Tuesday 23rd May 2017

RichyRinging Master's Blog

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New Year's Eve 2010

By their nature, a year is usually memorable for better or worse, unless you lead the existence of a hermit. An awful lot happens in twelve months and of course it is usually on this day as we pass from one year to the next that we often reflect most of all on the previous 365 days.

Even taking the above into account, 2010 has been particularly memorable for me, most of all of course for Ruthie and me getting engaged and now is a good time to thank everybody again for their congratulations, messages of support and footnotes. We feel genuinely humbled to know we have so many well-wishers and I know how lucky I am!

This was also exhibited by the further messages of concern over Mason's recent operation and again we thank you all for asking after him. As the year draws to a close it is easy to forget he is still wearing a cast, such is the way that the li'l chap has just got on with things.

On other fronts it's not been a great year, though thankfully only through football as England flopped in the World Cup and Ipswich Town flopped just about all the time, but in terms of ringing it's been a great year of achievement, led not least by those who were ringing quarters at Earl Soham, Kettleburgh and Monewden today. Well done to them in particular for the Variable Hunt Plain Bob Minor, but generally to all who have achieved something on the end of a bell rope this year.

Messrs Beavis, Suggett and Tatlow (eventually) joined us at Grundisburgh for the annual New Year's Eve Grandsire peal attempt, this year of Caters. Even though we have fallen short of the 150 I had hoped we would reach for the Guild in 2010, this year we have still continued the upward trend and beaten 2009's totals. However, it seemed strangely appropriate that we should finish this year with a loss through a completely unexpected and extremely rare miscall from Stephen Pettman. We'll let him of this one though and despite the late start, the early finish about an hour in did at least give me extra time to make myself beautiful for this evening and ringing 2011 in at Hollesley.

Alan McBurnieCharadesCharadesIt was of course preceded by a lively party, this year held at the McBurnie's new house in Shottisham. There was a superb four-course spread laid on, followed by a three-stage quiz won by my fiancée and me, a game of 'Give Us a Clue/Charades' and finally an interesting song from Peter Harper that reminded me of 'Britain's Got Talent'! The evening was worth it just to see Alan in his rightful place in the kitchen!

We all moved to the nearby eight accompanied by Ruth Hatchett the recently installed vicar and her husband (also a vicar) Michael who had joined our party.

Grandsire, Stedman and Call-Changes were all rung as Peter tolled 2010 out and 2011 in with champagne corks popping before Mike Whitby kindly returned Ruthie and me home - thanks Mike!

Finally for this year, thank you for your support, both from a personal and ringing point of view, in 2010 and Happy New Year!!!!!!!!

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Thursday 30th December 2010

It must be Christmas...

Two days after we rang our peal of Peter's Tree Surprise Minor (at Pettistree), six members of the Suffolk Guild (including my true love) on the sixth day of the season of miracles finally rang what was beginning to feel like the elusive twenty-seven Surprise Minor methods we've been attempting regularly for the last eight months and twenty-nine days!

The Folly27 Spliced Peal BandOnce again our success was at The Folly in Claydon, though on the downside Maggie had been unable to take part. However, as we strive towards more methods she will be part of our band as long as she wants.

It felt a little like we'd got to the forty-one, such was the tangible sense of relief and achievement and Mary Dunbavin had very kindly brought mince pies and biscuits to compliment yet more generous hospitality from Gordon and Janet and adding further to the air of celebration.

Ferry Quay CafeIt came at the end of a very, very foggy day and night which started with Ruthie and me treating ourselves to a fry-up at the Ferry Quay Cafe by the river, purchase tickets for the forthcoming Ipswich-Arsenal match (we'll see in a couple of weeks if that's a good idea or not!) having held on the phone so long I'd nearly been converted to becoming a Jehovah's Witness reading literature that had been stuffed through our letterbox and ended with us nipping to Tesco to get some celebratory beers. Tis the season!

Meanwhile, well done to Mike Whitby on calling his 100th quarter this year, but particularly to Richard Moody on ringing his first of Cambridge Major in the 1282 at Orford and 'congratulations' to the lads who rang the quarter of Stedman Singles at Bardwell.

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Wednesday 29th December 2010

Today was a day of meeting up with good friends, starting with a trip to Wickham Market to see Nick and Kala and then - having dropped off Mason at his mother's after a lovely few days together - we met up with Fergie at the controversial Caffè Nero which bullied its way onto The Thoroughfare in Woodbridge recently. Still good to see Fergie though.

After another practice largely confined around the belfry heater at Pettistree with more good friends on a now typically cold night, we forsook a visit to Chris and Mary's (with The Greyhound still closed) and headed back to Woodbridge and more particularly the Red Lion for a couple of pints with Toby, though the main focus seemed to be trying to spot some regulars who were at the darts tournament on the TV!

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Tuesday 28th December 2010

PettistreeThe peal we rang at Pettistree was a huge relief on two levels.

One was at finally succeeding in getting a local band peal of Peter's Tree Minor after a couple of years of trying and much frustration, not least with the last attempt a couple of weeks back. Well done to us!

Also well done to us as a Guild as it ensured that we beat last year's peal total and continued an upward trend for the fifth year running. That said, it could have been beaten by any one of the three Suffolk Guild peals rung today, with successes at Felixstowe and Henley too. Happy Birthday Jonathan and well done to Robert on ringing his 25th peal.

It had been a bit of a relief as although it is unlikely that we will ring sixteen peals in the next three days and reach 150 for the year, I was getting a little worried at times that we wouldn't reach the 132 mark! I am chuffed to bits not only that we've rung more than in 2009 but that there has been much achieved along the way, with another decent sprinkling of first pealers in particular.

It was a success that prompted Ruthie and me to crack open the bottle of champagne given to us by Ron (thanks Ron!) over Christmas in the evening, though our first port of call after this morning's peal had been Mary and Chris' with The Greyhound shut and The Three Tuns missing a trick and also being closed. It was a relief to find Thong Hall open...

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Monday 27th December 2010

After almost three days solid socialising, eating, drinking and ringing (with a little bit of sleep thrown in!) today was about taking advantage of the many Christmas presents we have generously been given.

For Mason this was about train tracks and balancing monkeys off trees, for Ruthie and me it was about wearing in slippers, reading Stephen Fry's autobiography and starting the process of brewing our own beer.

A crew that could probably have done with some (though not ours in it's early state) was the band that rang a quarter at Stonham Aspal today. Well done to my old mate Swebb on ringing his 200th quarter this year, Ryan Noble on his first of Surprise Royal and our very own RC Beavis on ringing his first on ten.

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Boxing Day 2010

As a substantial proportion of society queued up in the early cold hours after a now rare opportunity for families to gather and take a break from the all consuming money-centred Britain that has obviously served us so well in the last couple of years, we tried our best to continue the essence of the season.

Unfortunately this wasn't entirely possible for Ruthie, as being a Sunday she was required at Boots to satisfy the desires of... Well quite a few actually, but mainly passers-by amazed there was such an urgent need for coffee gift-sets and wash-kits not snapped up before Christmas Day.

Therefore Mason and I had to enjoy most of the day without her after I picked up the li'l chap from a tired looking Kara surrounded by a keyboard, drum-kit and microphone. Both he and his sister Brooke obviously had a lot of fun yesterday!

This morning we had a slightly quieter and slower start as we went ringing at Woodbridge and stopped to the service afterwards, but following that it was off back to Mum and Dad's for dinner and a final bit of time with Unky Chris before he returned to Cambridge for work.

MasonMore present opening for the boy (see the photo) and another lovely meal followed before we picked Ruthie up for an evening with Kate, Ron, Clare and Kev. In a final flurry for the weekend, Mason ripped into more presents (including some Thomas the Tank Engine pyjamas that seemed to have brought out the evil side of him!) and us adults tucked into more alcohol and a fabulous turkey dinner produced by Kate and Ron.

It was a nice end to a fantastic couple of days. Even Ipswich's game was called off today, normally the best result we can hope for!

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Christmas Day 2010

So here it is. This is what everything has been building up to from Christmas cards in one shop I saw in July, seasonal shopping in October, decorations appearing in November and the usual paraphernalia throughout Advent from carol services to Santa train rides.

You might think that Christmas Day would be a bit of an anti-climax after all of that. Well not for me.

This is the one day when we can (almost) all stop collectively and relax. Whilst it's sad that some people can't wait for Boxing Day to come so they can shop and get on with the mundane everyday life that we have the rest of the year to enjoy (and indeed with the internet and online shopping in particular many can't even leave it for today) I fully cherish every moment of this wonderful day. In fact, with John Catt shut until the 4th January I plan to enjoy as much of this relaxed holiday season as possible with as little shopping and everyday life as I can feasibly manage until I drag myself back into normality in ten days time.

A busy but relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable day began of course with Ruthie and me opening presents ranging from socks and calendars to a beer-making kit - thanks Kate!

For my mother it began at The Riverside clinic as after a recent fall that had injured her elbow to the extent that she currently can't ring, it had been suggested at Midnight Mass at Sproughton last night that she ought to get something for it as soon as possible.

We were able to meet up with her at St Mary‑le‑Tower following a ring at Pettistree (with a very festive looking Daphne doing particularly well). Also joining us at SMLT as with every Christmas was Simon Rudd and Roger Bailey as well as for the first time Sean who was accompanied by his father, a lovely chap (who incidentally reads this blog, thus adding the US to Hong Kong and Australia to my global readership!) as they prepare for the wonderful occasion of Sean and Louisa's wedding on Monday. We showed our appreciation for Sean's friendship and the enthusiasm with which he has thrown himself into our art by a gift to mark the occasion. Good luck Sean, hope all goes well! With Mr Potts Snr joining Mr Potts Jnr for the first day of Christmastide, we had enough to not only ring all twelve (Sean did very well) but some good ringing on ten.

Our morning's ringing was not complete yet though as we travelled further west to Sproughton to partake in some very good London Minor (despite a last lead aberration from the treble ringer!) at the six I learnt to ring at.

From here it was back across to Woodbridge to collect presents and beer (just as the Methodists were emptying out from their nearby church) and then arrive at Ruthie's grandparents where Ron added to most of the usual crowd. I say most as with it being little Lucy's first Christmas, she and her parents Moog and Ange were stretched a little further this year and arrived a little later though we did catch them before we left.

RuthieAs with every Christmas (and indeed visit of any kind) I've spent here we enjoyed fantastic company and food, though as you can see, my fiancée was getting a little frustrated with a jigsaw puzzle that counted amongst our gifts received!


Our now traditional Christmas saw us head to my parents at Ashcroft Road following an afternoon with Ruthie's family where we met up with Mum, Dad, Chris, Uncle Eric and Aunty Marion.

Chris, Sally & RuthieThe mass evening present opening that I so fondly remember from previous Christmases was enjoyed (as can be seen from the photo!) with more calendars and diaries as well as more beer, this time in the already brewed state!


My folks did brilliantly again with a fantastic spread that more than kept us fed and with a combination of the bottled ales that Ruthie and I have been purchasing one a week since early September for this evening onwards and some more that Unky Chris had very kindly provided kept us well-oiled too!

It was another memorable Christmas, I hope yours was too.

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Christmas Eve 2010

There are a number of unofficial traditions that mark Christmas for me and particularly as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day arrive. One (or two depending on how you view it) is that I like to catch The Snowman and Santa Clause: The Movie, two televisual productions which I probably wouldn't be much bothered about if they didn't represent childhood Christmases so fondly remembered.

Sadly (though not devastatingly) Santa Clause: The Movie is on at 10.50am tomorrow when God willing we'll be ringing at Sproughton and then gathering at Ruthie's grandparents, but after the five John Catt employees left in the office gave up before even the anticipated 1pm finish had arrived and following a quick dash to the shops to get all we needed for the big day we settled down to Raymond Briggs' warming animated winter tale.

After a gift drop from Kate we were on the road to Ipswich where Mason had been spending the day with his grandparents and Unky Chris, opening the first of many, many presents this weekend. From here it was onto another aspect that marks the beginning of the festive season for me, ringing for the Christmas Eve Carol Service at St Mary‑le‑Tower. Despite the presence of my brother the ringing was not really up to scratch, but nonetheless, a good touch of Grandsire Caters to finish saw us leaving in good spirits as we dropped the li'l chap off for Christmas with his mother.

We were then off on a more recent and less-childhood related, but still highly enjoyable seasonal tradition, that of drinking in Woodbridge as Santa flew overhead delivering goodies and sipping sherry. This year we were accompanied by Pete and Susanne and with Toby working at The Ship again (as well as on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day) it started with a trip to Blaxhall.

From there though it was back to Woodbridge and (after a quick kebab meat and chips) a drink in The Mariners, where we bumped into Aaron's (he who used to go out with Ruthie's sister) brother Ryan and young Miss Whitby and then to The Bell and Steelyard where we'd arranged to meet up with Annie Brechin, back from Prague. She is much missed by ringers in Suffolk and London and it was good to catch up with her. She sends her best regards to all.

We never like to overdo it on this particular date and so we weren't too late back, though even with a Doubles band in the pub we felt those doing their bit ringing for Midnight Mass at St Mary the Virgin probably wouldn't appreciate us joining them in our state!

There were others doing their bit across Suffolk, most notably Abby Antrobus ringing her 50th quarter this year in the success at Hunston and Martyn Crouch ringing his first of Norwich Minor in the quarter at Barrow. Well done guys!

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Thursday 23rd December 2010

Such a quiet day today. By the afternoon with holidays, days-off, half-days, etc there were only five people left in the office and we even had the radio on such was the lack of anything to do. Predictably we were sent home early, if only by half-an-hour or so.

Meanwhile, Ruthie and Mason had an even lazier day, not even getting out of their pyjamas and things continued in this manner through a slow evening of a The Two Ronnies tribute night.

This will be my last posting before Saturday (even I shan't be blogging on the big day!) so this is my last opportunity to wish everyone a very, very Merry Christmas from Mason, Ruthie and myself. Again we're sorry that we've been useless with card distribution and once more we have loads of cards written out that will have to be saved until next year when we'll no doubt not get round to giving them out again! In many ways it represents how lucky we are to have so many friends across Suffolk and beyond that we'd loved to have got cards out to but failed. Thank you for your friendship and have a wonderful Christmastide.

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Wednesday 22nd December 2010

The days in-between the last weekend before Christmas and the big day itself are usually particularly quiet and slow, especially at John Catt where our main clients - independent and international schools - largely broke up for the festive season some time ago. Of course this year we have a full 'working' week before the 25th comes round and so it is dragging somewhat and although the last couple of days have been unusually and relatively busy (sales have been made which is practically unheard of for this time of the calendar!) today really saw the lull kick in.

Therefore, with the restrictions of being in an office, discounting the option of just going down the pub, we decided today would be a good opportunity to rearrange the desks upstairs as we had planned to do ever since Michael had announced he was leaving us. It took a while but that was no bad thing as it passed an otherwise dull passage of time.

The holiday period also cuts into the usual arrangements with Mason, especially as it is Kara's turn to have him on the first day of Christmastide. Therefore I picked up the li'l chap for the next couple of days and as it is the season of treats we took him along to the practice at Pettistree (not Bethlehem as he had hoped) where the huge box of toys that lives there awaited him and the usual variety of decent ringing awaited Ruthie and me. We all kept warm by playing out Thomas the Tank Engine up and down the aisle SEVERAL times past the huge tree in the church!

With the boy behaving well and still full of energy, we went to The Greyhound for a seasonal tipple before heading home at the end of an evening that Mrs Roger began by ringing her first quarter of Kent Minor - well done gal!

She wasn't the only one in Suffolk achieving something on the end of a bell-rope this evening either, as Alex Tatlow rang his 75th quarter of 2010 at Grundisburgh and in the process rang and called his first of Bourne, with Martyn Crouch and Robert Beavis also ringing their first in the method.

Meanwhile, the 5088 of Lincolnshire Major on the front eight at St Mary‑le‑Tower not only saw David Potts call his first in the method but also represented the 131st Suffolk Guild peal since 1st of January, equalling 2009's total! So well done to David but also just one more push everyone.

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Tuesday 21st December 2010

I'd long suspected I was engaged to a rather intelligent and talented gal, but this was confirmed today as Ruthie received the results of her (very) recent Grade Eight flute exam (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music). She got a merit, which for those not versed in the lingo means she did spectacularly well! Words cannot explain how proud I am of her, but congratulations Ruthie!!!!

The sales team at John Catt all had a half-day off in lieu for the highly successful completion of our big international campaign last month and we'd decided to take them during this extremely quiet week and as I had chosen this afternoon I was able to celebrate my fiancée's great news with her. If you could call going into Ipswich town centre in the days leading up to 25th December celebrating.

Still, despite the heaving crowds, long queues and reduced wallets we completed our Christmas shopping and whilst St Lawrence had failed to satisfy us by running out of hot food for this lunchless couple, St Stephen's - in its form as the Tourist Information Centre - had given us one gift and the cafe opposite fulfilled our hunger before we left the bustling thousands to their gift-hunting in the generic shops of the metropolis for the all-together more peaceful surroundings of Ruthie's Nan's.

This was a typically interesting two hours or so as with nothing other than our last trip to Tesco before the big day lined up for our evening we had nothing else to rush off to as is sadly the norm when we usually come here.

We finished a highly productive and happy day with a treat of cheese and biscuits and more mulled wine and a glow of contentment. No ringing, but plenty of that to come!

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Monday 20th December 2010

Gosh I feel festive!

Tonight saw Ruthie and me stood on the Market Hill in Woodbridge singing carols accompanied by a brass band surrounded by twinkling Christmas Trees and snow-covered rooftops that could've come straight from Dickens' London in A Christmas Carol. Some of the favourites were present as we belted out Noel (Noel, they've got no 'L'), Away in a Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem and the one I enjoy the most and which really gets me in the spirit, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. There was even a star shining brightly above St Mary's tower when we got there. As obvious as it sounds, you really can't get anything like this at other times of the year.

It was all part of the 59th Rotary Club Carols on the Market Hill which incorporated the official handing-over of the town's Christmas Tree to the Mayor and there was a huge crowd present, no doubt raising a lot of money for the worthy cause that is The Treehouse Appeal.

With a warm glow inside on a cold night we popped into The Mariners on the way home where I partook in a pint of Rosey Nosey - a festive tipple that is probably called Cupid's Arrow, Easter Bunny or Halloween Horror at various other times - in amongst the tremendous decorations in my favourite local.

I can't wait for it all now!

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Sunday 19th December 2010

'Do not travel out unless it is absolutely essential.'

I can see why those words of advice (though with every time it is uttered it feels increasingly like an order) are imparted by the police at times like this. However, its importance is somewhat numbed as it has been given out almost daily over the last few days and over the earlier cold snap a few weeks ago and I and many others across the country have carried on with our business.

And so it was this morning. Despite messages on Radio Suffolk being given out in a tone that suggested that Mason and I were going to have to penetrate a mountain of solid snow and negotiate roads of frozen catastrophe to get to St Mary‑le‑Tower, we made it to central Ipswich on roads that - in keeping with last night - were gritted all the way in.

What is more, Don had made it in all the way from Reydon with little trouble and together with those who had recklessly endangered their lives travelling in from Stowmarket, Sproughton and Witnesham we contributed to a superb half-course of Yorkshire Royal.

After the distinct lack of difficulty getting into town via the A12 and Kesgrave, I began to think about going to Grundisburgh to help out, put to shame by Don's long journey in and the fact that - with no communication to suggest otherwise - that Stephen will have struggled in from Felixstowe to open up. I decided to go for it, prepared to turn back if things did get too hairy.

However, taking things slowly it had been no less hairy than usual despite the presence of a car stuck in a hedge (it had been reported already in case you thought I'd just left them to it!) that had obviously not been taking things slowly.

Don joined me and so the three of us waited. And waited. In the end I guess that Stephen had been held up and so we all made our way back home without touching a rope and so Mason and I prepared for a lovely and relaxed last Sunday before Christmas as Nick and Kala popped round to drop off her Godson's present before the li'l chap and I headed a few hundred yards round the corner for Pete and Suzanne's housewarming party.

It was a good do with nine litres of mulled wine to consume and seemed to come in three waves. Many left to ring for evening carol services and play in concerts and on Ruthie's arrival after work I walked the li'l chap back to his mother's before returning to find that Kate and Ron had arrived, closely followed by Mike Whitby and so an evening of more mulled wine and sausages and a good dose of crazy Uncle Chris (not Mason's crazy Uncle Chris!) began.

No sooner had they left then Jasper arrived after watching panto in a very snowy Felixstowe and helped us devour the remnants of mulled wine, before we all eventually called it a night.

At least it didn't take Ruthie and me so long to get home today though!

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Saturday 18th December 2010

You may well have ascertained through my recent blogs that I bemoan the lack of backbone we now have in the UK whenever we have a little bit of snow. It seems that years of closing schools at the drop of a hat (or temperature) has produced a generation of decision makers that have been taught to accept that such conditions mean the only place the entire populace is safe is indoors and no one should risk moving. It goes hand-in-hand with a distorted view of accepted risk and what dangerous actually is that sees a nation that once carried on it's business throughout the blitz now cower in the corner when it gets a little icy.

However, today even I could see where things understandably stop for the conditions, although even this was as much to do with a surprising lack of preparation for conditions that were actually forecast (though of course not to the day!) months ago and had been the focus of all the recent weather predictions for days.

On the way over to Didcot Railway Centre today Kate, Ron, Mason, Ruthie and I had very little trouble, not seeing any real snow until we got to the M25, but once at our destination we found ourselves in the middle of a heavy snowfall that was landing on top of an already heavy layering of the white stuff.

It meant that the first Thomas the Tank Engine ride was over an hour late. Having promised the li'l chap that Thomas would be arriving any minute to take him to see Father Christmas, the famous blue engine's prolonged absence in freezing conditions with only a small shelter to keep us out of the snow was an increasingly upsetting and frustrating experience for Mason and his contemporaries and for us adults too. I shan't lie. At this point I wasn't enjoying myself!

Eventually he came though, the boy saw Santa and we enjoyed a few more train rides and lunch before making our way home. Thank you very much to Kate for an ultimately very enjoyable day.

Popping into a gridlocked High Wycome on the way to drop off Christmas presents at Ron's niece's for his family there accounted for perhaps an hour-and-a-half, maybe two hours of our trip back. However, the eight-to-nine hour journey home was a bit of a shock. Yes, the conditions were bad, but nowhere near as bad as the authorities response to it with little clearance on the M40 and in fact no evidence of a drop of salt having been dispensed throughout Essex where a predictable accident blocked the A12 and saw those of us lucky enough to escape the standstill queue on this main route through crammed into an icy and snowbound Colchester where a double-decker bus was left stranded half-way up a hill and cars were abandoned all over the place.

This is where Suffolk can pat themselves on the back though as with comparable conditions that nearly saw the abandonment of the televised Ipswich-Leicester match at Portman Road with us 3-0 up (well done to the ground-staff on allowing that match to be completed!) all the roads we travelled on within our borders apart from Sun Lane itself were gritted and easily passable. Nonetheless, Ron did superbly to steer us all safely through it all.

Still, what was all that fuss about? ;-)

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Friday 17th December 2010

My old banger has it's faults. The suspension will need sorting at it's next MOT, it's having problems starting first time in this cold weather, bits are falling off and today it appears that someone has stolen the glass out of my wing mirror in a bizarre repetition of an identical incident in the summer. Gav - as I call it due to it's numberplate - has had its brakes and cam-belt replaced. But touch wood and God willing it is still getting Mason, Ruthie and myself about with some reliability and minimum fuss.

It seems a good advert for the old saying 'they don't make 'em like they used to' as tonight it was called upon to help someone with a much younger car that has packed up and not for the first time this year. Ruthie's sister Clare called from Felixstowe with a potentially massive headache as her and Kev's car wouldn't start. With Clare needing to get to Woodbridge for an early shift at work in the morning and Kate, Ruthie and I all off to see trains and Father Christmas even earlier tomorrow meaning we couldn't help get her there, she was sheepishly (though there was no need to be) asking if she could use Ruthie's car Emily (nothing to do with the numberplate) as she would be covered to drive it and (touch wood and God willing again!) we only need the one car over the Christmas period. Ruthie was more than happy to help her sister out but it still left her elder with the problem of how to get the car from our driveway tonight. With the only other option being an expensive taxi journey I volunteered to fetch her. Good old Gav!

Meanwhile, well done to Robert Beavis on ringing his 75th quarter this year in the Bob Minor at Earl Stonham this evening, part of a number of people (including other younger members) who have rung this many and more in 2010. Great to see!

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Thursday 16th December 2010

Campsea AsheAfter all the fundraising with open days, concerts, fun striking competitions and art shows, all the paperwork and the depressing theft of bells, well done to Campsea Ashe which today delighted in the sound of its first quarter-peal on six bells. It must make it seem very real and I hope very worthwhile and congratulations to all concerned.

Meanwhile, thank you to Brian Whiting for stepping in at very short notice (roughly about an hour and a half) to fill in for an extremely poorly Ruthie as we headed to The Folly for our latest attempt to ring twenty-seven Surprise Minor methods. Suffice to say we lost it, again in Cunecastre, but actually more because one of the band lost control of their rope. They saved things quickly and admirably within moments, but the rest of of the band committed the cardinal sin of being distracted by this and the whole thing blew up in our faces. It was interesting and good fun as usual but I think we really are fed up of losing it now. We have one more attempt before the year is out, can we do it before 2011 comes round? You'll have to wait to find out, as will we.

It was disappointing, as was coming back through Grundisburgh hoping to drop in on the practice there only to find everything in darkness at just past eight. There was a slight dusting of snow but I hope this wasn't the reason for it being cancelled as it was hardly enough to cause any problems.

Talking of the white stuff, we're expecting more of it again over the next few days so I'd like to repeat my sentiments of a few weeks back for people not to just drop everything because it's a little harder and longer to get about. Of course don't risk things if it is extremely dangerous, but just be careful and keep ringing. If you can get around relatively safely then more than likely you will be needed as events such as this Saturday's Christmas Ringing in Ipswich are likely to suffer some dropouts. We are hoping to travel to Didcot to see trains and Father Christmas on Saturday so shan't be able to come to Ipswich on Saturday (unless ironically the snow gets too much to travel to Oxfordshire!) but I would urge those who can to please support this wonderful event that Brian Redgers does so well in organising every year. Last year it was decimated by the snow (and a  shooting), let's not let a bit of winter weather beat us again.

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Wednesday 15th December 2010

Our cheesecake finally had its world premiere tonight as we unleashed it on some of our friends. It went down really well at the end of a wonderful evening of dining and drinking at Toby's, following on from soup brought by Kala and Nick (once Mason's Godmother had managed to heat it up in a comical set of exchanges with the microwave!), a superb duck and risotto made by our host and some mulled wine that we provided. It was a lovely little festive get-together and hopefully one we can repeat at ours sometime in 2011.

Beforehand I was able to catch up with Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric on his birthday on a nice relaxing day as things already start winding down at work.

Well done to David Howe on ringing his first quarter of Norwich Minor in the success at Polstead.

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Tuesday 14th December 2010

No train crashes, no dramatic losses of peals with clappers flying or ropes breaking or surprise parties today. Just a normal day, though things are starting to get a bit quieter at work as some schools started on their Christmas holidays as early as last Thursday.

Our evening consisted of the normal shop at Tesco, the making of cheesecake in anticipation of tomorrow night and the now usual couple of pints with Toby as we again partook in a Bell and Steelyard, Mariners and Red Lion pub crawl.

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Monday 13th December 2010

It's not often you get a train crash right on your doorstep, but seconds after the 1.08 from Lowestoft passed our office window it hit a car on the level crossing just a few hundred yards down the track from us. We didn't witness the accident but we could see the scene from where we were and the train was still stuck there at home time. Quite how a car could fail to know a train was coming to that crossing when we can tell from our living room with the noise the signals make is something for the investigators to discover, but at least no one was hurt.

Thankfully it wasn't to cause Ruthie any problems as today was the start of her Christmas holidays, though they weren't starting well as she was laid low with a nasty cold. So bad was it that she didn't feel like coming up to St Mary‑le‑Tower where hopes of a twelve-bell practice diminished as the glue used for Owen's repair job on the eleventh clapper didn't dry sufficiently for the bell to be rung. It was a little frustrating as this was to have been the last fully functioning practice until the New Year. Next week it is split in two by the badly planned Evening Star Carol Service and the following two weeks will be Bank Holidays when if there are practices they will be quite different with people away and visitors coming along to varying unpredictable numbers.

However, to help raise the spirits David Potts put a late entry in for 2010's Funniest Moment In A Belfry Award as having proudly displayed the filing system for Christmas cards - a cardboard box divided up alphabetically to you and me - he promptly fumbled and dropped the thing, sending cards flying in all directions much to everyone amusement. Along with seeing Stephen Bedford standing with several feet of broken rope around his ankles on a summer visit to Pettistree it must rank quite high.

And the winner is...

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Sunday 12th December 2010

Aaaagggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

275 years ago today, the first peal was rung at St Mary‑le‑Tower of Grandsire Triples so it had been planned for some time to repeat the feat on the back eight there. Over two hours in and with Mike Whitby marshalling it superbly and a good band making a good job of it (all I had to do was bong behind mind!) there was a chillingly familiar thud and silence from (you've guessed it!) the eleventh. That darn clapper (the wooden one) had gone again. This time the bolts had sheared meaning we should be able to put it back in for tomorrow's practice (fingers crossed we shan't have that long drawn-out debacle again!) and the huge amount of Christmas ringing coming up, but something is likely to be needed in the long run. So keep looking up that Superlative Royal Number Two!

It was part of a peal-ringing weekend that could've seen the Suffolk Guild's peal totals surpass last year's but in the end summed up our peal-ringing year in a nutshell and why we're not (unless anyone's got a peal week in our name lined up between now and the 31st!) going to reach 150 for the year as I'd hoped. In total there were five peals arranged around the county that I know of. I'd been asked to arrange one at Tunstall that coincided with the Pettistree effort yesterday but in the end fell short of a full band, and with rope breaks and clappers dropping out it meant three of those five were lost. The Aldeburgh band of course came up trumps with a peal of Athelstan Surprise Major and I'm yet to hear about one of Bristol Major arranged at Wilby. As with throughout a year of snow and bad luck it is at least encouraging to see so much being done on the peal front and it's not the first time that three or even four or five peals have been attempted on the same day for a Guild that just a few years ago couldn't even manage that in a month!

At least quarters were scored elsewhere and well done to Jenny Warren on calling her first of Grandsire Triples at Ufford and Lindy Ellis on ringing her first of spliced in the success at Southwold. Good stuff!

And either side of our loss this afternoon I didn't have a bad day, just about making it to SMLT to ring Little Bob Royal on a full compliment of clappers and welcoming Mr P back from his travels at Grundisburgh this morning.

Having returned from Ipswich, I was then chauffeured by Ruthie, along with Kate and Ron to St Audrey's Social Club, home of the good party for one to celebrate the 60th birthday of Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend. It was a superb occasion, brilliantly organised by Mr Roger even if the surprise element had been blown by the DJ! It was a sign of what affection not just her family but her ringing friends hold this popular ringer in with ringers from Pettistree, Rushmere, Ipswich, Ufford and beyond coming to celebrate with her.

Happy Birthday Mrs Roger and sorry we couldn't get a peal for you!

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Saturday 11th December 2010

Aaaagggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

We thought we had it in the bag. We essentially had it licked. After two or three years trying to ring a local band peal at Pettistree of Peter's Tree Surprise Minor we looked set to finally ring it today.

Nearly two hours of good, confident ringing had passed and we were nearly into the sixth extent of seven before suddenly, out of nowhere the third rope snapped and came crashing down around Ruthie who was holding on to it at the time. With Mary gamely ringing the second with no stay after it broke at the end of Wednesday's practice, it was tempting to joke that we only needed a clapper to drop out and slider to break and we'd have a full house, but it was a very, very frustrating outcome.

Still, these things happen and with a new date in Christmas week set up to go for it again we were able to enjoy a pint in The Greyhound and look back on a job well done up until the moment the rope broke.

Our drink was cut short though as we were called by Tim, the latest in a long line of workmen that we have got to know who work for our landlord as surprise, surprise, something else was broken in our house. This time it was a radiator that had blistered up and was leaking very badly. As he inspected it and with funny noises coming from the boiler, it became clear that even more unsurprisingly it was this troublesome bit of equipment that was the root of our problems. It looks like being another long winter...

Having picked up Mason we were therefore grateful for an invite to Kate's for some tea and for Mason to help put up another Christmas Tree. His rates are very reasonable! As we walked there and back we were also able to take in the mass of lights in Warwick Avenue, as usual well worth a look if you're in the area.

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Friday 10th December 2010

The format of the John Catt Christmas meal has gladly become familiar to me and today saw me attending the third one since I joined the company. As usual it was preceded by Jonathan giving a presentation in the office on how we've done this year and what we hope to achieve in the forthcoming one.

However, with this out of the way, the festivities could begin with a raffle made - I won a bag of sweets - and presents from the company handed out - you'll have to wait a couple of weeks to find out what that is - before we headed off for the meal. Unlike the last couple of years when we've gone to The Cherrytree in Woodbridge, this year we were off to The Froize in Chillesford.

As with previous occasions that I have been to this wonderful location, the food was great and drink lovely. As with previous John Catt meals it was plentiful and all paid for by the company, another generous gesture from our employers.

With my folks looking after Mason I joined a handful who returned to The Anchor in Woodbridge for another drink before I returned home to greet my son and his grandparents.

The boy and I had a lads night in as Ruthie was in Colchester performing in the end-of-term showcase at The Institute at the end of a long day that also saw her take her Grade Eight flute exam. She has good vibes about it, but she will have to wait to see how she's got on in the eyes of the examiners.

No need for examiners to confirm the achievements of Michelle Williams and Chris Plummer for their first of Treble-Bob Major and first of Lincolnshire respectively in the success at Halesworth and Alex Tatlow for calling his first of London and Norwich in the quarter at Tostock, all rung today. Well done to you all and Happy Birthday Carl!

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Thursday 9th December 2010

Whilst thousands of students protested against those MPs busy voting to ensure that poorer students will actually pay less for their education in the future (without getting too political, why has this fact been overlooked - or am I being cynical in thinking is it just an opportunity for some to shout lots and get off lectures?) and were trashing London and attacking members of the Royal Family, Ruthie was diligently working away over at Colchester Institute.

This evening she was in a bit later than usual for a Thursday as she and her colleagues rehearsed for tomorrow evening's end-of-term showcase - in fact a lot later than she had anticipated. She had asked if I could pick her up at seven, thinking that was a reasonable guesstimate of when she'd finish and I was duly on time. When am I not? Don't answer that.

Come eight and an apologetic Ruthie finally came out of rehearsal. I didn't mind though. Although I had to very reluctantly pass on the opportunity to ring a peal at Chediston, I'd rather not just leave her to the vagaries of an unpredictable public transport system on a cold and icy December night.

Besides, I was feeling in a festive mood, with Alex, Pete and I finishing our working day by adorning John Catt's offices with decorations from a tardis-like box accompanied by excited chatter about tomorrow's company Christmas meal, so I had cheerily passed the time reading a copy of something called Colchester Circle as I waited in the Institute's refectory.

Happy days, unless you're a policeman, Charles, Camilla or a wealthy student.

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Wednesday 8th December 2010

I dream (I really do, how sad!) of getting to Colchester and back of an evening to pick up Ruthie without my journey being delayed or stopped by roadworks and endless miles of cones protecting an often invisible/non-existent workforce.

One set of long-running roadworks that have been a particular headache for the last couple of months were due to finish at the end of November and so I was looking forward to a clear run tonight. Sure enough they were gone - to be replaced by even more!

It was frustrating as we were keen to get back as soon as possible to try out the cheesecake that had sat tantalisingly in our fridge overnight and all day! It was worth the wait though and if we do half as well at it again next week then the others are in for a treat! If we do say so ourselves!

Elaine's Birthday Quarter Peal BandWell done to Mrs Roger on ringing her first quarter of London this evening ahead of a typically lively and well attended practice at Pettistree. It was so cold that ideally we all wanted to cram into the belfry to keep warm but in the end there were just too many! However, a good couple of run-thru's of Peter's Tree bodes well for Saturday morning.


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Tuesday 7th December 2010

Next week we are making the dessert for a dinner party at Toby's. In a real team effort, Nick and Kala are making the starter, the host is doing the mains and Ruthie and I are responsible for the final course for which we decided to make cheesecake. The one flaw in that cunning plan was that we had never made cheesecake - until now.

Although we haven't eaten it yet - we obviously had to leave it in the fridge overnight - we had a little lick of the spoon and it looks, smells and tastes the real deal, so next week is looking hopeful!

We were able to tell Toby immediately all about it as we caught a swift pint with him before closing at The Red Lion and at the end of a day that had seen Ruthie and the Colchester Institute Chamber Choir perform magnificently at St Mary‑le‑Tower by all accounts.

Talking of SMLT, it is important to note that due to a double-booking with St Margaret's and the ringers once again being forgotten, The Evening Star Carol Service is to be held at Ipswich's civic church at the same time as the practice on Monday 20th December! It's an astounding oversight but compromise has been reached to ensure there is a practice on the last Monday night before the unpredictable and hit-and-miss Christmas and New Year period which will see the two practice nights that follow being held on a Bank Holiday. The compromise is that we ring from 6.30-7 for the service and then 8-9 afterwards, so if you are intending on coming to our practice that night please take it into account.

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Monday 6th December 2010

Happy St Nicholas Day!

Apparently there is to be a peal board commissioned for yesterday's effort at the church dedicated to today's feast day as it is the first peal there for over twenty years. Perhaps it'll be carved in stone! Hopefully though it'll be the start of more regular ringing there as a peal for St Nicholas Day, Carol Service ringing and Christmas ringing (all of which occurs in the space of a couple of weeks!) is not really enough to ensure that local residents realise there are bells there that are likely to get rung for prolonged periods of time.

Somewhere there shouldn't be any problem with the local residents realising there are bells that are likely to get rung for prolonged periods of time is Campsea Ashe where delivery of their new ring of six finally took place today. There was apparently - though I missed it - a superb piece on Look East this evening and something due to go into The East Anglian Daily Times today so look out for that (Yes, it's there: page 5. Ed). It is great news that their new bells will be ringing for Christmas, something that was far from assured after the despicable theft of their bells in September. Well done to all concerned there.

The reason I missed Look East was because I was on the way to Ipswich Railway Station to pick up Ruthie prior to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice which began much like last week's went but improved as people seemed to put some real concentration into their striking and rhythm, all topped off with our well-rung first attempts at Superlative Royal (of the number two variety). If you're planning on coming up SMLT soon, feel free to look it up. But don't worry, it's not an obligation!

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Sunday 5th December 2010

According to Google Maps it is exactly 4.8 miles from The Folly where I attempted my last peal and St Nicholas church in Ipswich the scene of my next attempt this afternoon. Not far. But the distance in how hard these two attempts were mentally (yesterday was so much harder) and physically (this afternoon was immensely harder) was far more than 4.8 miles or whatever the equivalent in mental and physical exertion is.

The church is now the St Nicholas Centre, 'a central location for conferences, meetings,, exhibitions and concerts' and deconsecrated as a place of worship some time ago, though it is still used for daily prayers when it is not being used for other purposes. It's been done up wonderfully, both in the church and the ringing chamber, but the bells are perceived as being quite rough among Suffolk ringers and when Jonathan came down from checking things upstairs reporting that the tenor headstock was quite loose I knew I was in for a tough afternoon.

And how! I don't mind admitting that about halfway through I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but I summoned something from somewhere and helped by the band ringing around me we can be quite proud of our performance on bells that lived up to their reputation.

As I mentioned earlier in the year, I think it is important to not only peal but regularly ring the bells in Ipswich's dockside churches as new developments bring in people who will no doubt be quite unaware that there are bells in these fine buildings. To be honest, though loud outside I can't imagine how intrusive the bells could've been to local residents with all the hustle and bustle in this part of town, with cars, buses, lorries, shoppers and sirens all passing by our window on the world on a constant basis throughout our efforts.

The marathon of this afternoon was in contrast to the relaxed nature of my morning and lunchtime, with good ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower - most notably a superlative course of Superlative Major on the front eight - and St Lawrence and a sizable crowd at Grundisburgh even in Stephen's absence which also saw Erin producing the best ringing many of us had seen from her so far.

By this point Mason had joyfully gone with his grandparents to allow me to undertake this afternoon's activities, so I explored the annual Woodbridge Christmas Fair on my own. It was the usual display of tat, but that is part of it's charm as thousands of people came out to support the various charitable causes and small local businesses selling their wares the length of The Thoroughfare and beyond. There was a wonderful array of sights, sounds and smells, but it also meant it was very busy for Ruthie in Boots!

A visit from Clare and a quick bit of lunch with my beloved set me up for the Guild's 125th peal of 2010 before I collected the li'l chap, enjoyed the vegetable bake expertly made by Miss Eagle, put said child to bed and then dashed off to Hollesley.

This was surely proof there is no rest for the wicked as with blistered fingers, aching limbs and a tired mind I found myself on the 7th for a quarter attempt of 10-spliced Surprise Major, again consisting of the standard-eight plus Glasgow and Belfast. Even with an audience of Ron, Pippa and Sarah it sadly came to grief with too many people going wrong and more homework obviously in need of being done.

Most went on to The Swan at Alderton for a curry, but I decided it was time for home and resting all that ached.

Thankfully others elsewhere were getting quarters with five scored across the county, most notably the band who were quartered Rumburgh as they rung their first blows of Chester with David Webb ringing his 100th quarter this year, Michelle Clutten who was ringing her first of Surfleet and Lesley Wilson who was calling her first in the methods in the success at Chediston and Danny Willis who rang his first on eight in the Grandsire Triples at Ixworth in Robert Beavis' absence. Well done to all, though I imagine Robert would've rather have been at Ixworth...

Don't forget, if you're in Ipswich on Tuesday lunchtime, Ruthie and her chums from the Colchester Institute Chamber Choir shall be performing at SMLT!

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Saturday 4th December 2010

The FollyA day of ups and downs began at The Folly following a drop-off of Mason at his Nanna and Grandads. They were generously looking after the li'l chap whilst Ruthie (yes, Ruthie!) and I headed to Claydon for the next attempt of the 27 Surprise Minor after a lengthy break.

The choice of location was partly its more central placement and proximity to the A14 with weather conditions improving but still not ideal. But mainly it was an attempt to recreate the circumstances of our last success back in April.

And it almost worked but for a mix-up just before a call and change of method that was of my own making and saw me miss both! It was very, very frustrating as we were pretty much exactly half-way through, but the good ringing that preceeded it - bar a handful of false starts due to method mistakes and handling malfunctions - convinced us that the more relaxed and flexible surroundings of Gordon and Janet's back garden are perhaps the best for our next attempts before 2010 is seen out.

It was lovely to go for a peal with my fiancée and after a cup of tea and some biscuits in the house it was nice to be travelling around with her as we picked up Mason again and headed for Kate's house to watch the Ipswich match on Sky TV.

After the good result during the week and signs that another corner had perhaps been turned, I was keen to actually see this one and so it was typical that my attempts to find some slippers for Kev - as Ruthie sat in the car with a sleeping three-year old - were far more protracted than I had expected and meant we missed kick-off. It seems men in Woodbridge don't where slippers.

However, come full-time and another heavy defeat - this time to Swansea at Portman Road - I was wishing I was still in the queue at Fat Face. Yes we were denied a blatant penalty that if given and scored would've brought the score to 2-2, but it would've disguised that again we were outplayed and in the end it distracted from the fact that once more we were not only beaten, but well beaten.

Still, to lift us from this familiar low we had a birthday to celebrate and the reason I had been hunting our town of residence for Kev's slippers. We spent a good and enjoyable time at their home in Felixstowe where we enjoyed chocolate cake and Mason helped Clare put th decorations on their tree whilst Sasha and Milo excitedly jumped around.

It was an upbeat occasion and one of those happy coincidences as this afternoon's South-East ADM was also in Felixstowe and we were able to catch the final touch and then the service and tea before a disappointing meeting. Not because of numbers as impressively about fifty made it, even if the conditions had improved dramatically since that slow journey into Ipswich a couple of days ago.

Unfortunately the meeting seemed laboured on this occasion, but the most disappointing thing was the lack of volunteers for positions, from deanery reps to the secretary. As the Guild Chairman Philip pointed out, it is shameful that the district with by far and away the biggest membership is unable to fill its roles adequately.

Next year it is likely to come to a head with Kate stepping down as Ringing Master, Peter keen to relinquish the Chairman's role and a real need for a proper secretary and so members in this corner of Suffolk really urgently need to get their thinking caps on, take a look at themselves and consider whether they or someone in their tower could do more. In this day and age of emails, websites and Facebook these roles aren't nearly as demanding as they once were, but they need properly filling. Before anyone points out that perhaps I could take a role up I'm preparing to take a bit of a break from such responsibilities once my five years service as Guild Ringing Master is up. Besides, it shouldn't come down to just the same stretched few every time.

Still, it was another wonderful social occasion, a great tea and many more new members were elected in the rooms attached to the church. Future officers perhaps?

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Friday 3rd December 2010

No extra snow today and the roads were clear compared to yesterday, but still a lot of schools were closed - meaning parents who are nurses, doctors, fireman, police officers, etc couldn't get to work so well done them - and we at John Catt were sent home at 3pm again.

Christmas TreeHowever, it was of course nice to spend the extra time with Ruthie and Mason who was brought to us today. It offered the opportunity for us to put the Christmas Tree and decorations up with the help of the li'l man. He had a fantastic time, as did we and with him cracking into his advent calendars we were well into the festive spirit by his bedtime! We had to rein him a little though and remind him that Santa wasn't just about to come down the chimney!

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Thursday 2nd December 2010

It was a triumph for determination over throwing in the towel. The snow was heavy I'll give you that much and the roads weren't great. But although it took us a little longer than usual we got to St Mary‑le‑Tower for ringing at their Christmas Tree Festival. No dramas. No near misses. No sliding about. No abandoned cars. No need to get the sleeping bag out and not even any sign of my dear old car packing up, at least today!

We - and everyone else around us - just took things a lot slower and took the A12 and Kesgrave route into Ipswich rather than the lanes around Tuddenham that we normally navigate. Rather than just give in we used our common sense once we got out there on the road and having given ourselves extra time to make the journey we even had the opportunity to do some Christmas present hunting as it was late-night shopping.

And as if to further show-up the surrendering nature that our nation seems to have whenever a little bit of snow falls, we weren't the only ones who made it in from far away. David made it from Stowmarket, Owen came in from Witnesham and Stephen even crossed over from Essex where apparently the conditions were even worse! We were rewarded with some pretty decent ringing on the front eight and some wonderful Christmas trees, especially the ringers' one at the bottom of the tower!

We made it back with even less trouble to enjoy a few pints and a mass game of 'Killer' on the pool table in The Red Lion with Toby, further making me wonder why schools were closing or indeed why we had to close work early this afternoon, though the journeys back to Sudbourne and Peasenhall that some had to make would no doubt have been slightly more difficult than ours into Ipswich later.

However, by all accounts this is the peak - or trough depending how you look at it - for now and by the weekend and the South-East District ADM at the end of the A14 in Felixstowe it is supposed to be warmer and less 'treacherous'.

The early finish at work did at least allow me to get home to watch the much anticipated - amongst us football fans anyway - announcement of where the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would be held, with England bidding for the former. It was all a bit of an anti-climax though as before the announcement was even made it was more or less confirmed that we'd lost out with Russia and Qatar winning the rights to hold football's biggest tournament in eight and twelve years respectively. It's a shame as I would've loved to have gone along to a World Cup match on English soil, even more so as Mason would be eleven by then and at the perfect age for him to come along and appreciate what was happening.

Never mind, back to trying to get about...

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Wednesday 1st December 2010

I found myself muttering 'it's a funny old game' in happy disbelief several times tonight. Just three days after one of my lowest points as an Ipswich Town fan, I was taking in one of the highest.

The Tractor Boys 1-0 win over Premier League West Brom means they have reached the semi-final of the Carling Cup for only the fourth time ever. Straight afterwards the draw was made for the last four and we drew the hardest team left, Arsenal. It will be a two-legged affair and so we get the best of both worlds with this one. Even though they are likely to field a weakened side, the Champions League club will still bring well known names like Theo Walcott and their manager Arsene Wenger to tread Suffolk soil in the second week of the New Year and then two weeks later we get to go to The Emirates, one of the biggest and best football stadiums in the world.

Of course it's likely that we'll get beaten, but then I - and many other Town fans on a freezing cold and expensive evening judging by the paltry 11,000 attendance at Portman Road Road this evening - thought that of tonight and was again glad that I had refuge somewhere away from what I thought was going to be another humiliation.

I wasn't far away mind as I headed to The Wolery in the shadow of the stadium's dazzling floodlights for what was supposed to be our final spliced Surprise Minor peal of the year at Rectory Road. However, with the snow quite a bit worse in Essex, Mick had been unable to make it up.

It was perhaps ironic after my rant yesterday about people succumbing to the snow, but even I have to accept that if it's not possible and it is very dangerous to come out then you shouldn't, at least not just for ringing. My main bugbear is that people use it as an excuse to cry off things, whether it is work, school or ringing events, when it actually isn't that bad.

Mick's absence meant an opportunity for young George to knock behind to a brisk and decent peal of Doubles and he did very well, despite my phone going off! It was very much a fleece and hat job though!

A cup of tea, some chocolate roll and a couple of biscuits consumed and the first date of 2011 sorted out and I decided to make sure I was away before the 'crowds' left the football, getting back for a celebratory Ruth-made cup-cake at home.

It all came at the end of one of my favourite dates of the year. No decorations up yet as we'll wait for Mason to help us with that, but at least this year we have Advent calendars from the start!

Well done to Mike Whitby on ringing his 1300th quarter in the 1296 of Cambridge Minor prior to practice at Pettistree. However, please bear the NDA Ringing Master Dawn Pullan and her family in your thoughts and prayers at a very difficult time.

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Tuesday 30th November 2010

With snow delaying the key-holders at John Catt, an overnight power-cut knocking out our telephones and computers and an hour-and-a-half meeting on one of our publications, this morning never really got going.

hat was in contrast to our evening as Ruthie had been at her sister's in Felixstowe killing people on the new Call of Duty game. Somewhere along the line it became a good idea for me to pick her up and drop into Tesco on the way back, but it did at least confirm that despite the 'dreadful' conditions that stop some people in their tracks, the A12, A14 and roads into the port town were clear and perfectly drivable.

Hopefully this will help put the minds at rest of people who might have been considering not going to this Saturday's South-East ADM at the lovely little eight here because of the snow. There's no doubting caution needs to be exercised but I'm hoping that people won't fall to the spineless behaviour that seems to have gripped this country every time a flake of snow drops from the sky and that members come and support the local ringers who are preparing to welcome us. We are lucky in the SE District to have the best transport network of all the districts in Suffolk which are capable of coping with such conditions.

And having worked in Felixstowe for two years on and off, through good and bad weather, I also know that Felixstowe won't just be cut-off if the docks are closed and Operation Stack is put in place. The authorities have always been good at making sure everybody can carry on getting about, so hopefully that'll put your minds at rest too!

There were no transport issues at all for us tonight as having been shopping and had our tea, we joined Toby for an impromptu mini-pub-crawl round Woodbridge, starting in The Bell and Steelyard, taking in The Mariners and finishing at The Red Lion.

As we enter into December, it is interesting to note that the peal at Great Finborough today has taken the Guild's peal totals up to 123. Whilst it might be a bit much to expect 27 peals in the next month to reach the 150 goal we were once on target for, it leaves only nine more to continue the upward trend in the Guild's peal totals and take us past last years' 131.

Of course it's not just peals that our Guild is benefiting from. The output from quarters this year has been phenomenal and one of those leading the way has been David Steed. So I think he deserves a bit of the glory for calling his first quarter in the Doubles at Buxhall! Well done David!

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Monday 29th November 2010

So it's arrived. After days of listening to the over-egged stories of how heavy snowfall was bringing other parts of the country to a standstill, it fell and settled for the first time this winter in Woodbridge overnight.

To be fair, whilst it excited Mason - and Ruthie - immensely, it did make the normally simple trip to Kara's to drop off the li'l chap a lot more difficult, especially as it involves going up a hill and the roads around her way were untouched by salt.

But apart from that little bit of excitement it all seemed much ado about nothing again. All the main roads - and a few of the not so main roads had been gritted and so life went on with a trip into town livened up by bumping into a bearded Moog, something that sounds like a monster in a children's book but isn't as scary as it sounds kids.

And although the conditions had put some off attending St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening, we still had Mandy and Craig over from Bury and Stephen from Essex as we actually set about proving the old adage that less is more. With fewer numbers we produced some very good ringing, including a very good half-course of Cambridge and Yorkshire Royal spliced to finish before we nipped over to The Cricketers for a pint.

David, Stephen and I even had time to help Charles the vicar raise the church's main (huge!) Christmas tree. Apart from being in anticipation for Christmas itself, this was in preparation for their Christmas Tree Festival which will be running from the 2nd-7th December and will be formally closed by Ruthie and her friends from the Colchester Institute Chamber Choir from 1.10-1.55pm next Tuesday, so do please go along and support them if you can!

