Suffolk ringing which rewarded the amount of time Don spent chatting to myself and others such as Mary Garner, Winston Girling and John Taylor - even if we did have to sacrifice a quarter-peal at Pettistree due to his loud, though well-intentioned attempts to get our attention!

Went to Grundisburgh practice, where despite the welcome return of Stephen from Italy, we were a little short. Stedman Caters and 8-Spliced Surprise Major was rung and we listened in interest to Stephen peal exploits at Shepton Beauchamp and East Pennard down in the south-west, where he had come straight to practice from!

A pint in the usual haunt at the Turk's Head in Hasketon and it was back home.

Wednesday, 31st, October 2007

Mason had his casts off today. Although I couldn't be there as I was at work, the rash is reducing satisfactorily and though replacement casts were put on, he's still on course to have them off - hopefully for good - at the end of next month.

The weekly quarter-peal at Pettistree before the practice night was scored with no problem - a 1265 of Stedman Doubles as a compliment to Peter Harper's forthcoming 65th birthday. Since coming from Hertfordshire at the beginning of the year, Peter and his wife Jane have been extremely useful ringers at Pettistree and Hollesley, so it was nice to put a footnote in recognition to his significant birthday.

Practice night was typically busy as the ringing master Mike Whitby endeavoured to fit in as much as possible for the usual healthy number of ringers. It was nice to go to the pub after a practice night for the first time in over a week!

Tuesday, 30th October 2007

Mum and Dad, fresh from their trip to Italy look after Mason as his mother is at work. They're very good, always willing to look after him if they can, often at very short notice and it is very much appreciated.

After dropping Mason back at his mothers, it was a night off ringing this evening. Ruthie and I went to the cinema to watch 'Stardust'. I imagine it probably appeals to Harry Potter fans like Ruthie with lots of strange and magical creatures, but it it had my kind of sense of humour, so I enjoyed it too.

Monday, 29th October 2007

Back to work at MSC, the shipping company based down on Ransomes Europark. My job in Transport Operations is busy but mainly fulfilling, but it's never nice to have to come back from time off!

Having picked up Mason once more, I then pick Ruthie up from Kids Kingdom in Martlesham where she's been helping out with the Guides and we head to St Mary-le-Tower for practice night. Another 18 or 19 people up there, slightly down on the 25 we had there last week, but still a healthy number and I like to think that people had a better chance of getting a fair go this week.

With the little chap in tow I left early again, but left the practice in the capable hands of Owen Claxton.

Sunday, 28th October,2007

As usual I'm up early to run the 9am ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. Although numbers and endeavour and massively up on practice nights at 'The Tower', Sunday mornings are understandably low on ringers. Monday nights are reliant mainly on people travelling far and wide, but of course they have their own local towers to man on Sunday mornings. The main thing is the bells are rung, but we rarely ring all twelve which is sad. It is one of my priorities to try and find a practical way of recruiting and teaching members of St Mary-le-Towers congregation, but this will take some time yet, so any help is greatly received. A special note has to be made of Don Price who travels down from Reydon every Sunday to ring. It is much appreciated.

Still no Stephen at Grundisburgh, but Ruthie does a top job of running the ringing and the bells ring out well, the main point of us ringing.

Saturday, 27th October 2007

Having dropped Mason back at his mother's in the morning, I pick up Ruthie and head to Grundisburgh for a peal of Cambridge Maximus organised by Peter and Christine Hill. Unfortunately, one of the ringers, Paul Harden was stranded in Eastern Europe as his flight yesterday was cancelled. Despite valiant efforts from Peter and Christine late last night and early this morning, a replacement was not forthcoming. Katy kindly dropped out and a quick but very good peal of Cambridge Royal was rung.

After a couple of soft drinks in the Dog pub in the village, Ruthie and I headed back to hers to watch the football scores come in. Ipswich thrashing Wolves, Norwich losing to West Brom - brilliant! With us in 4th and the Budgies bottom, next weekend's massive derby match is set up perfectly.