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Sunday 28th November 2010

Today was a day I have been dreading for some time. Having seemingly seen the last of Naaaaridge City for some time as they were relegated as an absolute shambles less than eighteen months ago, it was the return of the real East Anglian Derby today. The Budgies had hardly been pulling up any trees lately but frankly we've been a disaster in recent weeks, getting thrashed by any amount of average teams that could be thrown at us, few of them believing their luck.

Grant Holt our neighbour's star striker had originally been banned for this game after a sending off in a recent game. It was rightly rescinded as it was a bad decision by the ref of that particular game, but from that moment on I knew that the decision would haunt us.

Sure enough, Holt scored three of Naaaaridge's four goals and apart from a brief spell between when we equalised and they scored their second things went almost exactly how I had feared, though we weren't helped by an early sending off.

Back in June when the fixtures were announced as we enjoyed the World Cup in barmy sunshine (remember that?), I had been disappointed that the game was scheduled for the same day as the annual band festival that Ruthie competes in, hosted by Colchester Institute, knowing my chances of catching the game at Carrow Road on the TV were limited.

The closer we got however, I actually decided I had no desire to suffer watching any of the match. I didn't want to know what was going on and was jolly grateful for the distraction of Ruthie's fine efforts.

Sadly I couldn't manage it, not helped by the game springing up on a hidden TV screen at The Rover's Tye where Kate, Ruthie and I were eating dinner. From then on I found myself following it on Radio Suffolk as we travelled back to the Institute via a little retail therapy until I just left it to my poor brother who watched the whole debacle unfold to send me updates.

Thankfully, Ruthie and her colleagues did a whole lot better than my other great 'love', winning Platinum (the highest level!) and putting themselves in the frame for some national competitions. Well done Ruthie and her mates! Thank you too to Mum and Dad who looked after Mason for the day.

Well done too to Jonathan Stevens on ringing his first of eight-spliced in the quarter at Ufford and to Stephen Cheek on ringing his first of Surprise Royal and David Potts on calling his first of Surprise Royal, both in the 1282 of Cambridge at St Mary‑le‑Tower.

At least some people did themselves proud today...

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Saturday 27th November 2010

I've said before that going to the South-West District feels a little like going to a different guild or association. That's not meant in a bad way, but rather that whilst there are huge numbers of learners across Suffolk at the beginning of their ringing odyssey, the SW seems to have more than any other district which gives it a different dimension. It probably explains why we don't see as many members from that corner of the world at Guild events as perhaps they don't feel confident enough to partake in the striking competitions for example.

There are many reasons why they shouldn't feel that way of course, but my main point is that perhaps more of us should be coming along to SW events to help those who are doing a superb job at guiding the many improvers of their membership.

Quite apart from anything else, I really enjoy my visits to this beautiful part of the county and the people I see, especially as the South-West nearly always have the best attendances that I come across. Although their numbers were strangely down today at their ADM in Bures - no snow in South Suffolk - today, Mason, Ruthie and I weren't to be disappointed as we caught up with people like the Knights, Rolie, Sue, Richard, etc as well as Philip Erith.

Philip was responsible for teaching Mr Pettman to ring and it was on Stephen's legendary and notorious trip to Italy in 2005 that I got to know Philip as he and the much-missed Bernard Fairhead shared the back of a coach with my brother and me for a week.

His presence from Essex at this church which straddles the River Stour that marks the border between our two counties and literally cuts this village in half highlights another different aspect of this district, its very strong affiliation with the Essex Association. Indeed, this anti-clockwise ring of eight which will test teams in The Rose Trophy on 21st May alternates its practice with nearby Wormingford over the border. Nothing wrong with that, in fact I quite like it and even enjoyed the notion of parking in Essex and walking to a Suffolk Guild meeting!

After ringing, the service and a lovely tea in the church, the meeting itself was productive and brief, highlighting the wonderful work of the officers, especially John Smith who has initiated much that is good about this district. The monthly Triples from Scratch practices at Sudbury St Gregory are a brilliant innovation that is apparently doing much to bring the South-West's fledgling membership on. Not content with that, he has now begun ten-bell practices across town at Sudbury St Peter which I hope experienced ringers from the county will help with as much as they can.

There is a good top-table in this area too and whilst Derek Rose took over the Ringing Master's duties, John will still be very much involved as his deputy which is good to see. And whilst much gratitude needs to be passed onto Sue Freeman as she stepped down from doing a fantastic job as district secretary, it was the retirement from treasurer of Rolie Whiting which was perhaps the most notable aspect of today's proceedings as it brought to an end thirty years of service at the SW's top-table for a true legend of the Guild. As Christine quite rightly said, he is 'Mr South-West'.

Evening ringing followed, but we decided to get the li'l chap home at the end of a day that started with a very welcome visit from his Godmother Kala. She's had a tough birthday week, but was her usual cheery and bright self and our living room rocked to the sound of much laughter. She's very much a Suffolk-lass on a day when we dallied with the border!

It was good to see the first peal at Bardwell since the restoration and augmentation there and well done to Ruth Suggett on ringing her first of Double Norwich. It was also her son's first as conductor in the method. Happy Birthday for yesterday Louis!

Well done too to Kate Herd who rang her first of St Clement's Minor in the quarter at Cavendish and to David Howe who rang his most methods as conductor in the success at Haverhill.

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Friday 26th November 2010

After just two months short of thirteen years at John Catt, that was it. Michael - after an emotional send-off just before lunchtime - was finished, having conscientiously worked his month's notice. It is a shame to see him leave but life is full of changes, many for the better and he'll be just fine.

Either end of the day I transported Mason to his grandparents and back as he continues to lurch from understandably grumpy to joyfully happy.

Well done to David Howe who rang his first quarter of Double Court Bob Minor in the 1260 at Tostock. Keep it up David!

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Thursday 25th November 2010

After the last winter I vowed that I never wanted to see snow again in my life. Time and subsequent warmer seasons have since mellowed my viewpoint a little, but I can admit to feeling a pang of dread as the first light flurry of the winter arrived in Woodbridge this afternoon. If previous snowfalls are anything to go by, no matter how bad it actually is or isn't it we'll soon see schools closing in panic, football games getting postponed and ringers choosing to stay at home because the media are warning us how 'treacherous' it is out there.

I hope not, as in our job and with the Christmas holidays starting shortly anyway, we can ill-afford contacts hiding away in their homes instead of making decisions (indeed one school had to cancel a meeting this morning because of snow - I wonder what they'll do when it gets really bad?), weekends without football can be quite dull (though with the form ITFC are in at the moment a postponement of this Sunday's potentially disastrous East Anglian Derby would be no bad thing!) and we need a steady number of peals in the next few weeks to ensure the Guild beats last year's total.

It is also the South-West ADM this Saturday out at Bures so I'm hoping people will put the conditions into perspective and support this important event rather than worry because the roads aren't perfect! Just be more careful. I know, I know, pot, kettle, black and all that.

The snow - what little there actually was of it - wasn't the reason for stopping in this evening rather than a now unusual Thursday night with Mason and then a visit from Kate. So for this week no Grundisburgh for us. However, the next two Thursdays, Stephen will be away so any help would be greatly appreciated on practice night!

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Wednesday 24th November 2010

Apparently there are over 500,000 words in the English language, but the average speaker of our mother tongue only uses 2,000-3,000. I discovered this from a poster on a wall in the familiar Bergholt Ward at Ipswich Hospital on a long afternoon for which many of those half-a-million words could be used to describe. Boring, tiring, frustrating, bizarre, surreal, exasperating, etc, etc.

I was at the hospital with Mason of course - it is a Wednesday after all - for the removal of his stitches and replacing of his cast. Thankfully it is his last appointment here - all being well - for eight weeks, though the news that he will be in plaster for another ten weeks came as a bit of a shock. Generally, when he wasn't being poked and prodded for tests (he now knows exactly what's coming and he doesn't like it) and drugged up he took everything in his stride, now used to zonking out on the bed watching TV.

Everything had gone to plan, Kara had left to pick her up daughter Brooke and all that was left for me to do was to take Mason back to his mother's once the hospital had crossed the 't's and dotted the 'i's.

"You'll be able to leave at 2.30," they informed me, which with a 5.30 meet at St Mary‑le‑Tower for a peal was good news. "We just need him to have a wee before we can release him."

It seemed a reasonable and not an insurmountable request. But do you think we could get the boy to do his biz? 2.30 came and still nothing, not helped by his strange refusal to drink anything considering he'd been allowed no liquids since the previous evening prior to being put under this morning. Three o'clock came and went. We tried iced-pops, juice, tea, water and blackmail. His mother - waiting expectantly for him - called to try to persuade him. I even got him out of bed and playing table-football to jiggle things around as it were. Eventually (as I was considering having to pull out of this evening's peal with one of the strangest excuses ever), with a potty and a nurse's promise of a present he relieved himself (and us!) at just past 4.15.

Everything dealt with, there was then a bit of a dash to take him back to Woodbridge and then for me to get into Ipswich town centre at rush-hour and parked up for the peal which - despite being painfully slow at points - went very well considering how difficult evening peals can be. Well done David as he continues into the world of peal-conducting.

We agreed it was a nice idea to welcome into the world Heidi Isobel Phoebe, daughter of Philip Saddleton and Anthea Edwards who Ruthie and I were delighted to attend the wedding of last year. Congratulations to them both! Welcome to the joyous but occasionally boring, tiring, frustrating, bizarre, surreal and exasperating world of parenthood!

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Tuesday 23rd November 2010

I can't say I've ever got into the Harry Potter thing. In fact I've not read a single word of the 237 books that have been published and until this evening I haven't watched any of the film adaptations apart from a few minutes here and there when it has been on in the background, usually on Christmas Day or some similar occasion.

But tonight, Ruthie excitedly took me down to The Riverside just round the corner from ours to watch the latest instalment of this mammoth tale, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

Despite the fact that I didn't really know what was going on or what muggles and horcruxes were, I was pleasantly surprised by the film in what I still think is my favourite cinema. It's wonderfully old-fashioned and quaint, enhanced by the sound of a passing train competing with the on-screen adventures.

Afterwards we met Toby for a drink in The Mariners as he today split up with Tori. Although sad, it was his decision and he seems to be taking it as the positive it can be and is keen to let the ladies of Suffolk know he is footloose and fancy-free. So one Essex-boy in his late twenties free to a good home girls!

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Monday 22nd November 2010

A couple of things that have come to my attention since my last postings to mention before I ramble on again.

They both relate to Saturday and tie in nicely with the general themes of a wonderful day. I didn't realise that later on in Mark Murphy's show from Philip's interview (about 29 minutes in), Jed Flatters and Abby Antrobus were interviewed by the presenter in The Norman Tower (about 1hr49mins in), highlighting the tower tours that were running then and this Saturday (27th), as well as the augmentation project. It was good stuff.

Meanwhile, it has been quite rightly pointed out that my blog put forward the impression that Pettistree Pirates came second in the quiz. This wasn't the case! Such was our disastrous last round that in fact we finished in fifth and it was the Woolpack Wonders from Debenham who came second, just half a point (compared to our five points) behind the victors from the South-West. Well done guys!

It was a tough practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening, with the striking and concentration lacking in equal abundance and I certainly knew how David would have been feeling! Whilst it would be easy to blame this on a slightly lower attendance than in recent weeks, we still had eighteen, most of whom were present for the now established 7.15 start and it was from a selection of these ringers who had struggled with Grandsire and Little Bob all evening that we plucked a half-decent six leads of Cambridge Max out of the air to finish, showing what could've been achieved if everyone had focused on what they were there for. Hopefully next week will be better - all people need to do is concentrate and listen! That goes for everywhere...

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Sunday 21st November 2010

Relieved to have got all that organisation for St Edmund's Day out of the way, my thoughts now fully turn to the 2011 Guild Peal Week, the last one I shall be organising so I want it to be a big 'un! I've had some interest shown, but I need more!

I allowed myself a little relaxation today though as Mason and I meandered along to Woodbridge for service, allowing time for me to go wrong in a touch of Grandsire Doubles on the front six before the familiar words of 'Daddy, I need a wee-wee' curtailed my 'help'.

After lunch with Ruthie we decided to visit the li'l chap's Godfather Toby who was still a little hungover from Kala's party last night (unfortunately clashing with the Guild Social meaning we couldn't go) but was nonetheless happy to see his Godson.

Having handed Mason back to his mother and with Ruthie just back from work, we gratefully wandered around to M.G.Whitby & Company as Mike was kindly giving us a lift first to St Mary‑le‑Tower for a quarter of Grandsire Caters (which David did very well calling, despite an interesting finish!) and then to The Greyhound at Pettistree for the 25th Pettistree Ringers AGM.

Normally this is very generously hosted by Peter and Susan Schurr, but with Susan having not been in the best of health in recent months the local pub were happy to accommodate us. However, we were delighted that Susan was able to join us for this most informal of occasions, looking well and chomping at the bit to come back to a hobby she so enjoys.

Because of its timing this is the first time when I really start looking back over a year and 2010 has been another good one for the Pettistree ringers, ably led by Mary and Mike whose efforts we are all very grateful for. To my mind Pettistree is how a tower should be run, with varied practices, regular quarters (doesn't always have to be two a week!), encouraging and welcoming visitors of all abilities, good organisation, lots of outings and other social events, lots of participation in Guild and district events and most importantly of all done with a big smile!

The Greyhound put out a marvellous spread which hastened the end of the meeting (perhaps a ploy that could be used at the Guild AGM?) and we spent the next hour or so, eating, drinking and chatting the night away before Chris and Mary kindly went out of their way to give us a lift home.

For those who have been over to Lundy Island, you may be interested to note that the 100th peal for the Lundy Island Society was rung today (with a familiar name in the band!) which we contributed to with our peal for the Society back in 2007. Not sure I'd fancy being over there in late November though...

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Saturday 20th November 2010

Happy St Edmund's Day!

And what a happy one, with months of planning coming to fruition all on the same day.

Mine started with a trip to Mum and Dad's to drop off Mason whilst I called the South-East St Edmund's Day peal at Sproughton, a decent effort despite a short false-start. With Mum coming over to the village for a craft fair, it made sense for me to wait for her to bring the li'l chap to me, though I was grateful to the Eareys for making me a cup of tea as I waited.

Whilst I was also grateful to their son Matthew entertaining Mason with his Scalextric, time was marching on, making for a tearful exit until Ralphy let the li'l chap close his garage door on him. He was chuckling about that for some time...

The reason for the tight timing was the much anticipated Guild Social, this year hosted by the North-East District. Having had a spot of lunch back in Woodbridge and collected Ruthie, we were at Bungay where I was charged with running ringing. With Barsham open half an hour before ringing here was due to finish it was perhaps predictable that there would be a mass exodus half-way through. Or was it the arrival of our Chairman and star of the radio Philip Gorrod?

Either way it seemed a good point to get the bells down, especially as I was needed at Beccles to run the ringing on this fine ten. There was no mass exodus here as we rang much from call-changes to a good plain course of Bob Royal, but it was soon time to move on again on this busy day.

Some were running onto Ringsfield to ring there, but we had promised Mason we were heading straight to the 'party' and so we made our way to the village hall, making it eventually after a detour past the church which housed the four that offered the last ringing of the day for most.

I'm glad we did, because it was a superb event and I'm glad to say a large crowd made it too. Us three made up one of Pettistree's two teams for the main event, the quiz, with Kate, Hazel, Daphne and Rob, calling ourselves the Pettistree Pirates and almost winning the whole thing! Ultimately we were tripped up by the final 'Words' round, but we had a whale of a time and congratulations to the South-West mob on the victory which must have made their long journey worthwhile!

In truth it was a worthwhile journey for us all, with an abundance of tasty, tasty food and a bar that was enthusiastically drunk dry. Very well done and massive thanks to Julie Rapior and her North-East team (I think Trevor has found his vocation in handing out cheese!) on a brilliant afternoon and evening. I believe it is the North-West's turn next year and I for one can't wait to see what they do to trump the two marvellous events that the North-East and South-West have put together thus far.

On the St Edmund's Day front there were some losses at Barrow and Southwold, though the latter did get a quarter. However, the publicity that the Guild received again from this event was phenomenal, with that feature on Radio Suffolk's site, a brilliant interview with Philip Gorrod this morning (thanks Philip!) (Start listening at 0:29) and my brief appearance on Mark's show recently. And apart from our effort at Sproughton, the band at Edwardstone and those at Saxmundham succeeded in their peals, as did the Cumberlands at Fressingfield. Thank you to everyone who took part, especially our conductors Alan Mayle, Maurice Rose, Jonathan Stevens, Philip Moyse and Stephen Pettman. Well done too to Brian and Philip on getting eight-bell bands together on a day when ringers were truly stretched!

I may not be Ringing Master when 20th November 2011 comes round, but I truly hope we can continue the fantastic profile this gives our Guild every year. Book the date in your diaries now!

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Friday 19th November 2010

It was ever so quiet at work on this chilly Friday as just seven of us occupied the whole building today, with people at conferences, schools and on days-off, but either side of my time at John Catt today things were a little livelier as I picked up Mason, dropped him off at Mum and Dad's and then picked him up again.

The evening was dominated by Children in Need, which in terms of entertainment is some of the most dire TV put out (which is saying something!) but it's cause reminded me that despite the li'l chap's traumas of the last couple of weeks, he and we are very fortunate. Still, I spent a lot of the evening wishing Kate hadn't taken back her Sky box!

Congratulations to John Taylor on ringing his 25th quarter-peal in the Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham this evening. Here's to the next twenty-five!

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Thursday 18th November 2010

It promises to be a busy but exciting day on Saturday!

Touch wood and God-willing, as I write bands are still intact and towers ready for the four peals I have arranged for St Edmund's Day at Barrow in the North-West, Edwardstone in the South-West, Saxmundham in the North-East and Sproughton in the South-East, whilst Philip Moyse has done superbly to get a band together for a peal attempt at Southwold for the occasion and Brian Whiting has done equally well to gather eight Cumberlands at Fressingfield for their society peal weekend.

Radio Suffolk - who initiated our involvement two years ago - are quite rightly making a big celebration of it all on the day. There is a feature on their website with us being the lead act and Mark Murphy's Saturday morning show will be broadcasting from Bury St Edmunds which will feature an interview with our esteemed Chairman Philip Gorrod.

I think it is therefore very appropriate that The Norman Tower is doing the first of two days of tours of the tower on Saturday (9.30am-12.30pm and then 1.30pm-4.30pm) to raise money for their Bells Augmentation Appeal. It is a worthy cause so if you can do support it and you're not peal-ringing or at the Guild Social. However, if you are busy there is a chance to visit next Saturday.

With me down to run ringing at Bungay from 3.30 and me calling the peal at Sproughton, there won't be a chance for me to visit BSE this weekend with Saturday promising to be very hectic with ringing if all goes to plan.

It will be a complete contrast to today as I was unable to make Grundisburgh practice as we had been invited round to Toby and Tori's for an evening of films and Guinness, a thoroughly pleasant occasion.

Not everyone today was ringing-free though, I'm glad to say and well done to June Mackay on ringing her first on five in the quarter at Tostock.

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Wednesday 17th November 2010

Leg two - as it were - of the process of fixing Mason's foot occurred today as the poor li'l chap returned to hospital and being put under to have his cast changed. The result was good though as he came out with a smaller cast less unwieldy and uncomfortable which enabled him to have his best un-drugged sleep since the operation this afternoon.

When I popped round to Kara's to see him after work he was more like his old self, bouncing around as his little sister dodged the lightweight but still very hard cast on her big brothers left leg!

More good news recently came in the shape of an email from Tim Holmes announcing that Campsea Ashe bells will be back on the 6th December and therefore in their new home for Christmas, a lovely present for all those who have worked so hard on this project after the disappointment and despair of what happened a couple of months ago.

I'm sure it'll be reported in our superb Guild magazine Awl a'huld too, which this week is being distributed across the county it represents so well. Remember, it's not just for ringers, so before you throw your arms up in despair about having too many copies, make sure you have given one to your incumbent and left at least one in the church. And if there's anywhere else you can think to distribute it to - doctors surgeries, dentists, tourist information - then please do. This is as much about getting what we do out to the non-ringing public as it is for giving us something to read whilst sat out at the practice night.

Anyway, another brilliant effort from Sue, Alan and Richard, thanks guys.

After an absence from the last couple of practices for various reasons I was very happy to return to Pettistree practice this evening. Again it was lively, made even more so by the presence of both Jude and Max and their respective owners. Much was rung, though it seemed to be one of those nights where little went right! Still, you get them occasionally anywhere.

There was no time for a visit to The Greyhound, somewhere I haven't been to for even longer as I was off to Colchester for the usual Ruthie pick-up, which (as Mr Tesco had generously supplied us with beer vouchers - yes, real beer vouchers!) required a stop-off at our 'favourite' supermarket.

Some of those bottles will be put towards our Christmas beer collection, but the 25th December still seems - and indeed is - a long way off. Not for everyone though, as on my earlier visit to see Mason, I noticed that one of Kara's neighbouring houses is already lit up with bright decorations. What's that saying? It gets earlier every year...

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Tuesday 16th November 2010

An early morning walk for Jude again saw me exposed to freezing temperatures on another beautiful, crisp, sunny day. The river was just as beautiful as it is on a summer's day or snow-laden winter's one, even with a fair bit of mist laying around.

Apart from sharing Tesco with an annoying screaming child - though I felt some sympathy, knowing that one day that could be Mason - and popping round to neighbour Bob to help him with his online poker game, we spent our traditional Tuesday night in wondering where the media coverage was when we got engaged!

Meanwhile, have you got your tickets for Saturday's Guild Social? I hope so. Remember, there's no meeting and no need to ring if you really don't want to. Just good, old fashioned fun in a relaxed atmosphere.

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Monday 15th November 2010

Although beautiful and sunny, it was the coldest day for some months and I got the full brunt of it today. From suddenly realising that I'd left my car in front of Jewson's gates five minutes before they were due to open and then discovering it was caked in ice before I could move it and return a brave Mason back to his mother's to walking Jude the dog as Ron and Kate headed down to Wimbledon with Max for Paul Hamling's licensing, I spent more time outside then I would normally care for in temperatures as low as these.

To be fair, walking Jude either side of St Mary‑le‑Tower practice was still calming in what promises to be a busy and nerve-wracking week as I sent out confirmation of the peals for St Edmund's Day to those ringing and hosting. I'm hoping that I don't get any 'oh, I can't make it now...'

And practice was again lively with another twenty-plus attendance. It has been good to see Mandy and Craig become regulars at Suffolk's biggest twelve and they have visibly increased in confidence over the last few weeks. Long may it continue.

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Sunday 14th November 2010

Today's society of quick-fixes and rushing around is far from perfect, but if it wasn't for those who sacrificed the opportunity to watch their children grow or get old with loved ones it would be a lot worse.

Therefore I am always glad to see people of all ages and backgrounds mark the moving moment when the clocks strike eleven on either the 11th November or on Remembrance Sunday. Mason and I were travelling between Grundisburgh and Woodbridge at that point today, but the impact was not lessened as we passed a lady standing silently on Burkitt Road in the middle of walking her dog and even Radio One paused for the silence that enveloped the country.

And having eventually got to the Market Hill outside St Mary the Virgin's for the outdoor service of remembrance, I was heartened to see a huge crowd standing in silence as the names of the hundreds lost in war from Woodbridge alone were read out.

It followed on from half-muffled ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower and St Lawrence and open ringing at Grundisburgh, as requested by Claire the incumbent as we did our bit to mark the many lives lost.

The afternoon was a quiet one as the li'l chap was doped up to numb the pain of his leg, sending him to sleep for a few hours, though Ruthie finished work early as Boots allow their staff extra time off to 'do shopping' and we were visited first by Clare and Kev and then by Bob from next door.

It was good to see the peal at Ixworth was successful, not least because I had to pull out of it as I didn't realise my babysitters would still be in Worcestershire! Well done to Robert, Alex, Ruth and Abby on their respective achievements.

As we head towards what will be a busy Saturday next week, I may still need an extra ringer for a St Edmund's Day peal from somewhere as a dropout in a Cumberland peal looks like having a knock-on effect on my efforts! And if you haven't already got a ticket for the Guild Social, why not?!

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Saturday 13th November 2010

Thomas Owen Woodhouse was tragically killed aged just fifty whilst serving in the Home Guard during the Second World War, run over by a car whilst he was on parade. However, because it was deemed that he had not been killed in action his name was not commemorated on the war memorial in Hagley where he lived and died. Until this year.

All very moving you may think, but what has this got to do with anything? Well Thomas was my mother's grandfather and therefore mine and Chris' great grandfather and of course Mason's great-great grandfather, which partly explained why we were all in the far north of Worcestershire today. For Thomas' name wasn't the only one added and with Heather the tower-captain of the light eight in the village's St John the Baptist church - in the grounds of Hagley Hall (a different Hagley Hall for Kate) - also being his granddaughter she thought it would be nice if a peal was rung to mark the event. Heather doesn't ring peals as of course Mum doesn't, but it was thought it would be appropriate for Chris and me to ring and so I was charged with finding a band to accompany us.

I've always wanted to ring a peal here, predominantly because of the family connections rather than the quality of the bells and with the long distances being covered I wanted to make sure I had a good band, so I selected a group that I knew would make a decent effort of it, hence Ruthie, Mason and I also brought Jonathan and Tom over after early morning pick-ups from Sweffling and Debenham. However, with Mr Bedford and now Louis also local to the Hagley area the band - if not the belfry - had a very familiar look to it.

Before we could get going there was a photo-call as a photographer from the Express and Star who were covering the story took photos of Heather, Mum, Chris and me in the belfry.

Richard & Chris MunningsPeal BandWith such importance attached to this peal I had gone as safe as I possibly could, ringing Yorkshire (and score) and calling Pitstow's from the tenor, but it paid off. Considering the bells weren't easy, the band was mixed, half of us had travelled from the other side of the country, Stephen had lost a peal at Selly Oak in the morning whilst Louis had been scoring one at Harbourne and Gordon had been pulling the tenor in to Swindon Maximus all the way down in Painswick we pulled together well and scored a very satisfactory peal.

Reunited with my son and fiancée after 2hrs 40mins, we all enjoyed a cuppa, biscuit and band photo before we did this morning's journey in reverse and in the dark. I was very grateful for everyone who came out, but particularly to Jonathan and Tom in coming so far and Suzanne for ably filling Jonathan's boots at the North-East District ADM in his absence. Thank you too to Ruthie for keeping a very frustrated Mason amused and occupied!

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Friday 12th November 2010

Fresh from his trips to Paris and Vienna and in anticipation of a special trip tomorrow, brother Chris was round to see his invalided nephew who was coping admirably with not being able to walk and weighed down by his huge cast.

Once Mason was put to bed we were able to enjoy the hundreds of photos of two of the world's most beautiful cities stored on his uncle's computer, though the li'l chap had considerable and understandable trouble settling down.

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Thursday 11th November 2010

After a week of early starts and long days, I took full advantage of laying in as much as one can on a work day. I was still feeling the effect of a particularly draining day yesterday, both physically and mentally after a full-shift in the office, so didn't make it to Grundisburgh practice this evening, though apparently my brother made it in my place!

I was also aware of how tiring this weekend could be, with a trip to Worcestershire on Saturday and Mason apparently struggling to sleep on his first night with his cast on. Part of that may have been being in a strange place so the news this morning that he was going to be allowed home a day earlier than anticipated was very welcome. However, we're not expecting an easy ride if the disaster of his night cast last year is anything to go by.

It was good to see Suffolk ringers marking Armistice Day with half-muffled quarters rung at Pettistree (Grandsire Doubles) and Tunstall (Double Oxford and Plain Bob). Meanwhile, well done and Happy Birthday for yesterday to Alex Tatlow who called his first of Yorkshire Major in the success at Ixworth today.

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Wednesday 10th November 2010

After preparing Mason and taking him to school on Monday morning and a 6.30am rise for my visit to Radio Suffolk yesterday, there was another early start this morning as I was taking Mason into hospital with his mother Kara.

MasonFor those of you who didn't know and/or were unable and/or unwilling to read back through my blog, the li'l chap was born with both his feet pointing inwards. At just a few month's old the poor wriglet was subjected to an operation to essentially snap them into the correct position and spent the next few months with his legs in plaster when other kids of his age were getting used to using theirs. It worked to an extent though and once out of plaster he was able to walk which he wouldn't have been able to do in his previous state. However, as time went on his left foot began turning in again, hampering his walking and particularly running and potentially doing untold damage to his hip and spine in the long-term. It had been apparent for some time that one day he would need another operation.

That day dawned early this morning and although the staff at Heath Road were absolutely superb in looking after us and most importantly Mason, by its nature the day was marked by a lot of long, nervous waiting.

The initial tests when he arrived took the best part of an hour and even though he was the second in what looked like a long line of operations - being the second smallest child there - there was still another hour wait until he was drugged up and sent in for one of the most important moments of his young life.

Over two anxious hours later we were informed that the op had gone to plan, but even then he was kept in for a half-hour recovery period before he was finally returned to us. Initially he was dopey and seemed to barely register our presence, but this soon turned into grogginess and frustration as he became aware of and came to terms with the huge and uncomfortable cast on his leg.

By the time I had been to Colchester and back to pick up Ruthie so she could visit the patient, the drugs were still making him a little drowsy but he was a lot perkier, if still very fed up that he couldn't get out and run around.

However, as we stayed with him whilst Kara returned home to freshen up he got cheerier and cheerier and by the time his mother returned to spend the night with him, his smile, inquisitiveness and cheekiness had returned!

Leaving them to their sleepover we bade farewell and were back off to Colchester Institute for a concert given by Souza Winds, a wind quintet that it was very important for Ruthie to see as part of her course. They were very good, quite entertaining, but they - and a McDonald's - came at the end of a long day in so many ways.

Thank you to the quarter-pealers at Pettistree for their footnote, it's much appreciated!

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Tuesday 9th November 2010

The responsibilities of being Suffolk Guild Ringing Master (or Ring Master!) and of my new role as Current Business Manager and Team Leader were laid out in front of me today.

The former saw me at Radio Suffolk for a 7.40am on-air appointment with Mark Murphy (Starts at 1:41) to discuss our ringing for St Edmund's Day a week on Saturday, a short but typically useful and enjoyable appearance and something I feel very relaxed about doing these days.

Once I'd arrived at work, it was time for meetings, something I've got used to through ringing. GMC this wasn't though, as two meetings were done and dusted in under an hour! It felt good to be involved in the decision-making side of things though.

With pretty horrid weather hounding us outside, the evening saw Ruthie and me spend the night in from the elements ahead of a big day tomorrow.

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Monday 8th November 2010

By the time you read this it should already have happened, but I shall be on Radio Suffolk in the morning (Tuesday) at about 7.40am with Mark Murphy, discussing the ringing for St Edmund's Day. Of course in this day and age if you really want to listen to it you can listen again (Starts at 1:41)!

Talking of St Edmund's Day there are still a couple of ropes spare in the peals on the morning of Saturday 20th November so please let me know if you can ring. It is on the same day as the Guild Social and the same weekend as Cumberland Peal Weekend, but the peals will be over well before any of the events that will form part of a marvellous social occasion (have you got your tickets yet?) and if you aren't involved with Cumberland peal-ringing I would be delighted to hear from you!

More urgently, there are two district events this Saturday. One is the North-East District ADM at the relatively new grabs of Wissett and Chediston, but the other is the North-West District Outing to the very nearby area of east Cambridgeshire. Short of actually ringing in their own back yard, it couldn't be any closer for members from that corner of the Guild and yet Mandy has had a pitiful response. Although I can't make either event and of course we should be looking to avoid district events clashing, I would urge those who can to please support the efforts of their fellow ringers who organise these events. They should both be superb occasions.

Poor turnout is not a problem we currently have at St Mary‑le‑Tower as once again we had over twenty at practice this evening, despite the foul weather. Indeed, we had twelve at 7.15 for the early start that David has now initiated so we fitted everybody and as much as possible in. In fact there were seventeen there by the normal start time of 7.30, a fantastic effort. Ironically, three of the few people who didn't make it in early were the retirees who live minutes from the tower, though it was good to see Dad up and about after he was so poorly he didn't even make ringing yesterday morning!

Following a pint in The Cricketers, Ruthie and I cheated a little and grabbed a pizza from the kebab shop on Warwick Avenue back in Woodbridge at the end of a very long day for my better half as public transport once again showcased its considerable deficiencies.

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Sunday 7th November 2010

The Munnings have a very proud ringing tradition in this county. OK, we're not the Pipes, but there have been quite a few of us. Grandad Jack was well thought of and did much to push on ringing in Ipswich, his wife, and mine and Chris' Nanna Lilian, dabbled as did Aunty Marion. Of course Mum and Dad have been long-serving and much appreciated servants of the Guild and I hope my brother and I have done our bit. All being well, Ruthie will be a Munnings in the next couple of years and although not carrying the family name I hope Mason can carry the family tradition on in decades to come.

But although we have had family quarters with others making up the numbers, we've never had a band completely made up of Munnings, so I was mightily impressed with the all-Scase quarter at Monewden today, another family that have done much to shape Suffolk ringing and look set to do so for many years to come. Well done guys, especially to Alex for whom it was his first quarter at his first attempt!

It wasn't the only quarter that Tom rang in today either, as he came and joined us at Pettistree for a quarter of Bob Doubles arranged by Mary in thanksgiving for the lives of Harry Hawes and Edgar Pearson which also happened to be Susanne's first in the method at this level.

It had started out as incorporating Stedman, St Simon's, St Martin's and Grandsire, but after two or three false starts we stuck with what we knew best. It got a bit brisk though!

Mary was able to join us for evensong ringing after an unusual first Sunday peal at Aldeburgh, as was Daphne before Pete and Susanne returned me home (thanks for the lift guys!) to put Mason to bed and for Ruthie and I to greet and entertain her (and now my) good friend and future bridesmaid Fergie with takeaway curry.

It all followed a now typical first Sunday morning routine of St Mary‑le‑Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh, all slightly short on attendance apart from the ancient five!

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Saturday 6th November 2010

On Wednesday Mason should be going in for an operation to correct his left foot - or put his left foot right as it were - which will see him in plaster for several weeks afterwards, so I'm keen to get him out and running about as much as possible before his movement is hindered. Luckily it was a beautiful autumnal Saturday today so we headed down to Elmhurst Park where we bumped into his school friends Adam and then Harry which involved much playing football, throwing planes and chasing after each other, though his left foot very obviously held him back compared to the others. Well worth the effort though and he enjoyed himself before we grabbed some cakes to take home to a very poorly Aunty Ruthie.

So poorly was she that she had a good snooze in the afternoon and was unable to join the li'l chap and me at the South-East District practice on the fine eight at Hollesley. Mason had a whale of a time - leaving was a problem - and there was a decent crowd on this dark evening in one of the district's few truly far-flung towers.

It was an encouraging day for the district as more quarters were rung for its Quarter-Peal Fortnight. Most notable was the one rung at Stutton, a great example of members getting involved in a Guild or district event. Keep it up folks!

Finally - but certainly not least - Happy Birthday Chris!1

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Friday 5th November 2010

Remember, remember the 5th November. We had intended to do just that and support the Sproughton fireworks display this evening. However, with persistent rain falling as I picked up Mason and still as we got to decision time and conscious to avoid the same experience we had last year we reluctantly passed this time round. Hopefully it still went well and of course we were still reminded of the date from our living room as the pops, bangs and whizzes from surrounding displays made their presence felt!

Well done to Mike Hill who became the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight's second first quarter-pealer in as many days as he succeeded at the first attempt in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham. Congratulations as well to Tom Scase for whom the same quarter marked his 400th.

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Thursday 4th November 2010

You are now reading the blog/ramblings of John Catt's Current Business Manager, a promotion offered to me today. It is extra responsibility but extra pay and it now makes my period of unemployment seem a very, very long time ago. I do appreciate how lucky I am to have landed on my feet with this company and am determined to work hard to keep the luck going!

With having to sort one or two things out around the house there was no time to go to Grundisburgh this evening, but well done to Erin who rang her first quarter there this evening. Under the tutelage of Mr Pettman I'm sure the first peal is not far off!

As South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight continues to fly after a slow start, it wasn't the only quarter on in this corner of Suffolk, with particular congratulations to Robert's Scase and Beavis for ringing their first spliced Surprise Minor and calling their first spliced Minor respectively in the success at Tannington and to Hilary Stern and Chris McArthur on getting their first of St Clements Minor at Kettleburgh.

Our night in did enable us to catch a programme that helps place bellringing in the scheme of things. The documentary in question followed a group of twitchers, that dedicated bunch of bird-watchers who dash across the British Isles looking for rare breeds, usually at the drop of a hat which must make it difficult to hold down a job! Despite the fact that on more than one occasion I found myself saying 'really?' there were more than the odd parallel between extreme twitchers and extreme ringers, but it still made me feel glad to be someone who rings bells indoors than someone who spends hours outdoors in all weathers waiting for birds!

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Wednesday 3rd November 2010

Although I regularly catch-up on and frequently comment upon Ringing-Chat, I have to be honest and admit that on many days it is very quiet and/or quite dull. Often there are people having in-house conversations, debating computer questions or quoting mathematical solutions and often holding no relation to ringing whatsoever, though by R-C's nature of trying to emulate electronically the kind of conversations heard in pubs up and down the country after ringing practices this is not unexpected or frowned upon.

However, on some days it just explodes and it is normally on ringing subjects. Today was one such day and it was inadvertently started by my good friend from Birmingham, Paul Bibilo who some of you may remember was one of the judges for our Guild Striking Competitions in 2007.

Paul was responding to a message from John Harrison - also well known to some members of our Guild - which brought to people's attention an article in The Independent that made the unwelcome and unhelpful suggestion that desperate parents were enrolling their children in bellringing lessons in order to get their children into faith schools. John wondered - though I couldn't quite see his logic - if this would mean that we would be reduced to recruiting from people in their thirties, forties and upwards.

Mr B then suggested that he didn't want recruits of that age as they wouldn't 'be much cop'. It was an unfortunate phrase that understandably brought forth much criticism from others - though also support - but it did open up the debate on what we expect from our learners when they start out.

Paul of course is looking at things from a different plain to most of us. What he means is that ringers starting at a later age are unlikely - and he is correct in this assertion - to ring spliced-Surprise Maximus or on sixteen, though in the right circumstances and given the opportunities there's no reason why they shouldn't. But here in Suffolk and in most other parts of the country the aim is generally much lower and that opens the door to learners starting at all ages. Indeed, Mary Garner who started in her thirties is now one of our most accomplished ringers and a real asset to any band she is in.

Even within our Guild there are different aspirations. For many towers in our rural areas, little sixes in tiny villages, the main aim is to get ringers who will one day make sure the bells are rung well on Sunday mornings and when called upon, whether that is to call-changes or Surprise Major. But even though it was at a lower level than what is frequently achieved in Birmingham, London and other hotspots across the UK, six of us this evening showed the standards that can be reached in this part of the world as we succeeded in ringing a peal of spliced Surprise Minor at The Wolery, with lots of new methods to Tom and me, most of which had Westminster and Allendale-length frontwork to catch me out!

Tea and cake of course followed before I then carried on my way south to Colchester to pick up Ruthie from the Institute.

Meanwhile there were further examples of standards being raised across the county including from some who started ringing later in life. Well done again to David Howe who rang his first Doubles and most methods as conductor in the quarter at Preston St Mary. Also, South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight carried on where it left off yesterday with quarters scored at Sproughton, Kettleburgh and Pettistree, so well done all concerned and Happy Birthday Mr Harper!

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Tuesday 2nd November 2010

When we were all summoned downstairs by Jonathan at work today, there was more than one or two puzzled and even concerned faces in the office. However, we needn't have worried as it was to reveal that we had taken delivery of a revived publication, The John Catt Guide to International Schools and such was the excitement of the management that when we did get downstairs we were met by a glass each and three bottles of champagne sitting expectantly on the side. Sometimes this doesn't feel like work at all...

Talking of celebrations it was good to hear from my brother Chris who ticks over to the grand and grown up age of thirty this Saturday and who is currently in between trips to Paris and Vienna and had much to tell about his journey to France's capital.

It was indeed a night of the world coming to us as first Kate popped round to pick up some stuff and then Pete and Susanne came over to sort out a computer programme for Ruthie before our customary trip to the supermarket.

Meanwhile it was good to see much activity today as part of the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight with successful quarters at Brandeston, Offton and at St Lawrence in Ipswich. Well done to Mike Whitby on calling his 900th quarter in the process! Up to this point it had been a bit slow and a shame that more members weren't taking advantage of or helping out with this very worthwhile exercise. Maybe they're all saving themselves for this week and then the district practice at Hollesley this Saturday.

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Monday 1st November 2010

It'll be here before you know it...

The first workday after putting the clocks back of course saw me walking home in the dark, something I'll have to get used to over the next few months and it plunged the senses into winter, even if we are still mired deep in autumn.

Another thing that tricked the mind into the later season was - apart from one present I'd bought Ruthie a few weeks back - our first bout of Christmas shopping as we attended the now traditional double-discount evening at the Boots in Ipswich. As usual it has rather less to do with us being organised as it has with being able to do our festive gift-gathering a lot cheaper (and hence get everybody better presents of course...!) as we once again took advantage of her ladyship's employment by this fine institution.

We were helped by Kate and Ron in carrying the vast amounts of shopping back to the car with the bells of St Mary‑le‑Tower booming over us and having said our farewells to Ruthie's mother and her landlord we went and joined another very popular practice night.

Sadly, despite the numbers and talent on display there, it was one of those disappointing nights when people failed to concentrate and striking was poor, if a piece was completed at all. Whilst there were ringers up there who are learning and are excused, there were a lot of ringers who - whilst their presence was of course very welcome - should've known better and had a bit of an off night!

Still, the disappointment was numbed somewhat with a pint of Chocoholic from the Wetherspoon's Beer and Cider Festival over at The Cricketers afterwards. Yum, a dessert and a beer in one!

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Sunday 31st October 2010

With it being fifth Sunday, the normal Sabbath morning order of things was slightly changed and so after doing our usual duty at St Mary‑le‑Tower and there being no ringing at Grundisburgh or Sproughton, Mum, Dad, Mason and I took the opportunity to help out at neighbouring St Margaret. The li'l chap behaved well in this tiny and crowded belfry, clutching toys he had gathered from downstairs where an extremely popular family service was in full flow prior to much call-changes and a little Bob Minor.

Having spent the afternoon in Elmhurst Park with the li'l chap before I handed him back to his mother, we were out of the door the moment Ruthie returned from work and back into Ipswich for a quarter of Yorkshire Max at SMLT. Not only was this David Potts' first Surprise Max as conductor, but it was an extremely useful exercise in something that we don't usually get this much practice at. A good effort and well done David. As Brian and George dashed off for urgent appointments, the remaining ten rang a decent service touch of Grandsire Caters before my fiancée and I headed straight back to Woodbridge for an entertaining evening of cats, gravy and beer festivals and not a single sighting of trick-or-treaters.

We were invited round to Pete and Susanne's lovely new abode in Deben Road, just yards from ours where we were treated to a roast dinner with interesting gravy and the entertainment being Jilly the cat's understandable - and not unique - wariness of Susanne! It was a lovely evening (thanks guys!) which was topped off by a trip to The Mariners for their Halloween beer festival. It'll hurt in the morning mind!

Meanwhile, Mr Potts was not the only ringer in Suffolk achieving something today as Naomi Shaw rang her first of Double Oxford Bob Minor in the 1260 at Wissett, Kate Herd rang her first of All Saints Doubles in the success at Buxhall and perhaps most impressively of all, Joan Clinton rang her first quarter at the first attempt in the Plain Bob Doubles at Stradishall. Well done all of you, but particularly Joan - welcome to the club!

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Saturday 30th October 2010

There's nothing else that will get Mason quite as thrilled and excited as a trip to see steam trains and even more so if Thomas the Tank Engine is involved. Ruthie and I were therefore extremely grateful to Kate and Ron for taking us three and Ron's dog Jude to the Thomas day at Nene Valley Railway.

Last time we came here it accidentally but entirely happily coincided with the Peterborough Beer Festival. There was no such luck this time, but we were kept amply fuelled by the on-board bar and most importantly the li'l chap had a fantastic day riding and meeting trains and waving his newly acquired Thomas flag! Getting him away at the end was little trickier though...

Thank you very, very much to Kate and Ron for taking us!

And well done to Louis Suggett who on returning to the East Coast for the weekend rang his first of Stedman Cinques in the 5019 at Great Yarmouth today. The first of many I'm sure.

Well done too to David Wedgwood on ringing his first quarter inside in the success at Cowlinge, also today. Also hopefully the first of many.

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Friday 29th October 2010

With Mason making a now rare Friday visit to his Nan and Grandad's in Chez Ashcroft, it was the ideal time to get my car serviced. And it didn't come out too badly when considering how old it is!

Mum kindly gave me a lift back to Woodbridge for work whilst Ruthie generously returned me to Ipswich at the end of the day so I could retrieve both the car and boy.

Meanwhile, well done to Tom Scase on ringing his 100th quarter as conductor in the success at Cretingham as South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight had its busiest day so far with a quarter of Cambridge Minor scored at Earl Soham and one of Doubles rung at Hollesley before their practice as well. Keep it up folks!

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Thursday 28th October 2010

With it being half-term I took collection of a happier and healthier Mason today in anticipation of a day of fun at his Nanna and Grandad's tomorrow and after an urgent fill-up of the car, getting tea down us, putting the boy to bed and receiving a visit from his Godfather Toby there wasn't enough time to get to Grundisburgh this evening which was a shame as Stephen couldn't make it either with a bad back.

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Wednesday 27th October 2010

As the staggering and depressing news was announced that £25m is to be squandered on 'improvements' in Ipswich town centre that will see MORE traffic lights in an area that could do with far less of them, it was perhaps appropriate that I found myself travelling into this soon to be permanently gridlocked part of Suffolk for the fourth day running.

For once on a Wednesday night it wasn't to go to The Wolery - a journey that will no doubt be made longer and more difficult by the proposed changes - but it was for a peal. Last month you may recall we should have been going for the first of a regular monthly peal on the front eight at St Mary‑le‑Tower which sadly had to be called off. Well this evening we went for it and well done David Potts on calling his first peal. Not a bad effort to call Cambridge Major for your first attempt and it was a very enjoyable evening.

It's funny how the peal situation has changed. After a two month drought in the Guild, there's an abundance now being rung, as not only was one rung at Grundisburgh yesterday, but credit is due to Alex Tatlow on ringing his first of Major in the 5088 of Yorkshire Major at Offton earlier today.

Good to see South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight start to get going after a slow start too. Following on from our effort at Monewden on Sunday and one rung at Winston on Monday, there was the usual success at Pettistree this evening.

For me, my own ringing exploits came at the end of my last early shift of this current campaign and the year - which saw me have the building completely to myself for a couple of hours as Peter continued his recuperation - and a trip to Tesco, so I was a little dozy by the evening. However, I returned home to find the new hob had been installed so cooking will be a lot easier! Hooray!

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Tuesday 26th October 2010

Ah, the romance of the cup, David Vs Goliath and a packed, expectant stadium. Well, it was the Carling Cup, Ipswich Town were the 'giants' and there were only 12,000 pretty wet and cold spectators at Portman Road tonight. But Ruthie and I were amongst them, we beat our lower league opponents Northampton 3-1, we're through to the quarter-finals of this perhaps unfairly maligned competition and the pair of us had a jolly good time.

In fact these cup games are often a little more fun then the league ones as the average fan seems slightly less concerned about a cup run as they are of getting promotion (or avoiding relegation!) and with many empty seats there is more freedom to roam the terraces. We were seven rows back, directly behind the North-Stand (where else?) goalmouth, see if you can see us!

The excitement of it all contrasted with a fairly quiet day, with Peter off ill and Maddy away for a couple of days, amongst other absentees making for a quiet and fairly subdued office today.

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Monday 25th October 2010

It is three years since I began writing this blog and I hope it has proved interesting and informative. It seems to be read by a lot of folk and I'm still constantly surprised when people I never imagined would read it mention something I have imparted through my daily ramblings. I feel it has offered a different way of communicating between the officers and members and if it highlights my/our mistakes it has hopefully also adequately explained how and why I/we have made those mistakes.

When I look back to the very beginning of the blog in 2007, a lot has changed. I'm now nearing the end of my tenure as Ringing Master, I'm very happily settled into a wonderful job and a nice house all in lovely Woodbridge, Mason is now a walking, talking and occasionally grumpy almost teenage-like being and Ruthie and I are busy planning our wedding!

Another thing that has changed is that I am no longer St Mary‑le‑Tower Ringing Master of course, but for a few minutes at the start of this evening's practice I stepped back in time as David was driving back from Milton Keynes. He did well to get back not long after 7.30 however and so I sat back and relaxed as he set about the task of running another impressive turnout. I counted twenty-four, not bad as we had a couple of people away, but greatly helped by the presence of the Bury Massive who are becoming increasingly regular attendees I'm glad to say. It is also gave me an opportunity to hand our recently installed librarian, Abby, a book to add to the Guild's collection before a large proportion of us headed over to The Cricketers for a post-practice pint, another facet of my everyday life that has changed since this blog got up and running.

Keep enjoying and keeping giving me feedback, it's great to hear whether it is good or bad!

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Sunday 24th October 2010

This morning was church week again and so I just went ringing at Woodbridge before Mason and I attended the service that followed.

Following a cup of tea in the church rooms opposite and a visit to Boots to see Ruthie in her fetching - and far too large - promotional pink t-shirt and teaching some new recruits, the li'l man and I were off to his grandparents where we were to be generously fed and he was to spend the afternoon whilst I tried again to succeed in calling a peal of 27-Surprise Minor methods at Monewden.

By this point I had already replaced a poorly Robert Beavis with Peter Harper at short notice - thank you very much Peter - and was confident that perhaps an afternoon rather than evening start might see us much more on the ball. Sadly it was an almost blow-by-blow repeat of the previous attempt. We breezed through the first extent of Cambridge, Beverley, Berwick, etc and then into the second extent of the slightly trickier but now very familiar Norwich and Westminster overworks such as Lightfoot and its sixth place partner Rossendale with apparent ease and much good ringing. As with last time though, it was this which beat us again and so the consecutive lost attempts reaches double-figures!

However, we shan't be beaten and although the next attempt will have to wait until December, we were at least able to contribute to the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight afterwards.

Not that there weren't quarters elsewhere in the county and congratulations to Lesley Wilson on her 600th quarter (ever, not this year!) and to David Howe not only on ringing his first Major inside but calling his first at that level too in the success at Lavenham today. With a peal rung at Clare too, the big eights of the South-West District were getting a good run-out this afternoon, great to see!

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Saturday 23rd October 2010

It was the start of the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight today as well as the South-West District Outing to the Hopton area, but I'm mildly ashamed to say that I partook in neither.

However, I was rather tied up with domestic issues as first Ruthie and I helped Clare, Kev and Shane take our fridge-freezer as their alcohol-storer and then Kate helped me dispose of our old sofa and some computer screens and keyboards at the dump before I in turn helped her deliver a carpet to the Felixstowe abode of the aforementioned threesome.

Meanwhile, if you have the latest edition of the Ipswich Advertiser to hand, take a look at page five and see if you can spot any familiar faces.

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Friday 22nd October 2010

I'm a big believer of employers offering the carrot rather than the stick approach to motivate their staff and today it was vindicated for the second time in a few weeks as we were deservedly - if I do say so myself - treated to a three-course meal at The Cherrytree for reaching our latest landmark figure on the highly successful campaign that we have been working so hard on for the last couple of months or so. As usual it was lovely food and I enjoyed having a couple of pints of Adnams' Ghost Ship, a nice light-coloured beer.

Having had those couple of pints though I obviously couldn't drive so instead walked up to Kara's to collect Mason for the weekend.

Congratulations today to Mary Allum on ringing her 800th quarter in the success at Earl Stonham and Robert Beavis on ringing his 100th in a quarter at Monewden that also saw him, Abby Antrobus (the North-West's new secretary), Joan Garrett and Alex Tatlow ring their first of Childwall Bob. Well done to all concerned and keep it up!

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Thursday 21st October 2010

With a company the size of ours, anybody leaving is the loss of a good friend and a bit of a shock. This is magnified for me when it is someone from our small and close-knit sales-team, so it was particularly sad for Pete, Maddy and me as Michael announced he is resigning from his role after nearly thirteen years, primarily to take up something slightly less demanding as he approaches retirement. We shall still have him with us as he works his notice of course, but it will be a shame to see him go.

Despite this bombshell the day went on of course and I continued a week of returning to practices I have missed far too often in recent times by heading up to Grundisburgh. Unfortunately, only three others - David Stanford, Stephen and Erin - made it up with me, though it was a disappointing turnout for the reporter and photographer who had come up from the Grundisburgh News to prepare for an article on ringing. Mind you, at least it highlights the need for new recruits to the villagers!

However, once they had gone, there was not a lot else we could do so Stephen called it a night at 8.30 and I was left slightly in limbo. Ruthie was running a rare Thursday night concert in the Swinburne Hall at Colchester Institute tonight and so I was needed for chauffeur duties. On the one hand it was too early to head down to North Essex to wait around for her to finish at ten, but it wasn't really worth going home.

In the end I chose to meander down through Ipswich and predictably was left to hang around for Clive Carroll to finish his acoustic guitar set. He was very good from what I heard outside the hall, but I got the impression that he would've been there all night if Ruthie hadn't wound up his set !

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Wednesday 20th October 2010

20/10/2010, a rare date for which there is a name that I can't remember (World Statistics Day? Ed) and which of course will next occur on 20th November 2011, 20th December 2012 and then not until 21st January 2101, so enjoy it while it lasts!

It was also a day of big budget costs, but so far I haven't seen any obvious effects it will have on me - at least not directly - so I continued on with my daily life which today consisted of a 6am start, early finish and an afternoon waiting for an electrician to replace our hobs who never arrived before I set off to Pettistree for a successful quarter of Coldstream Minor, which is Allendale below the treble, London above the treble. Thanks for the birthday compliment and Happy Birthday Dick!

And with Ruthie not needed at Colchester this evening, I was able to return home to collect and take her to the practice where much chocolate cake for Mrs Roger's mother's birthday was consumed amongst a typically large spread of sweetness that lay upon the font this evening.

Well done to David Howe on ringing more methods than he had ever done before in the quarter of Doubles at Preston St Mary, good effort!

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Tuesday 19th October 2010

SE&CR P Class 0-6-0After months of organising, hiding paperwork and keeping her diary free without her realising, Kate finally got her birthday treat today as she got to drive a steam engine at the Kent & East Sussex Railway! She was completely in the dark about exactly what she was doing right up until breakfast this morning and apparently her face was a picture! In fact she wasn't even aware she was going away at all until the end of work yesterday as she was whisked away in shock and full credit has to go to Ron for organising the whole thing.

Sadly I couldn't get the time off work to join them on the trip but Ruthie and Clare were able to, and having helped out at Ufford practice in their tower captain's unexpected absence I heard all about it over a couple of pints at The Mariners as Pete and Susanne joined us for a belated birthday drink.

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Monday 18th October 2010

Ruthie and I don't spend many nights apart, but tonight was one of those rare occasions. It was all for a good cause however, as the girls and Ron were taking Kate away on a surprise trip following her recent birthday, requiring an overnight stay. Kate is in for a big surprise when she gets to her ultimate destination tomorrow...

Meanwhile, I was being treated myself, as on my first visit to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice for well over a month I was presented with a £35 Tesco gift card to mark my time as Ringing Master at this fine twelve. It was a touching moment as I thoroughly enjoyed my time in charge here even if it didn't always seem like it! Anyway, I am extremely grateful to the ringers of SMLT not only for putting up with me all that time but for this very generous gift. And apologies for my recent absence!

It was good to see a packed belfry there this evening too, with the Smiths visiting again, as well as Stephen Wood, Mandy and Craig who arrived straight after a quarter at Ixworth in memory of Sue Munford. Well done Alex on calling his first of Grandsire Triples in that.

It was then back home for a lad's night in with Max who was with me for the night as his owner was whisked away on her magical mystery tour!

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Sunday 17th October 2010

Sometimes even getting together for a drink can seem a little like organising a peal-band. This evening - having handed Mason back to his mother - I had invited a few friends within easy reaching distance of Woodbridge for a drink at The Mariners to celebrate my recent birthday.

However, as the get-together got closer various people had to pull out, although for understandable reasons. Two thought it had been this afternoon and with an early morning couldn't have a late night. One of another couple had made the mistake of falling asleep after an earlier drinking session and was promptly very, very ill. Another was working and another couldn't make it over. In the end there was just myself, Ruthie, Kate and Ron.

But although it would've been nice to have a few more out we still had a smashing evening which followed on from a lovely day of bells, model trains and ice cream.

Morning ringing was a little slow as we were short on numbers at both St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh, though we were helped by the visit of the Smith's from Gloucestershire at the former, but in between the li'l chap and I took our usual visit to the playground in the latter village.

Normally we're the only ones there, but today we shared the field with the local football team, their visitors and the spectators that had come to watch, whilst a local resident had brought his three girls to the playground. It meant getting the boy away was proving tricky as he played with his new friends until he had a rather nasty accident on the climbing frame that saw blood spewing from his face. However, a bit of TLC and some help and bread-sticks from my fellow father saw the li'l chap smiling and ready to go ringing again.

However, as much as I hope he enjoys ringing, I'm pretty sure the highlight of his day was our visit to Felixstowe Leisure Centre for a model railway exhibition. I can't say this is entirely my cup of tea, at least not for more than a few minutes. Once you've seen one train trundle around the same bend you've seen them all (though I suspect many think the same of ringing) and those exhibiting seem to leave their sense of humour at home. However, what they do is impressive (as is their dedication) and it was an absolute joy to see Mason's face as he watched train after train after train go round various tracks.

Eventually I did tempt him away with the promise of ice cream although such was his enjoyment even this was hard work! But I needed to be back for my drink with the masses...

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Saturday 16th October 2010

Whilst I can't paint GMC meetings as the most exciting (or exciting in any way come to that) event, it is vital for an organisation such as ours and are actually quite social events as we share a cuppa and biscuits and discuss the pressing issues facing us with considerable joviality where appropriate.

However, I'm not fond of the 6pm meetings on Saturdays such as today's was. It means often curtailing afternoon activities (and on a more practical level means I have to rely on the generous goodwill of Ruthie to put Mason to bed) and scrubs out the whole evening.

Today wasn't too bad as the bulk of our activities were in the morning and over lunchtime as Ruthie and Clare went shopping for a wedding dress. They were unexpectedly successful too and whilst of course I shall have to wait until 7th July 2012 to see it, pictures were taken and I'm sure that my fiancée will be more than happy to show those who want to get a sneaky peek now!

The li'l chap and I were responsible for getting the girls to the Ipswich dress shop via Clare's abode in Felixstowe where we spent a considerable time either side of the trip, getting to know their new dog Milo. Whilst they were doing that which I could not see, us lads popped round to Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric's to catch up and collect my birthday present before popping round the corner to Chez Ashcroft.

With the help of Kate I was then able to dispose of most of the old three-piece down at the dump before leaving a tearful son and taking the mother-in-law-to-be to Stowupland for the latest meeting of the GMC.

Although it was only two months since we last met, this proved to be our longest meeting for some time. Some of it was down to things like a not inconsiderable amount to report on the Recruitment and Training front (not the norm up to this point!) and a plea for more people to get tickets for the Guild Social on 20th November. In light of recent discussions it was also interesting to note that it was reported that £18,000 has been paid out in grants by the Guild this year, further highlighting why we need to make sure we get everything right when we are committing such vast sums to projects.

However, the majority of time was taken up with some interesting discussion on life-honorary membership and the vital subject of Child Protection. This is so important and whilst some of it may seem daft to some of us, we HAVE to abide by the regulations in place and work with them otherwise we could find ourselves in some tricky positions unnecessarily.

Another lengthy topic was again the Guild Magazine. Two important issues for members to realise on this. One is that Sue, Alan and Richard can't possibly be expected to know what the demand is everywhere in the Guild so if you have too many or not enough then let them know! Before you do that though, please also be aware that the copies aren't just for ringers. They are also meant to reach out to non-ringers, so please put copies out in your church and give one to your incumbent.

There were other interesting things brought to our attention over the course of the near-three hour meeting. One is that the Guild Striking Competitions on Saturday 21st May 2011 will be held at Nayland for the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Trophy and Bures for the Rose Trophy. Lovely locations and nice enough bells not to put teams off, so start preparing now!

The other is the Youth Training Day on Thursday 28th October from 11am-3.30pm, a new initiative being held at Bardwell for youngsters across the county. Quite apart from showing how invaluable simulators are now, it is wonderful that there are so many youngsters around to make this worthwhile! Please do support this event and get in touch with if you can attend.

Again it was a very worthwhile gathering, with many issues discussed patiently, but getting home for tea at 9.30 was far from ideal!

Meanwhile, well done to the Scases of the Robert and Mervyn variety on ringing their first of Carlisle Minor in the quarter at Tannington last night.

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Friday 15th October 2010

It was a day of doughnuts at work, bought fresh first thing this morning and absolutely delicious! It was of course all part of my birthday celebrations and thank you to everyone for their wishes whether it was via footnotes, cards, texts, calls, face-to-face and the now obligatory medium of Facebook.

As for any actual celebrations, however, it was a low-key evening as we had Mason on the occasion of his mother's birthday. With his sister's big day being 10th October this is going to be an expensive time for the li'l chap in the future!

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Thursday 14th October 2010

I was dreadfully sorry to hear of the death of Sue Munford in the early hours of this morning, apparently after a serious illness known only to those closest to her. Of course our prayers and thoughts are with Steve, Carl and Becky as they come to terms with the loss of a lovely lady.

Hacheston go well enough, but need working at to strike really well which made this evening's peal of Surprise Minor all the more satisfying. It was also a vindication for peal-ringing as if this was a quarter-peal we would've had a decent finish which would've all been very well, but as this was a peal we sailed into the remaining extents getting better and better and producing some very good ringing on an enjoyable night.

Once home and as midnight ticked over and we arrived at 15th October, I followed Ruthie's lead from earlier in the year and ripped into the birthday cards with much impatience!

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Wednesday 13th October 2010

On Saturday 26th March 2011 - as many of you may well be aware - The Ringing World, the esteemed national journal of ringers, will be holding celebrations to mark its centenary of a couple of days earlier. As part of this there will be a national youth contest held at St Saviour's, Pimlico. I felt it would be criminal with the proximity of the capital to us and the abundance of under-nineteens (the definition of youngsters for this purpose) in our midst if Suffolk didn't enter a band and so when I arrived at the Salter's for a peal attempt of Cunecastre Minor this evening, I was delighted to hear that their eldest George is organising a band. So if you will be under nineteen on the date of the contest and want to ring (bands can ring anything from call-changes) then please get in touch with George via The Wolery's contact details. Let's show the rest of the country what we have to offer!

The peal itself went well, though having got up at 4am for work I found keeping up with the pace we set tricky, even missing the sally momentarily at one point!

Still, it was good fun and the early start meant an early finish and an opportunity to empty the living room of our current armchairs and sofa and move their replacements in from Bob's next door as he is taking in a new set. So an early birthday present!

Meanwhile, well done yesterday to Peter Godden on ringing more than one method for the first time in a quarter in the success at Old Newton and today to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of St Clements Minor, David Howe on ringing his 25th (both in the quarter at Preston St Mary), Michelle Williams for her first of Surprise and Philip Moyse - one of the many ideal candidates for Pimlico on 26th March - on calling his first of Surprise Minor, both in the 1296 of Cambridge Minor at Blythburgh. Good to see so much going on across the Guild!

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Tuesday 12th October 2010

After last night's electrical problems, Ruthie very kindly stayed in to let Shawn the electrician have a look. It didn't take him long to recognise what we had already discovered and that we will need a new hob.

It made shopping a bit trickier as we strove to find meals at Tesco tonight that didn't need a hob , but it was all sorted in time to watch England's 0-0 draw with Montenegro in a strangely disappointing but not terrible stalemate. In my opinion anyway.

We were at least not needed for walking Max as before even the electrician arrived a very tired Kate came round to collect her dog just hours after returning to Gatwick from her travels, so once home we stayed home.

Well done to the 'boy-done-good' Louis Suggett who has predictably not taken long to get into the tremendous peal-ringing scene with a peal of Zanussi Max at the Bullring, an interesting note on a day that I caught up with Ringing-Chat and in particular a debate on whether all ringers consider striking unimportant. I certainly hope we all do as well-struck Bob Doubles is ultimately better than badly struck London Major, but I do fear that many sacrifice good-striking for method progression. Louis is an example of how both can be achieved in Suffolk.

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Monday 11th October 2010

The plan today had been to take Mason to school, collect Jude from the kennels in Pettistree and take him back to the flat in anticipation of Ron's imminent return, before going to work. After leaving John Catt I would then successfully negotiate the next attempt of 27 Surprise Minor methods at Monewden, cook up a big chilli on arriving back home and walk Max around the block.

What actually happened was that with the li'l chap being in one of those 'no' moods and Jude disappointed to see me rather than Ron, things took a bit longer than anticipated on the pre-work jobs. Post-work and having swapped the first four extents around to accommodate my conducting incompetence, we had a false start in the peal attempt and then lost the second try in the second extent, on this occasion Rossendale proving to be our unlikely downfall. For once not conductor error though!

Returning home I prepared myself for cooking chilli, turned the hob on and....

Darkness. The built in hobs which had been a bit unreliable for a while had finally killed the house. Much flicking of fuses and unplugging the hobs ensued but nothing was doing. Unable to get hold of the landlord and useful neighbour Bob not in, we resigned ourselves to a night of no TV and pizza from Saffron (where I bumped into restaurant residents Pete and Susanne) in candlelight.

Eventually Bob got home, the landlord got in touch and we had electricity, though we are now hob-less.

However, with word coming to us that things weren't going to plan for Kate and Ron either and that their flight home had been heavily delayed the walk for Max then turned into a walk for Jude too as a difficult day came to an end. At least we had electricity again though!

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Sunday 10th October 2010

As the morning after the day and night before dawned, I was pleasantly surprised to still feel part of the human race! Maybe I wasn't such a light-weight after all...

Even an early morning call to walk Max and then to pick up  Mason from Kara - who had very kindly picked up the l'il chap from my parents yesterday - didn't seem as painful I'd imagined it would be.

Not even the booming bells of St Mary‑le‑Tower and the aborted half-course of Yorkshire Royal in the first lead - not to be attempted again as Mason took his Nanna out of the belfry for his, hu-hum, business - nor the invaluable practice that Erin and Nigel got at Grundisburgh this morning had any noticeable effect on a body that was put through a fair bit yesterday.

As the morning passed and lunch was had I still felt remarkably refreshed. Arriving in Bury St Edmunds for the dedication of The Vestey Ring I'd noticed a couple of yawns though this wasn't unusual in a week of very early starts.

This was the first time I had been involved with setting up The Vestey Ring and although it is something that requires some strength it is a simple and easy enough operation, though a now resolved issue with identifying what bells went where held us up for some time!

But even doing my bit in erecting our equipment in the Cathedral and then calling a quick bit of Grandsire Caters up in The Norman Tower didn't slow me down. It was during the normal 3.30pm evensong that the dedication was being incorporated into that yesterday's joviality caught up with me as I felt the yawns coming more frequently and even the occasional dropped eyelid creeping in.

It was a potentially dangerous state of affairs as this was not one of those services I could sit in the corner and snooze through as I needed to be on the ball. For as we approached the climax of the service Bishop Nigel was to call upon us for the blessing and official handover of the ring in full few of a very good crowd.

I needn't have worried though as I managed to stay awake and along with a selected band received the ring and launched into a bob course of Grandsire Doubles to much applause. Thank you very much to Janet, Ian, Mary, Gordon and Craig for joining me on this daunting task.

Afterwards many came to have a go as Philip and I - feeling reinvigorated - spoke with Nigel and his wife as well as with the Vesteys themselves, lovely people whose generosity to us over the years and with this in particular has enabled much to happen that might not have done.

It was of course second Sunday and well done to Richard Rapior on ringing his 200th peal at the tower he has done so much for down the years, Aldeburgh. Hopefully he was able to stay more alert than me this afternoon!

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Saturday 9th October 2010

Readers of this blog may recall how important I think ringing well at weddings is. Today that sentiment took on extra resonance for Ruthie and me as we rang for the wedding of our friends Rusty and Jacqueline at the now familiar six of Wickham Market. Conscious that we ourselves might one day be watching a video of the occasion I'm glad to say we didn't let the happy couple down. Thank you to Phil for organising things and to him, Brian, Anne and Hazel for joining us to ring, especially as it was only a chance conversation I had with Rusty at his stag do that ultimately led to the ringers being made aware of the wedding and the desire for bells!

You may also recall last week's wedding at Orford where the bride arrived twenty minutes late, but thankfully Jack was 'only' ten minutes late which didn't prove too embarrassing!

And it all kick-started what proved to be a fantastic day. I was very privileged to be present when Rusty and Jack met (and when Kala and Nick met for that matter) and so to see them four years down the line with their two lovely daughters today was an honour.

The venue we all moved onto was a place that I've always been intrigued by since I first saw a sign for it, Hungarian Hall in Pettistree and apart from an aggressive ginger cat on the grounds that actually drew blood from Ruthie it was a lovely venue.

We were in a permanent marquee that overlooked the vast grounds beside the hall as we tucked into first the main meal and then later the buffet either side of speeches and the first dance as I chatted with Kiwi and introduced him and my fiancée, whilst he proudly showed off his wife and two-month old son Max. Meanwhile there was the chance to catch-up with some old faces from my Tunstall days such as Wiggy and Tracey as well as Nick and Kala of course, all interspersed with walking Max (who was patiently waiting in the car) on a clear and starry night before finally taking him with us in a taxi home.

A great day, but I'm sure it'll hurt in the morning!

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Friday 8th October 2010

The last couple of afternoon walks have been undertaken in almost spring-like conditions with only the changing of leaf colour on the trees and emptying branches belying the actual season as lawnmowers could be clearly heard and people wondered around in much less clothing than you might expect in October. With only a week until my birthday I'm even considering having a sneaky barbecue!

This afternoon's walk was a little trickier and therefore quite a bit shorter than the other pleasant journeys Max and I have made this week as I picked up sMason traight after work. Juggling the two was not easy!

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Thursday 7th October 2010

At last the Guild has reached a hundred peals this year, a landmark I had hoped we'd reach by the end of August! Whilst today's peal at Tostock ticked the total over to three digits, it does seem very unlikely we'll reach the 150 mark as I hoped. However, if we could at least pass 2009's total of 131 and continue the upward trend that I feel has benefited ringers in this Guild over the past few years then I will be a happy chappy!

Ruthie and I popped round Bob's next door this evening for a couple of drinks, though with both of us on early starts in the morning we couldn't hang around as long as we usually do.

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Wednesday 6th October 2010

There was a decent practice as usual at Pettistree this evening as Max accompanied me and enjoyed the fussing as he searched frantically for his owner.

However, he did well out of walks today as he was taken out first thing, we enjoyed another long early-afternoon walk once I'd returned from work and when Ruthie's friend Jenni (who does the Wednesday night concerts with her in Colchester and lives in Stowmarket) was able to drop her off at the Tesco near Copdock we had another good wander around the less-than picturesque surroundings as we waited for her.

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Tuesday 5th October 2010

With Kate away for a few days - and by the way, Happy Birthday Kate - we willingly have custody of Max until her return. I actually enjoy walking him as it offers a good chance to wander around aimlessly exploring, but being on earlies all this week and Ruthie being at uni most of the week the post-work afternoon walks are becoming increasingly rewarding and interesting as they become lengthier.

I love coming across places I haven't noticed before and I've done plenty of that this week. Yesterday I wandered up towards Melton and then down to the river - finding the house that was featured on last week's Grand Designs in the process - and then along the Deben back to town.

We're extremely lucky to live a few hundred yards from the river, so having seen my wife-to-be off on the train to Colchester, the dog and I strode the other way up the river, ending up on Kyson Hill in woodland and on footpaths I had never realised were on my doorstep.

It was a good precursor to a more hectic trip to Tesco - where I bumped into Mason - and then onto Ufford once Ruthie returned as we helped out at the practice in Kate's absence. It was a good night, with even a plain course of Stedman Triples (eventually!) completed.

It's good to see the peal totals creeping up again after a very slow two or three months (nearly at the century mark!) but it is in quarters where there are achievements to mark, both here and further afield. Well done to David Howe who yesterday rang his first of Kent Minor at Preston St Mary, whilst it is interesting to note Louis Suggett has already infiltrated the Brummie ringing scene, calling a quarter of Grandsire Caters at Aston on Sunday.

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Monday 4th October 2010

It is nice to make a difference and at Wickham Market I think we have. This evening was supposed to be the final practice without Ray, but when he unexpectedly turned up this evening almost literally straight after getting back from his cruise we were able to see first hand his genuine pleasure and surprise at the improvement his ringers had made.

He was even more surprised to see an abundance of ringers this evening that included Anne and the Harpers again as well as Jonathan Stevens, all of whom I was very grateful to see. So unexpected was it for him that having come up clutching a bottle of champagne to celebrate his birthday, retirement and wedding anniversary, he had to return home to get some more!

It was a nice note on which to finish a day that saw the Guild make Ringing Chat, though not entirely in a good way. A Guild member had complained that the grant condition on sound control was unhelpful and had created bad feeling in his part of the world. He also grumbled that he didn't know about it even though it has been in place for some time.

In regards to the communication side this is another reason why more members should attend Guild and district meetings where information like this gets relayed. As it happens there is an article on sound control appearing in the next edition of Awl a'huld and the terms and conditions are here, but generally the best way of getting information across to members is face-to-face and not just us going out to them but them coming to us too.

It is important to put the sound control condition in context. Across Suffolk there are towers where getting them for a peal or even just extra ringing (like outings, quarters, etc) is either rare or even impossible. Peal-ringing is not the be-all-and-end-all of course and I'm aware that many of members couldn't care less about peal-ringing or even detest it, but it is still an important aspect of bringing ringing on and of course peal subscriptions contribute significantly to the very restoration fund that helps these projects.

Like it or not, we have to realise that we live in an increasingly intolerant society, brought about ironically by people looking to bring more tolerance to society, so long as it is tolerant of what they like. We have to seriously consider sound-control as the situation is only going to get worse and I'm not talking just about peal-ringing here. There are places - often where newcomers with attitude come in - where even ten minutes of ringing can cause uproar.

When 50% of our subscription goes towards the restoration fund - much to the displeasure of some members who are of course entitled to that view - we can't afford as a charity in tough times or other, financially or in regards reputation, to give large sums of money to projects where we can't be sure that the bells are going to be available to the very members who have contributed towards that project, whether it is a new ring, an augmentation or re-hang into the long-term future. We have to be careful but we will always look to work closely with towers, not against them and perhaps an open message slating the unhelpfulness of the Guild whilst not giving the full facts to a national and opinionated ringing forum is not necessarily the best way of taking things forward!

Meanwhile at Bardwell, it is - it seems hard to believe - a year since their wonderful dedication. Well done to Alex Tatlow on ringing his first quarter of Double Norwich in the success that celebrated this anniversary and it is perhaps a good moment to remind people of this Sunday's dedication of the brand new Vestey Ring at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. A good crowd would really be appreciated.

Somewhere else a good crowd would be appreciated is Redgrave for the North-West District ADM this Saturday. Although we can't make it as it is Rusty and Jack's wedding, if you're up that way and have nothing significant in your diary then you really ought to be there, especially as the vital post of secretary needs filling. Remember to get your teas booked by Wednesday!

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Sunday 3rd October 2010

Have you seen the front cover of 24th September edition of The Ringing World? And can you spot the esteemed Mr and Mrs Claxton right at the front? It must have been annoying for Owen having to pose for a photo whilst he waited at the bar though...

Talking of the Ringing World, the latest edition has an interesting article from David Sansum on reaching his 2000th peal. Whilst I'm not aiming to ring 2000 peals (though I'd like to reach 1000), his sentiments and feelings on peal-ringing are very similar to mine. Yes it is time-consuming (especially if you do it to the extent that David does it!) but it is very enjoyable and I still feel the best medium for bringing ringers on.

Being first Sunday, ringing at St Lawrence was squeezed in-between ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh where members of the Marriott family - who donated the tenor at Suffolk's lightest twelve - paid us a visit.

By then I had passed Mason onto his Nana and Grandad who were taking him to see traction engines and organs at Cotton whilst I took delivery of Kate's fridge-freezer which is now too big for her new kitchen, prompting her to very generously offer it to us.

After some lunch with Ruthie I popped to Tesco, blitzed the house (two things that have sadly been neglected over this busy week), received Mason back and then with Ruthie returned from work I headed off to Hollesley where a 7pm quarter of 8-spliced got going eventually after one of the band thought it was a 7.30 start! Not bad considering they'd been told three different times and had only been asked this morning!

It wasn't our best quarter but well worth doing to help the very capable Stephen back into such ringing.

Meanwhile, the fruits of our labour at Wickham Market in recent weeks seem to be coming to fore as Phil rang his first quarter of Bob Doubles inside in the success at Pettistree, so well done him!

Also, congratulations to Alex Tatlow on ringing his 75th quarter in the Bob Doubles at Winston. Now where do we find this St Gwen...?

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Saturday 2nd October 2010

Today's blog is brought to you by the letter 'o'.

O for order as Mason, Ruthie and I were invited round to Kate's to help her find some sense of order in amongst the vast array of boxes and bags that were this morning returned to her house from storage.

O for Orford and o for an overly drawn-out wedding. It is of course worth remembering it is first and foremost the happy couple's day and hopefully the only time they'll do this. We were also getting paid relatively well for this in terms of wedding fees, £25 a rope. Though having heard the story of how the bride had booked an extra seat for the dress on her flight over from Paris and seeing the type of people that were arriving, I wished we'd pushed for more! Especially with what unfolded.

As ringers, we are of course used to brides arriving late, it's tradition. But when the bride was only coming from a house that bordered the churchyard you don't expect her to be twenty minutes late! And once the service got going it was a long 'un too, though the service sheet didn't suggest it would be.

The plan had been to ring a quarter afterwards, as requested by Zoe and Sebastian, the happy couple. This had offered the opportunity to ring a quarter of Stedman Triples for Richard Moody, who has done sterling work at this literal - but delightful - outpost of ringing over the years but so rarely gets the chance to ring anything for himself due to the nature of his job.

However, with Mum and Dad needing to be in central Ipswich by 6.30 for the St Mary-le-Tower supper and this 4pm-billed wedding dragging on to nearly 5.30, there was no time for them to ring a quarter. So once they'd had a quick ring to see the bride out on this drizzly afternoon, they dashed off leaving the rest of us ringing a quarter of Cambridge Minor - still useful for Richard - and Ruthie looking after the li'l chap and Max.

Still, I hope the happy couple had a good day.

Following this, o was for on-the-move eating as we grabbed some fish 'n' chips from Martlesham on the way to another o, this time for Offton where the South-East District practice was being held. With it being a 6.30 start too, I was grateful to Kate for hanging on at Orford as she - like us and Alan McBurnie - arrived late and contributed to a crowd of twenty. Again it is a tiny proportion of this district's membership, though perhaps the dirty weather didn't help. Still, I hope more come to Hollesley next month, we need the help and we need the learners.

The fact that it was too far for even some that live in the village to attend, it was impressive that James Smith attended from Hong Kong, literally on a flying works trip. It was his presence that persuaded us to finish the day with the letter b for beer as we popped to The Limeburners.

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Friday 1st October 2010

When I returned to Suffolk five years ago, every Friday night my new friend Rusty and I would head to the pubs of Woodbridge with reckless abandon and generally got busy being younger and irresponsible.

Since then fatherhood and responsibility has come upon both of us and next weekend he and his lady Jacqueline (or Jack as she's known) are taking the same leap that Ruthie and I are planning on taking on 7th July 2012.

So this evening we enjoyed a brief return to the old days (though without an eye on the ladies now of course!) with his stag night. Unlike most stag parties where it seems essential to have a lads holiday at great expense to both wallets and livers alike this was a more homely affair, though no less alcohol-fuelled!

A group of thirteen of us including Nick (who had only just returned from holiday with Kala half an hour earlier in exceptional dedication to the cause) and Kiwi (yes he's from New Zealand) who used to prop up the bar in The Green Man but has also since got married and now has a two month old son, met in The Anchor ten wet minutes walk from home.

Back in the old days we would end up in The Cross for post-eleven drinking, but this has since become a veggie restaurant so after a superb three courses and a constant supply of beer (too much almost!) we made our way up the Market Hill to The Kings Head to finish off a superb occasion.

I returned a little squiffy to a patient Ruthie who had very kindly watched over Mason, glad that it was a little easier to get back from than a lads holiday!

Whilst I was getting boozed up, others were being a little more productive as Nigel Bond rang his first of Grandsire Triples in the quarter at Hollesley and the whole entire band in the 1320 at Ashbocking were ringing their first of Lakesend Bob Minor. Well done to all of you!

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Thursday 30th September 2010

We took a night off from ringing and travelling into deepest, darkest Essex this evening and instead focused our efforts on a very enjoyable evening with Godfather Toby in my favourite pub in Woodbridge, The Mariners.

Those in the South-East District, please do not forget this Saturday's practice at Offton from 6.30-8.30pm and those in the North-West District please make note of the fact that names for tea HAVE to be in for next weeks ADM at Redgrave.

It is particularly important in light of the recent subject of opportunity that ringers, new and experienced, come along and support these events so that we can help move ringing forward in as many of our towers as possible.

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Wednesday 29th September 2010

Further hope that the 'cavalry' approach may work as we had Phil from Wickham Market with us at Pettistree this evening, encouraged to come out to other places by our presence and cajoling over the last two Mondays. With Derek having apparently gone to Ufford last night it is a promising sign and having raved about the standard of ringing at the CY's practice last night it is worth noting that every single one of the ringers who were there went through what Phil and Derek and their fellow Wickham ringers are going through currently. What they had though was opportunity. If Martin Cansdale, David Maynard or even David Pipe had done nothing but ring at Wickham Market or any similarly isolated tower as they were learning they wouldn't have got any further than Phil or Derek. In fact they probably would've given up!

Whilst Phil and Derek may not end up ringing to the same standard as the above ringers, by coming out to even just one extra practice a week like Pettistree or Ufford they will progress and hopefully take what they learn back to their home tower.

Indeed, Phil arrived as we were completing our successful quarter of Chester Minor and was instantly plunged into three consecutive 120's of Bob Doubles by Mike Whitby, fantastic practice for him and not his last of the night by a long stretch.

Once practice night had finished it was back to Colchester for the return of the Wednesday night pick-up as concerts - with Ruthie on duty - started up again at the Institute for the 2010-11 academic year.

By the time I had gone through Ipswich to avoid the debacle that so disrupted our journey last night (I've since discovered this is all to do with x-rays being undertaken on the Orwell Bridge overnight until the end of November, but quite why the traffic lights need to be placed so as to snare all those regardless of whether they want to cross the bridge or head off down the Wherstead or Nacton Roads still puzzles me) I had missed out on all the hanging around that gets quite tedious but also on the drama as someone's boyfriend threatened someone who had been having an affair with his girlfriend or something equally Eastenders-like. Typical!

Still, I heard all about it as Ruthie and I shared a McDonald's on another late night out as we once again headed back through Ipswich on the way home.

Bringing today's blog back round to the the topic of opportunity that it started with, well done to Becky Munford who was given the opportunity to ring her first blows of Bob Major in the successful quarter at Bardwell.

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Tuesday 28th September 2010

If I told you I witnessed Ruthie ringing Stedman Cinques with the College Youths you wouldn't believe me would you? Well it happened this evening!

This extraordinary event came about as the society came to Chelmsford Cathedral for their country practice and apart from being more practical to pick up Ruthie from Colchester Institute on the way through and take her along, it was further proof that even where ringers are not supposed to get along the hand of friendship and fellowship is extended.

In all seriousness, the 'rivalry' between Cumberlands and College Youths is nothing more than banter, but of course my better half was still very much in the minority tonight, but even she enjoyed ringing in a touch of Stedman that was mistake-free and well-struck and as I took great pleasure in ringing a good four-leads of Bristol Max it seemed awfully different to the Bob Doubles-athon that we had at Wickham Market twenty-four hours earlier! Though as a disclaimer that was of course pleasurable in a different way.

It was a shame that Ruthie and I were the only Suffolk representation there, but at least SMLT did have other ringers present as we were joined by the Brays and Nigel Newton - I don't think we let the side down!

A trip to The Golden Fleece opposite the Cathedral enabled us to catch up with Martin and Becky and catch a quick word with John Hughes-D'Aeth, Brian Meads, the Rotheras and David Baverstock over a pint and the superb spread that had been provided for us and was a cross between a ringers tea and Chinese-takeaway. Brilliant!

The journey home wasn't as much fun though. It wasn't just the overnight closure of the A12 at Copdock that saw us diverted through villages and Ipswich. It wasn't even then that the A14 was closed overnight AS WELL at the Wherstead Road junction in another bit of abysmal planning. But the fact they had traffic lights - the one thing guaranteed to snarl up traffic rather than keep it moving - as you came off was annoying. Quite why they were needed at 10.30 at night is beyond me, but even then they were on red for so long that not only did a huge jam build-up but cars ended up turning their engines and lights off! The lack of common sense and organisation amongst the powers-that-be continues to astound me, though it doesn't surprise me that our roads are a complete nightmare as a result!

To compound things further on a long day, Ipswich lost 1-0 at Reading with a last minute goal, but none of that should overshadow what a great evening we (yes, Ruthie did enjoy herself!) had. It's just a pity that after two visits in three months it's unlikely they'll be up our way again anytime in the near future.

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Monday 27th September 2010

At our Recruitment and Training meeting at the other end of this month - amongst much else - the desire was expressed to have teams of experienced ringers prepared to go to towers requesting help from the Guild.

We haven't quite got there yet, but tonight we experienced how it might work and how!

Like last week, Ruthie and I were at Wickham Market once I'd picked her up from Ipswich Railway Station following her first proper day back at Colchester Institute. Unlike last week though, we had the numbers to make some progress this time as we were very kindly helped by Mr and Mrs Harper, Anne Buswell and Kate.

This provided us with a platform for helping the local ringers improve their Bob Doubles in conditions they rarely experience and there was very real progress and names were even put down for the quarter they are aiming to ring! This is how I envisage 'the cavalry' idea working and I would love it if it could be rolled out quickly across the Guild.

If you are looking for help like Wickham Market were, whether it is in regards to a specific method, call-changes, striking, handling or just generally, then please do get in touch with either myself or Philip, your district Ringing Master or deanery rep and one way or another we'll get some help to you.

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Sunday 26th September 2010

It is just under two years - about twenty-two months - until our anticipated wedding day. It seems a long way away and indeed it is. There is much water to be passed under the bridge and much that has to go to plan first, but when you work out that there is 650 days until our intended matrimonial date of 7th July 2012, that same period of time seems a lot shorter.

So, with Ruthie on a rare Sunday off, today was very much focused on this far-off date, once we'd forsaken ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh for Pettistree.

Whilst this wasn't specifically wedding-related, the plan was that we would then have a ring at Woodbridge before attending the service that followed. We managed the second part, but with parking its usual nightmarish self round St Mary the Virgin - the nearby public car-park charges even today, presumably because of the superb and extensive public-transport network available to Woodbridge on Sundays - we were unable to help out the five that were ringing call-changes as we arrived.

We don't need to attend services at the venue of our wedding to get married there and it hasn't even been suggested to us, but we are keen not to just parachute in for the big event having never been seen about the place, so this morning we attended what had been billed as 'Back-to-Church-Sunday', apparently a new international initiative to encourage people who had either not attended church for some time or indeed had never attended church to service.

I'm not sure if it worked specifically or whether they always get such a large crowd, but from the moment we entered with much amusement (how often do newcomers enter a church to be asked by the curate if we would fry in such holy surroundings?!) to the cake, biscuits, tea and coffee at the end, it was an enjoyable occasion and particularly entertaining as Mason insisted on shaking everyone's hand long after The Peace had passed!

Whilst spiritually this was a good exercise, the next part of our day had more practical relevance to 650 days from now as we headed up to the grand surroundings of Glemham Hall for our first wedding fair.

There is no way we can afford everything on offer there, at least not from the companies representing their area of the tangled web of wedding organising, but after over two hours of talking with photographers, videographers, toastmasters, cake-makers, dress-makers, florists, stylists, disco organisers, bands, caterers, venues, people who would keep the kids occupied and even a man with an ice-cream machine, we had plenty of food for thought and to eat!

The li'l chap was very patient, helped by a wander around the extensive gardens when it wasn't raining and the obligatory cup-of-tea and his tipple-of-the-moment milk, but it was soon time to hand him back before we left the realms of wedding organising and onto the realms of spliced Surprise Major.

This evening we were in Ufford and surprising ourselves by succeeding in ringing a quarter of ten-spliced, incorporating the standard-eight plus Glasgow and Belfast. There's often some caution and even fear amongst at least one or two members of the band prior to these testing attempts, but tonight there seemed to be a substantial lack of confidence in our abilities prior to this go at the once impossible. This was further enhanced by the fact we couldn't get through the first lead - although this was Belfast - but perhaps this led to a more relaxed attitude. Or maybe it was the presence of the watching and chilly Sam Vick who had come along with Phil and Maggie. If it is the latter then she is booked for all future attempts!

It made for a satisfying evening, especially with some Grandsire Triples for Sam before and after and even more so when I received word of achievements elsewhere, with Philip calling his 300th quarter before he'd even got to us, helping Julie Rapior to her first of St Clements Minor at Aldeburgh and David Potts calling his first of Surprise Major at SMLT. Indeed I'm led to believe it was his first as conductor of anything for about a decade, so well done to him, Julie, Philip and all of us for our achievements today!

I am also duty bound to mention Robert Beavis's 50th quarter of the year over in Gloucestershire at Newnham-On-Severn (especially on having to ring it with those Matthews and Webb chaps!) and on his achievements in the quarter at St John on the Wall in Bristol on the same day. If like Robert you would like to request space in the blog, then I think you'll find my rates are very reasonable. Well done though Robert, keep it up.

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Saturday 25th September 2010

Things get busy for us on Saturdays quite frequently. It is not just a symptom of being Guild Ringing Master or even just enjoying lots of ringing. Ruthie works Sundays - though not tomorrow as it happens - and goes to uni during the week whilst I go to work, so Saturdays are the only day that we can do stuff together, whatever that may be.

It does mean we have to turn things down however and in recent weeks we've had to politely decline invitations into peals, quarters and weddings and we shall be missing the ADM's of both the northern districts in forthcoming weeks.

Today we had to sadly pass on the opportunity to join the Hollesley outing to Norfolk as Ruthie was needed for some group rehearsal at Colchester Institute as her third and final year there kicks in ahead of lectures starting on Monday.

Mason and I decided to take her down there and combine the trip firstly with a bit of shopping around the now familiar North Essex town and then - after a lunchtime finish to Ruthie's rehearsals - a visit to Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric in Ipswich, the Champkin's in Melton to drop some bits and pieces off and then her Nan's down the road before finally returning to base and taking a phone-call from Chris who had been even further than us today to watch the Tractor Boyz' decent 1-1 draw in Scunthorpe.

As you will have noticed, unusually it was a busy day that involved absolutely no ringing at all, but elsewhere others were making up for it. Well done to Alex Tatlow on calling his first quarter of Cambridge Minor at Ashbocking and then to him and his band on the fantastic effort in the 1260 of Doubles at Great Finborough.

It was also a fitting achievement for wishing Louis Suggett well as he left for Birmingham University today. He's a smart boy who I am sure will not only excel in his studies but also in ringing there. Even as he arrived the locals were ringing 20160 changes of 147 Treble-Dodging methods at St Paul's in the Jewellery Quarter of the city, the most methods rung all-the-work on tower bells. It is a phenomenal achievement, but how long before we see Louis P H Suggett taking part in similarly amazing peals?

Whether he does or not, I would like to wish him and any of our other ringers taking this major step into the big bad world well and urge them not to forget us!

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Friday 24th September 2010

The sorry tale of Campsea Ashe's stolen bells was told on BBC Look East this evening, further highlighting the disappointment and upset that has replaced the excitement that was present in that corner of Suffolk until a few days ago. And whilst insurance will cover the cost of recasting, the loss of the old third cast in 1729 is a big blow as it can't be truly replaced of course. And as a bellringer who is more used to dealing with others determined to conserve bells, it is sad to think this particular bell will just be smashed up for someone's short-term benefit.

At the other end of the spectrum from the selfish criminals who have dealt this blow, I and the rest of the John Catt sales-team were getting a small part of our ultimate reward which we have earned by doing what most normal functioning members of society do - working hard. We have already met our huge sales target for our current campaign with several weeks to go and so Jonathan generously took us out to lunch at The Cherry Tree in Woodbridge. Such rewards do motivate us though and help contribute to what is a happy and therefore productive workforce and today's meal and couple of pints of Explorer were enjoyed as much as ever.

Having had those couple of pints I chose to walk up to collect Mason for the weekend before Ruthie and I settled down to another quiet night in - once the li'l chap had gone to bed that is!

Meanwhile, well done to Jenny Scase, Tracey Scase and Stephen 'Podge' Christian on ringing their first Carlisle Minor in the quarter at Earl Stonham.

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Thursday 23rd September 2010

Devastating news from Dorset where nine bells were stolen from Nicholson's overnight between Monday and Tuesday. Quite apart from the breathtaking nerve to steal tons of bell-metal and the utter dismay that the professionalism, organisation and - yes -intelligence presumably needed to carry this kind of operation out couldn't be put to more legitimate uses in these tough times, it is a big blow to our very own Campsea Ashe whom four of the nine stolen bells belonged to.

The bells will no doubt be broken down to sell on in an act of vandalism that only those with no sense of the years it has taken for the community of Campsea Ashe to get this far could undertake, but Tim Holmes remains surprisingly upbeat as insurance will cover the cost of recasting the bells.

But of course, in many ways that's not the point. The village was expecting to see the historic moment when THEIR new bells arrived in just under two weeks time and hoping to hear six bells ring out in great celebration for the first time before the end of next month, but of course this will be somewhat delayed.

It is of course very upsetting to Andrew Nicholson and his hard-working team too and it is important to note that Tim - who perhaps you might think would have more reason than anyone to be annoyed by these events - has been quick to point out that when he went to visit the bells and shoot the now poignant footage of them recently, there was absolutely nothing wrong with security at their yard.

No, this was just another example of determined criminals such as those who have stolen the cross from the altar of St Margaret in Ipswich this week and for whom there seems there is nothing they feel they aren't entitled to steal.

Following these bits of depressing news and the downbeat tone on peals yesterday, there were some good news stories from yesterday as Stephen Rabong rang his 300th quarter in the success at Southwold - congratulations Stephen - and David Howe called his first of Triples in the 1260 of Bob Triples at Lavenham. Well done David!

Ruthie and I meanwhile did little as our plans for this evening were changed too late to make it to Grundisburgh and so instead we enjoyed another night in.

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Wednesday 22nd September 2010

The second half of this year has seen a drastic and disappointing drop in the number of peals rung for the Guild. This isn't a disaster as peal-ringing isn't the be-all-and-end-all of the organisation's activities, I know a lot have been lost - at least in August - and there has been lots of encouraging activities in other fields, most easily recorded in the number of firsts rung in quarters recently and throughout the year. However, I do feel that a good strong peal-ringing effort does trickle down through other ringing, giving concerted practice at good ringing or new methods and the most easily noticeable sign to the outward world that the Guild is thriving and that this is a place that you'd want to carry out your ringing. But it seems increasingly unlikely we are going to reach the 150 mark for the year as I had hoped, especially as another attempt fell by the wayside this evening, as a peal I was to be in at St Mary‑le‑Tower was called off.

It was a shame as we used to ring quite a few peals on the front eight at SMLT - as tonight's would've been - in my youth and it was an invaluable experience for me and many others and I'm glad to see this is to become a regular fixture, even if the first one has fallen by the wayside!

And it did give me the opportunity to accompany Ruthie to Pettistree practice where despite still being a bit short we were joined by Clive Dunbavin. Clive is another positive element of my youthful peal-ringing days and I am glad to see him returning to the Suffolk ringing scene over the last couple of years as he is a very good ringer to have about. What is more, he is arranging peals, something we need right now...

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Tuesday 21st September 2010

A day of more recruitment and achievement and I didn't even touch a rope today!

I did receive an email from a lapsed ringer who is looking to return, who had got my details through the website, so well done Mr Garner on this one! Having forwarded her onto the appropriate district ringing master I am looking forward to seeing her in a tower soon!

Meanwhile, well done to Elaine Townsend (aka Mrs Roger) on ringing her first of Stedman in the quarter at Kettleburgh and Gordon Slack on calling his first of Grandsire Triples at the pre-practice quarter at Offton. Good to see so much going on.

Ruthie and I were meanwhile celebrating our anniversary by indulging in nachos, cheese and biscuits and red wine whilst Ipswich achieved another away win, this time at Millwall to get them through to the next round of the League Cup. There's a lot of feel-good going round!

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Monday 20th September 2010

So have you seen the photo from the EADT's website? That shot of the good-looking bunch on the Vestey Ring at yesterday's Grand Henham Steam Rally? It is the kind of publicity we were hoping for, but whilst it highlighted nicely our position among the fairground rides, basket weavers, model trains, boats and lots of quaint crafts that sum up rural Suffolk, it is a slight shame they caught us on the rare moment that there were no visitors to our brand new ring.

Still, it was a very visible part of a recruitment and training programme that is creaking into life as much as it can at this stage and Ruthie and I continued with that this evening as we moved on from the recruitment and publicity elements we experienced at Henham Park and Bardwell over the weekend and headed to Wickham Market for some training and retention.

Here is one of those bands that suffers from being a bit isolated, rarely leaving this awkward six with an extremely low ceiling and to an extent it showed tonight. I don't mean that in a bad way at all, but rather the limitations of how far they could go within the limited confines of All Saints' belfry were clearly there for Ruthie and me to see at their practice tonight.

They had at least made the step that we want so many more belfries to make by getting in touch with us via Mary Garner and asking for help as their tower captain Ray is away. But with Mary unable to come along, we really needed more than just us two helping. Phil, Derek and Graham specifically wanted to focus on Bob Doubles inside with Brian wanting to practice ringing the treble. Ideally we only wanted one of them to ring at a time and with the added help of Fiona and Hazel we were able to ring plain courses with little trouble.

However, when we tried ringing a touch, there just weren't enough to manage this successfully and it collapsed in an unhelpful and irretrievable heap. And this highlights why it is vital that members go out elsewhere to other practices nearby, in this case the ideally placed Pettistree just a mile down the road. If every time they tried to ring a 120 of Bob Doubles it ended up like this because the band as a whole were all learning at the same time, it is no wonder they couldn't progress beyond this point.

Whilst as a short-term goal I think Ruthie and I can help them over the next couple of weeks - with the help of other ringers too though - ultimately we can't commit ourselves in the long-term. That is a message we shall try and impart to them, but also to as many members as possible out there. There are are lots of towers that need the help that my fiancée and I were giving willingly and happily to Wickham tonight and we might be able to persuade one or two of their ringers to supplement their ringing by going elsewhere too, but we can't do all of the towers in the Guild that need this kind of help. And nor can it just fall upon the same few that seem to do the most. Is there a tower near you that could benefit from two or three of you popping along every now and again? Perhaps there are two towers near to each other with struggling bands that practice on the same night that could perhaps amalgamate their efforts? Either way, think about what you can do, even if you think it's not much.

At Wickham we made progress though and it was delightful to see that. It showed what can be done.

Further up the learning process meanwhile, well done yesterday to Alison Evans on not only ringing her first quarter of Single Oxford Bob Minor at Wickham Skeith, but also ringing her 50th quarter at the same time. Congratulations Alison!

Not only that, but well done particularly to her and David Howe for their tremendous achievements in the quarter at Gislingham, as well as to David Steed and Lesley Wilson on ringing their first blows of Badgeworth. I'm exhausted just reading it, but it further goes to show what can be achieved with opportunity!

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Sunday 19th September 2010

More vital recruitment efforts today as Mason and I made our way up to Henham Park for the Grand Henham Steam Rally day two.

After popping along to St Mary‑le‑Tower first thing where I was delighted to partake in a very decent half-course of Yorkshire Max, we arrived at the site with surprisingly little trouble having heard horror stories of huge jams on Radio Suffolk yesterday and had a look around the site as we searched for the Vestey Ring in a mass of engines, stalls and fair-ground rides that made for a much bigger show than I had expected. In fact it reminded me a lot of the Suffolk Show, only this was being held on days that employed people can make.

There it was, the Guild's brand new mini-ring in a prime spot out in the open just far enough away from the fairground not to be too disturbed by it but close enough to nip off and take the li'l chap to enjoy the sadly expensive rides as well as catch the attention of many children.

And how! So many people - predominantly kids - came along and whilst many may well never touch a rope again and some will benefit the Norwich Diocesan Association rather than us (which is no bad thing!), there may well be some new learners heading towards our towers. If everyone who said they came from Beccles takes up the adventure of ringing then their local ten-bell tower and nearby Worlingham are going to need reinforcements!

I'm not sure how much help I was as Mason understandably wanted to explore - as did I of course - but I had great fun giving people a go, chatting with others and handing out the superb leaflets we had printed for the occasion, complete with pictures of a beaming Ruthie! Even the li'l chap helped handing them out, though not everyone needed quite so many of them!

All in all it was a fantastic occasion, with Alan McBurnie doing well with Plain Hunt on Four, Mason winning a penguin and Philip getting a sneaky ice-cream and I certainly hope we come back next year, as well as to The Suffolk Show - if people can get the day-off!

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Saturday 18th September 2010

What makes for a successful tower open day? Or indeed any recruitment or publicity event for ringing?

It was a question asked of two events today, both of which I think could be a deemed a success though receiving very differing levels of response.

Mason, Ruthie and I were at Bardwell for their tower open day where Ruth Suggett spent most of the morning apologising to us that no visitors had arrived, despite our protestations that we were delighted to be in this beautiful part of the county on a lovely sunny day and that open days are not just about sheer numbers. You could be inundated with visitors, spend four solid hours showing people who are often curious rather than interested in taking up ringing and who - depending where you are - may just be tourists who don't even live in the area anyway. These are one of those occasions - especially in light of our recent R & T meeting - where quality is definitely preferable to quantity and to that end our day was a success.

After a couple of very nice blokes enjoyed the same tour that we three had had at the start of the day, with the various cameras amongst the bells put to good use, there were just a handful of people that came up. But out of that handful Ruth has gained two or three - and possibly four in the long-term - potential recruits, all of them youngsters. We all know that there is a strong possibility that not all of those recruits will stay the pace, especially as youngsters have so much else to distract them, but if Bardwell ends up with just one young ringer to join the enthusiastic bunch of youngsters up that way then today was more than worth it. Talking of which, well done to them on their impressive-looking quarter at Tostock last night and especially to Alex. Happy birthday Martyn!

And besides, we enjoyed the hospitality and catching up with folk out that way, especially as we won't be able to make the North-West ADM in a few weeks time.

Meanwhile, across the county at Henham Park and apparently in equally glorious weather, the Vestey Ring was enjoying its first public outing and with great success as the crowds at the Grand Henham Steam Rally flocked to the new ring of six to have a go. It will be interesting to see if the Guild's towers receive some new recruits but even if just one person takes it up it is still better than if we hadn't taken the mini-ring there at all.

I received a report on the doorstep of the Wakefield's from Bruce, who had attended, as I collected my ticket for the second day of this exciting sounding event having got the li'l chap to bed and done some shopping with Mike Whitby.

And how about seeing Ipswich Town sitting second in the table? I'm going to enjoy that whilst it lasts...

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Friday 17th September 2010

A normal 9-5 shift at work enabled me to await Mason's arrival before I fed and watered him and put him to bed and then set off for Rendham with Ruthie adamant that she was going nowhere with a new series of QI starting this evening.

Although I was in time to listen to the end of their practice and meet the first Hungarian ringer I've ever come across, the main reason for my visit to this ground-floor eight was to ring in what transpired to be a decent if not spectacular quarter of Cambridge Major.

With his owner returning today, I got home to give Max a last walk tonight, taking him past the bustling bars and restaurants of Woodbridge, from The Mariners, past The Cross - now a vegetarian restaurant - and The Anchor before passing a once familiar Friday night haunt, The Red Lion in blustery weather. At least these dog-walks have helped me appreciate my surroundings, an unexpected bonus.

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Thursday 16th September 2010

On the day the Pope came to visit with much hullabaloo, our day was more mundane, though the late finish at work saw Peter bring in bread, butter and jam, all made by his fair hands.

However, the seven o' clock finish also meant that there wasn't time to get to Grundisburgh for practice night as we aimed to have tea before ten for a change this week!

Thankfully Charlotte Carter and Hugh Spink were able to fit in their first of treble-bob in the quarter of Kent at Chediston, so well done both of them!

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Wednesday 15th September 2010

There was a significant landmark passed at Pettistree this evening prior to practice as the 600th quarter on the bells since their restoration in 1986 was rung.

Due to working until seven today, I was unable to ring in the successful 1296 of Norwich, but I was able to bring Max and bulk up the numbers at a lowly attended night. Despite this, there was still much achieved from young Bruce's first ringing since April, Bill progressing in call-changes and a bit of decent messing about thrown into the mix before we meandered across to The Greyhound for a pint.

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Tuesday 14th September 2010

Thank you to all those who have replied to my email about St Winston's Day ringing on 20th November, even if a lot of them have been querying whether the post was for them! I already have ten who have committed themselves to peal-ringing on that morning!

The late finish today ate considerably into our traditional Tuesday night in as we also had to restock from Tesco, but it did at least mean I avoided listening to or watching the predictable battering that Ipswich got from QPR as the visitors confirmed their place as likely runaway champions this season by being runaway victors at Portman Road this evening.

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Monday 13th September 2010

As we left Monewden church on a dark, blustery and chilly almost autumnal evening, it struck me just how long we've been going for these twenty-seven Surprise Minor methods for. By the time we can next go for an attempt, it will have been over six months since we got the twenty-one at The Folly at the beginning of April. Since then we've had numerous attempts at various locations, overseeing the passing of spring, the coming and going of summer and apparent arrival of autumn, worked around a World Cup, holidays and goodness knows what else. I'm beginning to sense how Roy Keane must have felt about a year ago.