Cheered by this, we made our way down to Ipswich, St Mary-le-Tower where we have been kindly invited to join in a Bristol and Orion Maximus practice organised by Simon Rudd for the Norwich ringers. Over thirty people were present, having a go, many pushing their limits. The way ringing should be and something I hope to emulate in my role as Ringing Master of both the Guild and St Mary-le-Tower. Despite great provocation from myself and my Ipswich Town shirt, the Norwich fans laughed their woes off and achieved a very good standard of ringing.

Predictably we ended up in the pub with them, further enhancing the social side of ringing that should surely be part and parcel of any ringing practice but is sadly missing in some towers.

Friday, 26th October 2007

Another day off, but not a lot done during the day. Went into Ipswich to sort some bits n' pieces out.

In the evening, Ruthie went to ring a half-muffled quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples at Hollesley in memory of Michael Musgrave, a ringer I didn't really know, but judging by those who did know him will be much missed. His funeral was today. She then went to Rendham to ring another quarter whilst Mason and I went to Hollesley practice. Again I had to leave early to put little man to bed, but I'm always happy to help the little I can at my local tower. I think what Alan McBurnie the tower captain has achieved at a truly isolated outpost has been astonishing - always worth a visit even if it is a long way for most.

Thursday, 25th October 2007

The day started with taking little Mason up to the hospital. Nothing too serious, certainly not in the context of the struggles he has already endured cheerfully in his nine-month life. He was born with his feet pointing inwards, leading to him having an operation to straighten them in September. Since then he has been wearing heavy casts to hold his straightened feet in place, but a slightly worrying rash has developed down the back of one his legs. The doctors seem to think it's just where he has got the space between his leg and cast wet, but still want to get the cast off to check it more closely. However, they're unable to do what they wanted today, so it was a wasted journey except to reassure us that it isn't anything we need to worry about, but just needs checking. He'll need to come back next Wednesday.

With three days off this week, I have the little man in my care until Saturday morning, so I take him into Woodbridge to meet Ruthie from her job interview. Before we were able to meet up with her though, we stumbled across an autograph and photo-taking session in a building society involving Jon Walters and Alan Lee of Ipswich Town Football Club. Being a massive fan of the Tractor Boys, I'm keen that Mason follows my passion, especially as his mother supports Chelsea, so this was an ideal opportunity. He obviously had no idea who they were or even what was going on, but hopefully the picture featuring us both and the two stars, along with their autographed message to him will inspire him to support Ipswich!

More good news as Ruthie informed us she had succeeded in her interview and is due to start at Boots in Woodbridge in the next two weeks. Well done Ruthie!

In the evening Mason and I went to Grundisburgh for the practice night there. Although Stephen Pettman the tower captain was away on his ringing trip in Italy, we were boosted by the Hill family up from Hampshire, so were able to ring much from 8-Spliced Surprise Major to Stedman Cinques. Even though I had to leave early to get little 'un to bed, I didn't leave them short, so I left happy, as did Mason after a quick change down below!

Before I start:

With the proliferation of blogs in most areas of the internet, including amongst ringers, I thought it was time to write my own blog. Nothing controversial, but hopefully an interesting and maybe even entertaining regular diary of what the Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild gets up to, not just in ringing circles but in other aspects of my life. If you want to comment on my blog at all, there is the facility to do so in the Guestbook on this fine website.

Before I start the diary, you might find it useful to know some background details on me.

Born as Richard John Munnings on the 15th October 1978, I continue under that name to this day, a part of a ringing family that in the past included my Granddad 'Jack' Munnings, to a certain extent his wife and my nan Lilian and my aunt (and dad's sister) Marian Saker and is continued to this day with my mum and dad, Alan and Sally Munnings and my brother Chris who lives in Cambridge.

I have a son, Mason from a previous relationship who I hope one day will ring and my girlfriend Ruth is a keen a regular peal ringer, which is fortunate given the amount of peals I ring!

I was made Ringing Master on 22nd, April, 2006 having returned to Suffolk the year before after 8 years living, working and ringing in the West Midlands.

Now to the blog - I hope you enjoy it!.