And there are are parallels between our efforts and Ipswich Town's during their notorious attempts to get a win at the beginning of last season. Like them, we have performed well and improved greatly without getting the results we deserve. In fact, I would go as far as to say we have the methods licked. We are ringing with confidence and the striking has been very good. But like the Tractor Boys of September/October 2010, this is both encouraging and frustrating as it is now silly lapses of concentration that are costing us. And it is all the more frustrating because in the main, the mistakes that are finishing us are predominantly mine. At least if someone else causes it you know there isn't much you can do about it if they can't be put right. But when it is your fault you kick yourself that you didn't prevent it happening.

This evening I was cursing and berating myself for a missed bob as we approached the final leads of the fourth extent and as we were about to go into the Westminster and Allendale extent I had miscalled recently. If we'd got to it I was prepared...

An added frustration was that it came at the end of a very productive day. All this week we are working from 11-7 and although I left early this evening for the peal attempt I still had a late start - I shall make it up tomorrow - which allowed me to do much.

With Kate away we are charged with looking after her animals and so once Ruthie had given Max his (very) early morning constitutional, I then fed the fish, cats and chickens, let the dog out, took Mason to school, let the dog out again, opened a new bank account, popped in to see my fiancée at Boots and got to work half-an-hour earlier than I had intended! It's amazing what you can get done when work doesn't get in the way!

There is good news about the Vestey Ring, our brand new Guild Mini-Ring, which has been delivered, tried out and readied for its first venture out to this weekend's Henham Steam Rally! This is the kind of event that the mini-ring is for and will enable us to show the public what we normally do hidden away in church towers as a band. It's easy to spot and will hopefully draw a lot of interest and ultimately recruits, so it really is an exciting start to a new era. Let's make it count.

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Sunday 12th September 2010

You wouldn't think watching a prominent Suffolk ringer throwing teddies off the top of a church tower would be so much fun, but I can tell you it is!

Parachuting BearIt was all in aid of said church of course - in this case All Saints, Sproughton - and the teddies all had parachutes, gleefully watched on by their owners - Mason included - as said Guild member - Ralph Earey - dropped them from a great height. The results were amusing and impressive in equal measures on a lovely afternoon as some plummeted straight to earth, others were swept onto the church roof and one even made it all the way from the tower at the west end, past the east end of the church and would almost certainly have floated on over the neighbouring River Gipping and onto the Millennium Green if it wasn't for the established trees still fully clutching onto their summer greenery!

As dark clouds loomed and the wind got up even more, we retreated into the church as planned for the next bit of the event - the paper plane competition! This consisted of predominantly kids throwing their planes from the flight deck - in this case the belfry of this gallery ring of six - and seeing whose would go the furthest down the church. One man did manage to get his to only a couple of feet short of the altar, but the li'l chap was delighted just to be given licence to throw a plane from a great height and at least his reached beyond the back pews which was further than many!

It was a feel-good afternoon in keeping with a feel-good morning as the good ringing experienced yesterday carried over into Sunday ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower as the return of Mr Potts saw all twelve rung and rung very well, something that is becoming a happy habit.

The ringing wasn't so clean-cut at Grundisburgh, but there was a decent crowd including the return of Alistair from nearby Burgh who rang Grandsire Triples well.

Meanwhile, well done to Alison Evans on yesterday's quarter at Old Newton. Hers is a name that is becoming increasingly familiar in this blog and happily so as she achieves on a regular basis. This time she rang her first of Winchendon Place and her first blows of St Nicholas. I'm eagerly awaiting to see what she does next!

Congratulations are also due to Richard Rapior - a fine servant to the Guild - on ringing his 400th peal, scored of course at Aldeburgh with the first second Sunday peal there since June as is the norm, before the residents make out their summer is bombarded with peal-ringing.

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Saturday 11th September 2010

It has been some time since we have had a St Mary‑le‑Tower outing and whether it was because of this, George's persuasive powers or the hope of some really good ringing, there was a good turnout for the occasion, approaching thirty. Although we were missing the SMLT Ringing Masters that preceded and succeeded me Owen Claxton and David Potts, just about everybody else that could be classed as a regular on a Sunday morning and/or Monday night - including Sean who partook in a valuable and essential part of his learning experience - were present, joined by partners such as Helen Price and Gillian Wakefield and friends such as the Whitings and Stephen Stanford.

We were late in starting this fabulous day however - surprise, surprise I hear you say - though we really didn't mind that we just had a bit of call-changes on the terrible sounding minor-six at Isleham - home of a younger Clive Dunbavin judging by the peal-boards - that started our tour just over the Cambridgeshire border before we continued on to Ely to ring at the lovely eight at St Mary's in the shadow of the famous cathedral there. We had only found a half-hour parking spot for here though and so we had to drag ourselves from these wonderful bells and the peal-boards that seemed to adorn more Suffolk names than Cambridgeshire, with the names Salter, Dunbavin, Holland and even Whitby - who was in our party - plastered across this gallery belfry.

Our next destination was Stretham, where despite a lovely ring of six over a superb new-looking ringing-floor with toilets and kitchen below it and marvellous sectioned off play-area that Mason loved, there is no regular band which is sad.

However, The Red Lion across the road was a brilliant venue for our group dinner and was actually a very good choice of drinking establishment from George.

The post-pub ringing saw me running Bluntisham, an eight that saw a further improvement in the quality of bells we were visiting. This belfry was about as in the church as you can get without being a chancel ring, open to the rest of the building on three sides and with the door open to the bright sunny afternoon outside it was easy to run, highlighted by the good three leads of Bristol and lower that we finished with. Furthermore we were entertained by the Ixworth-style live pictures of the bells in action.

Warboys was the fifth of seven towers planned for the day, but this six housed in a church with all its flint beautifully exposed was the last of the day for the li'l chap, Ruthie and me as we had an engagement back in Woodbridge, for we were to be taken out to dinner by Kate and Ron.

With Max and Jude the dogs accompanying us we enjoyed a lovely three-course meal in the children's garden outside The Cherry Tree pub as the sun dropped and Mason behaved impeccably.

We were still back home in time to see The Last Night of the Proms. It must really annoy the PC brigade to see the abundance of flags from around the world in The Royal Albert Hall and in parks across the land on this occasion that they would love to see banned for being offensively patriotic. For the more tolerant of us though it was a typically rousing and enjoyable watch and a fantastic end to a fantastically British day.

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Friday 10th September 2010

Yes, yes I know I sent a lot of you an email addressing you as Winston and asking if you could bring Carol along, but if you remove the names then the gist is the same and it WAS meant for you!

The email was in regards to ringing for St Edmund's Day on 20th November, which this year is on a Saturday. I want to do the same as the last couple of years and have peals rung simultaneously for the Guild in each district. In theory this should be easier to organise than on previous years when arranging four peals on a weekday morning. However, it is also Cumberlands Peal Weekend and with a large chunk of Suffolk's peal-ringers being of that persuasion I'll need the help of as many of the remainder as is possible. Hence the mass email to non-Cumberlands across the county and beyond. If only they were all called Winston...

My mistake was typical of a day that seemed to see a week of early starts catch up with me, as we lost our latest attempt of 27-Surprise Minor methods - with Mr Beavis in for Mr Whiting again and Mr Suggett in for Mrs Garner - at Sproughton. Although I didn't miscall this one, a late change of method contributed to a decent effort collapsing in the third extent. Still, another attempt on Monday so at least we're back on it quickly.

At least someone was able to cope with calling nearly thirty methods and well done to Alex Tatlow for calling the twenty-nine methods, variations and principles that were crammed into the 1260 changes at Tostock today, the most methods he has called. Well done too to the rest of the band for who it was the most methods any of them had rung. Top stuff!

Not such good news at Hollesley where Ruthie had gone for a quarter attempt of Stedman Triples (surprisingly she was the only band member not warned of the choice of method...) before the practice whilst I stayed at home with Mason. Sadly the quarter was lost, but it was still good practice for the likes of Anne Buswell and Richard Moody and it helped with the numbers at the practice that followed.

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Thursday 9th September 2010

Tim Holmes very kindly sent me the following You Tube clips of Campsea Ashe bells at Whitechapel's.

It's great to see projects coming to fruition but this one seems particularly good as it seems to have been so long in coming. Apparently they're all set for installing next month so watch this space!

They couldn't grumble if they turned out with a six like Theberton's which was my next destination on a busy week of ringing for Jonathan Steven's very useful and enjoyable monthly Thursday peal attempts.

With a bat enjoying our ringing in the church somewhere and the line-dancer's in the neighbouring hall apparently unperturbed by our presence, we rang a very decent effort and I headed home for tea with Ruthie most satisfied.

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Wednesday 8th September 2010

I was very sorry to hear this evening of the death of Frank Arnold yesterday. Apparently, no non-resident member has rung more peals for the Suffolk Guild then him and although it has been some time since he last rang at all, let alone a peal it is sad to see he has passed away.

Despite him being a Norfolk resident I rang many peals with Frank in my youth and most of those were with David and Katharine Salter, so it was appropriate that - after another early start at work and an afternoon that had seen me able to visit Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric whilst Ruthie was at work - this evening we were at The Wolery for our belated first attempt at ringing a peal of Multi-Plain Minor methods.

We succeeded - partly because I remembered to bring Ruthie this time - and we succeeded in style with some very good ringing. Although simpler than their Surprise counterparts, Plain methods race round at a speed that can catch you out very easily on tower bells. This is exaggerated on a mini-ring and so we had good reason to be chuffed with this tonight's effort. Hopefully a fitting tribute to the ringer from Bunwell who did so much ringing with us.

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Tuesday 7th September 2010

It was a very, very significant day today.

MasonFirstly it was Mason's first day at 'big' school as he started nursery at Kyson Primary School. As you can see, he looked typically cute in his first uniform and as usual took everything in his stride, even forgetting initially to say bye to his Mummy and Daddy. For all that and that he is only going in on the mornings and for two days this week, as he was led by the hand by his new teacher into a class full of kids he didn't know, I couldn't help but have that pang of worry that must be familiar to all parents. Apparently he was fine though as a phone call from him later testified.


It wasn't the only important event of the day though as another early start and finish not only allowed me to see the li'l chaps big moment in my break but with Ruthie on a day off allowed us to take the next step on the way to our wedding after having a good old natter with Jasper the Simon Cowell look-alike along the way as he rode past on his bike. When the big day comes, we would like to get married at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, something that is possible ironically through my short time living in Edwin Avenue rather than Ruthie's decade living on the same street! Although we live in the parish of St John's, we've never been in the church there and of course it has no bells and we feel a much stronger connection to what is a landmark of the town of our residence!

Besides, we - or specifically Ruthie and her family - know the Revd Kevan McCormack (or Kev the Rev!) very well and it was him that we went to see at the rectory this afternoon to make initial arrangements. Very unusually though, we are too early to officially book the church as our chosen date of 7th July 2012 is more than eighteen months away. However, it's been pencilled in and it was useful and enjoyable chatting with him. It also allows us to start making more concrete plans.

It was the start of a very productive afternoon and evening as we then managed to fit in Ruthie's opticians appointment, go to Tesco, make tea and tidy the house all before heading out for an early evening quarter of Yorkshire Major at Framlingham.

With it being their practice night, some of us stayed on after our success to carry out what we were talking about on Saturday morning as we offered ringers such as Vic and Mary the opportunity to ring things like call-changes on eight, Bob Doubles and Grandsire Doubles with strong, confident bands, something that apparently - and sadly not unusual for them - is just not possible on their average Tuesday night.

It was a lovely evening and hopefully the first of many similar evenings that will occur over the next few years involving many experienced ringers as we strive to help out such bands with their ringing and spread the word - as we did this evening at the practice and in The Railway Inn with much joviality afterwards - that there is much more help out there, such as the next South-East District Practice at Offton on 2nd October and the North-East Practice at Tannington on Thursday. These are vital but social occasions that offer to an even greater extent what we were doing this evening - a chance for learners to ring with strong bands and get advice in the belfry and/or over a pint afterwards. Please do take advantage of this and please - experienced ringers out there - go along and help out where and when you can.

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Monday 6th September 2010

After a boozy evening next door at Bob's that was so good I'd forgotten about it, the return of the early shifts this week was tough. But it did at least give me another early finish. However, with Ruthie at work I was faced with twiddling my thumbs or - even worse - doing the housework.

So I arranged a peal to get me out of the house and I'm glad I did as an enjoyable afternoon was had with Yorkshire Major scored at Grundisburgh, topped off by a first of a pint of elderflower beer in the Turk's Head over at Hasketon.

It set me up nicely for an evening at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice, where despite the absence's of Ruthie - she was stuck at home doing some training for Boots - and David, there was still a large crowd of twenty-two for Owen to shepherd.

I was ready for home though, so no pub tonight. It's a big day tomorrow...

It was a big day yesterday in the world of quarter-peals and well done to Katie Wright on ringing her most methods in the success at Monewden and Alison Evans for ringing her first of Buxton Bob Minor at Earl Stonham.

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Sunday 5th September 2010

It was a morning of very good ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower (despite David's absence and more Cambridge Minor on the front eight with the second missing and the tenor covering), St Lawrence (where we were initially competing with the noisy workmen downstairs) and Grundisburgh where Erin got a good run-out.

Mason and I then spent a quiet afternoon pottering around at home, which loosely translated meant I stuck some bread in the oven and forgot about it only to be reminded by smoke and the smell of burning. Still, we now have a couple of decent doorstops.

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Saturday 4th September 2010

We have a new framework at last for recruitment and training in this Guild, thanks to this morning's extremely useful and productive R & T meeting in Stowmarket belfry.

On the face of things this seems a simple issue to get to grips with. You need to recruit people and you then need to train them. But a list of aspects relating to R & T drawn up by Alan - there was no agenda - numbered twenty-five from basic method development to teaching the teachers and child protection and confirmed that we were never going to fully cover everything in one sitting.

However, we have a good team. I'd never fully understood why we'd restricted membership of this vital committee to the Ringing Master and two reps from each district, sometimes twisting the arm of reluctant 'volunteers' from one district whilst depriving keen, enthusiastic and appropriate people from other districts from getting involved. Today there was twelve of us and there would have been more if the South-West representation wasn't actually undertaking training today! From the youthful eyes of Philip Moyse to the experience of George Pipe and Trevor Hughes, we had a good range in the room, including those with teaching experience both in and out of the belfry such as John Girt and Owen Claxton and also incorporating the Guild Chairman and district chairmen and masters.

Knowing full-well that we weren't going to cure all our ills with just one meeting, we concentrated first on recruitment, recognising that in terms of numbers we are relatively good at recruiting. Since I've become Master I've noticed lots of new recruits coming in, from the band at Acton, those in the Blyth Valley, the youngsters at Great Barton to the numerous learners coming through at Pettistree and Sean closer to home at St Mary‑le‑Tower. We heard of signs advertising Brooke's practice night in the village and surrounding roads north of the border that attracted twenty-four new recruits. Open days, mini-rings - there is so much we are doing right in regards to getting people through our doors.

But the question quickly moved onto retention, the aspect we identified as the most pressing one in recruitment and training and perhaps the people who generally have the most control over new recruits - tower captains. For all the recruits we are getting, we are losing a lot fairly soon and one reason seems to be the number of isolated towers across the county where the majority of the ringers never step outside their tower. They are limited to whatever the local band can ring and so eventually get bored and frustrated and give up, especially if they have any semblance of ability.

What we want to do is use our deanery reps to help us reach these towers, to make them aware that there are other ringers out there, training days, quarters, district practices, etc. From here we hope to call upon 'the cavalry', an extensive network of ringers across Suffolk who can help support the training needs of these isolated ringers.

As I said, this is a framework, we need to work through the practicalities, see how many of our experienced ringers are willing to be called upon and whether our current deanery reps are in a position to help us out with our aims. It is still a good start though.

A good example of where such a plan could be implemented was this afternoon's South-East District Meeting at Pettistree with ringing at Bredfield beforehand. There was a much better turnout than last year's September meeting with nearly forty attending today. But that still leaves well over 200 members not present, many of whom come from those isolated towers across the district and who would have benefited tremendously from the expertise of such ringers as Brian Whiting, David Stanford, Mike Whitby, Jonathan Stevens, Maggie Ross and Philip Gorrod. But how many knew of the event in some of our towers or least of how useful it would be to them? It would've been good for reps and officers to go round these towers in the lead-up to make them aware of the event and encourage the stay-aways along.

Those who didn't or couldn't go missed out on another lovely afternoon and evening, with good ringing at both towers, a typically short meeting and wonderful tea (including Ruthie's gorgeous cake) in the lovely setting of Pettistree Village Hall as I sat working through the huge feast in front of us, overlooking fields towards the spire of All Saints in Wickham Market. It was another very enjoyable occasion well organised by Mary Garner and run by Peter Harper and Kate Eagle - just a shame that not everyone who could've been there was there.

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Friday 3rd September 2010

The late start at work enabled me to pick up a much better Mason than I eventually dropped off on Monday and spend a bit of time at Mum and Dad's where he was to be for the day. Whilst there, I read their Ringing World copy (with their blessing!) which had dropped through their letterbox in my presence.

Looking through the letter section there seems to be some debate, essentially on shouting vs. not-shouting. Whilst I can understand why shouting occurs in a belfry - sometimes you need to get a message across sharply and quickly - it is a bit of no-brainer in my book. We are competing for volunteers among so many other hobbies, distractions and past-times, many of whom are looking for an escape from the stresses of everyday life. They won't tolerate people humiliating them and belittling them in their spare time. There is a difference between this and the loud and often sharp instructions that need to be got across of course, but I think gentle instruction and patience are more likely to garner the respect and loyalty of a learner.

We were visited by Fergie again this evening, this time with the return of competitive international football as qualification for Euro 2012 begins with the World Cup still lingering in the mind. However, a 4-0 win over Bulgaria has managed to cheer up many an England fan, myself included!

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Thursday 2nd September 2010

Good luck to Tom Britten as tomorrow he embarks upon a new chapter of his life and leaves for Stevenage for his new job.

This evening we rang a quarter at Hollesley to see him on his way with our best wishes and well done to the man himself who in the process rang his first of Bristol and therefore completed the standard eight Surprise Major methods to quarters.

Things didn't finish there though as Jane joined Peter, Micky joined Alan and Ron joined Kate and the rest of the band at Saffron afterwards for a curry, some booze and a lively debate on the merits of iPads.

Even though we've been deprived of Tom's company for the last three years as he's studied up at Sheffield University, this departure seems a bit more permanent and we shall miss him and his considerable ringing abilities. Our loss is certainly Hertfordshire's gain!

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Wednesday 1st September 2010

This week I am working the slightly later shifts of 10-6 in order to get hold of schools in the Americas South and North and so with an invite to meet up with Ruthie's school-chum Lizzie at her mother's house we had a relatively short period of time in which to get to Pettistree, ring a decent quarter of Westminster, discuss what we're doing to prepare for Saturday's South-East District Meeting and get back to Woodbridge.

The get-together was nothing exciting - a couple of DVDs, pizza, crisps and beer - but was a great opportunity to catch up with friends, especially now Lizzie has moved down to Kent.

And a lot of effort is going into this weekend's meeting. Food to be made - Ruthie's making a cake, Jane Harper is making a shed-load of sandwiches and Peter Harper might be bringing some tarts - facilities set-up, ropes checked, etc. Yet Mary still only had eighteen names for tea, not really much more than last year's corresponding fixture in Felixstowe. Hopefully she will have received many more from people as the evening progressed because for the district that has the most members, best transport infrastructure - both Bredfield and Pettistree are a stones throw from the A12 just outside Woodbridge and are not far from the railway stations of Woodbridge and Wickham Market if people want picking up from there - and boasts some of the best ringers in the country it is a poor, poor response. A good turnout of learning, experienced and middling ringers would not only ensure a marvellous social occasion but would enable us to ring something useful for the improvers whilst also allowing for any fancy stuff. For those with non-ringing partners, there is plenty to do or maybe you could just come for a little bit. If transport is a worry then share a car with someone who is going or persuade them to come along if they're not already. But please, just come.

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Tuesday 31st August 2010

Today was largely about recovery and repair after yesterday. Kate returned from holiday to find all her animals present and in one piece; Mason's rash has all but disappeared and after being able to ingeniously tie my bumper up with some old computer mouse lead, the li'l chap's great uncle Bob fixed my car.

Along with popping round Ron's to drop Ufford keys off to the mother-in-law-to-be and catch up with the travellers and a remarkably stress-free visit to Tesco it was a much better day then yesterday, even with having to go back to work!

As you read this I hope you have booked your tea for Saturday's South-East District Meeting, though I rather suspect you won't be turned away if you get your names in after Wednesday! Bredfield has The Castle Inn, Pettistree has The Greyhound, both churches have toy corners, the area is lovely, it's not out in the back of beyond, the meeting won't go on any longer than thirty minutes and even the weather looks like it's going to be nice! Whilst I'm aware that it can't take precedence over some things that people will have planned like weddings (whether ringing for or attending), family events and so forth, there will be many South-East members (and of course members from other districts are welcome too!) who will have nothing much lined up and will be thinking 'why should I bother?' Firstly it is very sad if they think like that, but the main reason you should come along largely depends on where you see yourself in the scheme of things. For learners - especially those who ring at towers where there aren't many opportunities to progress - it is a wonderful chance to try things out you are learning or would like to learn, surrounded by experienced ringers keen to offer advice and help if you want it. If you are one of those experienced ringers, please do not assume that others will do the job for you. We need you on Saturday and at other similar events! Please, please, PLEASE come out and support those who have put in so much effort and even money to arrange and run Saturday afternoon.

As August comes to an end it is a good time to assess the damage that July and August has done to the Suffolk Guild peal totals! It certainly hasn't been down to a lack of effort of course as I've lost count of the number of peals that have been lost this month, but I had hoped we would have reached a century for 2010 by this point as I hope that we could get to 150 peals for the Guild this year. However, as we approach autumn and winter and the tail-end of the year, I hope we can still reach this landmark and in the process not only help produce good ringing in the peals themselves but also filter what we learn and achieve down to our everyday ringing.

Worlingham, All SaintsAt least quarters are still coming in thick and fast, with many achievements along the way and today saw one such example at Worlingham as Rona Sporle rang and Philip Moyse called their first of St Clements. Well done guys!


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Monday 30th August 2010

As bank holidays go this wasn't the best as an afternoon at Ipswich Hospital testifies.

But it started well and ended in relief.

Up until just after lunchtime it had been a fantastic day in fact as Mason and I partook in 'Fun on the Green' at Pettistree, an fabulous event that began with a treasure hunt and finished with a barbecue and lots of games including table-football, Connect Four and 'Splat the Rat'!

The treasure hunt was a marvellous way of exploring a village I thought I knew quite well, but which I discovered hides many aspects I wasn't aware of. For example, I never realised it had a railway! The route took us out past the kennels where Max and Jude were in situ whilst their owners explored Scotland, the once familiar haunt of The Three Tuns, through the churchyard, out past the village hall (scene of this Saturday's South-East District Meeting to which I hope many of you are coming!) and back to The Green.

The li'l chap in particular had a great time as did I, but having heard the results of the treasure hunt - despite Mason's help, the 'Animals' as the li'l chap decreed we would be called didn't win - it was time to take him back to his mother's.

It was from here that things went downhill and - for a bit - got quite frightening. During the 'handover' Mason did his business on the potty to reveal his legs were covered in a huge rash and his skin was raised up in scary looking lumps and bumps. As he got up, his t-shirt rode up to reveal the same over the lower half of his back.

Despite Mason not seeming to be the least bit bothered by his appearance, quick as anything we gathered both him and Brook up and got down to Heath Road where we were seen quickly and our worst fears were allayed. It was - so they thought - an allergy to something, quite possibly from our morning of treading through the fields, footpaths and hedgerows of Pettistree and its surroundings this morning.

The new lack of urgency - whilst wonderful news - meant that things slowed down considerably and by the time he had been seen by another nurse and then had a prescription made up we had been there for the best part of three hours and both the li'l chap and his sister were getting tired and hungry.

It was sorted though - so we thought - and having dropped them all off back at Kara's I was finally reunited with Ruthie who had been at work all day and our next dose of worrying. You see, yesterday when we had gone round Edwin Avenue to check on the animals, the li'l chap had wanted to see inside the house. When Ruthie came to join us, Bertie the cat dashed in and managed to get under the floorboards. All the times we'd been round since there been no sight nor sound of him and so we were by now quite worried about him. We needn't have been as he was awaiting our arrival this afternoon and so with both Mason and Bertie safely accounted for we headed over to St Mary‑le‑Tower where David was running what proved to be a popular bank holiday practice with car-loads from Reydon and Bury St Edmunds as well as a contingent from Essex including Brian Meads on top of a large proportion of the usual crowd.

Coming home was a bit hairy though. Just outside Great Bealings there is a bit of the road that is too narrow to accommodate two lanes of traffic and so when you are coming from Woodbridge direction you are supposed to wait at a line on the road for any traffic that is coming from Ipswich direction. Recently they relayed the road and so the line isn't there at the moment, but the large sign is still clearly visible and about at the spot where cars need to stop anyway.

So imagine our surprise and horror that as we approached this spot from the other direction with the right of way a people carrier approached us and decided it didn't need to stop. The only thing we could do was take it off road, onto the verge and through a hedge before rejoining the resurfaced road.

The car was OK though, until we got to Woodbridge and when I tried to turn round in a gateway. Perhaps I was shaken up by the earlier incident, maybe a bit of the bumper was sticking out from its earlier brush with off-roading, but I somehow misjudged where a post was and half my bumper came off.

We got it the short distance home with the bumper scraping on the ground, but when Kara called to say that Mason's face had swollen up and he needed to be taken to the Riverside clinic, I was unable to help.

Anxiously we awaited news as she was able to get a friend to take her in. Around about midnight it came. The li'l chap has a viral infection. It was a relief that it is nothing more serious and still cheery he chatted with me on the phone and offered to fix my car. I think we'll get him fixed first though!

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Sunday 29th August 2010

Following on from yesterday's theme of friendship in ringing, we had an abundance of ringers at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning as we were helped by a group of visiting ringers from St Neots in Cambridgeshire.

Mum used to ring regularly with friends at this grand ten in her early ringing days in Northamptonshire and the surrounding counties and in turn Chris and I accompanied our parents on the St Neots ringing weekends twice a year in our early ringing days so it was no surprise that there were familiar faces at SMLT today, particularly George Bonham and Wendy Piercy but also Martin Whitaker, son of Pettistree ringer Michael.

We were to meet later when I let them in at Ufford for a successful quarter of Rutland Major, by which time Mason and I had been to Hasketon for 5th Sunday benefice service ringing and to use the handily placed playground there and they had rung quarters at St Lawrence in Ipswich and Pettistree.

Whilst they rang their quarter, the li'l chap and I popped into The Crown for their beer festival where we witnessed all sorts of games whilst the weather went from chilly and rainy to roasting and sunny. Very bizarre.

As our visitors were off to quarter attempts of Yorkshire at Hollesley and Ipswich at Hasketon, Alison Evans was ringing her first quarter of treble bob at Pakenham. Well done Alison!

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Saturday 28th August 2010

What I love about ringing is going almost anywhere and finding either established friends or new ones and one of the best bits about being Guild Ringing Master is that such opportunities arise even more often.

It is that and the beautiful county that we inhabit that makes the long journeys that I frequently make so worthwhile such as today's to Hopton on a wonderful sunny day that makes me think twice about summer having finished.

Ruthie, Mason and I travelled up to a stones throw of the Norfolk border to test-ring this lovely little eight after a long running project that has seen them re-hung in a lovely steel frame on one level - they were on two - and the second recast amongst a complete overhaul. Jonathan and I are not unused to arriving at towers and finding we need to hold some money back, but today we were delighted that apart from the very obvious need for some form of sound control and possibly slightly easier access to the bells we couldn't really fault the work done here.

We were particularly pleased for Stephen and Ruth Young who have worked hard to see this through over a long and very difficult time for them and suffice to say they have a top-class job on their hands here.

Apart from this it was just good to see them and others such as the Suggetts and Sarah Monk amongst others and with three Ruth's present it was maybe inevitable that at some stage one of them would go wrong. In fact two of them did at the same time, prompting me to think quickly and avoid saying 'Ruth down first'!

The only downside to our otherwise very enjoyable trip to north-west Suffolk was that it played havoc with Ruthie's hayfever and so we didn't really do much else for the rest of the day bar watching the end of a SpongeBob SquarePants marathon (no doubt someone has been watching solidly all day, everyday for the last week, though even for a fan like me it would be a bit much!), keeping tabs on Ipswich winning again and teaching the li'l chap to say 'Boooo Norwich'!

One plug on this Bank Holiday weekend - St Mary‑le‑Tower are practicing this Monday evening, so if your normal Monday practice is shutting down this weekend then it is a fantastic chance to try your hand on higher numbers.

Friday 27th August 2010

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Well done to Louis uggett on ringing his first hand-bell peal, something I've never managed to achieve let alone at such a young age. The success was achieved with the help of experienced hand-bell ringers Cherril and Jeremy Spiller at their home in Bacton and I'm sure the first of many as he soon moves to an area where the ringing opportunities will quite literally be endless for a clever young chap like Louis, whether on hand-bells or tower-bells.

Ruthie and I were meanwhile enjoying our first night in of the week and shared it with our good friend and future bridesmaid Fergie who is back in Suffolk before returning to Brighton for her results and new job. It was good to catch up of course but also to enjoy a couple of beers following our return to alcohol last night!

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Thursday 26th August 2010

Thanks to everyone who answered my pleas for help at Grundisburgh this evening we had a crowd of sixteen ringers in Stephen's absence, with even Ruthie coming along for the first time in goodness knows how long. With people like Owen Claxton, David Potts, Mike Whitby and many others in attendance, Peggy rang call-changes on twelve excellently and Jane did well with Cambridge Royal and with Grandsire Cinques and Yorkshire Max rung it felt a bit like the old days.

It was a feeling reiterated by a trip to the Turk's Head for my first post-practice drink there for ages and having brought Pete and Susanne out, we took them back at the end of a very wet day.

And I mean very wet. From wading through the mud to feed Kate's fish, cats and chickens before work, to watching the stream alongside our office threatening to flood the adjacent railway line to the smashed up car and treacherous roads on the way over to Hasketon for drinking it went on and on and on, so even more impressive that so many people came from destinations as far flung as Reydon, Hollesley and Stowmarket to help tonight. Thank you again.

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Wednesday 25th August 2010

At Pettistree this evening preparations for the forthcoming South-East District Quarterly Meeting to be held here and at nearby Bredfield a week on Saturday were very much underway. Last year's autumn meeting was held at Felixstowe and Falkenham - incidentally the location for December's ADM - and attracted a truly dismal turnout.

Seeing first-hand how much preparation is going into preparing for September 4th's event, with the bells being made available and readied, Pettistree Village Hall being booked up, people volunteering their time and money to make the tea before we even mention the work that the Master, Chairman and Secretary will be undertaking both in the lead-up and on the day, I hope that we don't get the same depressing situation this time round. Weddings, family events, holidays, etc are understandable reasons for not being able to attend, but if all that you have in your diary is that you need to do a spot of painting or it's your shopping day or the lawn needs mowing then please strongly consider putting your name down for tea and come and support your fellow ringers.

It doesn't matter if you consider yourself a learner or even not very good. These events are specifically for you, to give you the chance to ring with experienced ringers that are there to help and advise you and are keen to get to know you. I know I am. And to that end if you are an experienced ringer or anything in between then we need you there to offer that help. We can't progress ringing in this county by being insular or just ringing peals or waiting for people to come to us.

It'll be in a nice area, with great pubs right next to the churches in both villages, lovely surrounding countryside (I appreciate this one's weather dependent!) and the metropolises of Wickham Market and Woodbridge to hand, so they're not awful places for ringers and non-ringers of all ages to get stuck in!

And at the rate it's going, Pettistree maybe celebrating it's 600th quarter on the bells by then. This evening's pre-practice quarter of Peter's Tree - with Ruthie the chauffeur listening in the church - was number 595 and scored despite two false starts that lasted less than three leads in total and a tentative beginning. In fact it got better and better as it went on and reinforced this once impossible method in our minds.

It preceded a decent practice too, with a couple of ladies invited off the street by Mrs Harper having a go in amongst all the other varied bits and pieces that make the practice here so interesting.

Meanwhile, well done to June Mackay on ringing her first Treble Bob in the quarter at Bardwell and to Richard Brewster and David Howe succeeding with their first of Oxford Treble Bob Minor at Preston St Mary. Now take those skills to your nearest district event and keep succeeding!

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Tuesday 24th August 2010

Ufford was a busy village this evening.

Ruthie and I had been asked to come along to the practice today by Kate as she was unable to make it and was worried they could be a bit short. When we arrived though, the quaint village hall opposite and almost all surrounding spare space was chocca with people and cars. Apart from making it difficult to park it also prompted visions of being asked to cease ringing by those at the hall event.

However, nobody came across and our absent master needn't have worried about us being short as a huge crowd crammed into the belfry, including Shirley who was visiting from Norfolk, Jenny who has begun learning to ring at Hollesley and was making her first trip to a different tower and Stephen, a returning ringer who lives in the village and seems to have been a lucky find round here, being a very capable Surprise Major ringer.

Mr Harper ran the practice well and we squeezed in much rounds for Jenny who did very well, half and full courses of Cambridge Major and much in between. A very interesting evening and we were happy to help.

Talking of helping, Stephen will be absent from Grundisburgh practice this Thursday, so any help would be very much appreciated! I'm determined to get a good crowd there!

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Monday 23rd August 2010

Very, very, very annoyed with myself.

This evening we went for our next peal attempt of Surprise Minor, at Monewden again but this time with Robert Beavis very ably standing in for Brian, bar a badly timed removal of shoes!

The first extent of London-above methods including Cunecastre, which has so often finished us, went fine.

Next up was the Carlisle/Chester-above extent, also tricky from both a ringing and conducting point of view. No problems, though my voice seemed to break between a bob and change of method.

Extent three introduced the Norwich and Westminster-above structures to the attempt, something else that has tripped us up in the past as people have forgotten whether a method is a seconds or sixth-place lead-end. Rung very well.

On to the fourth extent and the hardest to call involving ten methods and can get quite frenetic. But I was on top of it and so were my fellow ringers.

From here it should have been plain sailing. We were into uncharted territory with this band but we'd done the hard bit. Or so I thought.

The fifth extent was Westminster and Allendale. Wrong home wrong. Should've been so simple but as I changed method I forgot a bob. I realised my error a couple of leads on but in the confusion things started going belly up, irretrievably so and therefore after over an hour-and-a-half - a long time at this tiny six - and having rung twenty-four methods, we set our bells with a familiar feeling of frustration. But also satisfaction. Mary G and Maggie, for which this is all a step into the unknown were seemingly chuffed that they had got through the tough bits that had been our nemesis up to now and they were rightly so. There were few mistakes and what ones there were had been instantly corrected and I have no doubt that if I'd not ballsed up we would've finally got this. It is a timely reminder that this is as much a learning curve for me as it is for them.

And it all came at the end of a very long day having got up, returned Mason to his mother and got into work all by six on a terribly windy, wet and dark morning.

For today we were back on the big one, the IB World Schools Yearbook that we publish on behalf of the International Baccalaureate. It is by far our biggest and most interesting publication and rather frighteningly will take us up to Bonfire Night. However, it also offers us a chance to speak to people from around the world and the early start enabled us to catch folk in far-flung countries such as New Zealand, Australia and China.

With a new temp Sarah starting up who Michael and I had to get up to speed, it was a busy start to the day, but the early start of course meant an early finish and the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Ruthie and prepare for that peal attempt. That was the theory.

At least someone had his conductor's hat on today and well done to Alex on his first of conducting Major which also happened to be his first of spliced Major and of Lincolnshire in the success at Ixworth. Maybe I'll take some tips off him.

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Sunday 22nd August 2010

He doesn't seem old enough does he?! It is apparently forty years ago to the day since David Salter rang his first peal, rung at St Clements in Ipswich and appropriately replicated at the same tower this afternoon. It was also his 1700th as conductor too and I inadvertently caught a bit of the performance on the breeze as I stood outside St Mary‑le‑Tower prior to a quarter of which more later. Anyway, congratulations David.

It was at the twelve that I started the day, though we never got near ringing on all twelve, rather ringing lots of Minor with the tenor covering on the front eight with the second missing. Urrrgggh!! ;-)

Still, we were slightly better off than at Grundisburgh where apart from Mason there were only five of us and one of those was the lesser spotted Laura, our second meeting of the weekend!

It was at ringing at SMLT that my day started getting complicated.

The plan had been to pop along with the li'l chap to the open day at The Folly, return to Woodbridge to meet Ruthie after work, take his highness back to his mother and then head into Ipswich for a quarter attempt of Bristol Max.

However, when Kara called to tell me her plans had changed understandably due to some very sad news regarding a close friend of hers, it meant I was faced with three options. One was to replace myself in the quarter but this was impractical when looking for Bristol Max ringers, not exactly in abundance in this part of the world.

Another was if any partners of this evening's band were coming along they could possibly look after the li'l chap whilst we rang, if they would be so kind. However, the only one that our Guild Chairman - who was organising the attempt - definitely knew was coming was Mrs Spreadbury and I couldn't get hold of them.

The third option was to see if someone could baby-sit at short notice, something that was also tricky with Mum and Dad away for the weekend. In the end, thank the Lord for Kate and Ron and to that end Mr and Mrs Pettman as they very kindly accommodated Mason at Liz's birthday barbecue. Thanks guys!

Ruthie and I meanwhile arrived at SMLT - the sound of the six being pealed at the nearby redundant church occasionally catching our ears - where things took another twist.

Philip and Maggie's dog Bertie had had a fit during the day. He was OK(ish) now, but one of them needed to sit outside looking after the poor thing which required a replacement. Having gone to pick him up, they arrived with Tom Britten who very ably rang the treble, though in the end another of the band volunteered to look after Bertie whilst both Gorrod and Ross participated in the successful quarter. It was hard work in such humidity, but well done everyone!

In the end it was a bit of result. We got our quarter and Mason enjoyed his BBQ as he had enjoyed himself at Gordon and Janet's in the afternoon. With so many away on hols at the mo they had been a bit worried not many would come over to Claydon, but as the li'l chap and I left there was a decent crowd gathered and we had a very pleasant hour!

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Saturday 21st August 2010

You see some strange things in ringing.

Whilst Mason and I attending the Sheffield University Guild of Change Ringers' summer tour might seem strange enough, it's not this I am referring to. That was more because of an invite from fellow Rambler Claire Monk and with Tom's Britten and Scase, Eric and Trish Hitchins as well as the familiar though long time not seen personality of Deborah Blumfield in attendance I wasn't short of friends before I even got round to meeting those I didn't know.

Rather, it was what greeted us at the first scheduled tower of the day - Chediston - that was a bit odd. With no one having met us - leading to some caution over whether to start with the twitchy neighbours until we saw it was on the announcement board - we unhooked the ropes which initially appeared to be set at backstroke. Until we realised if that was the case they were very long!

It was a strange sight and after much cautious tugging on ropes that weren't shifting Mr Britten the organiser fetched Ronnie and Graham fresh from the holiday. Some inspection revealed that Jonathan Stevens hadn't managed to finish the vital and gratefully received work he had been doing on the bells and he had understandably and sensibly tied the ropes to the flapper boards as a precaution.

It opened up an opportunity to ring at another recently restored ring of six nearby Wissett, although as we were due at Halesworth at eleven it was just a quick ring - or as quick as my hastily learnt touch of Kent and Oxford would allow us!

There was more good ringing at a slightly more relaxed pace at the eight that followed the impromptu addition to the tour list before we moved on to Theberton where the li'l chap had to leave these friends long-time and new for a spot of lunch with Ruthie - who was working today and unable to join us this morning - and then ringing for a wedding at Hasketon.

Such are the numbers of ceremonies needing ringers at this time of year it is difficult to get a really good band for such occasions, but today Mr Pettman managed it and he, myself, Kate, Owen, Alan McB and Laura Lindley produced some good ringing before and after the ceremony and either side of Mason, Kate and I taking advantage of the playground opposite the church.

The boy and I returned there afterwards before we returned home to listen to Ipswich recording their third away win out of three this season, this time at Crystal Palace. Ask me in May if it is a good sign of things to come though...

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Friday 20th August 2010

Being on tablets, Ruthie is having to be sober and as a) it isn't as enjoyable being the only one drinking and b) I like to show some solidarity with the love of my life I joined her in an alcohol-free Friday evening after a day being stalked by Mike Whitby.

Mason meanwhile was spending a day with Thomas the Tank Engine and his grandparents at Bressingham, being returned to Sun Lane with a flag and tales to tell.

There's already been a good response to Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011 with a peal at The Norman Tower on the cards, a possible Essex attempt being discussed, offers of help coming in and a possibility of a spliced Surprise Minor peal of how ever many methods we have got up to by then! Keep on getting in touch!

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Thursday 19th August 2010

When I arrived at Grundisburgh practice to discover that Stephen wasn't coming, I have to admit that I was fearing the worst. As eight o'clock approached and there was only four of us sat there it seemed those fears had been realised. Bit by bit though, in dribs and drabs ringers started arriving to the point where we were able to give David Stanford a much wanted opportunity to call Stedman Caters on what turned out to be a decent evening's ringing. The only disappointment was we were one short for ringing on the twelve.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Louis Suggett on getting an A* and two A's from his A-Level results released today. It means he will indeed be released upon Birmingham next month and as someone who has trodden the same path (though with much less impressive grades!) I know he will enjoy himself immensely and as sorry as we'll be to see him leave it is wonderful to see that ringing and an education can be combined!

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Wednesday 18th August 2010

Well done to Mike on getting Ruthie to ring inside to a quarter of Stedman Doubles at Pettistree this evening. She did well too, especially as I had to take her to the doctors beforehand, the poor old gal. Jane - for whose benefit it was rung - also did well and it set up things nicely for a good practice even though we were a little short.

There was more Stedman going on in the west of the county and well done to Martyn Crouch on ringing his first in the principle and Tom Read and Alex Tatlow on ringing their first of Triples in it, all in the quarter at Bardwell.

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Tuesday 17th August 2010

After the excitement last night, it was a quiet evening in for Ruthie and me today.

However, it struck me as a good day to spread the word about Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2011, the last one I shall be organising and so hopefully the biggest of the lot. It may seem a bit far in advance to be organising anything, but I'd love to score twenty peals and cram as many firsts and achievements as possible into the nine days. I'd also like to involve as many members as I can - I'd be delighted if over a hundred could attempt a peal at some stage over the week - so that there are many members ringing one or two peals rather than a reluctant few having to ring everyday in order to help those trying to achieve something. Of course if people do want to ring lots and lots of peals then that would be more than welcome too!

Perhaps the most important aspect to note at this stage are the dates. As Easter next year is very late so is the spring half-term and so SGPW 2011 will run from Saturday 19th February to Sunday 27th February.

So PLEASE make a note in your diaries and get thinking what you might like to do. Perhaps you want to ring your first peal or know someone that would benefit from ringing a peal. Maybe you fancy calling one. In previous Peal Weeks we have had district and local band peals. More of the same would be fantastic.

Whatever you want to do or if you want to help in any way then let me know. You can either organise your own peal or I can arrange one for you or help get ringers for any peal you are putting together.

I look forward to hearing from you!

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Monday 16th August 2010

At lunchtime today it seemed almost autumnal, with blustery, chilly winds making it uncomfortable outside. By the evening though, we were attending the epitome of summer, a carnival!

More specifically it was the Aldeburgh Carnival which is a three day event that we were arriving for the culmination of. I came to this event five years ago having just moved back to Suffolk weeks earlier and with what was then my fledgling friendships with Kala, Rusty, Toby and Debs.

This time I realised just how settled I've become once more in the area as we barely went more than a few minutes without bumping into someone we knew, like Jess (one of the old Tunstall Green Man crowd who I have stayed in close contact with since), Peter from work (who was there with his wife Mel and two-year old son Jacob), Giles and Sally (ringers from Rendham and Aldeburgh respectively) and Mervyn Scase and his family as the whole of the East coast of Suffolk seemed to have thronged to this lovely resort.

At either end of our visit we enjoyed a drink at The White Hart to start and Ye Olde Cross Keys, my favourite pub in the town and a contender for my favourite in the county. In between we watched the entertainment in the High Street, with a samba band and dancers getting the town literally jumping before the Band of the Prince of Wales Division enthralled us all. Quite how certain residents of Aldeburgh coped with the noise from the last three days I'm not sure...

The official climax of the day and indeed the whole carnival and the highlight for us was sitting on the beach, first as the crowds suddenly swarmed in carrying lit lanterns on poles and then releasing many into the sky providing a spectacular sight over the North Sea before it was all topped off by a superb fireworks display. Whilst it's a shame to have missed St Mary‑le‑Tower practice, it was a wonderful evening in a wonderful place.

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Sunday 15th August 2010

The summer GMC meeting this year has had a fair bit of shifting about, primarily because it's traditional place on the third Saturday of June clashes with what has now become established as the day for the Ridgman Trophy, something which with being a ringing event should take precedence over talking about ringing. On top of that, holidays have also caused problems and so having been moved to 17th July, it was then discovered that practically the entire North-West contingent would be away, including our new secretary Mandy Shedden.

Therefore we found ourselves two months on from when the meeting should've been and just two months from the next one at the otherwise now usual venue of the Stowupland Church Rooms for the latest gathering of a dedicated bunch of members who don't profess to always getting it right but nonetheless are prepared to try and do what they think and hope is best for the Guild and its members.

It was the first meeting for Mandy and our new treasurer Gordon Slack as well as the first for many years for my mother which also allowed for a convenient handover of Mason who went on from Stowupland with his Grandad to see some traction engines whilst his father and Nanna partook in what was again a very productive couple of hours.

From things that obviously affect members directly such as qualification for new membership and child protection to areas not so obviously connected but still vital to the running of the Guild and therefore its support to its members and their towers, such as the fact that interest on our accounts has fallen from over four grand a couple of years ago to just £300, such has been the fall in interest rates!

There is far too much to be mentioned here - the minutes will be available soon I'm sure - but some interesting things to highlight came up, such as the fact that sound-proofing has now been put in at Chediston, a timely reminder that when bells are to be rung where they haven't for some time it ought to be a necessity to put sound control in. Sadly it seems to have come too late to prevent youngsters being driven away by a particularly rude complainant there.

The money coming in for the St Edmund Clapper is down. This is a competition between participating towers to see who can raise the most money for the restoration fund but despite its noble purpose it has almost always just been contested between Sproughton, Offton and more recently The Folly. So come on folks, this is a fun way of getting your tower some silverware and raising money for the Guild! Who knows, one day your tower may need money from the fund.

Mary Garner has been appointed to the vital role of Child Protection Officer. The focus of the fringe meeting at the AGM on 30th April will be English Heritage (should be entertaining!) and the Guild showed a way in which its existence does serve the Guild by agreeing to put money towards the very successful recent Young Ringers Event for which much thanks and congratulations need to be given to those who organised it.

The dates of 4th September - for the next R&T meeting should you want us to bring anything up - 10th October - the dedication of The Vesty Ring at 3.30pm in Bury - and 20th November - for St Edmund's Day peal ringing for which I need ringers and the Guild Social - need to be noted as does the slightly later than usual Guild Peal Week 2011 which will run from Saturday 19th February to Sunday 27th February. Please support all these events.

Something else that needs your support as it makes its first tentative steps is the Guild Magazine or Awl a'huld as it has now been Christened! The second copy of this superb publication is now out and hopefully your reps are busily travelling the county to ensure you get your copy as soon as possible. Please be patient!

An issue that came up at today's meeting was the cost of it. Each copy costs £285 compared to the £100 or so that the old newsletter did and so ways of meeting or reducing these costs were discussed. There is one advert in there at the moment, but more would obviously be welcomed and at just £10 for a quarter-page advert it represents tremendous value. Alan, Sue and Richard would really appreciate any advertising leads so keep your eyes peeled and let them know of any out there.

We also discussed the number of copies as some have complained they have too many whilst others haven't had enough. This is primarily because the numbers distributed were based on the numbers of members at towers as stated in the Annual Report. The team can't be expected to know the circumstances of every tower across the Guild so this is where local knowledge comes in. If you have far too many or not enough then let them know. But also don't forget that copies should be given to your incumbent and left in the church where appropriate.

One final way of helping out might be donations from towers or individuals if they feel it is worthy, though this must of course be up to people's discretion.

Despite all this, the meeting only lasted just over two hours - they have lasted well over three in my time and no doubt longer on other occasions - and having been reunited with my son I fed and watered him, put him to bed and left him in Aunty Ruthie's care whilst I went and rang a pretty reasonable quarter of ten-spliced Surprise Major with Lindum (Rutlandy) and Glasgow (Horton's Foury) complimenting the standard eight at Hollesley.

And it all followed on from a subdued morning's ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower where we had just eight ringers but where the li'l chap had the company of Isobel and Emily Potts in the toy corner and Grundisburgh where we had enough to ring call-changes on ten for Erin.

With these youngsters invading our ringing chambers and the Young Ringers Event already mentioned the future of Suffolk ringing looks fairly rosy. Something cheery to take into a GMC meeting in fact...

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Saturday 14th August 2010

Top stuff from the North-East District again, ringing what is almost certainly the first quarter of 8-spliced Surprise Major rung by a resident NE band. The historic event took place today at Pakefield, with particular congratulations going to Trevor Hughes and Philip Moyse, two very promising up and coming ringers in that corner of the world!.

Mason, Ruthie and I were meanwhile occupying ourselves with a trip into Ipswich (though my fancy didn't accompany us on this trip), walking Max and Jude as their owners were at Duxford today and letting the Holt ringers in at Ufford on their ringing outing. As part of the joys of the ringing family I was able to partake in some of their ringing whilst Ruthie looked after Max downstairs, with the Pilgrims also joining us as Mike's brother was part of the visiting party.

We were then off to Ruthie's grandparents for a family gathering as Mason, Freddie and Poppy renewed their friendship through the medium of riding bikes and generally dashing about on what was a lovely afternoon with typically good hospitality and good food. I've used this phrase already today, but it was top stuff!

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Friday 13th August 2010

Friday the thirteenth might not seem a good date for our next attempt of twenty-seven Surprise Minor, but as Monewden church appeared into view this evening it was neatly framed by a rainbow, something I took to be a good omen.

It wasn't to be though and Friday the thirteenth proved just as unlucky as Monday the twenty-eighth, Thursday the twenty-forth or Monday the seventh before it as we fell down just towards the end of the third extent. Again it was good fun, but this is starting to get a bit frustrating for all of us!

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Thursday 12th August 2010

I picked up Mason - now chicken pox free - for the first time since we returned from holiday and he was duly dispatched to his grandparents who were as pleased to see him as he was to see them.

However, picking him up and feeding him was a long process so I didn't quite make it to Grundisburgh.

There was plenty else going on across the county though, with Ryan Noble ringing his first on three and Hal Drysdale and Louis Suggett ringing their first of Stedman Singles in the 'success' at Elmsett, with Louis then calling his first peal of Doubles and Ryan ringing his first peal of Doubles along with Alex Tatlow in the 5040 at Hunston.

Meanwhile, an apparently reluctant quarter of Minimus was rung at Monewden, but well done anyway to Alex on calling his first of Minimus whilst also ringing his most methods at that level and to Becky Munford and Tom Britten on ringing their first on four. And well done as well to pretty much the same team on ringing their first of Original Doubles and Alex (again!) on calling his first Original and Stedman Doubles in the quarter at Otley.

Phew, I'm exhausted just reading about it!

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Wednesday 11th August 2010

What a bizarre evening. I had long been booked in to ring a peal of spliced - or perhaps more appropriately laminated - Plain Minor methods at The Wolery this evening. What I had forgotten though was that I had also put Ruthie's name down for it. When I arrived without her there was an understandable rolling of the eyes and a shout to young George that he was ringing a peal in about ten minutes.

Almost immediately though a phone call put paid to any attempt at all tonight, a rare occurrence in this part of Ipswich. One of the ringers had pranged his - or his parent's - car on the way. He was fine - at least from the crash, maybe not his mother - but there was no way he was making it into town for an attempt and so those of us who had made it had a cuppa and I was heading back home before 7.30.

Ruthie - having not been aware she was supposed to be ringing in a peal of course - had made her own arrangements to have a lift to Pettistree practice with her mother and Ron. She was still waiting when I got home though and so I tagged along too, only to be greeted by a face familiar to many in the Guild, Stephen Bedford and his wife Penny.

His mark is usually left upon people and places wherever he goes, but even he isn't as destructive as he was tonight, although he did at least wait until the last piece of the evening to break the rope on the second!

With the bell still ringing itself down, we lowered the other ones and meandered over to The Greyhound for the rest of the evening before watching the highlights of the England football team's 'triumphant' first game after their dismal World Cup showing.

At least our members across the county were having better luck than we did today. In fact there was a positive abundance of achievement going on from west to east.

Like Alex Tatlow's first blows of Beverley and Surfleet and Heather Dobson's first spliced in over thirty years in the quarter at Bardwell. And Robert Beavis' first spliced and first blows of Rutland, Ruth Suggett's first four-spliced and Louis Suggett's first Spliced Surprise Major as conductor, all in the success at Wilby. That's before I even mention Philip Moyse, Robert Beavis and Tom Britten ringing their most Surprise Minor methods to a peal in the encouragingly youthful 5040 at Reydon. Keep it up everyone!

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Tuesday 10th August 2010

Well done to Doug Perry on ringing his first of London Major and therefore completing the standard eight to quarters in the success at Offton. I remember well Doug making his first tentative steps into Surprise Major and it should serve as a reminder to those taking their first steps into anything in ringing that perseverance and practice will get you there. Good to see.

Ruthie and I meanwhile had a very quiet night in, cheered by Ipswich Town following up their entirely unexpected 3-1 victory at Championship favourites Middlesbrough on Saturday with an altogether more expected 3-2 League Cup victory at Exeter City this evening. For once it feels good to be a Tractor Boy.

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Monday 9th August 2010

There were almost as many visitors as locals at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening with a North-West District invasion from Mandy, Alex and Louis, who were joined by Hal Drysdale and Ryan Noble, young ringers from Buckinghamshire who are good friends with our own collective of young ringers. Along with Enid Roberts who is over from Sydney, we were grateful for the help with David down in London, others on holiday and Ruthie having a meal with some uni mates in Colchester.

Having dropped her off at Woodbridge station before practice and then had a drink in The Cricketers after practice I headed to The Hospital Arms in the North Essex town to pick her up from their post-meal drinks, both of us having had a good night!

Something worth taking a note of is a plea from Sally at Great Barton, who is running practices from 2.30 - 4pm every Thursday in August, primarily for the youngsters on school holidays though not exclusively. However, she could do with some help so if you are available then please do get in touch. Your help would be gratefully received.

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Sunday 8th August 2010

Back to some semblance of normality, but not completely.

Ruthie had another Sunday off (still rare even if it is the second in three weeks!) and when I journeyed up to St Mary‑le‑Tower I was met by the familiar but unexpected face of Becky Sugden, up here visiting her mother who lives in the area. As if that wasn't enough, we were joined by Roger Bailey as the great and the good came up to listen to us ring Superlative Major on the back eight.

And rather than go to Grundisburgh I had agreed to meet Ruthie at Ufford where we contributed towards Bob Major complete with half-lead bobs.

Following that, I was treated to a tour round Kate's house, nearing completion and looking superb. The windows and doors are in, the upstairs is complete and you can now sense what it'll be like when fully done. There's still work to be got through though.

The rest of the day was fairly mundane though as we unpacked, cleared up and even made a trip to Tesco to get some food in as we noticed we had nothing in!

Though not strictly Suffolk Guild based, well done to one of our old boys who still has strong connections to the area and regularly keeps in touch. On Saturday, Jonathan Slack rang his first peal on twelve in the success at Guildford Cathedral. Congratulations mate!

I'm also not sure whether I am full of admiration or poised to get the men in white coats in for David Salter who the day after we went there, went to one of the trio of doom from Friday, Orcop and rang a peal of Doubles!

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Saturday 7th August 2010

Today saw our sixth and final day on the Rambling Ringers 2010 tour. It has been a wonderful week or so of good ringing and good company where ringers from Devon to Newcastle, Bedfordshire to Lancashire, Suffolk to Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire in between and Holland and Ireland from beyond these shores have pushed their boundaries with different methods, spliced or whatever they feel will progress them. It is how ringing should be done and why even on a solid weeks worth of ringing at five or six towers a day at least, there is less fatigue and boredom than you'll see at many weekly practices across the land and why there is a far higher proportion of young ringers here than in any other element of my ringing life.

Once again my mother has done superbly in organising this mammoth fifteen day tour, though even she couldn't account for a new vicar who doesn't feel checking his church diary is important. We were booked in at the eight at Monmouth - our first tower this morning - from ten-til-eleven, something that had been agreed with the locals months ago but not checked by the recently arrived incumbent. This resulted in the tour arriving to find a service was due to start at 10.30 and we had half-an-hour to get the best part of fifty ringers a ring and Ruthie and I only just got in at twenty-five past to partake in a bob course of Grandsire Triples.

To his credit, the offending reverend did see to it that we had free cups of tea and coffee across from the church and the extra half-hour gave us the opportunity to catch up with those joining the tour today, including our esteemed President Geoff Pick who had already managed to injure himself taking a photo this morning. It's not been a good week for ringers injuries after Chris Woodcock's fall at Usk and Glenys Fear's broken leg following her tumble at Hacheston for which we pass our best wishes on of course.

We still had to get to Skenfrith the next tower though and the final one of this tour for Ruthie and me. Following ringing here it was the destination for the tour meeting and although it was again too inclement to hold it outside it was still extremely jovial and brisk and following the thanks due to my mother and the Ringing Master and his assistants we quickly - but surprisingly - plumped for Northamptonshire for the 2011 tour.

After a brief interlude of trying to retrieve Claire Monk's charging phone from the other side of a locked screen we were on our way back to Suffolk. This year's journey was a heck of a lot better than last year's and despite things grinding to a halt wherever they enforced reduced speed limits (why can't they just let people drive?) we were back in the homeland with plenty of time to spare before the meal that accompanied the South-East District Quarters this evening.

After a cuppa at The Crown Hotel and a wander up to the castle in Framlingham, we made the short journey to Dennington where we joined Ron and Max in listening to the attempt on this heavy six. Sadly it came round early due to a miss-call, but the ringing was good and with the evening sun out and the village pub just across the way it felt we were only short of a cricket match on the green we occupied from having the perfect rural English scene.

Afterwards we met with other quarter-pealers and associates at The Old Mill House at Saxtead for one final treat this week. Well done again to Kate for putting together something worthwhile that attracted a good crowd on a date that used to attract very few people.

As enjoyable as it was though, it was still good to return home and sleep in our own bed!

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Friday 6th August 2010

Once upon a time on Ramblers you had to pass through swarms of cyclists on their way to the next tower. This year we've seen hardly any cycling, perhaps in part due to the hilly and urban nature of the tour so far.

This morning however, following on from ringing at the grand ring of eight in the picturesque town of Ross-on-Wye, a group of members - including our own and very active Claire Monk you shan't be surprised to hear - set off on their bikes.

They continued on to St Weonards, a nice six with great sound-proofing where we were joined by David Hird before we went onto the first of three towers memorable for the wrong reasons, Orcop. Despite a pretty wooden-topped tower, the sound of this five was enough to make your ears bleed, though this might have been mainly down to the tenor which may actually be a bucket.

A nice meal at The Yew Tree at Peterstow - though it was never going to compare to yesterdays - gave us a brief break from the terrible three, but straight after lunch was another out of tune ring, this time the six at Foy but even these paled into insignificance compared to the following tower.

Sellack are apparently ringable, but after it took us about ten minutes to ring this 9cwt five up it was open to debate and there was little if any successful change-ringing on these. Even Millsy - one of only two people in history to have single-handedly pulled Liverpool Cathedral tenor in to a peal of Maximus don't forget - struggled to keep the treble up here!

Anything after these was going to be a relief, but that would do our next tower a disservice. Little Dewchurch were marvellous and appropriately and deliberately run by Isabelle Dew - little Dew's church. Ho hum!

There was just time to deviate from the schedule and ring on the ten-bell mini-ring across the road though. A set of handbells hung in the middle of old post office bike wheels, weighted and rung with string rather than rope, these took a while to get used to but still proved to be good fun in a summerhouse.

Whilst others went on to the five at Llanover we decided the awkward middle-of-evening timing here wasn't to our liking, so we returned to enjoy our last evening in our cottage and again took advantage of the pool table next door.

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Thursday 5th August 2010

What a complete contrast from yesterday as we re-entered England and more specifically Gloucestershire for today's ringing! The scenery was more rolling than mountainous, but perhaps more importantly to us as Chris drove us around was the abundance of not just pubs, but pubs that did food and good ones at that.

And we took advantage of this fully in between ringing at Longhope and Aston Ingham as we came across the best pub I have ever been to and I don't say that flippantly. The Farmers Boy Inn just outside the first of the above two rings was superb. The drink was tasty, the food brilliant, the service and attitude wonderful and all in a delightful building and not at rip-off prices. If you ever get the chance to go here then do not hesitate.

It was a great place for lunch on a day when we went to some nice rings of bells too, with Littledean, Blaisdon, Linton, Weston under Penyard and Llangarron also visited.

From here though it was time to say farewell to my brother who made the long journey back to Cambridgeshire with Mum and Dad taking us back to the cottage where Ruthie and I finally took advantage of the games room next door.

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Wednesday 4th August 2010

We returned the favour by giving Chris a lift today, starting with Blaenavon, going onto Merthyr Tydfil - lovely bells, but depressing town, a bit like Harlow in the mountains - Cefn-Coed-y-cymmer, Aberdare and then Bedwellty where I was in charge.

It wasn't the nicest area to be touring in, compounded by the notion of having a pint and a meal together seemingly being a completely foreign concept in the Cefn-Coed-y-cymmer area. Despite driving for miles we had to settle for a greasy cafe opposite the church before being enticed by the fine ales sign at The Drovers Arms on the other side of the road. Their definition of fine ales and ours - and I'm also guessing pretty much all of yours - are vastly different!

We found another pub just before the last tower - one of two in the first truly picturesque destination of the day - but again The Church Inn flattered to deceive.

You might think I didn't have a good day then. That would be incorrect as as usual the company was great and the ringing really good as we attempted Horton's Four Surprise Major - a method that takes bits of all four methods in the famous composition - and Bedwellty Delight Major in amongst more 'standard' fare like five (without Cambridge, Yorkshire or Lincolnshire) and eight-spliced Surprise Major and Westminster Minor before we dropped Chris off at his abode and Ruthie and I relaxed with an evening in of Midsomer Murders and Family Guy.

Meanwhile - back in the homeland - well done to Janet Sheldrake, Louis Suggett, Gordon Slack and Maurice Rose on ringing their first of London Major - and in the process completed the standard eight to quarters - in the success at Ixworth and Alex Tatlow on ringing his first of Yorkshire Major and 50th quarter this year in the attempt at Bardwell.

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Tuesday 3rd August 2010

With a whole compliment of Munnings on the same tour it seemed silly to drive three different cars all week, so Mum and Dad took Ruthie and me to Talgarth, the first tower of the day, where despite only having half an hour scheduled for reasons unknown even to the organiser, everyone got a ring. Except for our lift for the rest of the day, Chris.

He did make it in time to take us to the second tower Bronllys, a loud ground-floor six in a detached tower where poor Chris Woodcock - having sustained injuries falling down the stairs at Usk prior to a Ramblers quarter there yesterday - had more injury inflicted upon him when the treble ringer decided it was too noisy to have the door open and so kicked it shut, unaware that young Mr Woodcock was stood in the doorway! Not turning out to be a great holiday for him...

No such problems for us as we continued on to Brecon for lunch. Having parked up at the Cathedral we wandered down to Ye Olde Cognac near to St Mary's, our first tower of the afternoon. Well worth going to if you're in the area, as the food was good and yet cheap and a couple of decent pints of Bring Me Sunshine set us up for ringing at the neighbouring eight and then the Cathedral - the third cathedral in three days for the tour - where the long and narrow corridors failed to prepare us for the vast belfry housing a 16cwt ten snuggled in the corner. Despite others protestations I enjoyed these and particularly the three leads of Dragon Delight Royal, a method recently pealed for the birthday of the mother-in-law of Peter England in Nottingham!

The next tower - Llanfaes Brecon - was apparently half a mile down the road, so the three of us decided to walk it. Even taking into account getting lost and having to ask a policeman for directions it must have been at least a mile to this six and so we decided to pass on the four at Llanfhangel Tal-y-llyn and Chris dropped us off back at our cottage for us to prepare for the evening ahead.

That evening was generously paid for by my brother as he took us and the parents to The Goytre Arms in Penperlleni to celebrate our engagement and Ruthie's recent 21st. Thank you Chris! It was a lovely place with lovely food and drink, though we were a little exhausted by the time we got back!

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Monday 2nd August 2010

Just how hard is it for drivers to move back into lane once they have finished overtaking? Along with motorway junctions - the arch-nemesis of the incompetent driver - it threatened to make the long journey to South Wales even longer than it already was.

However, just under four hours after leaving Woodbridge and spending an extortionate £5.50 to cross one of the Severn Bridges, we were at Nash, a little ground-floor six with weak stays on two and three and our first tower of the 2010 Rambling Ringers Tour which this year is predominantly based around Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

Whilst on the way we learnt that Mason - who we had dropped off first thing this morning at his mothers - has developed chicken pox, but whilst obviously concerned about the li'l chap we are quite relieved he has got it now and not later in life when it is apparently not very nice at all.

After a spot of lunch in The Waterloo Inn directly next door to the church we moved onto Newport Cathedral, a rare twelve for the Ramblers mainly because whilst we have a lot of ringers and most of them experienced and very good, we haven't got an awful lot used to ringing regularly on higher numbers. Despite this though, we managed a pretty decent half-course of Cambridge Max though when one of the four Chris' in the band went wrong it offered potential for much confusion! A nice twelve, almost in the mould of Towcester, though the Northamptonshire ring still stays at the top of my favourite twelves list - just.

Despite encountering our first bout of getting lost amongst the multi-lingual road signs - despite SatNav - we made it to Bassaleg for a puzzling course of London Major and then Usk before heading off in search of our home for the week, a cottage near Abergavenny - or Y-fenni to the locals as if it didn't sound Welsh enough already - that is part of a five-cottage complex that is also housing my parents and the Wells.

We found it with surprisingly little trouble, set in magnificent scenery in the shadow of the various mountains and large hills surrounding it. Beautiful.

We still needed food though and no matter where you go it seems there is a Tesco there and sure enough we found one in Abergavenny, but not before watching a ringer who most of you will know or heard of heading the wrong way up a one-way street!

After that it was relaxation after a long but enjoyable day as Mum and Dad went over to where my brother Chris was staying for a few drinks and we sat back and stopped for just a while!

Well done to our successful and encouraging group of Suffolk youngsters who have also been travelling, ringing four quarters in London yesterday. Alex Tatlow rang his first of Major at St Olave's in Hart Street and his first Surprise Major at Spitalfields, whilst Robert Beavis conducted his first of Triples at St Magnus the Martyr and they rang one of Grandsire Triples at St Lawrence Jewry. Good to see so much effort being put in by so many of our younger ringers to progress and enjoy their ringing.

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Sunday 1st August 2010

Chris stayed overnight at ours following yesterday's BBQ and whilst Ruthie had to go to work, he was able to join Mason and me at St Mary‑le‑Tower and then St Lawrence before racing off to join the Ramblers tour that Mum and Dad joined from the start yesterday and we - God willing - hope to be joining tomorrow.

On the way over to Ipswich I was pleasantly surprised to hear the familiar voice of Carl Melville on Radio Suffolk as he described his fantastic work in Zimbabwe.

Whilst my brother made it to Hereford Cathedral, I combined tidying up from yesterday with preparing for tomorrow as the li'l chap watched inquisitively following ringing at Grundisburgh.

Meanwhile, well done to the band who rang their first quarter of a completely unpronounceable method at Wickham Skeith and particularly to Alison Evans for ringing her first of St Clement's and Ann Malena-Webb who was calling her first in the method, both in the success at Tostock. Keep it up girls, we need more like you!

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Saturday 31st July 2010

As it poured and poured and poured with rain this morning, I have to admit to not being entirely confident for this afternoon's barbeque's prospects! However, the forecasts had said there'd be rain in the morning with things clearing up in the afternoon, so we kept our fingers crossed and prayed to the big man upstairs and continued preparing for what turned out to be a fantastic occasion.

Ruthie's school friends mingled with Nick and Kala who in turned mingled with Clare, Kev, Christal and Shane in amongst bellringers and my brother Chris, as well as with Mason of course who was well in his element! The weather held out and indeed did clear up, the food went down well - as did the drink - and we chatted the day away.

Kate and Mike joined us fresh from the successful and notable first peal on the restored bells at Dennington, adding to the celebratory occasion. And we have Kate to thank for providing us with the BBQ for which we were very grateful.

Whilst Sun Lane was basking in increasing sunshine, there were other achievements on the end of bell ropes in our county including Martyn Crouch, Robert Beavis and Alex Tatlow ringing their first blows of Annable's London in the quarter at Barrow and Philip Moyse calling his first on eight, as well as it being his and Andrew Leach's first of Triples and John Mortimer and Michelle Williams ringing their first on eight all in the peal at Southwold. Congratulations and well done to all of you!

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Friday 30th July 2010

With it being holidays now and conscious of not being able to look after Mason the weekend we get back from holiday, I had offered to take the li'l chap for a bit longer and so I picked him up and took him to Mum and Dad's as they were delighted to look after him, as ever.

My last day at work before my week off saw Peter and Michael come in early to phone some Australian clients so with Madeleine off this week I had the whole of sales to myself in the afternoon! As far as I know it's not brought John Catt to its knees...

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Thursday 29th July 2010

A welcome phone conversation with our friend Wellsy from Birmingham - who has also now got engaged - meant there wasn't enough time to get out to Grundisburgh this evening. With a BBQ round ours on Saturday and a holiday on Monday to prepare for, it was also a useful time to tidy and think about what to take away with us.

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Wednesday 28th July 2010

Well done to the Suffolk Guild of Ringers and particularly the eleven who rang their first peal under the Guild's name last year! Because an article apparently due to be published in the Ringing World in the next few weeks will reveal that we had more first-pealers per members than any other ringing organisation in the whole of England. We were only beaten to the world title by the Swansea & Brecon Diocesan Guild and the Transvaal Society of South Africa and in terms of actual numbers we were only prevented from having the most on the planet by the Yorkshire Association who had seventeen first-pealers and that from 1900 members.

It is even more encouraging to notice a number of that eleven have gone on to ring other peals and I think it has helped them progress. Indeed, I have been encouraged not just by the numbers but what has been rung and why and for whom and what has been achieved over the last few years in peal-ringing in Suffolk. I still think it is the ideal way to progress ringers and instil a professional attitude into them, though of course not the only way. People often think that I am asking them to give over all their spare time to peal-ringing, but if more of us did it, less would be expected of those who do do it. It doesn't have to be a hundred, fifty or even twenty a year, just a handful to help out. This year does seem to have seen a greater number of ringers doing a variety of things and we appear to be well on course to achieve 150 peals for the Suffolk Guild this year, which would be great. Still, things have slowed down in July - as I feared - so we need a few more of you getting out there and achieving, especially those students with time on their hands!

Thankfully, there has been no slowing down of quarter-peal ringing, an invaluable tool itself in the progression of a ringer. Today was a fine example, with Alex Tatlow ringing his 50th quarter in the success at Horringer whilst in the process calling his first of Single Canterbury Bob Minor as visitors Hal Drysdale and Ryan Noble were ringing their first in the method. And this group of enthusiastic youngsters weren't finished there with Joanne Crouch ringing her first treble-dodging and Louis Suggett circling the tower in the quarter of Cambridge Minor at Tostock. This all followed on from what seemed a lot of sitting down and good fun in the quarter of Stedman at Whepstead! Well done guys, keep it up!

Ruthie and I were doing our bit too as we partook in a quarter of seven Surprise Minor methods before practice at Pettistree, the seven being an extent of Cambridge, Beverley and Surfleet with their respective sixth place versions Primrose, Berwick and Hexham and then a 600 of Norwich.

Practice itself saw a big crowd with ringing ranging from rounds for Bill to variable-treble spliced Doubles and Minor to finish.

As Kate was giving us and Max a lift we had a couple of pints at The Greyhound before finally getting home for tea!

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Tuesday 27th July 2010

For some reason I woke up really early this morning. It was warm but not as warm as other nights this summer. It wasn't even noisy yet as Jewsons across the road were still to open up. Not that I would complain about that as I moved in next to them, so complaining about their noise would be akin to moving in next door to a church and moaning about the bells.

Whatever the reason, it allowed me an early start and I got much done around the house, whilst the TV imparted the frightening reality that there is still two years to go today until the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

Other than that - or perhaps because of that - it was a slow day with Ruthie and me enjoying our first Tuesday night at home since our house-guests left with no sign of 16 & Pregnant or America's Next Top Model in sight!

I would've liked to have been able to attend Albert Driver's funeral today of course but work commitments prevented me as they will from attending Simon Cottrell's on Thursday, but I was glad to see a half-muffled quarter rung at Redgrave as he was laid to rest. (Another quarter was rung by friends and members of the Redgrave band. Ed.). A very fitting sign-off for the man who was - and forever will be - associated so deeply with that part of our Guild.

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Monday 26th July 2010

After yesterday's low turnout at St Mary‑le‑Tower, it was unsurprising that there wasn't an abundance of ringers there for practice this evening. However, there was still enough to have rung Surprise Max if the returning Mr Potts had desired, though he understandably decided to try and ring well what we knew well, a policy that largely paid off. There is little in ringing more glorious than participating in a well-struck touch on the back eight at SMLT as we achieved with Double Norwich tonight.

After the unsatisfactory trip to Arlington's two weeks ago, it was back on familiar turf post-ringing as we went to The Cricketers. It's still not perfect, but it'll do for now.

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Sunday 25th July 2010

The topic of St Mary at the Elms and the visit of two policemen just to lay a couple of cones out were the main highlights of a sparsely attended morning's ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh today.

There seems very little information on the exact damage that has been caused inside and to the tower at one of Ipswich's most historic churches yesterday, but it was commented quite often this morning that providing there is little or no damage to the bells this could be an opportunity to do something about getting these five ancient bells ringing, if not here then somewhere. Still, our thoughts have to be with those using the church and at least - bar a bit of smoke damage - the fire-fighters saved the main body of the church.

Indeed, apart from a pile of mangled, burnt and melted contents such as chairs, tables and toys and a boarded up window, there seemed little indication of Saturday's dramatic events as I passed by there after ringing at SMLT that predominantly consisted of eight-bell ringing, including a very nice touch of Grandsire Triples on the back eight. And congratulations to Owen, not just on running the ringing in David's absence, but on his retirement (from work that is!) which he announced to us today.

The 8cwt twelve up the road is the location of a funeral tomorrow, which presumably needs some space provided for the hearse. Quite why there needed to be two police officers in a marked car to clear it as people were arriving for service was a mystery for the five of us who were ringing. Yep, it was a momentary distraction from another thin attendance, although it did allow for some more 'Challenge Don', though touches of Orpheus (Stedman doubled up on the front and five dodges on the back), Antelope (to Grandsire what Reverse Canterbury is to Plain Bob) and spliced Doubles kept us all on our toes!

Ruthie - on a rare Sunday off - fared better at Pettistree, Woodbridge and Ufford where all twenty-two bells were manned over the morning before we set off to enjoy the reason my better half had the day off - the Whiting's superb annual BBQ at Kimberley Hall.

Sadly a combination of work and frantic decorating in her partially refurbished house meant Kate was unable to come this year and with no other lifts available, I somehow ended up being the designated driver for the second year running. I've really got to sort out those negotiating skills before the wedding...

Happily though, whether tipsy or sober, this is always a fantastic event in beautiful surroundings. The Sparling and Earey children rushed round on treasure hunts, played in the ditches and joined us adults on the Guild Mini-Ring, whilst there was also handbells and Frisbee. Not forgetting the longstanding tradition of boules, ably scored by Doug and as ever a popular and enjoyable element of the day. And of course it was great to catch up with friends from all corners of the Guild.

So much fun was it that even a spot of rain - the first that I can remember on this occasion for a long time - couldn't stop the party going on deep into the evening and the clock was ticking on towards eight - nearly seven hours after we arrived - when we finally left, taking Mike and Ed Whitby with us. They did come voluntarily.

Thank you very much to Brian and Peta for another wonderful and memorable summer's afternoon and I am looking forward to next years already!

Whilst we were partying away, well done to Alison Evans - who seems to be challenging Alex Tatlow for the most achievements in the Guild for 2010 - who rang her most methods and her first in the All Saints group in the quarter at Great Finborough today. We could do with you at Grundisburgh to help with our Doubles Alison!

And also well done too to our very own Louis Suggett, whose stock is rising fast. Before he has even left us for the giddy heights of Birmingham - all being well - he is getting about. His peal at St Magnus the Martyr yesterday was his 75th peal.

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Saturday 24th July 2010

Although the bells are unringable, the serious fire in the tower of St Mary at Elms in Ipswich today is of concern as there is a lot of history up there, with this 9cwt five dating from 1440 to 1669. I have been unable to find any details of the bells, but quotes of structural damage to timbers and beams further up the tower doesn't sound good.

This disturbing news was a backdrop to our day as Ruthie rang for a wedding at Hollesley - ringing a quarter of Grandsire Triples after the ceremony - whilst Mason, Max and I played on the playing field at the nearby primary school. With fantastic views down to Shingle Street and the bright blue North Sea on a sunny day it struck me as a wonderful place to receive ones initial formal education.

Of course we used to live in Hollesley, but we took advantage of living in Woodbridge this evening as - having dropped off Mason at The King's Head with his mother - Ruthie and I enjoyed a meal at the Kwan Thai round the corner, our first visit to the establishment. We'll hopefully go back one day too as it was very enjoyable and topped off nicely with a pint in The Mariners before finally getting to return to our own bed for the first time - bar one night - in a month and a half. Bliss!

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Friday 23rd July 2010

Whilst I went to work, Mason enjoyed a day at Colchester Zoo.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Kev has begun his journey to Scotland in a van to collect their stuff. Fingers crossed this time...

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Thursday 22nd July 2010

Take a break and have a look at Take A Break, if you have a copy to hand. Not that I do normally, but my mother brought Issue 30 - dated 29th July which seems to be rather getting ahead of itself - to Grundisburgh this evening and pointed me in the direction of page 11 and a section titled 'Suffolk'. See if you can recognise the fellow beaming out at you.

There were plenty at the county's second twelve tonight as people seemed to answer our call for help in Stephen's absence and although we didn't get the numbers to ring all twelve, we managed some half-decent Grandsire Caters and Cambridge Royal before finishing off with some more Cambridge, this time of the Major variety.

And it all followed on from me getting a thorough soaking walking home from work in a monsoon, picking up Mason early and then taking him to meet Aunty Ruthie at Clare and Kev's new place in Felixstowe, our first visit to their rather sizeable property.

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Wednesday 21st July 2010

I was extremely sad to hear of the death of Simon Cottrell, who passed away on Monday. No matter what life threw at him he was eternally cheerful and it was always a pleasure to speak with him. Quite apart from our personal loss, for the Guild itself his passing is a blow as he was not only instrumental in the projects at Hacheston and Parham but was a source of invaluable advice to those taking up similar projects subsequently.

However, much like the recently departed Albert Driver, I hope his life will be celebrated as much as his death mourned as he achieved much and gave us many happy memories and I am glad he was able to see the bells at Parham pealed before he left us.

On an altogether lighter and happier note, we were able to purchase Ruthie's engagement ring, sparkling proof of our recent news. And she was able to show it off at Pettistree where I rang in the quarter - and she put her feet up in the church having only just finished work - of Erin Doubles, deceptively simple stuff to ring and not easy at all for the conductor. We all did well, but particularly Mike!

The practice was its usual busy self, with two reasonable attempts to ring Ding Dong Differential Doubles, a method that Mike brought along this evening. That's part of what I - and I think many others - like about ringing here on a Wednesday tonight. There's always something different - or in this case differential - to ring.

There was certainly something different going on at Offton today and massive congratulations to Philip Moyse and Maggie Ross on ringing and calling their first spliced respectively in the peal there today. Fantastic stuff!

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Tuesday 20th July 2010

Presentations to a large group can often be daunting, I know that. So I could appreciate what a nervous Pete at work was going through when he was asked to make a presentation to the entire company on our gap-year.com website. He did well, though the fact this was the most exciting part of my day - bar returning home to Ruthie of course - says all you need to know about how slow today was.

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Monday 19th July 2010

With the problems Clare and Kev encountered over the weekend, things are a little in limbo at home as lots of their stuff sits awaiting a move that didn't happen. With the kitchen in a bit of a state from five people eating in shifts and none of them apparently having any time to clear up after them, I decided it needed tackling when I got home from work.

It was a big job. Such a big job in fact that Ruthie and I didn't get the opportunity to go to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice which was a big shame. But the house now looks like it could be lived in. At least by two people.

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Sunday 18th July 2010

I'm beginning to wonder if it'll ever end. Don't get me wrong, we get on well with Clare and Kev and have been happy to put them up whilst their usual abode is being rebuilt, but it has been tough for all of us sharing such a small house with a toddler and a dog. Apart from the occasional blissful night away, Ruthie and I have had to blow up a double mattress that almost immediately starts deflating whilst using our living room as a bedroom for over five weeks now. As a couple uninterested in football - and indeed Clare hates it - they've had to put up with the entire World Cup and in turn we've watched much more 16 & Pregnant then we would ever want to put up with.

But this weekend, it was all going to end. Clare and Kev were heading up to Scotland in a van to gather their stuff from storage and move into their new place in Felixstowe that they had so diligently been decorating for the last week. Except the van broke down on its way to them. So they booked one on the internet that they would collect from Scotland and could be collected from Ipswich afterwards. Except they got to Scotland and found they hadn't read the small-print and hadn't got a van. So they returned empty handed and with no furniture are unable to move into their new place until they return to Scotland next weekend to collect their belongings. Whilst it is difficult for us, it is very frustrating and annoying for them. Nonetheless, the experiment moves into Week Six and I am beginning to understand how the Big Brother inmates feel...

At least ringing and work has offered us the chance to give each other space and whilst Ruthie headed to Boots I arrived at St Mary‑le‑Tower with the li'l chap on time for once. Whilst we didn't have the numbers that the College Youths afforded us last Sunday, we still had a good number and some good ringing.

It was a similar situation at Grundisburgh, even in Stephen's absence, as the presence of Micky McBurnie enabled us to ring Grandsire Triples and Yorkshire Major.

By this point I had handed Mason over to his grandparents who had wanted to take him out today, thus allowing me the opportunity to ring a peal for two significant but different reasons - the passing of Albert Driver and Ruthie's 21st birthday. Our attempt at Monewden was successful but the footnote was always going to be a tricky one as for some it's big no-no to include birthdays and deaths in together. However, I think Albert's life is very much one to be celebrated. He lived a long, long life, was able to enjoy ringing almost until the end and died peacefully after a short illness and apparently exactly as he would want. So ultimately, I felt ringing in thanksgiving for his life was appropriate as well for the birthdays of Ruthie and David, two ringers that offer a good future for the hobby he so loved.

A 1.30 start enabled an early finish too, which gave me a chance to spend a little bit more time with Mason when he had returned from his adventures before I then took him back to his mother's.

We were then off to another 21st birthday celebration, this time of Ruthie's school-friend Moley, whose abode was a pleasant half-hour walk up the River Deben and sits amongst a large garden and vast woodland. It was a splendid occasion and good to catch up with some friends we haven't seen for a bit as they all return from their respective universities. Whilst we were happy to walk back along the river, we were also delighted to accept a lift off Verity and her better half Laura and return to our busy household. Might as well get used to it...

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Saturday 17th July 2010

We were able to immediately thank Kate for last night as she, Ron and his dog Jude met us in nearby Sheringham to embark upon a fantastic day of beer and trains on The North Norfolk Railway.

Not only did we - and Mason in particular - have a great time going up and down the line through beautiful coastal scenery between Sheringham and Holt, but we also enjoyed the weekend-long beer festival at the beginning of the line and the merry-go-round at the other end. Interestingly - to us anyway - the merry-go-round is the one used in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and On A Sixpence as well as being the only one to have been invited to Buckingham Palace. I'm amazed they let us loose on it...

Eventually and sadly though, we had to make our way home, but there was one final treat once we had all got back to Sun Lane and swapped Jude for Max. Ruthie's Nan's neighbour Wendy (keeping up?) had made the birthday girl a wonderful - and huge - chocolate cake, complete with an exploding candle/firework that certainly took me by surprise! It was a great end to a lovely day.

Happy Birthday to David Rogers who celebrated his birthday today with a quarter at Horringer - Ruthie says thanks for the nod - and also rang one to Albert Driver's memory at Whepstead.

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Friday 16th July 2010

Happy 21st Birthday Ruthie!

My long suffering fiancée was treated by her mother in a generous gesture as she paid for Ruthie, myself and Mason to have a night away for this significant landmark. Our destination was Cromer and once we'd made the arduous journey up the A140 - a road that should be dualled all the way but instead even what little dualling there is, is down to single carriageway due to long-term roadworks - and negotiated a Norwich 'ring-road' obsessed with traffic lights remaining on red as long as possible - something that actually hinders the flow of traffic and does more damage to the environment - and a lack of clear road signs, we arrived at Cromer Country Club, our home for the night.

Having sorted a proper bed out for the li'l chap, we had time to have an evening meal in the restaurant on site, complete with bingo, a quick quiz and - as we were leaving - karaoke. It was a lovely evening and our grateful thanks to Kate for her generous birthday gift to Ruthie.

Meanwhile, back in the homeland members were still achieving and still ringing for Albert Driver, a life to be marked and celebrated. Well done to Mervyn Scase on ringing his first Surprise inside in the quarter at Earl Stonham and to Robert Beavis on circling the tower.

Also congratulations to Diana Leach on ringing her 300th quarter at Carlton Colville and to her son Andrew on ringing his first quarter of Norwich on the same occasion as well as having a 21st birthday today. Obviously 16th July 1989 was a vintage date for ringing in the Eastern counties!

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Thursday 15th July 2010

Days out of the office are usually quite interesting - sometimes even exciting - affairs. Earlier in the year we had a day trip to London. Last year I ended up in Brighton and Edinburgh. Last week Jonathan went to Melbourne - Australia not Derbyshire - on business whilst this week Alex has been dispatched to Miami. Today, Maddy, Pete and I were sent to the Novotel at Milton Keynes for a dull, dull day.

It was another training day, but it seemed a less exciting and longer drawn out version of our day in the capital a few months back, not helped by the restaurant taking the best part of an hour to make sandwiches for us each at lunchtime when we were the only eight there!

The finish was later than anticipated meaning any thoughts of getting to Grundisburgh or - as we had contemplated - going to visit Clare and Kev's new abode in Felixstowe went out the window.

However I was back to enjoy a substantial amount of the evening and as the clock ticked over to midnight and into the 16th, I was able to watch on as Ruthie impatiently leaped into her birthday cards as the celebrations for her 21st began.

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Wednesday 14th July 2010

I had a day off today and did what I failed to do throughout my whole two weeks off recently - get a decent lay-in. However, this would incorrectly suggest that it was a lazy day.

No sooner had Ruthie arrived back from work at lunchtime then we were off to her Nan's, our only opportunity to see her prior to Ruthie's 21st birthday on Friday. As usual it was a fascinating visit and wonderful to listen to tales of Suffolk in simpler days gone by.

Our following appointment in theory saw an opportunity to hear many more - The Veteran's Day at Debenham. However, this was my first visit to this event as Guild Ringing Master and I was very kindly offered the chance to run the ringing and the two-and-a-half hour session combined with old friends catching-up rather than ringing (what's the world coming to?) and a slightly lower turnout - due to holidays and funerals - left little time to catch up with those there.

Still, we kept the ringing varied from call-changes to Bristol, with the legendary Harold Rogers - 88 peals since turning ninety, a record - ringing the most. And whilst the afternoon was predominantly for the over-65's, youngsters such as Colin Salter and Robert Beavis benefited from the vast array of experience at their disposal.

The tea afterwards topped off a superb occasion which was 'masterminded' - in George Pipe's appropriate words - marvellously by Muriel Page for the nineteenth year. There was remembrance of those who have passed on - most recently Albert of course - but also fond memories and much laughter and everyone had a grand time as usual. Heck, I even enjoyed not winning the raffle! Being the twentieth one next year I hope there is a massive turnout!

Having dropped Mr Beavis at home in nearby Pettaugh and Ruthie in Woodbridge, my mind turned to The Wolery and Tom Scase's first attempt at a peal of 41-spliced Surprise Minor. He - and us - succeeded and dedicated it to the memory of Gordon Richards, the Salter's neighbour who expertly restored a peal board at The Norman Tower. Well done Tom.

And well done to David Howe who rang his first of Buxton and spliced in the quarter at Buxhall and his first of Surprise at Preston St Mary. Keep it up!

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Tuesday 13th July 2010

Richard Smith obviously has a lot of time on his hands. On the occasionally interesting Ringing-Chat he wrote a long but interesting 'thesis' on the male-to-female ratio in ringing. He cited the Ringing Trends Committee report at the recent Central Council meeting that stated the ratio was relatively equal, but had studied all the performances recorded on Campanophile - which he admitted wasn't 100% accurate but gave enough for him to make his point - which suggested that things are far more heavily weighted in men's favour.

As with most threads that begin in such a thought-provoking fashion, the original message received many responses and somehow evolved into whether ringing organisations should water-down their links with the church and focus more on supporting those who ring for reasons other than for service, such as the social aspect and/or mental stimulation it gives. Personally, I think our constitution covers both bases sufficiently and appropriately, but in terms of recruitment perhaps it's worth focusing more on the the social and scientific elements rather than the church that appears so off-putting, especially for youngsters. Maybe we are already?

They were interesting thoughts on an otherwise quiet Tuesday that saw Ruthie and me continue to share our abode with Clare, Kev and Sasha, though they now have a new place in Felixstowe they are about to move into, so this long-running social experiment is nearing an end!

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Monday 12th July 2010

'He got in the bath and noticed it had swollen to twice the size'. You'll be relieved to know that my mother was talking about my father's elbow, which nonetheless looks very painful and prevented him ringing too much at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening under doctors orders.

However, we continued to benefit from the College Youth's weekend in the area as we were joined at practice by Laith Reynolds and Eleanor Linford who attended Saturday's dinner and Eleanor's father Chris Kippin, a former CY Master who had been unable to join us for the Country Meeting but had come down with his wife Heather to spend the week on holiday with his son-in-law, daughter and granddaughter.

Their presence not only enabled us to ring some pretty decent Yorkshire Max and Stedman Cinques - after the still obligatory fire-up first time round - but persuaded Ruthie and me to join everyone for a pint afterwards.

Not for the first time in recent years - and even months - we were on the hunt for a suitable drinking venue, but in my view I'm afraid we didn't find it tonight. Arlington's in Museum Street is no doubt a lovely place for a meal out or a cup of coffee, but it most certainly isn't a post-practice pub. It was more cafe than bar, the drinks were no doubt expensive - though we were lucky enough that Mr Bray bought the round this evening - and the only ale on offer was Broadside. And it's a long old walk into the bargain. That said, we so rarely get the opportunity to go for a drink after Monday night ringing that perhaps our opinion shouldn't count! Still, with all due respect I hope it won't become the regular.

Good to see another footnote to Albert Driver in the peal on handbells at Bacton yesterday as he continues to get the recognition he deserves. I am looking to arrange one for this Sunday myself if anyone is available.

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Sunday 11th July 2010

I was very sorry to hear of the death of Albert Driver, an inspiration for his long, long service not just to ringing in general but to Suffolk and Redgrave in particular. He will be much missed, highlighted already by two quarters rung to his memory at Bacton yesterday and Tostock today.

One of the many good things about the visit of a large ringing group or organisation to the area is often the benefit that local towers get of extra ringers on a Sunday. And so it was at St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh this morning, with College Youths helping out in numbers.

The former saw enough to ring Yorkshire Maximus, including the Master Martin Cansdale and Junior Steward David Maynard, whilst the latter benefited from David and Cecilia Pipe, Eleanor Linford and Nigel and Jenny Herriott. As Mason enjoyed himself with the influx of Pipe and Linford children both in the belfry and outside, us adults rang Grandsire Cinques and Stedman Caters amongst much else.

I had been provisionally booked in for a peal at Stowmarket with the CY's, but sadly David Maynard had been unable to get a band. I say sadly as once again it was a roasting afternoon, far from perfect peal-ringing weather, so instead I was able to have the pleasure of taking Mason to the Ufford Bygones and Fun Day.

There was an abundance of old vehicles - with the li'l chap enjoying the old-style red London bus the most - music, stalls and games, with Mason having the most fun on a digger adapted to pick ducks out of a pond! He got soaked in the paddling pools in the kiddies corner where he spent the majority of the afternoon fishing, but it was a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.

Returning home to meet Ruthie, we were then joined by Kate before heading out to Hollesley and the Shannons' residence for a strawberry and wine evening in the huge garden and private woodland there. As with a couple of years ago when we last came to this event, it was a superb evening with many thanks needing to go to our hosts and to Fred Stentiford and Ken Yates for their hospitality, money collecting and bar duties!

Even when we left here though, our evening wasn't finished. I dropped off Ruthie and Mason at Alan and Micky's and having returned Kate to Woodbridge rejoined them to watch the World Cup Final in their wonderful new home. Well new to us anyway.

At half-time with the scores still at 0-0 between Holland and Spain and the match proving a bit of a disappointment, we bade our farewells as it was past the boy's bedtime. We got him to bed and then continued to watch the dire 'entertainment', because - as most of you will know - there was money riding on this. Deep into extra-time, it looked like it was going to be the second successive World Cup to be decided on penalties. We were still on for a fifty quid bonus. Then Spain scored. There were still two minutes left, but it was too late for the Dutch to save themselves or us. The match - and the tournament - was over. Whilst the fifty pounds would've been handy, the best team won and we still get £25 for our adopted country getting to the final. So it was a good end to a great weekend that also saw Alison Evans ring her first Minor inside in the quarter at Wickham Skeith yesterday. Well done Alison. And well done Spain.

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Saturday 10th July 2010

Wow! Yesterday's peal at Stonham Aspal was not only successful but also a fantastic effort that got better and better according to Tom Scase who had listened to it. By contrast this morning's attempt at Debenham was really scuppered before it even began as two of the band had slept in. Mr Scase and Robert Beavis ably stepped in but in such circumstances - and going for Superlative on a scorchingly hot day - it was always going to be a big ask.

We learnt all about the successes and failures at today's College Youths meeting in Ipswich today. Those not ringing at Debenham had started their ringing day at St Margaret's and although we hadn't got time to join them we were able to listen to some of it as we popped into town for some bits and pieces having left the scene of last night's frivolities to pick Mason up.

Our lack of time was down to being needed for a wedding at Pettistree, a difficult event to get ringers for on this occasion as it was the local outing to North Essex - which we couldn't go on this year due to attending the CY's day - and neighbouring Wickham Market were also having their outing. We managed to get the other three ringing members of my family plus Tom Scase, but Tom needed to shoot off to a 2pm wedding at Grundisburgh as did Mum and Dad at Woodbridge. With this wedding being a 1pm kick-off we knew it would be tight but none of us were prepared for the bride being twenty minutes late, meaning that the happy couple sadly only got literally a couple of minutes afterwards. It also meant the chef at The Greyhound having to hold off on making the sandwiches we'd ordered to be ready for just after one!

The knock-on effect for Mason, Ruthie and me was our trip into Ipswich and to St Mary‑le‑Tower to meet up again with the College Youths was a little more of a rush then we would've liked.

We made it in time, but with an apparently crowded and sweltering belfry and so many old friends enjoying the sunshine outside we didn't make it onto the end of a rope! Still, we instantly caught up with Rod Pipe and his daughter-in-law Cecilia and grandsons Henry - he of young peal-ringing fame - and Alfie before introducing the li'l chap to the likes of Andrew Stubbs, David and Alison Hull and Andrew Wilby.

A half-hour or so meeting predominantly lengthened by the gushing George Pipe followed the ringing as we played in the toy corner. It was most notable for the proposal to the society of Jonathan Slack, once of this parish. He should find out next month if he's been accepted, but judging by the many kind words said about him in today's meeting he should have no problem!

From here it was to our second hotel of the weekend, this time in Ashcroft Road. Mum and Dad had very kindly offered to babysit the li'l chap this evening and put up us and Chris for the night. More immediately though we needed their facilities to get ready for the highlight of the CY's visit, the dinner.

Last year the superior society held this event in Scotland and dined at Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. Previously they had been to Worcestershire Cricket Club, overlooking the pitch and the Cathedral. We had a lot to live up to for this year and I think we succeeded as George had selected St Lawrence as the venue. On such a hot evening we were grateful for the light three-course meal too, with lots of pasta and vegetables. We were also grateful for the beer and in particular the Abbot Ale!

Ruthie and I shared good company too as we sat with the hopefully soon to be elected Jonathan, my brother and David and Adrienne. It was a truly wonderful occasion, one that will live in the memory for a long, long time. And it was the first time I've rung during dinner, though ringing Stedman Doubles after the amount of alcohol I'd consumed up to that point isn't to be recommended!

We had to vacate by 10.30 though and so another drinking hole was required. Considering that they didn't want somewhere with music and given the time, I'd suggested The Cricketers which was where we finished the night.

A taxi back to the folks and a sleeping household got Ruthie, Chris and me back safely as we excitedly recalled a day and particularly evening that epitomises what bellringing should be. Lots of meeting up with friends, some familiar, some new, a good dollop of booze and even some ringing!

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Friday 9th July 2010

Having looked at the College Youths website to see what they're ringing these days, I set about trying to revise five treble-dodging Maximus methods including Avon and Orion. I'm not a hundred percent sure that I'll get asked to ring any of them at tomorrow's ringing, but it was good stimulation for the old brain anyway! However, the days when I used to learn several Maximus methods on the bus to our weekly Birmingham peals are long gone and I have to admit to really only squeezing two in the memory banks as I stuffed envelopes at work whilst temperatures shot into the thirties outside.

It was an incredibly slow and boring day, but it livened up after work as we set off for the first of three occasions that we have been looking forward to for some time this weekend. This evening we were in Halesworth where Philip and Maggie were very kindly hosting a dinner party to thank Mary and Keith for their five year stints as secretary and treasurer respectively, two members that are very deserving of such an occasion for all the work they've done in possibly the most demanding roles in the Guild.

Ruthie and I arrived to find the hosts outside The Angel with Simon Smith and Stephen Mitchell, the remnants of the successful CY's peal band at St Mary's. Still no word on how they got on at Stonham Aspal this afternoon though...

From here though it was strictly Suffolk Guild as the four of us and Bertie the dog walked back up to High Hill House and awaited the arrival of the Garners, Stevens and Keith and then enjoyed a fantastic four course meal of various meats, chicken and vegetables, strawberry pavlova and a raspberry white chocolate cake all topped off by my favourite - cheese and biscuits! All washed done with much wine and as my better half and I were stopping overnight some beer too.

As I consider the saying 'beer and then wine and you'll feel fine, wine and then beer and you'll feel queer', both of us would again like to thank the Chairman and his maid for a superb evening.

We would also like to thank the ringers of the quarter-peal at Tostock for their kind footnote, as well as saying well done Alex and Happy Birthday David!

Congratulations as well to Peter Harper on ringing his 200th peal in the success at Benhall last night and Ronnie on ringing her most methods in the same peal.

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Thursday 8th July 2010

The Handbells at High Hill House in October prompted some correspondence between myself and a couple of members in regards to handbells in this county. It seems to be an art that has disappeared slightly in this part of East Anglia, bar the phenomenal output from Bacton and Newmarket and whilst I personally struggle with handbells and currently have little time for the practice needed to reach any standard right now, I am keen that on the back of this autumn's event in Halesworth and the one in the South-East a couple of years ago that something is set up on a Guild level.

I'd love to get a handbell training day - or something similar - set-up and someone competent to run it. So not me basically! Please could people let me know if they would be interested in attending such an event and would anybody be willing to lead such training? It doesn't have to be just one person, indeed more than one would probably be better, especially if we get a lot of students. Don't be shy, let me know!

As well as this, it would be useful to get an idea of who in our Guild can ring handbells, so if you can - or know of someone who can - even if you are starting out, again please let me know.

Having popped into town to see Ruthie at Boots, I also bumped into Mason (and Kara of course, he wasn't roaming loose!) who might give you a bit of a shock next time you see him!

The great and the good - or at least some of them - of the College Youths have arrived in our neck of the woods, attempting peals in four Suffolk towers today. At least one of them has been scored at Henley of Cornwall Surprise Major. So it begins...

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Wednesday 7th July 2010

So it is to be Spain that will make us sweat for our money on Sunday. For us footy fans it will be a historic one whatever the result as neither team has won it before and no side from Europe has ever triumphed in a World Cup away from European soil. However, I know exactly who Ruthie and I will be cheering on come this weekend's final...

Pettistree clapperWe missed the Spanish winning 1-0 against Germany in their semi-final this evening as we were at Pettistree where thankfully the clapper on the fifth has been promptly fixed. Ruthie has been given work for most of this week, which whilst good news for the bank balance is tough on the feet and the late finish meant she couldn't make the quarter of Peter's Tree that we rang prior to practice. Not only was this successful but quite possibly it is the best we've ever rung this method for any prolonged period, so well done to all on a very good effort.

My fiancée did join us under her own steam afterwards to participate in a nearly all-female practice night, once Jonathan and Mike had left Chris and I to fend for ourselves!

We passed on the pub though as there is much drinking and eating to be done this weekend so we thought it best to save our bodies and wallets for now.

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Tuesday 6th July 2010

Go Team Holland! Not only did their 3-2 semi-final win over Uruguay ensure their entry in Sunday evening's World Cup Final, but it also raised Ruthie and my winnings to £25! Now we just need them to win against either Germany or Spain and our prize will be doubled. Not a bad return from a can of deodorant spray.

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Monday 5th July 2010

The day I come back to work after a break always seems rife with strife, whether it's a broken down computer, password problems or - as was the case today - lack of internet access. It was a big stumbling block in a role that requires a lot of research through this medium, but was sorted by the afternoon. However, as often seems the case on such occasions it made for a slow return to the daily grind.

There was some pretty decent ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening as David's policy of concentrating predominantly on ten-bell ringing appears to be showing signs of paying off. It wasn't all good though and Stedman continues to cause us grief. Even with a plain course of Caters people still managed to go wrong!

With an offer of a beer to celebrate our recent news we were enticed to a rare post-practice drink, though finding a place to have it in proved tricky. Apparently a bad experience at The Cricketers last week - where the ringers had to wait for a ridiculous length of time for refreshment - had sown seeds of doubt even before we had stepped into the establishment to find punters two or three deep at the bar.

So a wander across the Cornhill to another Wetherspoons pub - The Golden Lion - saw us get served quicker than if we'd hung around its sister pub. We were grateful, but even Ruthie and I felt a little old for the place!

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Sunday 4th July 2010

Although I can't ring in any of them, I received a rundown of the peals being rung by the College Youths on their visit to these parts later this week. For those who are interested in listening to these or catching up with old friends, there are peals at The Norman Tower and Clare on Thursday morning and Kersey and Henley in the afternoon. On Saturday morning there will be one at Debenham and in between there are attempts on Friday morning at Aldeburgh, Leiston and Orford and in the afternoon at Halesworth, Wilby and perhaps most interesting of all at Stonham Aspal where London Royal is to be attempted. They will deserve much respect if they succeed with that one!

More immediately I was at Woodbridge this morning where I had been invited to come along to help ensure all eight were rung for the visit of Bruce and Gill's friend Hilary Fawcett, in the UK on a trip from Tasmania. Predictably enough she remembered my parents!

From there, Mason and I continued to Grundisburgh where I and nine others rang for the outdoor service, Grandsire Caters being the highlight for me here, though seeing Max the dog was for the li'l chap!

With no peal this afternoon - even I'm grateful for that in such hot weather - I had run through all sorts of ideas on things to do with the boy, but when he fell asleep for pretty much the whole afternoon those plans were scuppered. Instead I enjoyed our back yard as Ruthie went to work and Clare and Kev went furniture-hunting.

Having taken back Mason though, the time for relaxation was over. Instead, our thoughts turned to Horton's Four and our next attempt of Glasgow, Belfast, London and Bristol Major spliced, this time at Ufford.

Our initial attempt floundered early after a good start, predominantly brought on by the distraction of someone quite fiercely banging on the door downstairs. Quite what we could have done to upset said person - who had disappeared when we came to an abrupt halt - after four well-rung leads of Bristol is hard to imagine, but they weren't to return. Sadly, we still lost the quarter the second time round after getting about three-quarters of the way through.

It was disappointing, but as is common with these occasions the sense of frustration was dulled by a pint or two, this time at The Crown. They might need more than a pint or two after their peal attempt at Stonham Aspal later in the week though...

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Saturday 3rd July 2010

I returned to the scene of two notable firsts in my life this afternoon in aide of a poorly supported South-East District practice.

First up was Ashbocking, a nice enough easy-going ground-floor six and scene of my first peal just over eighteen years ago. A visit from the Guild Chairman did enable us to ring Cambridge Minor and spliced Plain and Little amongst much else.

Next up and having caused a tremendous traffic jam in the village was Otley, the very first church I ever visited not long after my birth on an apparently chilly occasion. There were very different weather conditions today with more humid conditions, but this second ground-floor ring of the day and the refreshments kindly supplied kept us cool.

It was a lovely afternoon in beautiful countryside in wonderful weather. So why were only 5% of the district's membership there enjoying it and taking advantage of it? Weddings, work, family engagements/commitments, holidays and other very reasonable excuses no doubt account for many absences, but I feel fairly confident in saying that not all the 284 missing South-East District members were unable to attend this afternoon's event.

I expect reasons aplenty abound about why people won't attend occasions that have been planned and put together at the expense of much time (and sometimes money) by those who seem to put the most effort into the Guild itself. At one end of the scale many learners appear to feel that they aren't good enough to join in with other members. At the other end there are very experienced ringers who it is sad to say seem to feel it is all beneath them and the ringing isn't up to their standard, at least not to attract them more than a few miles.

The truth is, both ends of the spectrum will suffer if they continue to avoid such events. Learners, many of whom ring once or twice a week in the same tower, limited by those around them will learn little and ultimately get bored by a craft that offers an infinite number of opportunities. They shan't benefit from trying to master what they already know or even trying to ring something trickier with a band of ringers who can ring it with them and offer invaluable advice.

As alluded to though, it is a two-way street. Those who want to enjoy advanced ringing will get fewer and fewer opportunities because there are fewer and fewer learners progressing enough to partake in such advanced ringing. It is going to be difficult for the experienced ringers of the county to achieve what they want to with the occasional new ringer or learner that happens to come their way. They are going to need to trouble themselves and come out and help those feeling their way through the art at these district events.

This wonderful afternoon was finished off by Mason, his sword, Ruthie and I meeting up with Kate, Max and Mike and being joined by Mike's youngest two, Sarah and Ed and Kate's older partner in crime Ron - and his dog Jude - in the sunny beer garden at The Mariners back in Woodbridge.

We were later joined by Clare, Kev, Sasha and Christal their bridesmaid and relative of Mason through being a cousin of his mother. They had spent the afternoon in Felixstowe looking at a house for Ruthie's sister and her husband and so there was much to chat about.

The night was wrapped up with a chance meeting with Jasper, a trip to the kebab shop and a request from Robert Beavis ringing in my ears. I keep forgetting to mention his giving of a familiar name to a method pealed for the first time two weeks ago at Barrow Gurney in Somerset, a peal which Robert himself rang in. Well done Robert and see if you can't get some of your enthusiasm to rub off on your fellow South-East members!

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Friday 2nd July 2010

Thank you to everyone who sponsored Mason for his charity toddle at Kyson Nursery. With me being off I was able to accompany him on his efforts today as he toddled round the field dressed as a pirate.

He did particularly well - as did all the kids including his sister Brooke - as it was a roasting hot day and extremely humid. I love this weather, but it's not overly conducive to sponsored walks!

Even with such beautiful weather, the return of the World Cup after a two day rest still took precedence though, especially when there's money on it!

You may recall that due to my - well Ruthie's - purchase of a well known brand of deodorant we were given two teams in a World Cup sweepstake, Slovakia and Holland. We get £5 when they reach the quarter-finals and then more as they progress, right up to £50 if one of them wins. On the downside, Slovakia were knocked out in the last round. On the upside they were knocked out by Holland, meaning we were £5 up before Holland even kicked-off their quarter-final with Brazil this afternoon. I have to admit that with the South Americans being one of the favourites to win the whole tournament - though personally I fancy Argentina - Ruthie and I weren't overly confident on anymore than a fiver going towards our wedding fund. A 2-1 win to Holland though sent them to a semi-final on Tuesday night and me to Pettistree for a special quarter attempt £15 better off and with high hopes of a hat-trick of successes today.

We were going for Peter's Tree Minor in memory of Albert Webster who was instrumental in getting the bells done up in the mid-1980's and whose funeral was held this morning at a packed Aldringham church.

With his son and Chris - who was recording our ringing - listening outside, we set about ringing this notoriously difficult method - in these parts at least - with some degree of confidence and as we approached the final course it looked like we were about to complete a very appropriate tribute to Albert. Then disaster struck. I felt a slight jerk - make your own jokes up - on the fifth which I was ringing and then there was a huge thud before I produced my best striking of the day. The clapper had come out.

As we left, words of thanks from Albert's son ringing in our ears rather more loudly than the fifth, we were unsure as to whether it had broken or just come out, but after our considerable wait for a clapper at St Mary-le-Tower a couple of years ago I hope to God that it has just come out... (The pivot bolt had worked out. The nut is slotted and had a split pin.)

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Thursday 1st July 2010

It was lovely sitting on the bench at the bottom of Grundisburgh tower on a lovely summer's evening overlooking a group of youngsters clearing out the stream that runs through the village's green in such a picturesque manner. Even the two diggers helping them couldn't disturb the peaceful scenes in front of myself, Anne, Gill and Don.

Sadly, it was eight o' clock in the evening, Stephen wasn't coming out and it looked like our journey's would be wasted. Not such a huge issue for me having only come a couple of miles, but more so for the other three, especially Don.

So Anne managed to contact the Harper's and not long after the above moment in time we were beginning a useful evening of Kent Minor for Anne, Carlisle for Jane and Norwich for both of them before finishing with more Kent to help cement it in Anne's mind!

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Wednesday 30th June 2010

With the sun still shining bright and long (how lucky have we been again with the weather on my two weeks off!) we took advantage of the nearby seaside and headed to Felixstowe for Adventure Golf and ice cream, with Ruthie winning the golf and me buying the ice cream!

The 'stowe isn't everybodie's favourite Suffolk coastal destination and does admittedly suffer in comparison to Southwold and Aldeburgh, but it was lovely to wander along the promenade and since we were last there an awful lot of work has been done on pedestrianising the town I used to work in and even taking into account the sunshine it looks a lot better than it used to!

It put us in a good frame of mind prior to taking Kate to Pettistree for another go at Warkworth, Rossendale, Stamford and Annable's London before the practice. Those good vibes couldn't stop the treble rope breaking before we'd even completed the first lead. On top of that, the bell had set itself so once that had been pushed off the balance, bells rung down to get to it to put a new rope on, etc, a successful quarter looked unlikely.

However, with only one person having arrived as seven o' clock ticked by we continued on with - and scored - a very good quarter. It was duly celebrated by photos taken by Bill - the early arrival - who was celebrating his own good news with the birth on Thursday of his son Nathan. Good news all round then!

Predictably it led to an extremely jovial atmosphere at the practice that followed, though it was very hot and one of my abiding memories of the evening will be of going backwards and forwards to the pub and tap in the churchyard for water!

Eventually we made it to The Greyhound for something a bit stronger and sat outside gathering sponsors for Mason's walk on Friday and greeting Kate and Ron who had been out to The Old Mill House at Saxtead carrying out research - well, someone's got to do it - for the post-South-East District Quarter-Peal Day meal on 7th August. I hope people will support this fantastic innovation on what was once the most poorly supported date in the South-East calendar. Please do get in touch with Kate about this event!

All Saints, AshbockingEven more immediately, it is the South-East practice this Saturday afternoon at the wonderfully cool Ashbocking (location of my first peal) and Otley. It is the time of the year when attendances can be a bit more unpredictable, so if you can come along, please do - you will be needed!


Well done to David Howe for the second day running, this time for his first of Stedman in the success at Preston St Mary. What will you do tomorrow David?

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Tuesday 29th June 2010

Thank you to everyone who has passed on messages of congratulations to Ruthie and me via Facebook, emails, text messages, phone calls and to our face and especially to those who have offered their services such as Jason who has offered to play the organ!

Despite the fact we're not planning on getting married until 2012, much is already falling into place, such as organists, Mason being given a job as a page boy, Clare and Fergie being chosen as bridesmaids, an engagement ring picked out, best man selected - that honour has to go to my brother Chris - and we have one of the ushers in the shape of Toby who we met in The Mariners this evening and who joined us in dodging an exuberant stone-throwing Irish toddler!

The plan had been to grab a lift from Kate to take us to Ufford practice. However, she was called out to work and we were unable to make our own way there as we had already been to The Mariners following a lunch in The Anchor as we treated ourselves before the next two years of concentrated saving gets under way.

Well done and congratulations to David's Howe and Steed who rang their first of St Clement's and 300th quarter respectively in the success at Buxhall today, as the quarter-peal machine in that part of the world continue to benefit the ringers of Suffolk.

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Monday 28th June 2010

Last Wednesday - yes, following the football - I proposed to Ruthie and the foolish gal said yes! Happy days and a symbol of how happy my better half has made me over the last few years of supporting me in my ringing, work and with Mason.

MonewdenAfter visiting her Grandparents and Nan to tell them the good news, I had hoped to put a footnote to our latest attempt to ring twenty-seven Surprise Minor methods, this time at an abnormally hot Monewden. We would've managed it too if it hadn't been for the conductor's incompetence at almost exactly the half-way mark.

Nevertheless, Maggie was still keen to buy me a congratulatory beer in The Chequers at Kettleburgh where we sat in the huge beer garden on a wonderful summer's evening.

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Sunday 27th June 2010

Having made St Mary‑le‑Tower - good Yorkshire Royal and not so good Grandsire Cinques - and Grundisburgh - lots of Bob Minor for Erin and Mr Nigel - Mason and I made an unexpected trip to Blaxhall where Stephen Pettman had been asked to gather a band to celebrate Miranda - daughter of the Gurdon's, Burgh ringers - being made churchwarden there.

It also coincided with their church fete and flower festival and with the li'l chap having been so good all morning I duly rewarded him with cake and a visit to the sheep that live in the churchyard.

The first time I rang at Blaxhall four years ago, I then went to The Red Lion in Woodbridge to watch England in the World Cup. And so it was perhaps apt that I did the same today, having left Mason round the corner at Sun Lane with Clare and Kev who are totally uninterested in the footy.

I wished I hadn't bothered in fairness as a combination of another poor display from players that will no doubt be on top form for Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool et al come the start of the Premiership and Champion's League season and a linesman who will probably have a contract for life advertising for Spec Savers saw Germany again dump us out of a major tournament, this time without bothering with penalties and thrashing us 4-1.

With Kara there too, I went to collect Mason from mine before the full-time whistle had even gone and handed him over to his mother as everyone decided to forget the football and enjoy the sunshine. After all, we're British, if anyone knows how to make the most of defeat it's us...

On an altogether cheerier note, congratulations to Tom Britten on ringing his 100th quarter in the Plain Bob Minor that he called at Reydon today.

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Saturday 26th June 2010

Relatively speaking it was a day of visiting family today, as Mason, Ruthie and I first visited Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric and then made the short journey to Ashcroft Road where we joined Mum and Dad in waiting for the arrival of Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick who were coming down from Lincolnshire to visit.

After a lovely lunch and lots of bubbles, the three of us bade our farewells and were off back to Woodbridge to celebrate Ruthie's grandmother's birthday in their garden where Mason, Freddie and Poppy got on tremendously riding bikes and playing football in the sunshine and I met little Lucy for the first time.

Eventually we got back home where we completed the family thing as we were greeted by our house-guests who had been unable to attend the party due to work and dog commitments.

Well done to those who rang their first quarter of Original at Hunston today and particularly to Louis on calling it, not an easy thing to do at all! For those of you who are wondering what Original is, it is plain hunt with bobs. It moves quickly and there aren't things like dodges or even lead-ends for a conductor to hang on to.

The biggest celebrations in ringing today were no doubt at Crediton today, where I cannot pass up the opportunity to congratulate my buddies in Birmingham on again winning the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest. Top stuff and just a shame we couldn't make the trip to Devon this weekend.

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Friday 25th June 2010

It's a small world, especially in Suffolk and especially in this part of our fair county.

For the first time I accompanied Ruthie, Clare and Sasha to Edwin Avenue to see the building work there and promptly bumped into two of Kala's uncles, most particularly Uncle Roy, a regular in The Green Man when I lived in Tunstall and someone that I still rarely see outside a pub situation!

It was good to catch up with him and to see the house, which felt quite surreal in as much as I noted familiar landmarks but felt I was in a completely different house. It's quite exciting, but it seems Clare and Kev will still be with us for some time. It's a good job we get on...

I picked up Mason and a sponsorship form this afternoon as the li'l chap will be doing a walk around Kyson playing field next Friday in aide of Barnodos and the playgroup itself, dressed as a pirate. So if you see me - or if you are up St Mary-le-Tower on Monday night when I shall not be, but the sponsorship form will - then please do support the little pirate and sponsor him.

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Thursday 24th June 2010

We'll get there, honestly we will! Our latest attempt at ringing a peal of 27 Surprise Minor methods shifted from the greenhouse that is Brandeston belfry at the height of summer to the rather cooler climes of the ground-floor ring at Barking as we took advantage of my two weeks off and Maggie's day off to go for it this afternoon.

We swapped around the first three extents to put the troublesome London-above extent - most notably including our arch-nemesis Cunecastre - at the beginning. It was a good job we did too as we suffered a false start the first time we came to this King Edward-below construction as it duly fired out.

However, a quick recap as a couple of locals watched cheerfully and we set off much more confidently, getting through the first extent, the second extent - of Carlisle, Chester and Munden - and into the third and more familiar Norwich and Westminster-above extent with few problems. Inextricably though, this is where our latest go at this came to a premature end as we frustratingly fired out.

Still, as usual it was fun and a good brain-tester and we finished in time for me to listen to and then watch the end of the best match of World Cup 2010 so far as Italy joined their fellow finalists of 2006, France on the proverbial scrapheap by losing to Slovakia 3-2 and getting knocked out at the group stages. Along with Holland finishing top of their group it also guaranteed me at least a fiver as the Slovaks and the Dutch - who are my sweepstake teams - meet in the next round, ensuring at least one of them will reach the quarter-finals and thus win me the minimum prize I could win. Hope you kept up with that!

A plug too for Maggie Ross' Guild Young Ringers' Event, which will be happening on Wednesday 4th August. If you are a young ringer or know of any that might be interested in joining in on this, please do get in touch with

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Wednesday 23rd June 2010

The Red Lion in Woodbridge was heaving as we entered, Ruthie draped in a St George's flag and me sporting a giant inflatable England hand.

Yep, it was England time again and the first time we had been able to pub it in this World Cup and it was a fantastic occasion that we were able to share with Kala, Nick, Toby, Tori and hundreds of fellow footy fans. It was helped tremendously by the early goal that eventually won us the game and got us through to the next stage of the tournament, but every close chance threatened to bring the house down and when the Slovenian goalie let a shot slip through his hands before stopping the ball just before the goal-line I swear I felt the pub sway. It might have been the beer though...

By and large the pub emptied after full-time, but after a quick dash to the kebab house - one of the few times I've left a pub and found that place on Cumberland Street open, though of course it was only five in the afternoon - we spent the early evening drinking with Ryan, his mate Jake, Peter Faircloth, Clare and Sasha.

It followed on from probably the most exciting trip I've ever made into Woodbridge town centre as a chance encounter with the lesser spotted Aaron was overshadowed with an even more chance encounter with Jimmy of Jimmy's Farm fame. He was wandering through Budgens with a film-crew for a programme that is apparently due to show on BBC1 in September. For a change I wasn't interviewed, but if you look carefully you might spot me in the background clutching some fly-paper and eight loo-rolls. There's something for you to look forward to.

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Tuesday 22nd June 2010

Some more slightly strange goings-on in Sun Lane. You may recall recently that the brown bin went missing, with the blue bin left behind at the same time.

Today I went to my car - parked up the road - to find that someone has taken the wing mirror off. Not the shell, just the glass and its backing. I can only assume it has been taken as there is no sign it has been hit and no broken glass surrounding the car. The two events may not be connected, but two such unique incidents - I didn't even get this kind of thing in the West Midlands - in a short space of time seems coincidental.

Whatever the motive, it needed sorting and so day two of my time off saw us off to buy a new mirror and then pop to nearby Buttons to see if there was anything we could use as a backing. Everyone's favourite funeral directors came up trumps and after getting some superglue and walking Sasha round by the Deben on another beautiful sunny day, I was able to fix my poor car before Ruthie and I were picked up by Kate and taken to Ufford for practice.

It was a good practice too, with much from Grandsire Doubles (jointly conducted by Peter and Mary!) to Cambridge Major rung before we were kindly invited back to Ron's flat to drink beer and listen to his croaking toilet. Probably best to ask Kate or the man himself about that...

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Monday 21st June 2010

I can't say dress shopping in Ipswich thrills me greatly, but I didn't mind today as it was the first day of my two weeks off, it followed a lay-in and was then followed itself by an afternoon of watching football as the final lunchtime kick-off of this World Cup saw the biggest winning margin of the tournament so far with Portugal battering poor North Korea 7-0. With the sun shining it was happy days!

St Mary‑le‑Tower practice continued the feel-good factor to an extent with a good crowd, but there still doesn't seem enough application in the belfry. As with anywhere, ultimately you want to improve as a band, make the best sound possible. Are we all just up SMLT out of a sense of duty or do we genuinely want to help each other as a band and individually to get better?

It was something to consider as we headed home on the longest day of the year, the sky still bright blue and a real sense of summer taking over.

Well done to Ruth Suggett who followed yesterday's exploits by calling her first quarter of Grandsire Triples in the success at Elveden.

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Sunday 20th June 2010

As the second best struck guild in the Eastern region (tongue firmly in cheek and respect for our fellow East Anglian ringers very much in place!) set about their most important duty across the county, I was looking for Mason's socks. With five people and a dog sharing this small corner of Woodbridge things are a little chaotic at home and many things have been lost in recent days. In the main they've been found and indeed I was able to find socks but sadly and frustratingly too late to make ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this morning.

They still had enough for Stedman Caters as Mr Pettman was able to inform me having been himself with Erin, making her first visit there. I was at least able to make Grundisburgh and having dropped the li'l chap off his Nanna and Grandad's I was also able to finally make SMLT, this afternoon for a peal of Stedman Caters, Ruth Suggett's first on ten and a first of Stedman Caters for Louis Suggett, Tom Britten and Jonathan Potter, a friend of Louis' from Amersham in Buckinghamshire who partook in - and indeed called - the young ringers peal at Aston Clinton just before Christmas. Congratulations to them all, not least because it was a superb and very enjoyable effort. There were odd moments of course, leading to Stephen telling someone to dodge with the tenth before realising we were ringing on ten. It was a bit of a shock for Brian though...

It left me - very appropriately for this weekend - very short of time as I was due at Hollesley for 6.30 and I needed to up pick Ruthie. I had less than three quarters of an hour to achieve this, though I was helped by Mum and Dad returning Mason to his mothers and my better half and I were well in time for our next attempt of ten-spliced Surprise Major. It was to be the standard eight with Glasgow and Lindum and encouragingly neither of those two methods caused us any problems. Bizarrely though, Bristol did and perhaps because it was so surprising that it happened then, we couldn't retrieve it and a very good attempt was lost.

Still, it was typically useful and good fun and it was nice to ring at Hollesley again, the first time Ruthie and I had rung there since the recent work on the bells. The overall project is still a work in progress as the previously damp and peeling plaster on the south wall of the belfry is off, the carpet out and the window hidden by piles of scaffolding poles and planks of wood, but the bells go a treat.

We commiserated in much the same way as we celebrate - with a drink and for some a curry as we went onto The Swan at Alderton.

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Saturday 19th June 2010

Congratulations to Stephen Pettman who this morning conducted a peal for The Suffolk Guild for the 1000th time. It is an appropriate landmark for a ringer who has done so much for the Guild and not just through peal-ringing. He has been behind maintaining the bells in many of the redundant Ipswich churches whilst still running the ringing at Grundisburgh - where this morning's peal was aptly rung - and teaching many, many ringers.

My presence in the peal was an honour for me but did rather contribute to a chaotic and rushed afternoon. Not as much as Cambridge Park and Ride though.

or The Suffolk Guild were drawn at 2.15pm at Great St Mary's in the university city in The Ridgman Trophy. Having picked up Ruthie and Mason from home, Mike Whitby and I knew time would be tight, but with our arrival at the much vaunted P&R at 1.45pm we felt more than a little confident of getting to the church on time. After all, Cambridge had made it clear that cars were evil and everyone should cycle into the centre or use public transport or risk being shot. They proudly assured us that within twelve minutes we would be at our destination and having experienced the far superior Ipswich Park and Ride where we've never waited more than three or four minutes for a bus, we - along with Ralphy who was also waiting with us - didn't expect to still be waiting for the bus nearly twenty minutes later. And as our eventual journey got underway it became obvious that we weren't going to get into the city centre in anything like twelve minutes.

The result was that four of the band - plus an excited li'l chap - were dashing towards the competition venue with our allocated slot already underway and the six other members ringing some rounds with help of Louis our reserve, Mum and Dad and a local ringer. Thank you to them all and apologies for our late arrival.

There was time for for a couple of leads of Cambridge Royal - the set test piece - before we then had to launch into the real thing. We left feeling flustered but at least grateful for having all got there and being able to put in an entry.

A team photo that should've been taken beforehand was taken after and we were then off, following Unky Chris to what we thought would be a nearby pub for some food. However, what seemed like several miles later we made it to The Castle Inn which served good beer, but frustratingly not food until 6pm.

True to form I received a call from Louis telling me I was supposed to be at the committee meeting, which in my experience had always followed the results but this year preceeded them as I and many others headed to McDonald's for some much needed grub.

In keeping with the rest of the day, we got to the church in time for the results but couldn't get in. When we did get in, we were in for a surprise...

Paul and Kate Flavell - the judges who I know from The Central Council - were marking everyone on clean rows. It was a very positive way of doing things, but having missed the explanation it seemed to us they were being very harsh as teams were getting 300+! We weren't given our marks though as we were told we were in the top three of a full, nine-team turnout!

The suspense built, until we were eventually told we had finished second to the Hertford County Association! It seemed unlikely after my shambolic organisation and whilst I was delighted with such a high placing I couldn't help but wonder what would've happened if we'd had a full practice or the whole team was there well in time.

Next year the competition is to be held on the back ten at St Mary-le-Tower on the third Saturday of June and I'm determined that a prepared team will be ready to win the competition on home turf. Be prepared, everyone!

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Friday 18th June 2010

The World Cup is starting to hot up! After France - finalists last time - were defeated easily last night and Spain - many people's favourites for this year - lost to the Swiss earlier in the week, today saw Germany lose to Serbia and the USA come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Slovenia.

It seemed to be warming up nicely not only for my two weeks off (strategically booked!) but for England's second game this evening, this time against Algeria.

Having picked up Mason and put him to bed and Kate round to watch the big match with Jude the dog, there was much anticipation that England would make up for their poor performance last Saturday against one of the big underdogs of the tournament.

Somehow though, a collection of players who demand tens and even hundreds of thousands of pounds a week managed to play in a manner that wouldn't have been tolerated at Portman Road. It was a disappointing end to a good day, but hopefully the next two weeks off will make up for it. And hopefully England will be occupying my attentions throughout that time...

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Thursday 17th June 2010

Normally the release of the following season’s fixtures would be a significant day for football starved fans, but of course this being World Cup year and a big England game tomorrow evening, it seemed almost mundane and practically went unnoticed. However, it will be interesting to see what alternative the police have to moving the local derby – now that it’s back – to Sunday lunchtime with the Portman Road fixture pencilled in for the Easter weekend with a game also set for the Monday.

Perhaps all this going on contributed to another Munnings moment of forgetfulness as I headed out to Grundisburgh only to remember as I reached the village green there that the practice had been cancelled this evening due to a service or concert or some such in the church. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been reminded either as a notice in big letters on the whiteboard in the belfry has been catching my attention on my last few visits.

Never mind, I got the best of all worlds as I had a nice drive out on a lovely evening but still got to spend it with Ruthie whilst she killed people on video games as she celebrated having handed in her last bit of work for this academic year. Happy days.

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Wednesday 16th June 2010

As you will probably have seen on the increasingly used and entertaining guestbook that doubles up as the comments section for this blog, I was a little inaccurate in regards events of the 10th June! However, well worth reiterating the congratulations all-round, this time adding birthday compliments to Alison Evans which I failed to mention. Happy birthday for last week Alison!

Today saw an abundance of achievements stretching the county from Richard Brewster and David Howe ringing their first quarter of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the South-West at Preston St Mary to Michelle Williams ringing her first quarter in St Clements College Bob Minor at Reydon in the North-East and Anne Buswell ringing her first of Norwich Minor at Pettistree of the South-East and Tom Britten's 25th peal at the North-West's Tostock in-between! Congratulations to you all!

Ruthie and I were ringing in Anne’s quarter, the precursor to practice. We however left straight after the quarter as Ruthie had to complete her final bit of work before the long summer holidays kick-in. There’s not long until my slightly shorter summer holidays, so we are both in a very good mood!

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Tuesday 15th June 2010

Congratulations to the Young Ringers on winning the North-West District Striking Competition at Pakenham on Saturday! By the look of Ruth’s report there was a decent turnout after the initial fears and a good day was had by all.

More details have been released about the College Youths Country Meeting in Ipswich in less than a month, an exciting occasion that I’m very much looking forward to as we look to show some of the best ringers in the country what our county has to offer. It looks like tickets are still available, so I would urge any Suffolk College Youths who haven’t already got tickets to nab one ASAP!

With Clare and Kev round Sun Lane currently, our traditional Tuesday night in was a little more inclusive than usual but still pleasant as we (well maybe just I) enjoyed Brazil get given an almighty scare by North Korea as the World Cup struggles to gather pace. So far it’s been a bit of a let down with complaints about the balls and vuvuzelas drowning out any atmosphere, but it should get going as the groups come to a climax and the exciting knock-out stages get going.

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Monday 14th June 2010

Every year – and particularly after last year’s pullout – I vow to organise the Suffolk Guild entry to The Ridgman Trophy well in advance. The competition is a regional ten-bell contest open to ten eastern ringing organisations from us in the east to the Peterborough Diocesan Guild in the west, the Hertford County Association in the south to the Lincoln Diocesan Guild in the north. It’s a big competition that we have won before and stand a chance of winning again. However, as with anything that involves people doing anything out of the ordinary in Suffolk, it is hard work to get members behind it. Asking ringers months ago if they would like to ring – in fact I started asking people almost a year ago – many couldn’t commit that far in advance. That’s understandable of course, but as we got closer to this years competition - being held this Saturday at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge - members availability became increasingly sparse.

That’s not to say we haven’t got a good band, otherwise I wouldn’t bother travelling over the border to partake. But it has been hard work assembling a team and even harder work getting a practice together. I hadn’t got a complete band until last week and with busy schedules, the desired practice has not been undertaken. This evening however, we got as close as we’re going to until the day itself as six of our band went along to St Mary-le-Tower this evening and rang the test piece – a half course of Cambridge Royal – very well, with the help of four others of course! Thank you in particular to Ralphy who normally can’t get out very easily on Monday nights for coming up to ring but also to Mike who also has to make a big effort from work. If you want to come and support us in the competition, many of you haven’t got far to go and we already know that we are ringing at 2.30pm! Come on, it would be good to see a healthy Suffolk contingent there!

Our practice was snuck in amongst a bit of a ying and yang practice night. It was sadly finished with a disastrous piece of London Royal – of the no3 variety of course – that was in no small part due to me as my mind was still bouncing after our successful Ridgman practice just beforehand. There was also a half course of Yorkshire Max that sadly crashed to a halt with too many people going wrong and the striking getting worse, not better. But for all that, there was some excellent ringing - particularly our first attempt at London Royal – and it was a fairly satisfactory evening.

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Sunday 13th June 2010

Last night, eight people stopped in Chez Ashcroft following yesterday’s festivities. It made getting in the bathroom difficult and so the normal Sunday morning process was prolonged and with Ruthie needing to be taken back to work, it was considerably changed too. I had a peal attempt at St Mary-le-Tower this afternoon, so it didn’t make much sense to head out to Woodbridge to drop Ruthie off at Boots, head back into Ipswich for ringing, then back up to Woodbridge way for more ringing and then return into Ipswich for the planned dinner at Mum and Dads and then the peal.

So I decided to try out a new Sunday morning trip. Once Ruthie’s work colleague had arrived it was too late to get out to Hollesley, but I was at Woodbridge to help ring up as Mason played with the model bell there whilst multi-tasking with a blackboard. After that, I headed to Ufford to experience Sunday morning ringing there before the li’l chap and I returned to Mum and Dad’s for dinner.

Unky Chris was still there, as were Len and Lesley who had experienced ringing at St Lawrence for the first time as they were opened up especially for them and who – in common with most – came back raving about them.

With more football on in the background, we did some more catching up in a more sober atmosphere (!) and enjoyed a typically good Sunday dinner before I had to dash off to St Mary‑le‑Tower for a peal attempt of Stedman Cinques, arranged especially for the 50th anniversary of Roger Pallant’s ordination. A good band made a good start and it was going along very nicely. Too nicely in all probability as minds wandered, fatal in Stedman as I have mentioned before. And as with previous occasions, a good peal of Stedman was brought to its knees within seconds and although we kept going for a while and bells seemed back in the right order, we bizarrely seemed to swap the sixes as a band, so that we were going in slow when we should have been going in quick and vice versa. The effect was that bells were now being spewed out in the wrong order and so a couple of minutes after the initial fire-up Stephen had to set it up.

It’s always a shame to lose a peal, especially one for a special occasion, but it did at least do me a favour time-wise as I would have had a tight schedule if we’d scored and it allowed me to spend extra time with the boy, never a band thing. Mum, Dad and Mason had actually been in Christchurch Park when we stopped and so made their way back to theirs aware that I would be on my way and so after a little wait my son and I were reunited and off back to Woodbridge to a household that not only contained Ruthie just back from work but also Clare, Kev and Sasha our new – but temporary - housemates.

As much as we get on with them and are happy to have them stay, it’s probably not a bad thing to get out of each others way every now and again and so we were glad to pop out for a while – and grateful to them for keeping an eye on a sleeping Mason – to ring a successful quarter of Glasgow Major at Ufford, something we thought was important to do as we attempt to ring Horton’s Four. It was a decent effort and holds us in good stead for our next attempt at it.

Whilst some of the band headed off for a curry, we returned to Sun Lane and a busy – but strictly sober – household!

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Saturday 12th June 2010

World Cup football and Dad’s birthday were again our focus today as the sun shone and the beer flowed. It started as Mason, Ruthie and I headed over to Ashcroft Road late in the morning, where we were then taxied over to Sproughton Village Hall, the venue for Dad’s 65th birthday party. The bar was set up, food prepared and laid out and gradually family, ringers and other friends poured in as the li’l chap and his Grandad lapped up the attention.

It was great to enjoy such a convivial afternoon guzzling beer, eating food and catching up with people like Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric and Sue and Adrian, Mum and Dad’s neighbours as well as meeting up with ringing friends who we see regularly and not so regularly. Dad cut the cake to a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday and people continued enjoying the drink and food on offer. It has to be said Mum done good, but I’m sure she – and Dad - would join me in thanking all those who pitched in to help with cutting sandwiches, plating up, washing up and clearing away. It was only a shame it had to end.

Not completely though, as having waited for taxis to come and pick up us and Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric, it was back to Mum and Dad’s for more drinks as those of us stopping overnight – including Len and Lesley, good ringing friends from Northamptonshire – were joined by Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake for more drinks and more food. Together we all settled down to watch England’s first game of the 2010 World Cup Finals. It was against the USA, not exactly a leading nation in football terms but who are lot better than the joke image that they once had.

Things started well though as Steven Gerrard put us in the lead after just four minutes. The only downside was it set those blinking horns off again, but enhanced the already celebratory mood in this part of Ipswich and I have to admit to thinking we would finish things off fairly easily from here, especially as the chances kept on coming for the likes of Heskey and Rooney. Then came the predictable effect of allowing a former Naaaaridge goalkeeper anywhere near the England team. Robert Green, when faced with a long distance attempt that was more like a pass than a shot and which Mason would’ve stopped, fumbled the ball and let it past and into the net. It stopped the team in their tracks and the game went downhill from there, finishing 1-1. It was far from convincing but also not the end of the world. In fact our two best World Cup campaigns – when we won it in 1966 and reached the semi-finals in 1990 – started with disappointing draws, so perhaps it’s actually an encouraging omen.

And it couldn’t take the gloss off a wonderful, wonderful day, which Dad enjoyed immensely, as did the rest of us.

It was a day of celebration elsewhere too as the footnotes highlight with birthday compliments given to Mary Allum for the peal at Thurston and Becky Munford and Maggie Ross (who seems to have had lots of birthday compliments and why not?) for the quarter at Tostock. Happy Birthday all of you! And well done too to Sue Munford and Alex Tatlow on ringing their first of London in that quarter and Alex for also achieving his first of Double Oxford in the same attempt. Keep it up guys!

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Friday 11th June 2010

11th June 2010 is a date I have been looking forward to for a long, long time.

In common with billions of football fans across the globe, my eyes were on South Africa and the start of the World Cup. After the disappointment of missing out on the fun of Euro 2008, us England fans have been looking forward to this tournament perhaps more than any other for a long time.

Personally I love the World Cup because it is a rare football competition where for once money is not everything. Money can't buy you a good team and the players get paid relatively little compared to what they get for their clubs. As such it feels less cynical than football normally does, something that even the most dedicated and ardent footy fan is fed up with. Suddenly the most mundane matches like Australia v Serbia and Honduras v Chile take on new interest and excitement. The next month promises to be an exciting one for us football fans and apologies in advance to those of you who can't stand the beautiful game!

However, today is also a special day for reasons more personal and important than even the football as it marks my Dad's 65th birthday. Chris and I can't have asked for a better father and his laid back (most of the time!) attitude has guided us through much and so it was the least we could do to arrange something in his honour. This took the form of a peal of Yorkshire Maximus at Grundisburgh, featuring friends and family from near and far and which Mum and Dad were able to listen to for the last half hour or so before joining us all in The Turks Head for a celebratory drink.

Thank you to all who took part but also to Ruthie who very kindly looked after Mason which allowed me to do something special for a special birthday.

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Thursday 10th June 2010

I like to see a bit of dedication from our members! And that’s what we got with Kate Herd today who rang three quarters, ringing her most methods in the success at Kettleburgh and scoring her 25th quarter at Monewden, all on her wedding anniversary. Congratulations on all fronts Kate!

Well done also to Alison Evans who rang her most methods in Kate’s other quarter of the day at Brandeston and to Sally Mason on ringing her most Minor methods to a peal in the attempt at Saxmundham. Good to see Jonathan’s monthly Thursday peals beginning to build up a bit of steam!

With Clare, Kev and Sasha moving in with us at the weekend whilst building work at Kate’s renders them homeless for a short time, there was much to sort out in the house with a busy weekend lined up starting tomorrow. With all that and tea, plus a visit from Clare herself, I again ran out of time to get to Grundisburgh. I can’t put my finger on why, but even without Mason, Thursday evenings seem to prove quite hectic. Still, I’m determined to make it to practice one time soon!

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Wednesday 9th June 2010

One of the many things I love about living and working in Woodbridge is the fact you regularly see people you know, even if just in passing. On the walk to work I often say hi to Mr Roger, Pete and Susanne or Toby as they drive or cycle past and whenever I pop down The Thoroughfare I almost always bump into someone and get into a conversation. Even by my normal standards though, it took a long time to go about my business as I stopped briefly to let Mike Whitby through, tried to catch the eye of Fred from Hollesley and had a good catch-up with Giles from Rendham as he excitedly told me of his ringing progress. It may have eaten into my lunchbreak but it was all top stuff and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Although it’s not always ringers I come across, it is the ringing family that in the main offers such opportunities to chat in the street and that fellowship was continued this evening in a shed at the top of an Ipswich garden as we rang seven of the hairier standard 41 surprise Minor methods at The Wolery. Cunecastre offered us no problems this evening – in fact it was probably our best extent – but we did struggle a little with Rossendale. Perhaps a little complacency slipping in there. Still, another good effort at speed.

At a slower pace – but certainly not the less for it - well done to Ann-Malena Webb, Michael Stokes, David McLean and Stephen Rabong on ringing their first quarter of Winchester Surprise Major in the success at Southwold today.

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Tuesday 8th June 2010

After a less eventful trip to Tesco we settled down to a typical Tuesday night in of biscuit and bread making and documentaries about sharks. Not very exciting, but nice to be able to just sit back and relax.

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Monday 7th June 2010

There was lots of interesting discussion on Ringing-chat today about the Central Council, the first time it had been mentioned in this domain since the meeting a week ago. As is typical of these message board threads the conversation went in several different directions, including whether associations are properly represented both by the number of reps they have and with who they have representing them. On both fronts I think we in the Suffolk Guild are well served, especially now I have left! Alan and Veronica coming in are both enthusiastic and I can picture them being very active on our behalf if they can rise above the creaking way of the council. Both David and I have given reports this year and in 2009 and 2008 and I’m sure David will continue doing so, ensuring that you know what has been going on at the CC, something that apparently not every association benefits from.

Also occupying people’s minds was the issue of the fastest ever peals. I have long known about the one of Cambridge Minor at Hadstock in Essex in 1991 that was completed in 1hr13mins. I have to admit that I wasn’t aware of the handbell peal rung in May 2006 by Messrs Earis, Pipe and Spiller which came in at 59mins! The evidence is there on Campanophile for both.

Saying that, our peal attempt at Brandeston this evening was even shorter than both of those. The difference was they scored theirs. Again Cunecastre in the second attempt was our nemesis, but we scored a quarter of that plus ten Cambridge-above methods with little trouble afterwards, so with a bit of re-jigging I’m confident of success next time out.

Whilst others in the band retired to The Chequers in Kettleburgh again, I returned home to Ruthie and the fish.

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Sunday 6th June 2010

Although we could’ve rung on all twelve at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning, the timing of people coming and going meant we ‘only’ rang on the back ten. However, this did produce some very good Little Bob Royal and ultimately we’re aiming for good ringing rather than complex ringing.

The same could have been stretched to Grundisburgh this morning. We only had four plus Mason and tempting as it was to get him chiming behind to something we left him pulling on the downed second as we rang some Stedman Singles on the middle four with Mr Nigel bonging behind. Despite its limitations and the fact it was disappointing to meet so short, it was very well rung and tapped along nicely. Besides, it was perhaps best we didn’t ring the back bells as Mr P had just removed the tenor stay after it apparently got a bash on Thursday night.

Clare popped round with an extension cable as the amount of sockets needed increases as fish tanks and the like are brought over, but once Ruthie had been and gone for lunch it was just Mason and me playing with trains, planes and dinosaurs until it was time for him to return to his mother's and the hard work of the day began.

We were looking to finish the day with a successful quarter of Horton’s four – Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow and London – but first, Ruthie had offered herself forward to ring a quarter at Pettistree. I hadn’t as with hopes of ringing a peal in the afternoon and then the arrangements that would’ve been needed to collect Mason from Ipswich meant I couldn’t guarantee being about in time. As it transpired, there was little interest in a peal – it is getting to that time of year where it becomes increasingly difficult to get peal bands – and with Mason dropped off in plenty of time I was able to go with her ladyship as there would be ringing for evensong after the quarter and then it would be straight off to Ufford for the Hortons. However, Ruthie had not had the opportunity to revise Belfast and Glasgow as much as she had liked and so I had volunteered to ring in the quarter whilst she did her homework.

That was the plan. The actual reality was that the sixth member of the band had forgotten about the quarter and so Ruthie had to be said ringer whilst I was her. Kept up with that? In the end though, despite thoughts of Belfast and Glasgow swirling in the back of the mind, we rang an extremely good quarter of London and Cambridge spliced, with a single at every change of method and a change of method at every single. Different, interesting and very enjoyable, possibly the best quarter I’ve rung in for some time.

Thankfully Hazel and Daphne turned up for evensong ringing, allowing my better half some valuable revision time before we had to dash over to Ufford for the focus of the evening. Those of you who have rung Belfast and Glasgow will know that whilst they are distinctly different, they are very similar in their complexity, with 4-5 dodges, points in strange places, lots of wrong places, etc. When memorising the two together, then throwing in bobs and then the lightening quick reactions you need in such a composition, things get very tricky. This evening, despite having a very good band and the theory sorted beforehand, it proved too much for us on this occasion. It’ll need practice to get used to actually ringing and thinking at the same speed and we duly booked ourselves another attempt for next Sunday. Always best to get back on the bike as soon as possible.

Maybe we’ll have the opportunity to ring it at Hollesley where the bells have been put back in over this weekend and were rung for the first time this morning, with – as you would hope and expect – a dramatic difference to their go.

For now though, we had the bonus of drowning our sorrows at the beer festival at The Cherrytree in Woodbridge and whilst a lot of the beers had gone over the weekend, there was still plenty to choose from and we took full advantage. Whilst the ringers left one-by-one, Toby arrived and we were there to the bitter (boom, boom!) end before we wandered home, Mason’s Godfather accompanying his bike and getting a sore bottom. Best not to ask.

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Saturday 5th June 2010

They're out! The knees are out! We've had some nice weekends lately, but today saw temperatures soar and prompted me to put my shorts on.

The first people to suffer this fate in 2010 were the good folk who accompanied me on what was a superb South-East District outing to South-West Norfolk and - in the case of the first tower of the day, Brandon - North-West Suffolk.

Mason, Ruthie and I were given a lift by Kate who not only did a fantastic job of arranging the day but also running the ringing at the five towers which provided us with a good spectrum of the good, interesting and difficult. Brandon were a decent start, whilst the second tower - Mundford - was a good follow-up. This lovely light six was also familiar to those of us who came here on last years Pettistree coach outing, though our attempts at spliced Doubles and Minor with variable-hunt didn't entirely do them justice.

Northwold were the last ring of the morning, the first eight and although an oddstruck ring with very long ropes were in the village that was hosting lunch. My better half and my son accompanied myself and my brother to The Crown Inn for a pint in the beer garden in earshot of the last of the mornings' ringing. Under the shadow of a tree but still benefiting from the roasting weather, it struck me that this really was the life. Enjoying good food, jovial conversation and Mason providing us with much entertainment outside a typically rural East Anglian pub made me wonder quite why so many members had decided not to join us today. As it was, a good crowd did come out, including Tom and John from Debenham in the morning prior to ringing at weddings at Debenham and Winston this afternoon. But more would have been welcome and it's sad that so many members merely chose not to come and support their district and in particular its Ringing Master.

Watered and fed we eventually - after a very leisurely lunch - made our way to Hilgay, an eight still in Norfolk but actually a tower under the Ely Diocesan Association. Sadly this status doesn't seem to have prevented them from becoming very difficult to ring, but did at least provide us with possibly the funniest moment of the day as Jennifer Warren went to return a he/she bearded mannequin called Joseph that I shifted from the gallery to the belfry. I'd obviously carried him/her more skilfully as the moment she picked Joseph up, he/she split in two!

No such goings on at Hockwold cum Wilton our final tower of the day and another nice six, but overall we had an extremely entertaining day, so thank you Kate - it was certainly worth your while organising it as far as I'm concerned and hopefully its success will encourage others to support future outings.

Something that came up during the day was the kind of useful feedback that I wish more members would give me in regards to striking competitions. It came from someone who rings at a tower who don't enter the district or Guild striking competitions because they just see people ringing for lots of different teams and they feel it is not a level playing field.

I completely understood where they were coming from and as Guild Ringing Master I have tried to encourage tower captains to select as many people as is practical that aren't already ringing for other teams to help avoid this and also to give as many members as possible the chance to partake. Indeed, when I was Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower I think I was fairly successful at doing this, even - if not especially - when we entered two teams. However, it isn't always practical. I know some ringers who regularly ring at Hollesley, Pettistree, Woodbridge, Ufford and Grundisburgh - not necessarily in the same morning! - on Sunday mornings. If all five teams entered a band, then which one team should benefit from having such a ringer? Some towers can't enter a band without someone who also regularly ring at other towers too. If we were to stop members ringing in more than one team then that would deprive those teams - and other members of those towers - from entering the competition.

Besides, I purposefully reintroduced the call-change element to the Mitson Shield - and it is an element present in all the district competitions I believe - which not only offers more ringers the opportunity to partake, but also offers the chance of more silverware. I can vouch for the joy and pride that bands from Debenham and Sweffling have had in recent years in winning the Lester Brett Trophy. And finally, these events are not primarily about winning. They're about socialising - much in the same way as we were enjoying today - with other ringers and giving an opportunity for people to get advice on their striking, no matter how experienced they are. So I would urge the member who approached me today - and all those who think similarly - to consider entering next year. The Lester Brett Trophy is up for grabs and there is a good day out to be had, win or lose!

Mason, Ruthie and I finished our day at Edwin Avenue - where the building work is coming along nicely - and then back at Sun Lane with Clare and Kev as we took delivery of their fish tank in anticipation of their forthcoming stay with us.

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Friday 4th June 2010

Whilst it was a pleasant surprise for Jonathan to come round to us all and say we go home at 4.30pm on this gorgeous sunny Friday afternoon during a quiet half-term, it left me a little in limbo. Having dropped off Mason at his Nana and Grandad's for a day on the trains, I had arranged to pick him up from Ashcroft Road at six. However, the train they were due to catch broke down, meaning Mason was dashing around Norwich railway station in his Ipswich Town shirt until the next departure and I had to wait until seven to pick him up.

It did at least allow Ruthie and I bit of time to sort the house out in his absence!

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Thursday 3rd June 2010

A combination of traffic leaving the second and final day of the 2010 Suffolk Show and a full selection of the emergency services made what is normally a routine trip to Tesco into quite an ordeal. On the way down the usually empty Felixstowe Road section in Martlesham we were met by a queue of traffic coming the other way the length of the road itself and two fire engines just arriving to an incident that was invisible to us despite some frantic pointing by some members of the public.

Deciding to avoid this stretch coming back, we were then held up even longer by a nasty looking motorcycle accident on the A12 with the police in attendance, though I haven’t noticed anything in the EADT so hopefully that means that everyone involved came out of it. No news is good news they say.

We saw an ambulance rushing past Sun Lane when we got home but it meant there were more than enough blue flashing lights to catch Mason’s attention, having picked up the li’l chap as it’s half-term and there being a trip to his grandparents in the offing tomorrow.

With the hot weather upon us it is superb weather for ringing events and barbecues and the North-West District Fun Striking Competition on Saturday 12th June at Pakenham combines both. And yet bizarrely there are only three names for tea. Mandy is – and I am for that matter – concerned with these numbers and she’s at pains to point out that Stephen Young has bought good quality and expensive meat for the occasion and understandably will only be defrosting enough to feed those who give their names for tea. So whilst with some teas it doesn’t matter too much if a handful of people turn up without giving their names, it really isn’t an option on this occasion.

Of course there are various reasons why people might not be able to attend. Ruthie and I would’ve loved to have come but we are hoping to be celebrating my father’s 65th that afternoon as are number of other people, though they’re predominantly from the South-East. There may of course be other similar events and either going to or ringing for weddings at this time of year. It is unfortunate too that it clashes with the open ringing at Gislingham as part of their village weekend. This in itself shouldn’t stop people attending both as its possible – admittedly unless your team is drawn right in the middle – to ring for your team and have a ring at Gislingham. It’s perhaps disappointing that there wasn’t more communication between district and Gislingham to ensure that either the open ringing could be earlier or the striking competition at a different time. That’s not a criticism of anyone in particular as I don’t know what has been discussed already or even if it’s an issue at all. But it seems odd to have two big events in the same district at exactly the same time as it would be nice for people to be able to easily attend both.

Nonetheless, the message is the same for those of you in the North-West. This is a fun striking competition in name and deed, a fantastic social occasion in a beautiful part of the world, but if you want to partake in it - and if you’re not already booked up elsewhere then why are you not going? – then you need to get in touch with Mandy by Tuesday 8th June. If you don’t want to attend then I really don’t know what the districts and Guild have got to do to encourage you along to our events. Perhaps you could tell me.

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Wednesday 2nd June 2010

So have you booked your lunch for Saturday? It doesn’t matter if you haven’t, I’m sure they can fit you in if you suddenly decide you want to sit outside a village pub in glorious sunshine having a bit of grub. Besides, it isn’t a prerequisite of coming on the outing (SE District Outing) and Kate could probably do with some more ringers. There’s seventeen including Mason, but his Bob Minor’s not quite up to speed yet and with the Debenham ringers unfortunately tied up with two weddings all help will be gratefully received. It’s a two-way thing. It will benefit learners as you experience different bells in a relaxed atmosphere in nice places where you’re unlikely to meet the locals again (!) and we would really appreciate your company on what first and foremost is a day out in the sun with friends new and old. And of course the experienced ringers are very much appreciated so please don’t turn your nose up at it – come and help and in the bargain have a good day out!

My evening in Pettistree followed a very similar path to last week. I partook in another failed quarter attempt of Warkworth, Rossendale, Stamford and Annable’s London – though failed is perhaps an unfair term as we enjoyed some very good ringing this evening – prior to a practice where again Bill was placed in my care. He did reasonably well again too as we moved on to him ringing both strokes, although a couple of moments and a bit of rope-burn reminded us both that learning this ringing malarkey is never plain sailing!

There was no Ruthie this week though as she carried on the essay she had planned to do last night and I decided to pass on The Greyhound this evening. After all, I want to save myself for The Crown Inn on Saturday…

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Tuesday 1st June 2010

Congratulations to Adrian ‘Arnie’ Knights who not only celebrated his 63rd birthday today – Happy Birthday Arnie – but also very appropriately rang his 1000th peal in the 5063 of Bristol Major at St Mary‑le‑Tower. I’ve said it before but I think now is a good time to reiterate it, Mr Knights is one of the best ringers that Suffolk has produced and now joins a proud list of Suffolk-born thousand pealers. Personally it’s been a privilege to ring with him, a privilege that I hope to continue to have for some years to come. On top of all this, he is great company and there has been many pints drunk after those thousand peals alone, many of which I’ve enjoyed myself! Anyway, here’s to the next thousand! Peals and pints.

His achievements made our otherwise fairly notable achievements this evening pale into insignificance. Paul Norris is often asking Ruthie and me into quarters, but finances, time and the distances that usually need to be undertaken mean that we can’t help him out as much as we’d like, which is a shame as I think what Paul does up his way and the enthusiasm in which he carries it out is fantastic and needs to be encouraged.

Tonight though we were in the happy position to help him out and for once do something for Paul rather than him arranging attempts for other people. Everything was in place for a great attempt – a nice light eight and a fantastic band that included a true legend of ringing, David Brown. What us lot from Suffolk in particular didn’t count on was that Saxlingham Nethergate bells are dire. They sound awful and were hard work for a ring of their weight. What is more, the belfry is tiny with Ruthie and me ringing in the doorway on two and three from where I regularly hit my knuckles on the archway directly above us. This all sounds very harsh, but it is a view shared by the locals who are busy raising the huge amount of £140,000 to replace the current bells with a completely new ring of eight to go into the current steel frame, though of course there is little they can do about the cramped ringing chamber! Still, I’m looking forward to hopefully coming back when the new ring is in.

Despite our surroundings, a very good quarter of eight-spliced Surprise Major was rung at a brisk pace before Mike – who had given us a lift up there – Paul, Ruthie and I retired to The Mill Inn on the A140 at Saxlingham Thorpe, a real pleasure after yesterday’s pub. A couple there and we were dropped off very kindly by Mr Whitby outside the brand new kebab house on Warwick Avenue. Hallelujah! A kebab house in Woodbridge that serves kebabs until a reasonable hour! We reached them just before eleven – still early when compared to the West Midlands, but Woodbridge is very much NOT the West Midlands thank goodness – and so we returned home to eat our indulgence feeling quite chuffed with ourselves.

Just another word to encourage members – and non-members for that matter – to come on Saturday’s South-East District Outing, where I shall need to get my passport out again to cross into Norfolk. From what I’ve heard there will be a good mix of learners and experienced ringers keen to help – not judge or criticise – those learners. If getting there is a worry then I’m sure there will be lifts available – just get in touch with Kate or I and I’m sure we can point you in the right direction. If the weathermen are to be believed we’re in for glorious weather which will make the experience even better and there is still time to let Kate know what you want to eat at The Crown Inn at Northwold as you have up until tomorrow (Wednesday 2nd) to let her know your choice. Other than that, just turn up on the day, when you like, where you like and within reason – if we can manage it! – ring what you like!

Also – sorry to ramble – any young ringers or their tower captains/parents/guardians out there reading this – or if you know of any such people – it is worth getting in touch with Maggie Ross who is making plans for a young ringers day out. There’s no definite date and no definite plans yet, but it’s likely to be in the first week of August and also involve a barbecue, quite possibly on the beach. Such events are always superb and young ringers really benefit from knowing there are lots of other youngsters out there ringing and that it’s not just old fogeys like me in the Guild!

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Monday 31st May 2010

Another May bank holiday Monday, another extremely early start. Thank goodness this is my last Central Council Meeting.

But something strange happened today. I didn’t think it was that bad. Whether it actually was better or I had a different attitude for the final part of my sentence I don’t know. But there were large chunks that actually seemed quite relevant and for the first time the room – on this occasion at Derby Conference Centre – genuinely felt like it was at the forefront of leading ringing. I shan’t bore you with all the details in this blog. I shall bore you with them in a separate report as no doubt others will too, but in amongst what was still a lengthy and predominantly dull meeting – kicking off at ten and finishing just after five with lunch and The Ringing World and Ringing Foundation meetings padding proceedings out – there was a bit of fire.

It came after The Ringing Trends Committee produced their report. It’s well worth looking at their page on the CC website, but it does – at least on the face of it – make depressing reading for ringing as a whole, most notably in regards the low number of youngsters. Now personally I’m of the opinion that this is not a terminal problem for a hobby where people can start at any age and is no stranger to seeing ringers returning when their circumstances change. But it is an understandable cause for concern as we can’t just rely on people starting later in life where – as with anything in life – it is harder to learn. Besides, young ringers often inject much needed enthusiasm and energy into a belfry.

In reality, this committee was set up years ago when the Central Council held its meeting in Bury St Edmunds and has been delivering very similar figures for much of that time and certainly at my two previous meetings. However, there seems to have been a ‘let’s see what they produce next year’ attitude to things, one of the many failings of the CC over the years as it seems to have been more preoccupied with the role and extent of honorary members – which finally had a resolution this year – and how to elect members of the various committees. Today though, led by a frustrated Andrew Wilby, there was a sense that something needed to be done. Quite what is uncertain and there was an acceptance that whilst the Central Council can help and offer support, advice and even finances towards whatever needs doing, ultimately associations, districts and towers themselves need to be more proactive in tackling this problem. But the first steps finally seem to have been taken from the top.

It was an issue that was appropriate for The Ringing Foundation in what was once again a highlight of the day, led by Brian Meads. Since Worcester last year they have paid out their first grants to a teaching centre and a school based ringing club, with another one apparently in the pipeline. All very encouraging, but Mr Meads was – correctly – brutal in his condemnation of some of the teaching that goes on in belfries across the country. It was ‘appalling’ in his view and in many cases I’m inclined to agree, though I’m not just referring to Suffolk here. Too many teachers seem happy to allow their pupils to flounder around with terrible handling skills and often don’t encourage their learners to step out into the big wide world of ringing or progress their ringing. That isn’t meant as a damning criticism of people who freely give their time up running towers and teaching learners, but they need to accept help and advice more willingly and we need to look at ourselves as a Guild – and I as the Ringing Master – to see what more we can be doing and how we need to change our ways. If it’s any consolation, we’re in it with a lot of other ringing organisations who find themselves in a similar situation. It is important to note though that this isn’t a blanket generalisation either as there are people teaching well in our Guild and perhaps it’s them that we need to look to first in order to figure out the best way forward.

It wasn’t all doom, gloom and boredom though. A particular highlight was watching The Ringing World getting a battering at their meeting, led by our very own Stephen Pettman and backed up by Roger Bailey. Mr P was understandably annoyed that an article written by young Rosemary Hill about his ringing trip to Italy in October had still not been published – nor even any indication given about whether it will be or not – some six months after being sent in. This prompted Mr Bailey to refer to the publication as being a bit like ‘a parish magazine’. It’s not that I have anything against the RW, but it livened things up and offered some amusement. It’s worth noting the exciting celebrations lined up for its 100th birthday at the end of March and I would encourage people to partake. More details are coming up apparently.

It was of course a fantastically social day when we weren’t numbing our buttocks as I caught up with people like Stef Warboys, Vicky Wilby, Andrew Stubbs, Millsy, Mike Dew and many, many others, though The Navigation Inn across the road in an area devoid of pubs bar this one, was a bit of a disappointment. There were loads of Adnams logos adorning the building, but all there was in the form of bitter were creamy, heavy pints of Old Speckled Hen and Pedigree, as well as a distinct lack of food. It seemed a long way from Southwold and its wonderful Adnams pubs and I certainly wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to this place if you find yourself in Derby.

And although the committee reports still prompted people to drone on unnecessarily, in the main the reports and elections – what we had of them as frequently there weren’t enough candidates to fill the vacancies – moved along quickly. In fact one committee before lunch admitted to being a bit unprepared as they hadn’t expected to be up until well into the afternoon! It all meant that David and I were back outside his in broad daylight with the sound of St Mary‑le‑Tower bells booming across the town, though I was too late to attend practice this evening. Even better, I was home at a reasonable time for tea with Ruthie.

So that is me done with the Central Council. I shall miss the social element, but even after today’s improved meeting, I shan’t miss the long, boring meeting. Whilst I am honoured to have served the Suffolk Guild on the council – if you could really say I’ve served – it’s not for me. It’s a role best suited to those who at some point can give up their time to serve on a committee, where the really valuable work goes on and I think once Alan McBurnie settles in – though I think it was a bit of an eye-opener for him today – and Veronica Downing also joins, they will be better placed to serve our interests and those of ringing in general much more than me.

Ironically, whilst we were all bemoaning the lack of young ringers, back towards our borders at Convent Garden in Willingham, seven-year old Henry Pipe was ringing his first peal. Very well done to him, but it isn’t half scary!

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Sunday 30th May 2010

Sometimes you just have to ask for the business. It’s something I’m used to doing in sales of course, but it works in ringing too. I’ve tried it at St Mary-le-Tower and for Guild Peal Week and it worked then. And it worked for Stephen at Grundisburgh this morning. With Gill away, not realising Mike and Pippa were going to be coming up and mistakenly believing I would already be in Derby in anticipation of tomorrow’s Central Council Meeting, he looked to bolster what was looking like a thin attendance by generally blackmailing ringers from Burgh such as Gillian.

Of course I was there. So were Mike and Pippa. And David Stanford. Kate too. Along with Pete and Susanne. In fact, we had enough to ring call-changes on all twelve. But it was nice to see some familiar faces not seen for a while.

And it followed on from a similarly useful turnout at SMLT, although the striking and – even more criminally the concentration – was sadly lacking.

With no peal and World Cup fever beginning to build, Mason and I hosted Pete and Suzanne to watch England’s last friendly before their final squad is announced for the tournament and they travel to South Africa. The 2-1 win over Japan – bizarrely played in a thunderstorm in Graz, Austria – was a bit disappointing as the performance wasn’t great and the Japanese even had to score both our goals for us. But that excitement hasn’t diminished…

Having dropped the little chap off at his mothers and waited with my guests and a beer for my better half to return home, Ruthie and I parted company with them and wandered up to Edwin Avenue for a defiant barbecue and a couple of beers before an early night for me as I prepared for an early – and long – day tomorrow.

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Saturday 29th May 2010

Weddings. Even in today’s society where not so much importance seems to be placed on marriage, it’s still the biggest day of most people’s lives. And whilst we should obviously be aiming for perfection every time we grab hold, it’s perhaps more vital than at any other time – apart from funerals some might say – that we ring as well as we possibly can on such a happy and important day. It’s one of the few times when people from far and wide gather beneath the booming bells that we ring and actually consider them part and parcel of something in their lives. Bells help make a wedding for those who ask for the bells and don’t forget we’re getting paid for these events. And I’m always paranoid that there may be a ringing friend or relative of the happy couple listening critically and carefully to the bells or that they might even be listening to them as they watch the wedding video where unusually our efforts are recorded for posterity.

We needn’t have worried too much for today’s wedding at Ufford though as although people milled outside beforehand and we were able to ring the bride in, torrential rain kept everyone inside for the photos, where the bells are barely audible, especially above the chatter and noise in there on such an occasion.

Still, we were paid to do a job and we did it and hopefully when that ringer is shown their friend’s wedding video he or she will say ‘those ringers at Ufford aren’t bad’!

Mason behaved impeccably, even joining in briefly on the wooden demo bell on the belfry wall, but on such a miserable day weather-wise this was pretty much the highlight of the day as we sit in that lull between the end of the football season and the start of the World Cup that shall keep me occupied this summer.

Others across the county were a little busier today mind and congratulations to David Rogers on ringing his 50th quarter since returning to ringing in the success at Badingham.


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Friday 28th May 2010

It was almost like old times today as I went to collect Mason from Mum and Dad’s after work as they’d collected him earlier for an afternoon of fun!

Ruthie meanwhile was out 'til late partaking in the end of term showcase at Colchester Institute so thanks go to Kate for bringing her back.

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Thursday 27th May 2010

With Ruthie rehearsing again for tomorrow night’s end-of-term showcase, I took the opportunity of joining the ringers at St Peter’s in Colchester for their practice for the second week running. Again lot’s of learners and also a handful of members from our very own South-West District. In fact, I’ve seen more of the south-west down here than I normally see in our own Guild! Seriously though, it’s always worth exploring other towers, other areas and take advantage of the vast range of expertise and friendship within ringing and it’s good to see members doing just that in both Suffolk and Essex.

Although they’d had to call a quarter of Kent Minor round at the 720 mark, it was a good practice with lots for the learners on the front six as well as Plain Bob Major and Grandsire Triples.

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Wednesday 26th May 2010

This multi-Minor stuff is good fun but tricky stuff. We were ‘only’ ringing four Surprise Minor methods in this evening’s quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree, but they were some of the trickier ones, with Warkworth, Rossendale and Stamford in the first extent and then Annable’s London on its own.

The first attempt came to an early end when I failed to hear the change of method, though this might have been due partly to the conductor calling Warwick instead of Warkworth…

The second attempt went a little further but ultimately came to an end before the end of the first 720 due to a fire-up.

The third attempt seemed like it was going the distance as we confidently strode into Annable’s London only for it to come round before the end of the first course and any call had been made as five and six swapped momentarily ringing Netherseale, the second’s place version of Annable’s London.

It was too late to get another quarter attempt in before practice started - indeed, it was practically time for practice – but we thought we’d work a bit at Warkworth and Annable’s London until the first ringers turned up. This went a lot better and was the best ringing of the evening, showing that it hadn’t been a wasted attempt and it was all an interesting backdrop for Ruthie who was writing her essay in the church. It’s been a bad week for quarters here though as this loss followed hot on the heels of Sunday’s loss due to a rope breaking. Don’t worry, Mike isn’t letting up!

As the actual practice began, I was introduced to Bill who had moved into the village and began learning to ring in the two weeks I have been absent from the practice. He had already made a good start with Mike, but I was charged with running him through his paces this week. Apart from being quite an interesting chap, he should do alright with ringing providing his personal circumstances – for one reason and another the next few weeks and months look set to get busy for him – allow him to get into it enough.

A pint (or two for Ruthie) in The Greyhound afterwards and it was home for tea and to hug the bin, this week still safely ensconced outside the house.

Whilst we were losing quarters at Pettistree though, well done to the band at Ixworth who scored a quarter of Double Norwich Major, a first for Ruth. Congratulations Mrs Suggett!

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Tuesday 25th May 2010

Ruthie and I popped in to Buttons to see Kate at lunchtime today, where – amongst other things – the subject of the South-East District Outing on Saturday 5th June came up. It is always a consuming process organising a ringing outing, with numerous phone calls and emails having to be made, sometimes to awkward tower correspondents who are difficult to get hold of on top of the logistical and practical aspects of a trip round towers in an area you most likely don’t know too well – which often means a reconnaissance mission which takes up a day, if you don’t have to go back again – and finding a suitable pub for the most sociable part of the day.

Kate has worked very hard to make sure this outing is set up and there is something for all abilities to enjoy. It’s going to a lovely part of the world around the Suffolk/Norfolk/Cambridgeshire border at just a handful of six and eights and of course a lovely pub. We can’t guarantee the weather obviously and whilst it goes without saying that it would be even more enjoyable if the sun shines, churches are fairly dry and welcoming places even if it does turn wet, so if you are at a loose end – or your diary just reads gardening or painting or something else that can be put off for a day or two – then there is no reason not to come, whether you ring call-changes or Surprise Maximus. Outings are great for learners and of course experienced ringers are vital to be on hand to offer advice and guidance. If fuel is an issue than grab or offer a lift to someone coming past or who you are passing on the way or contact Kate or me and we’ll see what we can sort. And don’t feel you have to be from the South-East District either. Already ringers from other districts have signed up and everyone is welcome.

Above all else, it should be a fantastic day of laughter, good and not so good ringing (we’re only human), beer, food and lovely countryside, so please, please, PLEASE get in touch with Kate and ask her for a menu from The Crown Inn in Northwold as she’ll need to know dinners by 2nd June.

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Monday 24th May 2010

Another scorching day, absolutely gorgeous and only a shame I had to go to work!

It was still lovely come 5pm though and when I went to collect an early finishing Ruthie from Ipswich Railway Station. With time to kill before St Mary‑le‑Tower practice and no opportunity to have tea afterwards, we made only our second visit to McDonald’s for years, hot on the heels of our first visit on Thursday. Must make sure this doesn’t become a habit.

The practice was useful with a lot of focus on ten-bell ringing – and London Royal in particular – despite a large attendance as David tries to wrangle with the problem of how to get ringers not previously used to ringing on high numbers up to speed. It’s almost impossible with the wide range of abilities that we not only get but need at SMLT to fit in everything we need to do and so Mr Potts is quite rightly concentrating on building a solid stepping stone to twelve-bell ringing first. At least with all the twelve-bell ringing we have done in the last couple of years we should have a very good foundation on which to build a good twelve-bell band here, though it’s going to need people’s continued support.

Following ringing we were back to Woodbridge as we had been invited to Toby’s for a couple of drinks and to watch the end of England’s friendly against Mexico – which they won 3-1 – as the warm-up for the World Cup builds up. I’m starting to get very excited!

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Sunday 23rd May 2010

The weather got even hotter today, nearly reaching thirty degrees centigrade in places and yet I found my self trussed up in a suit. It was for a happy occasion though as Mason and I dressed up for the Christening of Tallulah, the daughter of our friend Becky and her boyfriend Paul.

The most important part of the afternoon took part at Barham church, a new one for me as the four here are unringable, but a surprisingly vibrant church for a place I had always thought looked quite disused whenever I’ve passed by. Just goes to show how little attention I pay to so many places that I regularly bypass.

Following the service – which the li’l chap behaved perfectly in, though this was partly because his illness and subsequent medication seemed to have had the effect of subduing the poor boy - we went onto another new venue for me, Great Blakenham Village Hall next to St Mary’s Church which houses just two bells. It’s a huge place that was decorated beautifully for the occasion and although it was a slightly awkward occasion as I knew no one but Paul, Becky and the kids – and of course sadly Ruthie was working – I struck up conversations with some interesting folk.

I handed back a very poorly boy who was missing a lot of his usual bounce – which returned briefly when the buffet was opened up at the Christening party – following on from a day when he had been generally well behaved at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning, playing with Isobel Potts and sitting quietly watching us ring at Grundisburgh, where despite the appearance of Peter Emery there was still a disappointing turnout.

Well done though to Julie Rapior who today rang her most methods to a quarter in the success at Aldeburgh at the end of a busy weekend of ringing in Suffolk , especially when considering the hot weather. Good effort by everyone and keep it up!

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Saturday 22nd May 2010

In scorching hot weather like we’re currently having, I love going to a ringing event, usually somewhere pretty and rural, the opportunity to sit outside a nice village pub, catching up with friends. However, I also love spending days as Mason, Ruthie and I spent today, which involved no ringing at all.

A trip to Tesco in Copdock where Clare and Kev got their car washed as we wandered the store leaving piled high with printers and gas barbecues. It was said barbecue that we then set about using when we returned to Edwin Avenue, though it needed a brief trip for Kev and me to get gas for it.

Other than that though, it was pure lazing about as Ruthie’s brother-in-law tried to top the pond up in the most extreme way he could find and we gently supped beer in the bright, warm sunshine, with sun cream making its first appearance of the year before Ruthie and I meandered back to Sun Lane with the li’l chap.

Those snowy, icy days seem such a long time ago…

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Friday 21st May 2010

I’ll give Suffolk Coastal District Council their due. On Wednesday I discovered my brown bin had gone missing. Taken deliberately, accidentally or having grown legs and made a break for it, I don’t know. But it had been out the front when I left for work having been emptied but gone when I returned for lunch, though bizarrely the blue bin that had been standing by its side was left behind, no doubt missing its chum dearly.

The council had told me a new one would be on its way, but it would probably be a week. Today when I returned for lunch, I was greeted by a new brown bin, several days ahead of when I was expecting. Hurrah! As to what has happened to the old one, I am still puzzled…

Poor Mason is still full of snotty cold, so sadly any plans to visit the newly-born Lucy this weekend are out the window, but it is as always great to see him.

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Thursday 20th May 2010

The 20th May is a date that shall now be etched into the diaries and minds of Ruthie’s family as her Uncle Moog and more specifically her Aunty Ange gave birth to Lucy at 6.57 this morning weighing in at 8lbs 2, a third cousin for my better half.

As such we found ourselves outside The Mariners on a warm evening with the new father, Kate, Clare, Kev, Ron and Wob to wet the baby’s head on the most happy of occasions.

And we made it to the pub after a brief foray into Colchester as Ruthie went to the Institute for a rehearsal and I popped up to McDonald’s and then St Peter’s for their practice, where I am happy to report that such is the influx of new learners that nearly every person that entered the belfry needed introducing to everyone else! It was good to catch up with Steven Clarke here as well as make new acquaintances and it further highlights the beauty of bellringing. If it wasn’t for the fact that you can walk into almost any practice unannounced and join in, I would have been doing an awful lot of kicking around as I waited to return Ruthie to Woodbridge. It didn’t make any difference what my level of experience was as the peak was Bob Major and so any one of our members could’ve slotted in and not only learnt but helped at this nice eight.

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Wednesday 19th May 2010

Sometimes you start to feel like you’re never going to score another peal. It’s also a frustrating feeling that can be experienced with quarter-peals. This evening I lost my third peal on the bounce and although I have lost more than that before – and indeed I have heard tales of ringers reaching double-figures in consecutive losses before finally breaking the hoodoo – my last success just six days ago at Blythburgh already feels a long time ago. And I can’t make up my mind as to whether it’s a good job or not that I haven’t got another peal lined up until the second week of June!

All three have been lost very differently too. Sunday’s at Monewden was method collapse. Monday evening at Brandeston was conductor error on my part. Today on the unique bells of Tattingstone it was a rope break, the second being pulled too hard by Bruce. A shining light was that – like the other two peals – it was lost relatively early on, this time as we were approaching the fourth extent. It left me in limbo somewhat. I had chosen Tattingstone not for its pretty sounding bells – believe it or not – but in fact for its geographic position on the way to Colchester to pick up Ruthie. For that reason it made no sense to travel all the way back up Woodbridge way to attend Pettistree practice to then come all the way back down here. It was too late to get to Ruthie’s concert but also too early to go down there to just hang around waiting for things to finish.

So I chose the pub, which in itself was not a hardship, but this time was even more appealing as it offered us an opportunity to catch up with his Geoffreyness who we hadn’t seen for some time but had agreed to ring in tonight’s attempt. Sitting in The Wheatsheaf – where incidentally Kevin who used to be in The Turk’s Head is now running things – overlooking the wide open fields surrounding this outpost of Suffolk, it struck me that it wasn’t the end of the world that we’d lost the peal. I might come back to Tattingstone during the winter next time.

Whilst we were being unsuccessful, there was thankfully good news elsewhere and well done to George Salter on ringing his first peal on eight at The Wolery and Philip Moyse on his first of surprise as conductor in the quarter at Southwold.

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Tuesday 18th May 2010

Having spent the morning kicking myself over last night, I was heartened to see the peal at Grundisburgh today that edges Arnie ever closer to what would be a much deserved thousand mark.

Ruthie and I went out this evening, though not far. We were the guests of our next door neighbour Bob for a few drinks and as usual an extremely good laugh.

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Monday 17th May 2010

I felt a strange mixture of frustration and satisfaction as I left Brandeston church in lovely evening sunshine this evening. I had just miscalled our latest peal attempt of 27-Surprise Minor methods just one lead from the end of the second extent. I knew I was calling a bob and leaving Cunecastre for London, but my mind suddenly went blank and in the confusion I couldn’t think quickly enough. It was very frustrating because we had been ringing particularly well up to that point. But that was also the reason for my sense of satisfaction.

Last time out we really struggled on the first extent with methods like Rossendale, Annable’s London et al or got the hang of them and then blew it in Cunecastre. This time there were no such problems. There were odd moments from all of us as our brains tried to keep up after a long day, but we showed we could ring it and ring it well. In fact, what we struggled with most this evening was arranging a date for the next attempt which we’ve squeezed into another Monday night in June. Though I feel guilty about missing Monday night practices at St Mary-le-Tower – especially after my whining about others missing them when I was in charge – this is such an enthralling project and is doing so much good. I can’t tell you enough how much ringing multi-Minor has helped with my ringing and I hope that it has the same effect for others in our now regular band and conducting these attempts has been a real education for me.

Having had a false start some way into the first extent before our eventual loss, it was too late to make it down to Ipswich for practice this time around and so I joined Maggie, Tom and Brian for a drink in The Chequers in Kettleburgh with its lovely sense of sitting under a tree in the bar! The Queen’s Head in Brandeston was sadly shut, so shall have to wait for our business!

I was back in Woodbridge in time to pick up Ruthie from the railway station and indeed to have a wander down the Deben whilst I was waiting for her. Whisper it, but I think summer might finally be here!

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Sunday 16th May 2010

Hurrah! I made it on time – give or take a couple of minutes – to St Mary‑le‑Tower, enabling me to fully partake in a morning’s ringing that incorporated Stedman Triples on the back eight and Grandsire Cinques. Disappointingly, David is having to put up with the same as I had to in as much as the one thing that ringers of all abilities can bring to a piece of ringing – concentration – was sadly absent from both touches.

We did at least have twice as many there as we had at Grundisburgh though, where the morning was most useful for Chris and Erin who made up two of the seven present at Suffolk’s second twelve.

In the Driver's SeatBy this point Mason had gone for a day out with his Nanna and Grandad to listen to brass bands and ride on fire engines, whilst I had arranged to ring a peal of Minor at Monewden. However, having cheered on some of the runners in the Woodbridge 10k Run outside the Red Lion, I returned home for lunch with Ruthie and checked my phone. I had a message from one of the band saying he now couldn’t ring in the peal starting in less than an hour. I shan’t name the guilty party, but he’d only just been made aware that he was playing the organ in a 4.30pm service…

I’ve been guilty of such aberrations myself, so I can’t be too harsh on said ringer, but it did mean that with Mary Allum travelling over from the other side of the county it was too late to call it off. After a long-shot and unsuccessful plea to Jane Harper to see if she would ring in a peal that her husband was about to step out the door to come to, we arrived as a five in Monewden and set off with the intention of ringing a peal of 7 Doubles methods and one principle. However, we started with this principle which proved it can be as deadly in Doubles as it can be in Cinques. Even though we had reached the very last call before changing to something else, our decision to put it first meant we had at least only been ringing a quarter of an hour or so, but with there having been a decidedly lukewarm commitment to ringing a peal of Doubles anyway – from all of us to be fair – we decided not to go for it again and instead went for – and got – a quarter of the deadly principle with sixty changes of Grandsire tagged on the end as I thought everyone might be getting bored of Stedman by now!

It did at least allow me to meet Ruthie on her return from work before I headed for Ipswich again to pick up Mason and return him to his mother, the li’l chap seemingly feeling better.

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Saturday 15th May 2010

It was one of my favourite days of the year today, the Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions.

Last year this event was held as far away from me in this county as they could be as we journeyed to Exning and Dalham. This year we were as close to home as the competitions could possibly be as the Guild came to Hasketon and Woodbridge.

This allowed Mason, Ruthie and me a relatively leisurely morning that allowed us to get gift vouchers for our judges and pass Nick Robinson, the political correspondent for the BBC and who does an interesting blog of his own on their website, no doubt enjoying a day off in his town of residence after a busy couple of months.

Having made myself presentable, prepared some sandwiches and printed off certificates, we were in the very nearby village of Hasketon within minutes to greet Chris and Alban Forster, the judges for this afternoon's Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Trophy. A quick raise and ring for the judges and then we had to find somewhere for them to sit. It was raining at the time and so the car didn't seem ideal - eventually the toy cupboard in the Village Hall was decided upon after reassurances that people coming in would be quiet or stay at the opposite end of the hall!

With no representation from the west of the county at all - a big, big shame - the ten teams got underway from Offton to St Mary-le-Tower. In between the rain stopped enabling people to enjoy the village from sitting outside - the sight of Messrs Knights, Whiting and Stanford, aka the 'Three Wise Men' on the bench alongside the hall was something that will make me smile for some time - to drinking in The Turk's Head as team after team put in good performances on tricky bells, though Rendham sadly didn't complete their call-changes as the ringer of the second lost control. They are to be commended for entering though and they weren't the only ones to struggle with the second over the two hours or so of ringing. Please do enter again next year!

Following a wonderful tea that had been prepared by various people but led most notably by Diana Pipe and birthday girl Jane Harper, Chris and Alban gave some useful remarks and read the results, the final two bands to ring - Pettistree A and St Mary-le-Tower - taking the top two spots in a close contest, the latter edging it. Everyone - no matter how or where they finished - were extremely grateful to the Forster's for their time and effort in judging this afternoon, but no more so than I!

We made it back to Woodbridge in time to drop the car off at home and wander up to St Mary the Virgin where David Stanford and Jonathan Dickenson took their places on The Market Hill to judge the Rose Trophy.

With Woodbridge being the heavy weight they are it was far from surprising that all five teams rang Triples and even that they all rang Grandsire. Some might say it was a proper striking competition! And the weight seemed to be a great leveller as team after team raised themselves to perform to a high standard, leaving SMLT - the last to ring again - needing to be at the top of our game. We were after 224 changes, the required number of changes for the test piece. But it went on. And on. Sadly it had been miscalled and eventually had to be set up in the confusion that followed.

When it came to the summing up and results by the judges though, no mention was made of it. At first I feared they had miscalculated and had been listening to the wrong pieces of ringing, especially when SMLT came out on top! Indeed, we had incurred the fewest faults in the first 224 changes, though in keeping with the rest of the competition it was extremely close. For a second I had a tricky decision to make, sensing the eyes burning into the back of my head…

However, it literally took me just a second to decide that on this occasion it wouldn’t be right to award the trophy to my home tower. Quite apart from the fact it wouldn’t have been in the spirit of the event, the rules (you can see them elsewhere on this website) decree the first 224 true (not repeated) changes are marked. As the touch had been miscalled, I couldn’t guarantee the first 224 changes had been true.

This meant that the North-East District were winners and not by default either. Such had been the closeness of the competition that any number – if not all – of the entrants would’ve been worthy winners and although it is an incredibly cheesy cliché, Suffolk ringing was the winner today, in both competitions. Besides, it was a joy to see young Philip Moyse leaving his first eight-bell striking competition clutching the Rose Trophy and the winners certificate, so well done in particular to him, but also the whole team.

Whilst many were heading to the King’s Head to join in the North-East’s celebrations, Ruthie and I took the short walk home with Mason who was running a temperature and obviously needed his bed, exhausted after enjoying the day in his own way.

My thanks to everyone who made today possible. The tea was fantastic, both in solid and liquid form. Am very grateful to Hasketon and Woodbridge for allowing their bells to be used and to Peter, Jane, Diana and Kate in getting all this arranged. And I am EXTREMELY grateful to our four judges who ensured that the competitions could go ahead. Although I shan't be Ringing Master next year - and I'd like to add how much I've enjoyed running these events and to say thank you to anyone who has entered a team for them in my time - I still need to make sure my successor has judges, so the search starts now!

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Friday 14th May 2010

On the eve of the Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions, it was perhaps appropriate that I found myself in the company of a previous Guild Ringing Master and someone who has done more than almost anyone for Suffolk ringing, George Pipe. Mason, Ruthie and I had been very kindly invited over by George and Di (who apparently has won more Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions than anyone else in another appropriate note) for a meal as George offered my better half the run of extensive collection of ringing books for an essay.

It was a lovely evening as we put the world to rights and the li'l chap enjoyed watching the bowlers next door and our deepest thanks to the Pipe's for their hospitality.

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Thursday 13th May 2010

Recently I called upon the very able organisers of this Guild, both experienced and starting out to get arranging peals for the Guild, to help progress ringing in this county and just enjoy some really good ringing.

This evening I was very happy to help Jonathan Stevens as he does just that as we rang the first of what will hopefully be a monthly Thursday evening peal attempt. I have to at Blythburgh admit that I was slightly worried as I got there on a bright sunny evening that the locals might not appreciate a second peal in five days and with it being a ground-floor ring I feared there would an irate neighbour producing one of those unpleasant confrontations as you struggle to maintain concentration.

In fact, almost the opposite. We had one smiling face that peered over the wooden partition that separates the belfry from the church here and that was it as the villagers who live alongside the incredibly busy A12 anyway perhaps enjoyed listening to the bells wafting out across the marshes in this most picturesque spot. Even stuck inside we were able to appreciate this lovely evening as the bright orange sun first blazed through the west window – though proving a little distracting for the ringers of the front two – and then as extent after extent passed by, began pushing through the many clear windows in this long church, projecting a beautiful orange glow in front of those of us lucky enough to be facing in that direction.

It was a good peal, well worth the effort and although I can’t make next months I shall continue to support Jonathan and anyone else arranging peals – and indeed anything else of course - when and where I can and hope that many others do likewise.

Meeting Ruthie back at Edwin Avenue, I caught my first glimpse of the building work that has now got underway on Kate’s new extension – very exciting – and was able to enjoy some tea prepared by Clare before we left the good folk of north Woodbridge to it.

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Wednesday 12th May 2010

We now have eleven teams for the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Trophy on Saturday and another judge for the 8-bell in the shape of Jonathan Dickenson! Thank you, thank you, thank you Jonathan!

It should be a good day out, so even if you’re not ringing, come along and take it in. The village hall in Hasketon is directly opposite the church and alongside a play area for the kids in a village that sees little traffic. There’s plenty of space for children and adults alike a few hundred yards down the road too – and even more away from the ‘traffic’ – at the village-run local pub, the Turk’s Head where there is a large garden and real ales, as well as good food and it is a proper typical rural Suffolk pub, oozing character.

Trying hard not to sound too much like a tourist guide, Woodbridge in the evening is not a bad place to be either, with The Angel and The King’s Head pubs both a stones throw away from St Mary the Virgin where the 8-bell competition for the Rose Trophy will be taking place. There’s plenty of space to mill or play around in the church yard and another play area a few hundred yards down the road as well as the picture-postcard Market Hill next to the church.

So taking part or not, there’s little reason for not coming along and it’s not too late to get names in for tea at Hasketon. Come on guys, this is a great opportunity to see what happens at the Guild Striking Competitions and how much fun they actually are! They don’t bite!

Pettistree is a charming village with purportedly the oldest pub in… That’s enough of that, I’ll be here all day!

I was in the charming village of Pettistree of course for the weekly pre-practice quarter, ringing Netherseale Surprise Minor – good practice for Mary and me in anticipation of our forthcoming reattempt of the 27 – and normally I would hang around for the practice. However, with Kate there already after Mike had invited seven for the quarter – just to be on the safe side you understand – I was able to leave a good band as I headed off down to Colchester to watch Ruthie play in a concert.

With various different sections involving just about everybody playing, there was a lot more bustle than there usually is when I go down on a Wednesday night, but as always it was a very enjoyable evening topped off with a pint in The Marquis.

Looking even further beyond Suffolk’s borders, well done to Tom Britten on ringing his first peal of spliced – impressively involving all eight of the standard Surprise Major methods – at Dore today. Good work Tom!

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Tuesday 11th May 2010

Five days on from when most of us cast our votes, we finally have a new Prime Minister as David Cameron entered Number Ten in somewhat subdued fashion in comparison to previous PMs to provide something different of interest on our usual Tuesday night in. Though with the World Cup coming up and likely to dominate our screens next month I was conscious to allow Ruthie control of the TV now so we were watching Supersize vs Superskinny as Cameron historically strode up Downing Street.

For all that the politicians have been complaining that this will be what will happen with proportional representation, the last few days have been no real trouble for anyone but the politicians. It’s been interesting, the media has had something to speculate wildly over and life has gone on without the Armageddon that the Tories and Labour predicted. Indeed it’s made a pleasant change to see these comfortable MPs doing the running around for us for once and as someone with no political allegiance I’m happy to see where a bit of cooperation will take us in the near future, regardless of who it’s between.

On another positive note, we now have ten teams in Saturday’s 6-bell Striking Competition to be judged by Chris and Alban Forster from Hertfordshire. I know Alban well from our days in Birmingham and he is a fine and enthusiastic ringer who is actually resident in Germany currently and a big part of the exciting growth of the Central European Association of Ringers. His Dad is pretty good too, though I don’t know him so well. The large turnout will mean that I will be cutting the test pieces in half, though we’ll keep the practice at two minutes.

The only downsides are that there looks like there will be no South-West representation at all and I’m struggling to find judges for the 8-bell as the Forster’s are unable to stick around until the evening. Currently David Stanford has very kindly agreed to do it if needs be but even then I’d like to get someone to do it with him, so there’s still work to be done over the next few days.

One thing that did occur to me as the regular football season comes to an end, I got my wall chart for the World Cup (it isn’t a World Cup without a wall chart!) and the happenings at Westminster unfolded this evening. Since I began my role as Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, I have seen off two Ipswich Town managers, two England managers and now two Prime Ministers. Are these roles becoming more unstable or have I just been in this job too long?

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Monday 10th May 2010

I did really enjoy running the ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower when I was in charge. It was a great honour to have the opportunity to mould this famous practice in a way that I thought would take it forward. Whether this was the right way and whether it worked is by-the-by now, but it made a nice change to sit back and enjoy the ride rather than driving it as David Potts made a good start to his Monday night mastership this evening.

A half-course of Cambridge Royal made it at the third attempt after a disastrous start but after that it was a tale of reasonable ringing, particularly a well-struck touch of Stedman Cinques though this was bedevilled by a lack of concentration again.

And I obviously felt relaxed enough to pop into The Cricketers for one and to discuss pubs for the College Youths approaching Country Meeting here.

Talking of approaching events, please do get in touch in regards to this Saturday’s striking competitions at Hasketon and Woodbridge. It’s a wonderful day, whether you win or not and with the call-change competition there is every opportunity for teams of any ability to win silverware. At the moment though, I have no teams from the North-West for the six-bell and no teams at all from the South-West – come on guys!

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Sunday 9th May 2010

Now that I am no longer St Mary‑le‑Tower Ringing Master, it isn’t imperative that I get there right at the start of Sunday morning or Monday evening ringing anymore. However, it made my life harder when people arrived late whilst others left early when I was in charge and so it was with significant guilt that I arrived with Mason at Ipswich’s twelve with just a quarter of an hours ringing left after a slow start after the night before.

I was able to partake in a very decently struck bob course of Grandsire Cinques which was apparently very much in keeping with the ringing that went before it and so my guilt was somewhat tempered. Nonetheless, apologies to Mr Potts!

I was at Grundisburgh for the whole of this mornings’ ringing where I made up one of eight as part of another disappointing turnout at Grundisburgh’s twelve. It was at least useful practice for Chris and Erin and good to see David Stanford giving ringing a go again, albeit with just one arm at this stage.

The li’l chap is under my care until tomorrow morning this weekend and so there was no peal-ringing this afternoon – I left that up to the band at Aldeburgh and well done to both the Mary’s on their respective achievements in today’s success – but we made the most of a mainly wet and cold afternoon by playing at home and hunting competition judges. I shall have news on that later, so watch this space!

However, with both of us being the getting-out-and-about types, it was a treat to return to Grundisburgh Village Hall where Ruthie had left her car last night to enable us to have some drinks at Pete and Mel’s party.

Having congratulated Mary’s Garner and Dunbavin, I should also congratulate Chris Brown on his first of Minimus in the quarter at Ampton but warn him that he’s getting in with a bad crowd there!

Oh and Happy Birthday Ron!

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Saturday 8th May 2010

MetfieldLast year at Theberton, the North-East District Striking Competition took part in glorious sunshine and into a lovely light and warm summers evening. Today the practice session took place against a chilly, wet and almost autumnal backdrop at Metfield and whereas in 2009 Mason and little Richard Stevens were able to play among the bluebells in the churchyard, they - like the rest of us - were confined to the inside of the church as the nine teams practiced on the bells before the competition proper this evening.

They were both immaculately behaved as we stopped to the service, but also unlike last year, Mason and I left before the tea, leaving Sweffling to win the Pat Bailey Shield, Aldeburgh to win the Harry Archer Trophy and Reydon to win the Call-Change Trophy. Congratulations to them particularly and to all the teams for a fantastic turnout and I hope to see them all join Halesworth, Rendham and Sweffling from the North-East just down the road in Hasketon at next weeks Guild Striking Competition.

Thank you to all those who filled in Ruthie's questionnaire - her ladyship was busy essay writing at home this afternoon - as they were focusing on practicing with their team - Ruthie is extremely grateful to you all!

The reason the li'l chap and I were not in Metfield for the full show today was that Ruthie and I had a party to attend this evening and so with Kate and Jude very kindly babysitting we arrived at Grundisburgh village hall at the start of a fun joint celebration of Pete (from work) and Mel's 30th birthdays with a band playing and the burger van that Pete helps out with serving food!

BlythburghWhilst giving congratulations to them for reaching a milestone I have already passed in what seems the dim and distant past, congratulations too to Andrew and Diana Leach and Philip Moyse on ringing their most methods to a peal in the success at Blythburgh this morning.


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Friday 7th May 2010

We woke up to the chaos predicted by the exit polls last night, with no one winning the General Election outright and despite the slightly disappointing showing of the Liberal Democrats - who I don't mind admitting I voted for but have no particular allegiance to - there does appear to be a strong chance that they will need to be wooed and therefore some form of much-needed change to our electoral system could still happen. Either way, it is actually a very exciting time in a normally very detached and dull arena.

And despite all the gloomy warnings that a hung parliament would see society disintegrate, life of course went on, with Peter briefly appearing at work after a week in Torquay at a conference and I picked up Mason as is now normal on a Friday afternoon, with quarters (Orford, Earl Stonham) also scored at Orford and Earl Stonham.

I would like to mention the achievements of a couple of our young ringers doing well elsewhere whilst at uni. Tom Britten has been achieving up in Sheffield for a while now, but he still deserves credit for ringing his first peal of Superlative Major, rung last week at the peal factory that is Dore.

Now Robert Beavis is achieving much too at the other end of the country, calling his first quarter on eight at Saints Philip and Jacob in Bristol on the same day as Tom was ringing his Superlative and then following it up with his first blows in Surfleet and Bourne in the peal at St John‑on‑the-Wall - also in Bristol - on Wednesday night.

Well done lads, keep it up and please come back soon!

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Thursday 6th May 2010

A much anticipated day for many, including myself actually. The last couple of General Elections have been a bit of a turn-off as the result has never been in doubt but it appeared things might be changing this time around and it was with real hope of a shake-up of a system that has got far too comfortable that I cast my vote at St John’s Church Hall at lunchtime, even though in Suffolk Coastal – the constituency I reside in – the chances of anyone other than a Conservative MP was hugely unlikely.

However, by the times the polls closed and the exit polls came to fruition, it became apparent that despite there being the predicted hung parliament little had changed and the two main parties had still retained the vast majority of the seats and actually the old guard were going to hang on til the bitter end no matter what we think. Despite plans to stay up a bit later to watch things unfold, a combination of disillusionment and tiredness took over and Ruthie and I headed to bed with just four results in.

All the ‘drama’ unfolded around us as we headed to Stowmarket after work to partake in a quarter attempt of Superlative Major arranged and called by Jeremy Spiller in a composition that was quite musical before it was brought to a premature end by a stray bell bringing it round at precisely the wrong moment! Not too disheartened we made the short journey across the road to The Queen’s Head for a pint before returning back to Woodbridge . Good to catch up with Jeremy and Cherril though as well as Ian Holland and the Girlings.

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Wednesday 5th May 2010

The boy done good.

Introducing Tom Scase to the ‘Carlisle Eleven’ – which is the occasionally hairy group of Minor methods with Carlisle back-work rather than a large boy-band or oversized terrorist cell – at The Wolery this evening, he took the test on with some aplomb, despite the fact the rest of us didn’t help him out as much as we could and should! Still, a satisfying peal of thirty-seven methods in total was scored before swiss-rolls of the jam and chocolate variety were devoured and I headed off to collect Ruthie from Colchester.

In fact, splicing and multi-method ringing is a very satisfying activity and good fun too. It doesn’t have to be done with the ‘seriousness’ of peal-ringing, though there were plenty of laughs in tonight’s attempt as there always are. And it doesn’t have to be Surprise Minor either. Try the Pettistree way of randomly splicing methods you know together, whether it be Major, Triples, Minor, Doubles or even Minimus. Hell, you could even try Singles, Messrs Suggett, Tatlow, Dickenson, Rogers and Wilby! It’s a good way of cementing place-bells and picking up the structure of methods, especially if you learn it right!

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Tuesday 4th May 2010

May the fourth be with you.

It needed to be today as I encountered one of those uncomfortable experiences that people so dread – a trip to the hygienist. Actually it was not too bad once you got past the hooks, pipes, drills and other implements that were making torturous noises and I came out with whiter teeth! Plus the dentists itself is practically next door to work, adding to the number of elements of my life which are fortunately all within walking distance of home.

And it was that home that Ruthie and I spent our traditional Tuesday evening in once we’d negotiated Tesco, a place that can sometimes have that same torturous feeling that the dentist can have…

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Monday 3rd May 2010

Brandeston ChurchChilly wind and miserable rain is perfect Bank Holiday peal-ringing weather and so this morning a hardy band of us obliged at Brandeston. Well, tried to. It was the next episode of our attempts to ring multi-minor and following our successful attempt at twenty-one methods at The Folly last month, we were aiming for twenty-seven today. Sadly it was not to be, though after a couple of attempts we succeeded in ringing the first extent of Lightfoot, Wearmouth, Annable’s London, Rossendale, Stamford and Netherseale, only to be tripped up by our old friend Cunecastre in the second extent. Even an attempt at a quarter was unsuccessful and so we called it a morning and went in search of a pub.

Sadly we were too early for either the Queen’s Head or The Chequers in nearby Kettleburgh and so we called that a morning too.

I did end up in a pub eventually though as Ruthie and I joined Pete and Susanne at The Mariners first beer festival once my beloved had finished work. It was great evening in the pub, the sort of which I haven’t had for a long time, interrupted only by a trip out to Shapla to get some takeaway and briefly lose Susanne. Many different beers were drunk and a good time had by all!

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Sunday 2nd May 2010

It felt an odd morning this morning. Partly because Ruthie accompanied Mason and me to St Mary‑le‑Tower on a rare Sunday off, but also of course because it was the first time I had been to Suffolk's premier twelve since I had handed over the SMLT Ringing Master's role. David ran things superbly - as I expected he would - but it was nice to sit and let someone else guide things.

Being the first Sunday of the month we followed ringing here with the now traditional ringing a few hundred yards away at St Lawrence. Believe it or not, this was the first time Ruthie had rung at this ancient five since the bells were rehung but it won't be her last visit here this year as yesterday we received our tickets for the dinner following this summer's College Youths Country Meeting to be held in the church here in July.

Whilst Ruthie needed dropping off in Woodbridge to sort a few bits and pieces, the li'l chap and I continued onto Grundisburgh where sadly - despite Stephen's return - numbers were still very low, meaning we were limited to Cambridge Minor with the tenor covering on the back eight.

Following our return and having met up with Ruthie again, we had breakfast in the Ferry Quay Cafe in a caravan by the River Deben, something that used to be a regular occurrence after ringing at Grundisburgh where a number of us would meet up for a cuppa and full-English. It's over eighteen months since Ruthie and I last visited it and the owners and caravan itself have changed in that time, but it was still a nice return to a missed tradition, even if the three of us had to sit inside from the nasty weather that has replaced the lovely spring-fare of recent times.

With no peal lined up for once, the afternoon saw a trip out to Campsea Ashe, now home to just one bell after three of the bells were recently removed in anticipation of October's augmentation to six. Ruthie needed to join several others to rehearse for this evenings singing of Faure's Requiem and Vivaldi's Gloria, 'from scratch' in a similar way to the now well-established 'Messiah From Scratch' also brilliantly arranged by Glenys Fear and for the bell project here which was the main purpose of Ruthie's day off.

Everything from the singing itself to the brilliant spread of food and drink in the interval made for a fantastic evening and we were extremely grateful to Godmother Kala and her husband Nick who looked after Mason whilst we went out, which also offered a good opportunity to catch up with them.

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Saturday 1st May 2010

Those of you who read my blog or reports elsewhere, you'll know that a regular disappointment to me is how few people take advantage of the wonderful opportunities and events that ringing offers.

Today saw the South-East District Striking Competition, held at Sproughton, which are a lovely six - even taking into account my bias towards them - in a lovely village with two pubs, a cosy village hall with good facilities and all just a few hundred yards off the A14. Add to this the wonderful weather we have had recently and continued to have this afternoon, you would think there would be an abundance of entries from the district with the highest membership of the Guild and many, many thriving towers ringing at a level that many across the country would be proud of. Wouldn't you?

Instead, just five - yes, five - bothered themselves with an occasion where the Sproughton ringers had put on a wonderful tea as part of some fantastic hospitality, Kate had spent many hours having the headache of finding judges - don't I know about that feeling - David Sparling had travelled from Essex to judge with David Stanford and others had practiced for and travelled some miles to partake in. No doubt excuses abound from the very reasonable and understandable stumbling block of ringing for weddings - which should of course be the first priority on such an occasion - to the old adage of 'we're not good enough' or 'we don't do striking competitions' as if they are some kind of disease that shouldn't be touched. The truth is that these competitions are first and foremost a fun and interesting way of listening to and improving on a bands striking, something that any ringer and/or band worth their salt should be looking to do. Whilst it is nice to win these things and yes sometimes it can be a little nerve-wracking - even after all the competitions I've rung in, I'm still a little nervous just before and as my band starts - you are amongst friends, enjoying good company and good food and it is so sad that so many members feel a striking competition is either above or beneath them.

Those who were absent missed a lovely afternoon in the sunshine and whilst the third and fourth placed slots for SMLT and Pettistree - the two teams Ruthie and I were ringing for - made it difficult to grab a pint of beer, we did at least manage a quick one in The Wild Man before the brilliant tea and the results which revealed that SMLT came first. Well done to David Potts - in his very first task as Ringing Master - Owen Claxton and the Pipe's who shared our success. Well done to Kate too for arranging it and thank you to the two David's for judging it.

Some finished the day by ringing at The Folly in nearby Claydon whilst some of us ended up in The Beagle for a drink before heading home.

Another excuse used for not entering a striking competition is that they haven't got time, 'we've got something on in the morning'. As if to ridicule this excuse, Tom Scase was able to ring for Debenham having rung a peal at Waltham Abbey and the three of us made it to Sproughton having been into Ipswich on the Park and Ride with Clare and Kev which saw a morning of shopping, hot dogs, doughnuts and balloons to help celebrate Ruthie's sister's birthday.

It's not all doom and gloom though. There is apparently a very good turnout for next week's North-East Striking Competition at Metfield and there are already five teams entered into the Guild Six-Bell at Hasketon and one in the Eight-Bell at Woodbridge in two weeks, even if the judges aren't lined up quite yet. There's time for both situations to improve too...

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Friday 30th April 2010

In keeping with couples ringing together this week, congratulations to Janet Sheldrake and Gordon Slack on their 200th quarter-peal together, rung at Ashbocking today.

With Mason picked up after work there were no such achievements tonight for Ruthie and me, but it has been tempting to update my ringing records to see if we can join in with the fun!

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Thursday 29th April 2010

Whilst Ruthie and her sister had put together the new bed for Sun Lane this morning, the grand tidy up afterwards took so long that Grundisburgh missed out on my presence, though I’m sure Stephen’s return more than atoned for that ‘miss’.

Hopefully lots of teams have put forward their names for the South‑East District Striking Competition at the easy-going six at Sproughton this Saturday and the North‑East District Striking Competition at Metfield the following week, as I hope teams are preparing to do for the Guild ones at Hasketon and Woodbridge in just over two weeks time on 15th May. However, as I write we have just one team entered so far and no judges! In previous years I’ve had the judges sorted out for months, but this year – despite starting early again – there has been a succession of no’s and I’m getting worried. If anyone has any suggestions, any ringers visiting that weekend which they think could do the job, then please let me know!

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Wednesday 28th April 2010

It was a day when Gordon Brown was caught out by his microphone in the back of his car, but neither Kate nor I were wearing microphones – I think – and so we were able to put the world to rights as she very kindly gave me a lift down to Colchester. Not that I have such strong views on any of our members as our Prime Minister apparently has on voters concerned at the state of things in this country…

The reason for our trip down to north Essex was of course Ruthie-related as she was singing in a concert that was very enjoyable, especially as the mother-in-law and I preceded it with a pint in The Marquis.

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Tuesday 27th April 2010

It was good to see a footnote to Alan and Katrina’s wedding anniversary following our failed attempts on Sunday, as the ringers of Offton carried out the duties with a quarter this evening.

By that point of the day I was slightly flagging after a second early shift and trips into town and to Tesco, though the time spent with Ruthie who was not needed in uni today was of course delightful.

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Monday 26th April 2010

And so I am no longer St Mary‑le‑Tower Ringing Master. I have to admit that for all the moaning I've done and that it is the right time to hand over, I felt a slight tinge of sadness as I officially handed over to David Potts at this evening's AGM. I have some wonderful memories of the last four years, especially our efforts at Bristol Max, our entry into the National 12-Bell Competition at Kingston-Upon-Thames in 2007 and seeing the progression of ringers who previously had felt too scared or unwilling to come to somewhere like SMLT become accomplished Surprise Maximus ringers and generally giving it a go.

Of course there's been some lows. At times some people seemed to want to actively disrupt our attempts to just improve the ringing and atmosphere and the long period without an 11th clapper have made things tougher than they need to be, as has the often unpredictable attendances. Trying to plan ahead as is the ideal strategy at a twelve-bell tower is almost impossible when one week you get twenty-five and the next week you get ten.

Tonight was good though as a small band of us kicked things off at seven, including the visiting John Smith who it was good to see coming across from the South-West. People were soon pouring through the door early as I had requested and by the 8.30 meeting we had rung Yorkshire Royal and (some well-rung) Maximus as well as call-changes for John and Sean who came complete with his luggage having come straight to the tower from a trip to Denmark.

The meeting was interesting and being the third since we reintroduced it has become a useful exercise, with much discussion particularly on the draft constitution for SMLT from the twenty-two present. Thanks to Canon Charles for chairing the meeting, to Alan for picking up Ruthie from the station and to all those who have spoken so kindly to me in regards to my stepping down - it is very much appreciated. I only hope that David receives the same level of support that I have been grateful for and I encourage people to continue coming to Sunday morning and Monday night ringing as much as they can.

All this came at the end of a very long day as I not only had an early shift, but then took advantage of the afternoon off to call a peal at Tannington to mark the passing of Mrs Daisy Jane Harvey, a long time resident of this delightful corner of Suffolk and strong supporter of the church which this lovely ground-floor six is housed in. It was a decent effort, even without the distractions of a hand that kept poking through the curtain to grab watering cans and the like. It was nice as well to be met by Daisy's daughter afterwards and for a peal to be appreciated and not dismissed as a nuisance! A great little trip out.

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Sunday 25th April 2010

This morning saw my last Sunday as St Mary‑le‑Tower Ringing Master and it was a fairly satisfying one at that. Whether because of me, a change in circumstances, good fortune or whatever, numbers at least – and I think standards too – have risen. When I took over the norm was six-bell ringing, if we were lucky eight-bell ringing. We now ring all twelve pretty much every week and regularly ring Surprise Maximus, or at least have a band for it if not the time! Thank you to everyone who has come along and done their bit over the last few years but particularly to those who have come regularly and enabled this upturn to be possible.

Today didn’t see us ring Surprise Max, but again saw all twelve rung to Grandsire Cinques and my last call on a Sunday morning was for a well-rung touch of Stedman Caters.

With Stephen still stuck in Spain I took up my third Ringing Master’s role, the occasional one at Grundisburgh where things for whatever reason have gone the other way in the above time-frame. We met seven on this occasion, though the ringing was of a good quality.

As I mentioned recently, my arrangements with Mason have changed this weekend, meaning I was indebted to Mum and Dad for looking after the li’l chap as I went to ring for a lovely occasion, that of Alan and Katrina Rogers’ forthcoming silver wedding anniversary. Having nipped to Woodbridge Railway Station to pick Maggagie up, sadly our efforts to ring a peal and then a quarter of Silver Delight Major at Grundisburgh for this did not befit the milestone, but we tried! The method itself shouldn’t have caused as much trouble as it did as it wasn’t complicated. However there were lots of bits that could trip you up if you weren’t concentrating, especially at the back and that was ultimately our undoing.

At least the early finish – the attempts took about an hour-and-a-half in total – meant that I could spend a bit more time with the boy which I did before returning him to his mother and then hitching a ride to Ufford with Kate and Ruthie where they rang a quarter of Cambridge Minor that I couldn’t commit to with this afternoon’s arrangements. On such a beautiful late afternoon I didn’t mind though as I wandered around the village and it’s surrounding fields, streams and country lanes, the sound of the bells wafting over to me the whole time. I’ve said it before but I don’t mind saying it again, we are very, very lucky to have all this on our doorstep.

Salters' Peal BandCongratulations are very much due to David and Katharine Salter, the first Suffolk-born couple to ring 1000 peals together, a mind-boggling achievement which occurred at St Lawrence in Ipswich today and as David mentioned to me, the entire band were Pisces. I look forward to reading about it on his blog!


Well done as well to Julie Rapior on ringing her first of St Martin ’s Doubles in the quarter at Aldeburgh today. It’s great to see such achievements and people having a go. Keep it up!

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Saturday 24th April 2010

A very productive day, though devoid of any ringing, the type of which you need every now and again to get certain things done. Although Sun Lane gets a regular tidy, over the months it has become cluttered as we juggle jobs, uni and ringing and the li'l chap blows in and out.

Today saw us have a clear-out, helped considerably by Kate, Clare and Kev before Mason, Ruthie and I returned the favour up at Edwin Avenue.

On a beautiful sunny day we celebrated this productivity with the first barbecue of the year, hopefully the forerunner to many, many more over the next few months before wandering home, leaving Clare and Kev guarding a bonfire.

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Friday 23rd April 2010

Happy St Georges Day! Good to see so many St George's flags about as people showed some patriotism in a day and age when it seems to be frowned upon.

It was also good to see a quarter rung for the occasion at Reydon which also saw Helen Price and Michelle Williams ring their first of Stedman Doubles and Philip Moyse call his first of Stedman. Well done all of you.

Big congratulations too to the band at Gislingham which rang the first local band quarter on the bells and a novel choice for this area!

This week saw Mason at playgroup for five days for the first time which also sees a change in our arrangements with him. I picked him up from Kara's after work today as will become the norm from now on with the plan being to have him through to late Sunday afternoons. It makes Sunday afternoon peals a bit trickier but for this year - my final full one as Guild Ringing Master - I am determined that the Guild reaches 150 peals. So come on organisers!

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Thursday 22nd April 2010

With the Pettmans still stuck in Spain four days after they were due to return, it fell to me again to run Grundisburgh practice. Not that there was much to run. Six of us turned up – including Don all the way from Reydon again – which allowed us to give plenty of Stedman and Norwich practice to Anne, but once Mike Whitby had to leave – after but not because of a touch of spliced – we rang one last piece of Stedman Doubles on the back five and called it a night at 8.30. Sad but true.

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Wednesday 21st April 2010

I’ve said once or twice before how much I enjoy visiting London but also how much more I enjoy leaving it and returning to Suffolk. Today brought me and the rest of the John Catt sales team - Pete, Madeleine and Michael - to the stifling capital for a sales seminar in a building directly next door to Southwark Cathedral. Having crammed on the underground – briefly leaving Michael behind at one point – and got lost outside London Bridge Station, the seminar was actually a reasonably relaxed and enjoyable affair as these things go and the lunchtime finish left us with time to have some lunch and take in the sights. We wandered past The Monument marking the Great Fire of London, pretty much opposite St Magnus the Martyr, a place famous in the ringing fraternity for it’s much publicised completely ring of twelve.



On such a lovely day and realising it wasn’t actually that far away, we decided to combine sightseeing with walking back to Liverpool Street Station and so with St Paul’s Cathedral disappearing behind the office blocks of The City, we meandered past the NatWest Tower, the iconic Gherkin building and the Heron Tower, a new neighbour that towers over these and promises to become a well-known addition to an already famous skyline and towering over St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, a ring of eight that is one of many hidden in amongst London’s huge office blocks.



Once at the station there was some more time to kill before the train to Woodbridge was due to leave, so whilst Maddy and Michael continued their tourist bit, Pete and I enjoyed a leisurely pint in Hamilton Hall, the Wetherspoons pub at Liverpool Street.



Eventually we were on the way home on a train that Ruthie joined us on at Colchester before I again left Ruthie at home working hard on essays whilst I journeyed out to Pettistree to ring a quarter of Cambridge Minor and enjoy a typically useful practice.



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Tuesday 20th April 2010

A highly unextrordinary day, so much so that the personal highlight was a trip round Tesco looking for capers and olives whilst Ruthie toiled with uni work at home!

Well done to Doug Perry however on ringing his 200th quarter in the successful attempt of Grandsire Triples at Offton this evening. Congratulations Doug!

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Monday 19th April 2010

My tenure at the helm of the good ship St Mary‑le‑Tower seems to be limping to a sorry end sadly. In my years in charge we’ve rarely not rung Surprise Maximus, have rung Bristol and Lincolnshire Max, Stedman Cinques, London Royal and generally enjoyed large numbers of ringers taking advantage of and enjoying ten and twelve-bell ringing. For the second week running and of course after a two-week break before that, we were unable to muster a band even for a simple half-course of what was once the minimum here, a half course of Surprise Max. A couple had let me know they wouldn’t be there and another had the very reasonable excuse of being stuck abroad, but I don’t recall numbers being this low, this regularly since I took over.

Still, it was another good opportunity for Sean - the shining light of recent times at SMLT – to progress and he grasped it fully, doing well on call-changes on twelve and mastering Plain Hunt on five.

Only one week to go…

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Sunday 18th April 2010

After his education yesterday, Sean came up St Mary‑le‑Tower for first the time on a Sunday morning today and was rewarded with some pretty decent call-changes on twelve before a brief trip across town to drop off what remaining Annual Reports I had left.

With Stephen still away – and likely to be for some time – I was charged with running Grundisburgh again. With a decentish crowd we managed some Cambridge Major having basked in the sunshine for a while beforehand.

Having dropped off Mason at Kara’s and had lunch with Ruthie, my Guild Ringing Master’s Badge was back on and I was making the familiar journey to Ixworth for the dedication of the bells. Considering a lot of ringers had made this same trip only eight days ago, there was a good turnout from Guild members and although there wasn’t much ringing done, it was still a very enjoyable occasion. Although the dedication came some time after the completion of the project, it was still a pleasure to see the joy and satisfaction on people’s faces that such occasions bring.

Amongst others, I was in the company of Philip and his friend Andrew Craddock up from Hampshire and all three of us were soon reunited on the other side of the county at Hollesley for another attempt at ten-spliced Surprise Major with Glasgow and Lindum again, but with a different composition. Two attempts lasted very nearly half-way and then just a few leads from the end, although the ringing – by our own standards at least – was perhaps not entirely satisfactory anyway. Still, it’s wonderful to have the chance to ring this sort of thing.

We had a brief drink in The Shepherd and Dog – now under new management – before leaving the others to a meal at which they were joined by other local ringers such as Sam, Anne and the Harpers as well as Ruth Hatchett the new vicar at Hollesley and her husband Michael, the vicar at Ufford and Melton. A very holy affair.

Well done to Kate Herd who helped complete the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week by ringing her first Treble-Bob in the success at Bildeston. Congratulations to Ruth though on organising a fantastic week that has seen so much going on, so many firsts and personal bests and so many towers quartered. Well done to all concerned and hopefully on a large amount of money being raised for Help for Heroes, a worthy cause indeed.

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Saturday 17th April 2010

Thank you to Mike Whitby for organising a fantastic Pettistree mini-outing today.

It was a fun day of ringing, eating, drinking and walking in beautiful sunshine, the kind of day I thought would never come again after the winter we have had.

It was also Sean's first ringing outing and he passed probably his biggest test by ringing brilliant rounds on the ten at Stradbroke. In fact, one piece I was listening to downstairs sounded like it was about to launch into some very accomplished method ringing it was that good, a credit to both Sean and Peggy who was also ringing.

They were no doubt helped by the work that Jonathan Stevens has done on the bells and it seems harder and harder to find anywhere in Suffolk untouched by Jonathan's invaluable, voluntary and unpaid work. And appropriately enough, our next tower was the daddy of all of them, Fressingfield.

The sound outside is still not perfect, but thanks to the work in particular done by Jonathan, they are a vast improvement both inside and out from that sorry dedication weekend two years ago. Sadly, although most of the ringing was very good today, our attempts to ring the Surprise Major method named after this typically Suffolk and lovely village didn't do his work justice!

From here things slowed down in a lovely way. Following a lovely meal at The Swan, served in a restaurant overlooking Fressingfield churchyard - though there were things that Mason and I saw when we walked in on a prominent Suffolk ringer in the toilet that I'd rather forget - we walked to our next tower, Wingfield.

This was probably the best day as we passed green fields, sparkling streams and the wonderful countryside that we are blessed to have on our doorsteps, before some good ringing at this lovely ground-floor six.

Our day was finished in the best possible fashion as we had a couple of drinks in the De La Pole Arms opposite St Andrew's.

'Congratulations' to David Rogers and Carl Wilby on ringing their first quarter on three at Wyverstone, which they then followed up with another at Finningham. Another success at Old Newton completed another successful day in the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week.

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Friday 16h April 2010

Jonathan my boss and his PA, Cat, were supposed to be flying to Latvia today. Unsurprisingly they were still in the office today, running through various unfeasible and impractical ways to get there by avoiding planes. It seems unlikely they'll be going anywhere soon though.

Volcanic ash didn't stop Mum and Dad taking Mason to Great Yarmouth for the day or me popping to Hollesley for the last practice there until June as the bells are taken down next week.

It also didn't stop the force of the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week as the band that rang at Thrandeston rang their first blows in Single Canterbury Bob Minor and Carl Wilby rang his most methods as conductor in the score at Hinderclay alongside the quarter of Grandsire Doubles at Theltenham. Well done guys!

Although strictly speaking part of the other lot up north, well done too to Maggie, Diana and Andrew on ringing their first quarter of Oxford Treble Bob Minor in the success at Carlton Colville today.

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Thursday 15th April 2010

On a day of historical election debates and volcanic dust emptying Europe's airspace, tonight's practice at Grundisburgh was a welcome bit of mundane 'fun', if a little too much. With Stephen away, it fell to me to run the practice but sadly only nine made it, including Chris and Erin, so much of the evening was put aside to them, though we also did some messing about for my Dad and rang a really well-struck 240 of Stedman Doubles. Regardless of whether a volcano in Iceland keeps Mr P in Spain, he won't be back by Sunday morning, so all help will be appreciated then.

I almost have a cut and paste from previous blogs when it comes to Alex Tatlow, but it's wonderful to see that he did it again today by not only ringing his first quarter on ten in the Bob Royal at The Norman Tower, but also called it! Congratulations Alex and also to Craig Gradidge who was ringing his first on ten too. It was of course all part of the hugely successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week, which today also incorporated a quarter at Rougham.

It was interesting to read the article on Helmingham and would like to urge people to support the project to rehang this famous eight. It has always struck me that it is a big shame that these bells after all that has been achieved on them have ended up as they have but it's not just about recapturing the past of course. There are plans to raise a band there and to use the bells regularly, so let's really get behind this opportunity to return them to their deserved state.

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Wednesday 14th April 2010

It was back to a normal shift at work today, so I felt a little more with it at Pettistree practice this evening where there was more of the usual variety that makes this practice interesting, as we were joined by the entire Stevens family as well as Ruthie, boosting numbers. Then, it was to The Greyhound where amongst other things the subject of my successor at Guild level came up as we discussed next years AGM. There has to be a replacement found by 30th April 2011, so you need to get your thinking caps on! All I can say is that this job has been immensely enjoyable far more than it has been a pain and really there ought to be people falling over themselves to take on the role. Writing a daily blog is not a pre-requisite of the job…

Meanwhile, the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week really picked up pace after a couple of losses at Stowmarket and Elveden yesterday, with Doubles scored at Mildenhall, Eriswell and Freckenham – where the 21 methods and variations were the most rung by all the band, so well done all – Cambridge Minor was successful at Brandon and there was a big result at Bardwell with the Plain Bob Triples there being Alison Evans’ first of Triples and Alex Tatlow’s first of Triples as conductor. Well done! It’s worth noting that the quarter at Brandon was Stephen Young’s first for several months. Good to see you back Stephen and well done!

Not to be completely outdone, the North-East District were achieving on the coast at Southwold where Philip Moyse rang his first quarter of Rutland Major. Congratulations Philip!

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Tuesday 13th April 2010

The early mornings are a bit of a drag, but at least they give me a free afternoon and with Ruthie on hols and Clare her sister at a loose end we took full advantage of the sunshine and took Sasha the dog out to Barking - there’s no jokes I can make here without making even me groan - church where the midweek ringers were holding their monthly get-together. It’s worth reiterating the point Peter made at Saturday’s AGM – especially for those who didn’t make it – that this is not a closed shop or an elite group, nor just a jolly for retired folk, though by its daytime nature it is predominantly made up of people who are no longer bound to a job. As Ruthie and I showed, if you are about you are free to join in with them no matter what your age or ability and although we weren’t able to make to make the morning ringing at Offton – too early even for my shift – and dinner in Needham Market, we were able to contribute to a varied session of Plain and Little Spliced, Stedman Doubles, Kent, Cambridge and Ipswich. It was good fun, though they were a little short today and again highlighted the family of ringing as we were joined by Chris Bassett who travels for free on the trains – having worked for BR – with his bike across the country to ringing events like this.

With Clare in tow – and Sasha dropped off at Edwin Avenue – we continued onto Tesco and then back to Chez Eagle-Douglas for an evening of beer and haggis, though I in particular was exhausted come darkness.

The North-West District Quarter-Peal Week powers on with a triumph at Hunston. Well done to Craig Gradidge, Carl Wilby and new Guild Secretary Mandy Shedden on ringing their first of April Day Doubles.

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Monday 12th April 2010

After two weeks off I had hoped for an abundance of people at St Mary‑le‑Tower this lovely sunny – if a little chilly – evening, chomping at the bit to get back to ringing on higher numbers. Sadly I was met by a handful of people and once we had regained power after Owen had somehow blown all the lights, the practice was a little limp.

It did prove extremely useful to Sean who rang Plain Hunt on Three for the first time and again picked it up and ran with it extremely well, but it was one of the few plusses on a disappointing night. I have just two practices left now and it would be great to go out with a bang rather than a whimper, so please come and support what is currently the only regular twelve-bell practice in Suffolk. Importantly, note that because we have the tower AGM in two weeks time – 26th April – at 8.30, we will be starting the practice promptly at 7pm, so come early and those not going to the meeting can get to the pub earlier!

All this disappointment came on top of a long day that had started at just before 6am as the sales team at John Catt returned to the early shift for a couple of days and so this tired Ringing Master was well and truly ready for bed when he got home!

Well done to Gordon Slack for ringing his 500th quarter in the success at West Stow, Richard Brewster who rang his most methods at Great Finborough and ‘congratulations’ to David Rogers and Alex Tatlow on ringing their first on four at Ampton. It was all of course a part of the North-West Quarter-Peal Week which is going along very nicely and included a quarter at Fornham All Saints today. It’s fantastic to see so many being scored and with so many firsts and achievements. And all for a very, very good cause.

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Sunday 11th April 2010

Interesting reading in this week’s Ringing World with Sue Marsden’s letter in regards to the effectiveness of Guild/Association/Society AGM’s, particularly pertinent after our successful day yesterday. She makes some good points and I think these have mainly been the reasons why so many think that the AGM of the Guild they pay a subscription to is pointless and not worth attending. Indeed there are many ‘grassroots’ ringers who have never ventured outside their home tower, let alone been to a district or Guild event. In the main, their progress is stumped because of it, missing out on the opportunity to ring with the vast array of talent the Suffolk Guild has, limited to whatever their local tower can or can’t ring. Apart from anything else they miss out on such a social outlet and the chance to find out what is going on around them.

To a lesser degree in regards to ourselves she is right about the higher echelon of ringers not attending meetings. I have had much difficulty persuading more Surprise Maximus ringers from St Mary-le-Tower and across the Guild to attend district and Guild events, but it’s not a huge problem. It was notable that we still had top notch ringers such as Ian Holland, Brian Whiting, David Stanford, Ralph Earey and the Pipes in attendance at yesterday’s AGM among many other fine ringers and largely these ringers have been fine supporters of the Guild and their presence greatly helps the learners and less experienced who attend these events.

And the point about the lack of democracy that Sue – a friend who is very obliging to peal requests and with whom I exchange much light-hearted Ipswich-Naaaaridge footy banter with – is a familiar one. Usually there is only one person put forward for posts and in the past officers have held on longer than us or they have wanted to because people don’t want to appear confrontational by putting themselves or someone else forward for the role. But this is something that as a Guild I think we have been quite good at combating. Some time ago we introduced the five-year maximum which has forced a healthy turnover of officers and stopped things getting stale at the top table without offending anybody and Philip has been fantastic in encouraging people to apply for posts. Every chance has been given to people to come forward for vacant posts and indeed taken posts and none of us officers would be the least bit offended if anyone were to stand against us. In fact we would welcome it and personally I hope that there is more than one person vying to take over from me at next year’s AGM for what I have come to realise is a vital and enjoyable job!

Judging by yesterday’s attendance I think we are going in the right direction on this issue, but speaking to people today who didn’t attend, I was still given the impression I was suggesting they attend a conference on sustainability of life on Mars rather than a grand day out with a Guild they pay £15 to each year. I guess we’ll always get that, but I’m happy that we at least seem in better shape when it comes to this then our neighbours in Ely are, though concerned for them.

Ringing continued today within the Guild as we could’ve rung Surprise Maximus at SMLT this morning as the timings of people arriving and leaving meant we didn’t get time to ring any Maximus so we contented ourselves with Stedman Cinques which went well enough apart from the apparently obligatory lapse in concentration from the band.

Grundisburgh was shorter on numbers but higher on excitement as the dongle on the end of the 8th’s Hasting stay dropped off giving poor Erin a shock – she was fine though – and seeing Don leap upstairs to unravel the rope and allow me to hold onto it for the remainder of ringing. It is worth noting that Stephen is away this week, so any help at Thursday’s practice would be much appreciated!

I had been arranging a peal of London Major for this afternoon but sadly an injury to both Brian Meads and his car – from separate incidents I understand – meant he was unable to ring so I had to call it off as I couldn’t even find an available ringer from the masses at Ixworth yesterday! However, it did mean a free afternoon with footy on the TV as Portsmouth won through to the FA Cup Final at Spurs’ expense, so brother Chris came over.

It was good to see so much else going on in belfries across Suffolk though, especially in regards the North-West Quarter-Peal Week with quarters rung at Euston, Rougham and Lavenham, where congratulations are due to Josephine Beever for ringing her 900th quarter.

Back on this side of the county Robert Beavis is to be congratulated for calling his most methods in the quarter at Tannington whilst Alan Mayle conducted his 450th peal in the success at Aldeburgh. Well done guys!

Ruthie and I were fairly chuffed with our efforts this evening as we left at Chris home whilst we rang in a quarter of ten-spliced Surprise Major at Hollesley before we returned to Woodbridge and all went down The Mariners to meet an already oiled Kala – it had been her rugby team’s last game of the season today – and a more sober Toby who had finished work three hours late and so was glad to be on the fun side of the bar at last!

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Saturday 10th April 2010

It was the biggest day of the Suffolk Guild calendar today and it was fantastic to see an attendance befitting of this hugely enjoyable occasion.

As with previous Guild AGM's, the day started remarkably quietly and slowly for the Guild Ringing Master. A brief trip into Ipswich to sort some business and do some dress browsing - for Ruthie not me of course - was the prelim to dropping off Mason at Kara's and popping into Edwin Avenue. With my role I have to see AGM day out to the bitter end and with it being in the North-West District this year it would be far too late for a three-year old so his mother kindly adapted to the change of routine.

I didn't make it to the apparently very successful and most interesting and useful seminar in Bardwell Tithe Barn nor the ringing at Gislingham and Pakenham as I was running the ringing at Bardwell, but it was wonderful to see so much going on and the seminar in particular is a brilliant initiative which - as Philip our Chairman mentioned - would be good to see as a regular part of future Guild AGM's in some form or another.

As well as this ringing there were many quarters going on too, not only marking the Guild's convergence to this corner of Suffolk but also kicking off the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week in fine style, with successes at Badwell Ash, Bardwell, Great Barton and Stowlangtoft. Well done to all, but particularly to Alex 'Alec' Tatlow who rang his 25th quarter in the Doubles at Great Barton.

Though not directly linked to the day's going's on, well done too to Liz McLeod who rang her first quarter inside at Rushmere St Andrew today.

Although there weren't a huge number of ringers at Bardwell and the repertoire perhaps not that exciting, it proved useful practice for Alison, a learner from Buxhall as well as others there.

Numbers still weren't high for the service ringing at Ixworth which was a shame, but the large crowd in church was encouraging even if the service was hard going at times. Still, thank you to the incumbent at Ixworth for taking it.

However, the real pleasure was seeing such high numbers for the tea and meeting, over a hundred at last! The tea was marvellous and though the meeting was dragged out by 'contentious' any other business at the end, it was generally a useful and brisk meeting, highlighting why we need the AGM and why as many members as can possibly make it should attend, whatever part of the county it is held in.

After the high numbers for the meeting, the numbers for evening ringing back across the road at St Mary-the-Virgin was very disappointing, but we still managed a very well-struck three-leads of Bristol Major to finish the days ringing off.

Unsurprisingly perhaps - and it's maybe true to say that many deserved it after the day's activities - there were many more in The Pykkerell Inn afterwards and we all enjoyed good drink and good company.

Thank you very much to those who worked to make this such a successful day, especially Ruth Suggett, new Guild Secretary Mandy Shedden and birthday girl Anita Rose, but also thank you to all those who listened to our pleas to come and support your Guild in large numbers. To those who didn't make it but could've, then please do consider coming to Henley in the South-East District next year - my last as Ringing Master - and enjoying what so many others have enjoyed today.

Finally, I can't finish without thanking Mary Garner, Keith Ashton‑Jones and Gillian Wakefield who today relinquished their posts after long and distinguished service as secretary, treasurer and librarian respectively. And how can we not mention Lawrence Pizzey, standing down as one of our Central Council Reps after forty-one years. Thank you to all four of you.

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Friday 9th April 2010

Tostock churchAfter my sentiments in yesterdays blog I was delighted to see the peal rung at Tostock today. Keep it up guys and well done Robert!

Also, Happy significant birthdays to George Pipe, John Girt and James Smith as noted in the footnotes of this peal and the quarter at Grundisburgh this evening. All well known to ringers in Suffolk and all of whom have done much for the Suffolk Guild. Appropriate on the eve of the AGM.

Unky Chris was already in town today as I dropped off Mason for his day of fun with his Nana and Grandad, which this week took in train-spotting from the park and a trip to Stonham Barns!

Ruthie had her own fun this evening, starring in the bellringers team that came second by just half a point at the Pettistree Quiz Night. So close!

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Thursday 8th April 2010

It was good to see today’s peal at Grundisburgh for the Guild. In my final full year as Ringing Master I think it would be great for the Suffolk Guild to reach 150 peals for 2010 and we seem very much on target, even after the terrible start to the year with the snow! However, in recent years it seems to have become traditional for the summer months to become quite barren in terms of peals and we are of course fast approaching that time. I guess this is because of weddings, holidays, the ‘nice’ weather, etc, but it would be good to keep going at the rate we are. Whilst firsts and peals to mark happy and sad occasions - such as today’s – are great and perhaps more satisfactory and meaningful, I have nothing against peals for the heck of it. Often these are the best as the band rings something they want, as they want with no great pressure to score. As you will have noticed I’ve been arranging my fair share this year, as have David Salter and Stephen Pettman and the likes of Jonathan Stevens, Winston Girling and Brian Whiting organise a good number amongst others. It’s also been encouraging to see Louis Suggett organising too, but it would be great to get more people arranging peals. If you want to do something, go for it! Get a tower and get a band, you’ll find that people will often be happy to help out those starting out, even if they’re a little more cautious when it comes to constant people like me! Uni students, arrange a peal week for your summer holidays! Let’s get to 150!

With the later start at work, then picking up Mason and the usual malarkey to get him to bed, I just ran out of time to get to Grundisburgh, but I was at least able to help Ruthie play host to Fergie who popped around again prior to returning to Brighton tomorrow.

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Wednesday 7th April 2010

Ruthie – once the leading Suffolk Guild peal-ringer – rang her first peal of 2010 this evening as we successfully negotiated Wooler at The Wolery. Try saying that without your teeth! It’s a shame she doesn’t and can’t ring more, but it was lovely ringing one with her again.

If I’m honest it wasn’t our finest effort as a band, but there was some excellent ringing and the brisk pace correctly suggests it wasn’t a terrible peal by any stretch of the imagination!

Without having to go to Colchester to pick  up her ladyship, the post-peal tea and biscuits would’ve normally been the end of our evening bar the journey home. However, on leaving the shed in Rectory Road, we were both met with messages from a frantic Clare of the sister variety. Kev had been all the way up to Heywood in Lancashire driving the lorry and such was the appalling traffic had been unable to get back to Felixstowe before his legal driving hours for the day were up. What was worse, he had forgotten to pack any food or blankets and so Clare needed to somehow get such things over to him. With their car in Felixstowe awaiting Kev’s return and no one able to get hold of Kate it was down to us to take Clare on what was quite an adventure as we searched for his lorry in the dark in a lay-by on the A14 somewhere near Woolpit!

Lorry and driver found, tour of cab made and food and blankets dropped off we returned to Edwin Avenue where a grateful Clare made us a cuppa and we were greeted by Kate who had been oblivious to all the excitement!

Meanwhile, congratulations to Tom Britten on ringing his most spliced quarter yet at Bungay. Well done there Tom!

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Tuesday 6th April 2010

It was the day that it was announced that the General Election will be on 6th May and so begins a month of an intensifying of what has thus far been an incredibly dull process of politicians that no one likes nor trusts them trying to persuade us their brand of politics will make a difference when in reality none of them are likely to make any real difference.

On a less depressing note today was a wonderful, sunny, properly spring-like day with blossom at last coming out and the sounds of summer like lawn-mowers and playing children – of course on their holidays – filled the air as walked to work and back. It felt even nicer as we wandered in for a 10am start, with even the 6pm finish not too bad as it was still light. Indeed it was still light as we left Tesco at 7.30, so it is finally feeling like we are leaving behind this crumby winter.

Other cheery positives today included Carl Wilby ringing his 50th quarter in the success at Debenham and Philip and Tom ringing their first quarter of multi-minor at Blythburgh. Well done guys.

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Easter Monday 5th April 2010

After our superb weekend away it was back to a semblance of normality as Ruthie returned to work and I dropped off Mason at his mothers.

Ixworth churchA failed attempt to organise a peal left me with a free morning, but at least a quarter of Double Norwich at Ixworth occupied my afternoon. It was organised by Claire Monk and it was good to see her again as well as people like Philip Wilding, Ruth Young, Becky Munford and Tom Britten who I don't see so often, before some of them carried onto Walsham-le-Willows for another quarter attempt.

It was the first of three visits in three weekends to Ixworth with the AGM there next week and the dedication the week after on the Sunday, both events that I hope will see a spectacular turnout from Guild members. It may be too late to get your teas for the big day of fun on Saturday, but that doesn't stop you attending what should be an interesting and even entertaining meeting and of course your help in the belfry will always be appreciated whatever you ability. And don't forget the seminar too which will be interesting and useful.

And I know that all those involved in the wonderful project at Ixworth would be delighted and touched to see as many of you as possible there on the 18th, so please don't just think someone else will go, make it happen and go yourself!

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Easter Sunday 4th April 2010

It was a bit of a rough night last night. This weekend has seen Mason develop another cold and this time a persistent cough which kept waking him up overnight. As we were sharing a room it made it difficult for us to sleep as well as him, though as with during the day it didn't seem to bother the li'l chap anywhere near as much as it bothered us!

Come this morning we had all had a bit of sleep and just about had enough energy to go ringing at Lincoln Cathedral this morning. As a family we used to come up here every time we visited Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick, but it is some years since I've been up here and of course the first time either Ruthie or Mason had been. Still, there were familiar faces awaiting us in the Ringers' Chapel of the Cathedral where the ringers meet, including Les Townsend the tower captain who pointed out he first met me when I was about Mason's size!

We helped them ring Grandsire Cinques, Little Bob Max, Call-Changes and Yorkshire Royal, making it interesting to compare with St Mary-le-Tower which of course has a very similar repertoire. It seems to be difficult for provincial twelves to expand upon this kind of menu on Sundays - not impossible of course - though it has to be said that apart from the Little Bob and as with SMLT the ringing was of a good standard. And the welcome as always was warm.

When we returned, we followed the li'l chap around Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick's garden on an Easter-egg hunt, again putting him in his element!

A big roast dinner and farewells and thanks said we headed back to East Anglia, first to Bottisham to see Unky Chris and then finally home in Woodbridge to sit back, enjoy a curry and catch up on things, including reading about another impressive quarter at Southwold where Philip Moyse bonged behind for the first time and Tom Britten called his and Michelle Williams rang her first of Grandsire Triples. Well done guys!

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Holy Saturday 3rd April 2010

With Aunty Janet popping into work for the morning and us in need of some bits and pieces, we nipped to nearby Gainsborough for our Tesco-fix, in the process allowing Mason to enjoy a ride on Thomas the Tank Engine. It was a precursor to the kind of thing we would be enjoying today as once Aunty Janet had returned and lunch eaten we were taken to Sundown Adventureland, a theme-park for under-tens.

To say the li'l chap was in his element would be a complete understatement. He drove tractors, held hands with giant walking teddy bears, went on a sleigh ride, ran around a castle made of lollipops and entered the world of pirates and all the famous nursery rhymes and fairy tales amongst so much more. If you're ever in the area with an under-ten I'd urge you to check it out - it was great fun for us big kids too!

We were back at Brampton in brilliant sunshine, eating tea - as we have been eating all our meals - in their conservatory, surrounded by pheasants, robins and a huge variety of all kinds of bird life which fascinated Mason before he succumbed to sleep after a very tiring day for him, allowing us adults a tipple and another good chinwag!

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Good Friday 2nd April 2010

It was an early start today - though not as early as the rest of the week! - as Mason, Ruthie and I headed off to Lincolnshire for a weekend with my Aunty Janet (Mum's sister) and Uncle Mick.

Having spent the first half-hour of the journey going through the whole 'have-we-left-anything-behind' and then the rest negotiating drivers hanging in the 'fast' lanes and lorries overtaking each other on hills we arrived in the tiny village of Brampton which was to be our home for the next couple of days.

After introductions and a walk around the village we settled down in the warm as the rain started and persisted, with a lot of catching up to be done.

Back in Suffolk, well done to David Salter who rang his 2600th peal in the Lincolnshire Major at The Wolery today.

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Maundy Thursday 1st April 2010

One of the many wonderful aspects to ringing is that there is always something new to achieve. Whether that is getting to grips with Plain Hunt or you've just rung a record peal, it is a fantastic feeling and there's always another achievement to allow you to experience that feeling again and in turn to make what you once thought was hard easier and therefore raise your standards.

The FollyThis evening I had such an achievement, calling more methods than I ever had to a peal in the success at The Folly in Claydon. I still got the same uplifting high that I did when I completed my first quarter, rang Bristol Max for the first time and won the twelve-bell with Birmingham which is why ringing still retains the same enjoyment for me after over twenty years as it did when I was a little boy and why it frustrates me that so many ringers fail to take advantage of this before then becoming disillusioned with it.

Well done to Mary and Maggie too of course and Happy Birthday to Mary and Brian. A lovely start to the long weekend.

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Wednesday 31st March 2010

I again picked up Sean outside St Mary-le-Tower to take him to Pettistree practice via home to check on Ruthie and Kate who were putting Mason’s new bed together – thanks girls! – before they too joined us. He again got on well and is keen and chomping at the bit to progress – which he is and will if so far is anything to go by – and was buoyed by receiving his Guild membership certificate from the Chairman who was there with Maggie having completed a successful quarter of Cunecastre beforehand. And he – and us! – celebrated with a pint in The Greyhound!

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Tuesday 30th March 2010

Another early and dark morning, but of course this was compensated by an early finish and late, light evening. Another trip to Tesco – I feel like I’m living in that place – and visit to Edwin Avenue to print off Ruthie’s last bit of work for uni before Easter, though that didn’t go entirely smoothly! Everything was sorted by the evening though and the visit of Fergie.

There was an interesting insight into the top spectrum of ringing on Michael Wilby’s website and blog as he described his emotions as they rang the recent and impressive record peal of 56 Spliced Surprise Royal all-the-work in Oxford (St Thomas). As someone who knows Michael fairly well having rung and socialised with him for many years I naturally take an interest in his website as it gives an insight into the world I was a regular part of, but even if you don’t know him it is worth reading (some of!) what he twitters and blogs about and seeing what is happening on Campanophile in regards to what is being rung in quarters and peals out there. It shows what a wide-ranging world ringing is and whilst not expecting everyone to achieve what the likes of Messrs Wilby, Pipe, Brown, Earis, etc achieve, it should prove an inspiration to ringers to get out there, try more, push themselves. Put yourself forwards for quarters and peals, arrange some yourself if necessary, go to other practices, to district and Guild events, even events in other guilds, associations and societies. It is such a waste of a limitless art to just ring at one tower ringing Bob Doubles and never getting better. So what are you waiting for? You may not end up ringing record peals, but you’ll be amazed what you can achieve!

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Monday 29th March 2010

Whilst last night saw the benefits of putting the clocks forward with a late, sunny evening, today saw the downside as I left the house at ten to six on a wet, dark morning. All this week we in the sales team are working from six to get in touch with Australia, New Zealand and the Far East on this new international campaign, but whilst it made for a bleary-eyed morning it did of course mean an early finish, just in time to walk Ruthie to the station and then make some homemade, handmade bread. Yes, that's right, I made bread. And although I misread teaspoons of salt for tablespoons, it turned out alright!

With it being Holy Week, we had our traditional silence at St Mary-le-Tower - though others kindly took part in a spring-clean - and so having dropped Aunty Marion's annual report off, enjoyed a far too brief conversation with her and Uncle Eric and picked up fRuthie from Ipswich station, we returned to the warming smell of fresh bread and some tea - bootiful!

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Sunday 28th March 2010

Palm Sunday made for a very different Sunday today. Ringing around the annual procession at St Mary‑le‑Tower meant a later ringing time which not only meant I couldn’t get to Grundisburgh but also that we had been worried about how many ringers we’d get. We had initially arranged a quarter to ensure some ringing but had such a good response we scrapped that idea and indeed had enough to ring all twelve before we lost people to Sproughton and the aforementioned Grundisburgh.

I was also doing all this without Mason who I had taken back to Kara’s before ringing, in another change from the norm. She was taking him out and with the different ringing times it was the easiest time to drop him off and actually worked quite well for what followed as I then needed to make myself respectable for the SMLT dinner, this year held at Fynn Valley Golf Club after Waldringfield Golf Club – where we went to last year – hiked the prices right up.

It was a good afternoon of eating, drinking and socialising as the regulars – sadly not Ruthie though of course as she was working – were joined by friends, helpers, family and partners such as the Basfords from Canterbury, the Wilgress’, Whitings, a whole compliment of the Potts’ and Bray’s families and Stephen Cheek’s wife Lucy. A fantastic turnout and good to see.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, UffordThere was just time to nip to Tesco before it closed and before meeting my better half and setting off to Ufford for another attempt at a quarter of ten-spliced Surprise Major. This time it was the standard eight plus Glasgow and Lindum but sadly it came to grief as did our attempt to ring the second half of the composition. However, we did ring a really well-struck touch of Grandsire Triples for Evensong and having put the clocks forward last night we were uplifted by the bright, sunny and late evening that greeted us on coming outside. Whilst some went to Saffron we headed home for our own curry and an earlier night as I contemplate an early start tomorrow morning.

It wouldn’t feel right to get through a week without Alex Tatlow achieving something and he didn’t let us down, ringing the most methods he had ever rung to a quarter – and calling it! – in the success at Tostock.

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Saturday 27th March 2010

Well done to Ruth Suggett on getting the Annual Report out again and with such quality. It looks good and reads well.

I got a good chance to read it on a fairly laid back Saturday. Though the up and down weather prevented us from boating again, we did spend the day with Kate, Clare and Kev, popping to Tesco and briefly I helped Kate put a new stay on the treble at Ufford.

It was all capped off by a good tea and a walk home.

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Friday 26th March 2010

My thanks to Mum and Dad who got me to work from Ipswich and vice-versa and also looked after Mason as my car went to the garage to be remedied of the problems identified a week ago in it's MOT.

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Thursday 25th March 2010

Having not had the chance to do our weekly shop yet this week and fast running out of food and drink Ruthie and I decided to take advantage of me working another 8-4 and risk a trip to Tesco with Mason in tow. It went alright but was of course a lengthy process and once tea was made and the li’l chap put to bed it was much too late to go to Grundisburgh practice.

Well done again to Alex Tatlow who this time rang his first quarter of Cambridge and Plain Bob Minor at Rougham.

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Wednesday 24th March 2010

SS Peter & paul, PettistreeI’m forever encouraging people to take their learners out and about. It’s invaluable experience for learners to ring on different bells with different people doing different things. With no practices at St Mary‑le‑Tower for the next two weeks therefore, I thought this evening would be a good time to get Sean out to Pettistree. Mike was of course very accommodating and the local ringers quick to give useful advice climaxing in my travel companion bonging behind – to Bob Doubles – for the first time after the kind of in-depth focus on call-changes that we just can’t offer him at SMLT. Typically he caught on very fast with everything thrown at him and that which he didn’t get he questioned thoroughly.

What with picking Ruthie up from Colchester Institute we passed on the pub so I dropped him off near his home in central Ipswich on the way through. We could’ve afforded that drink though as due to appalling organisation between the Institute and the band that were playing, poor Ruthie and her fellow helpers were there until 11.15 doing other peoples’ jobs.

Eventually we got away for some very, very late tea, but at least we now had some heat and hot water after a very welcome visit from Syd this morning!

Well done tonight too to George Salter who rang his first peal on a working bell - he's going to start catching his parents up soon!

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Tuesday 23rd March 2010

For a couple of reasons we had an earlier than normal start at work today, coming in from 8-4. It was partly because we are starting work on a brand new international publication, an addition to the other one we normally do and will be doing later in the year. But it was also to allow Michael to get back to home to Easton for his tea before he and I headed off to a gap-year fair, this evening being held at the thankfully closer location of Ipswich Girls School at Woolverstone. He needn’t have worried about his tea though as – unusually for these type of events where tea and biscuits are the norm – they had laid on a three-course dinner and wine for the exhibitors. I was having my tea when I got home so whilst both of us had a little bit, we were unwilling and unable to take full advantage!

The event itself was also slightly different in as much as it was a careers show with only a few gap-year exhibitors, but it was an interesting evening.

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Monday 22nd March 2010

Tonight was our last practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower for three weeks and so I was keen to get as much out of it as possible. And I think I managed it with two lots of reasonable Yorkshire Max, some Grandsire Caters and Cinques, Cambridge Royal and Sean's first go at ringing on twelve which was done in typically accomplished style.

After a spot of tea in our still boiler-less home, we accepted an invite from Toby and Tori to pop round theirs for a couple of glasses of wine.

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Sunday 21st March 2010

With Mum and Dad in Worcestershire to see Mother’s grandfather’s name newly inserted on the war memorial in Hagley, I was worried we might be a little short at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning. Though we didn’t quite get enough to ring the twelve, we did manage Grandsire Caters and a good touch of Little Bob Royal so it worked out alright.

Yesterday I enthused about the introduction of spring even if we lacked the weather. Today we had the weather! And along with the sound of Mark Murphy’s voice as we left SMLT, it encouraged Mason and me into Christchurch Park to cheer on some of the people running a mile – and some more – for Sport Relief before we continued onto Grundisburgh where a relatively good turnout saw us manage Yorkshire Major.

The afternoon saw the next peal attempt at spliced Surprise Minor, this time at Brandeston. We were going for twenty-one methods and having got over a tricky first extent of Carlisle-above methods at the third attempt, we sadly floundered in the second extent and particularly Cunecastre. Normally of course I dislike starting quarters after lost peals, but we decided that a quarter of Cunecastre, Westminster and Allendale would be useful practice and was duly scored.

From here the Spring theme picked up again as Maggie, Brian, Mrs G and I sat outside The Crown in Framlingham in bright warming sunshine. Those frozen days seem a long time ago now, even with no functioning boiler.

Returning to the house of no hot water and mounting washing up, Ruthie and I decided to grab a Chinese takeaway before popping round to Bob next door for a few drinks in a bout of forgivable laziness.

Laziness that thankfully wasn’t prevalent elsewhere as Philip Moyse called his first quarter on eight and Michelle Williams rang her first Major in the score at Southwold and Alex Tatlow rang his first of Norwich Minor in the quarter at Bardwell. Oh and Happy Birthday Lesley!

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Saturday 20th March 2010

Spring finally seems to have sprung. I saw my first daffodils of the year, it’s been warmer, sunnier and the days are now getting noticeably longer. Today also saw my first glance of the Spring edition of the new Guild Magazine. It really is as good as it promised to be and well worth a read when you get the chance! Well done to Alan, Richard and Sue on getting a quality publication out.

There are still some hangovers of winter though. Today our boiler broke for the third time in four months and whilst the warmer weather at least means we’re not freezing to death, it means being without hot water again!

And as Kev, Mason, Kate, Ruthie and I revisited the boating pond in Woodbridge to sail our boats again, the heavens opened and we had to make a dive for cover in the Pavilion Café, where – for those who are well up with their recentish Ipswich Town past – we bumped into John McGreal, central defender superstar for The Tractor Boys when we were last in the Premier League, as long ago as that seems.

With Clare joining us after work, we returned to the pond before heading up to Edwin Avenue for some tea and helicopter flying as more remote control gadgets amused the li’l chap!

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Friday 19th March 2010

With the freezing weather over the winter and the resulting increase of potholes on the roads, the percentage of cars failing MOT’s due to suspension failure has apparently shot up from 5% to 25%. At least at Offton Motors where I took my car for its MOT today. Guess what it failed on…

That said, I rarely expect my car to get through its MOT’s first time at the age it is and with what I put it through and so it’ll come back next week to be fixed. In the meantime I was grateful to father for driving me to work and Ruthie for returning me to Ipswich so I could collect both the car and Mason.

Well done to both Maggie and Andrew on ringing their first quarter of Double Court at Carlton Colville today.

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Thursday 18th March 2010

There was a rare occurrence today - Ruthie and I had an evening in together! Not that we did much with it - though that was mainly the beauty of it - though Ruthie was keen to show off her new haircut - the main feature of her big day of fun with Clare and Kev - and Mason was delighted to be reunited with his boat!

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Wednesday 17th March 2010

But. A small word which makes a big difference as I found to Lawrence Pizzey’s cost this evening.

In arranging this evening’s peal of Erin at Grundisburgh, Lawrence had very kindly replied to my invite saying he could ring. However, by the time he had received it and replied, I already had a band for Triples and informed them it was to be on eight. Besides, it was too late to find someone else to bring the band up to ten, nice as that would’ve been. So I replied, ‘Thanks, I have a band.’ In my head at the time, that imparted that I was grateful for his reply but didn’t need him. Most of you – and me now – have probably read it as Lawrence did and thought that his inclusion completed the band. And so I was met by the ninth member of the band on my arrival. Stepping down he took it in great humour and seemed grateful to have an evening available that he hadn’t expected, but I still felt incredibly bad about it. What with Halesworth on Saturday I’m not doing too well this week!

The peal itself was really good and at its height was by far the best ringing I have been involved with this year and for some time. I just felt sorry that Lawrence couldn’t enjoy it!

With his lift back being surplus to requirements due to my incompetent grasp of grammar, it fell to me to drop Louis off at Ipswich station to catch a train home, whilst I continued through to Colchester to pick up Ruthie from the last of the late-night competitions that she needs to help with. After the now obligatory – though enjoyable – pint in The Marquis, we returned home for another late tea.

Well done and Happy Birthday to Philip Moyse on ringing his first blows of Pudsey Major in the quarter at Southwold and on turning sixteen.

Before I go, a very important note. The Suffolk Guild AGM is at Ixworth on Saturday 10th April. However, as the tea is being done by outside caterers, names for tea are needed by 2nd April, earlier than you usually expect. So come on folks, put your name down!

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Tuesday 16th March 2010

Ruthie was managing a competition in Colchester this evening, so I was required for another late pick-up, which I didn’t mind at all. What I did mind was Ipswich Town’s appalling display tonight as they lost 2-1 at Watford, one of the few teams worse off than us this season. Whilst it kept me occupied on the now familiar journey into North Essex as I listened to it on the radio, my better half can verify that it didn’t leave me in a very good mood!

Leaving me in a better mood was a glance at the North-West District website which announced that Roy Arthey rang his first quarter on Monday at Thornham Magna. Well done Roy!

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Monday 15th March 2010

There was a mixed bag at St Mary‑le‑Tower tonight as lots of touches started well or finished well but couldn’t manage it all the way through. Too many people seemed incapable of concentrating for a few minutes at a time, appeared unwilling to pay attention to the striking and/or unable to fit in with what rhythm there was, just going at their own pace. Frustratingly this included many who should’ve known better, which in turn does nothing to help those feeling their way through. With just three full practices as Master left it would be good to get a good number of experienced twelve-bell ringers along before I hand over to help remedy this.

The best ringing of the night probably came from Sean again, who has been using the tips on the Guild website (on the Training/Ringing Tips menu), hopefully something that all learners and improvers are doing. His homework on call-changes showed too as he seems to have got to grips with the basics of this. A promising sign.

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Sunday 14th March 2010

St NicholasAs regular readers of this blog will probably be aware, I am on a mission to ring a peal in every ringable Ipswich tower in 2010. Places like St Mary‑le‑Tower and The Wolery – yes, I am counting them! – are easy enough and hopefully St Matthew’s and St Margaret’s won’t be too hard to arrange, but the redundant churches of St Mary at the Quay, St Clements and St Nicholas were likely to be a bit trickier, predominantly because since they were last pealed a lot has changed in and around those churches. It’s why it is important to regularly ring peals at towers, even if just every three or four years. Sadly, too many rings of bells in Suffolk have become unpealable because time has made it harder to suddenly ring for two-to-three hours out of the blue and unfortunately a lot of correspondents and tower captains who aren’t peal-ringers themselves have rolled over and let this happen rather than explain to locals peal-ringing and why it is important.

Anyway, last week of course I was part of the band that rang a peal at St Mary at the Quay on the occasion of Mrs Webb’s funeral – for which there was apparently a very big spread in The Evening Star which spoke of the ringing – and today I was able to successfully complete a peal at St Clements after I had oiled the bells surrounded by a thick layer of pigeon poo, eggs, nests and the pests themselves which had managed to get in and make a home in amongst the six rarely rung bells here.

St Clemnet'sThe peal itself was pretty good, though the combination of a second extent of St Clements and the sun shining in my eyes for near on two extents made it a difficult finish! Just St Nicholas out of the redundants to go!

Either side of this afternoon’s excursions I started my day – appropriately and typically – in Ipswich where it was good to hear the dulcet tones of George Pipe calling Grandsire Cinques at SMLT as we welcomed Nigel, a visiting ringer from Sussex who then cycled onto Grundisburgh for the ringing there, which was sadly limited as only six plus Mason turned up.

Once I’d dropped the li’l chap off at Kara’s there was no time to lunch with Ruthie as I headed to Ipswich early to do my oiling job, but straight after the peal I met her at her Grandparents where the whole family was gathered for Mother’s Day. Once again we were treated to a really good spread and a drink, made all the better for not having to be somewhere else. As far we know.

We certainly weren't needed at Elmsett, where it was good to see the first quarter was rung on the bells today.

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Saturday 13th March 2010

Before anything else, a massive apology to Maggie Ross and the rest of the band she had organised for a quarter that either Ruthie or I were supposed to be in at Halesworth this evening. It has been some source of worry that we both completely forgot that we'd agreed to this until a phone call from a worried Maggie reminded us as they awaited our arrival. She'd done all that could be expected of an organiser and had even emailed us a couple of days ago asking if we wanted to eat afterwards which should've served as an ideally timed reminder.

The quarter was scored - and well done to Trevor and Philip - and Maggie's response to my immediate apology was one of understanding and politeness, but it still didn't diminish our regret and guilt, especially as I rely so heavily on others reliability when arranging things!

Although no doubt no consolation to those delayed by our cock-up, Mason and I had had a lovely day with Clare and Kev sailing their and Mason's new model boats down at the yachting lake in Woodbridge. It was then followed by a lovely evening once Ruthie had joined us after a day at work with the girls making some great cheese soup.

It's just a shame we should've been somewhere else...

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Friday 12th March 2010

Good to see the Suffolk Guild Peal Week report has now found itself onto Campanophile. Just The Ringing World and the new Guild Magazine to go!

After their holiday and my day off last week it was back to the old Friday routine this week as Mum and Dad looked after Mason whilst I went to work. This won't be the norm for long though as after Easter the li'l chap will be going to playgroup five days a week as my little boy continues to grow up at a frightening rate.

He was still fed and in bed by the time I headed out to Grundisburgh for a quarter of Four-Spliced Surprise Major. For the band we had we perhaps didn't ring as well as we should, but it was still forty-five minutes or so of ringing that most areas would be very happy with.

Afterwards I had a good chat with Jonathan about the various projects going on across the county as well as those that might be going on and the very busy schedule he has coming up on our behalf. Personally I - and I know this goes for most - am very grateful for all the work he puts in for the Guild, essentially taking on a second job. And that's before you even consider the amount of help he gives in training and teaching ringers. Keep it up Jonathan!

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Thursday 11th March 2010

Another late night for Ruthie - a very late one as it turned out - was not ideal for us this evening as of course I picked Mason up after work. Thankfully, whilst the li'l chap and I went to the shop for Mother's Day stuff and the park for him to play before it went dark, Clare and Kev very generously went to Colchester to pick Ruthie up from The Institute.

She wasn't done until nearly eleven though and even then they left with judgements still continuing.

Well done to Ruth Suggett on her first quarter of Pudsey at Ixworth today and Happy Birthday for yesterday!

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Wednesday 10th March 2010

Maybe, just maybe we’re getting to grips with Peter’s Tree Surprise Minor at Pettistree. This evening we rang a quarter of the method that has caused us so much grief, ringing it the best I think I remember us ringing it. There was still that very real possibility of it blowing up without notice, but that is the nature of the beast and in particular its backwork and on the evidence of tonight’s effort the post-quarter talk of going for another peal of it soon would seem justified and appropriate.

It followed on from good news about Susan Schurr after her recent operation with her up and about and apparently keen to return to the belfry if only as a spectator. However, the cold weather and therefore cold church isn’t ideal for a lady in her eighties just after an operation so for now Mary wrote a letter updating her on what we were up to and allowing us to add our messages of support.

The practice itself was again of much value and had a Norwich and Chester theme, though other stuff including Childwall was rung before I headed off on my second journey to Colchester to pick up Ruthie in as many nights. After last week’s enjoyable drink in The Marquis we decided to repeat the experience prior to heading home for another late tea and another late night.

And whilst all that was going on, congratulations to Catherine Looser who rang her first quarter at Harkstead. Hopefully the first of many Catherine!

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Tuesday 9th March 2010

It’s competition time at Colchester Institute which means lots of late nights for Ruthie. For me it was an evening of catching up with the brother on the phone and listening to Ipswich beating Cardiff on the radio before a trip into deepest, darkest Essex to pick  up her ladyship.

Well done to Joanna Gray on ringing her first quarter of Pudsey at Offton tonight, another example of how regular quarters - as shown at Pettistree, in the Blyth Valley and in the North-West - really can help push people on.

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Monday 8th March 2010

After tonight I only have four more full St Mary‑le‑Tower practices as its ringing master. It would be great to have some really good attendances to see me out, much like tonight's. Twenty-three filled the belfry and with a large proportion being experienced twelve-bell ringers – vital to continue progress here both under me and my successor – it meant that there was not only a buzz about the place but an opportunity to ring as much as time would allow for everyone. Two half-courses of Yorkshire Max nestled in between Plain Hunt on Eleven for Anne and Rounds on ten for Sean the Guild’s newest member as well as Yorkshire Royal and Cambridge Royal for Gerald and Stephen respectively.

We also had a visit from a former regular, Gerry Bacon whose name adorns the peal boards here and will be familiar to many Suffolk ringers. It was good to see him and that we could have a big turnout for the occasion.

One of the reasons that I only have four and a bit practices left as master is Easter and tonight we were busy announcing the programme for this forthcoming time of year. As is normal there will be no practice during Holy Week (29th March) and also on Easter Monday (5th April). On Palm Sunday we’ve been asked to ring for the 10.30 service so don’t come early! We have also been asked to ring between 6 and 6.30pm for the Good Friday service so any help that evening would be much appreciated.

And then once we’re through all that the SMLT AGM is upon us at 8.30pm on Monday 26th April following my last practice as master. So busy times ahead!

With all this going on in the near future it was good we had the chance to relax after the practice with a visit to Toby and Tori with Oakley the growing cat. It ended up being a late ‘un but as always a good ‘un!

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Sunday 7th March 2010

It was the morning of the long touch and the afternoon of the long Minimus.

It was also a very bad day for someone as Mason and I passed an overturned car on the Wyevale Roundabout - I know how that feels! - on the way to St Mary‑le‑Tower first thing this morning, where with our absentees largely back - including my folks of course - we had enough to ring all twelve at St Mary‑le‑Tower, though still not quite enough to ring Surprise Maximus with one or two still away.

Being the first Sunday of the month it was then over to St Lawrence where a decent crowd produced some good Doubles ringing to compliment that which I heard yesterday. With Mason being very good and only some of St Margaret's bells ringing out as we got back to my car, it was tempting to go over and help out on the way to Grundisburgh. However, I decided perhaps it wasn't entirely practical so we headed straight over to our second twelve where we experienced a mammoth touch of Grandsire Caters with the only ten ringers there.

Campsea AsheThe li'l chap dropped off at his mothers and a spot of lunch enjoyed with Ruthie and it was off to a first for me - a peal of Minimus. Tim Holmes and Glenys Fear had asked if I could arrange a band for the last peal on the bells of Campsea Ashe before their imminent restoration and augmentation.

It's not the kind of thing I would normally do, but I'll try almost anything once and it was a milestone in a wonderful project that is now showing some results. The belfry gallery where the six will be rung from when they are hung in October is already in place and whilst the glass balcony won't be every ringer's cup of tea it really has been done brilliantly, especially the new doorway carved into the window bay that looks as if it's been part of the church since it was built.

It was on this new floor that we were greeted by Tim and Glenys, treated to a glass of wine and had our photo taken, making our efforts all the more worthwhile. Will I do it again? Not sure...

Hopefully Alex Tatlow will be repeating his exploits of today as he achieved a phenomenal hat-trick of firsts, ringing more methods than he had ever rung at Great Barton - calling it and ringing his first blows of Winchenden and St Nicholas into the bargain - his first of Grandsire Triples at Ixworth and first of Ipswich Minor at Rougham! Well done Alex!

Meanwhile, Ruthie and I relaxed in the evening with a couple of pints by a roaring fire in The Mariners before sleeping off a busy weekend in the night of the long sleep.

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Saturday 6th March 2010

Today was one of those days I love. Lots to do, just about enough time to do them in and none of this sitting around waiting for things to happen, which is particularly handy with a three year old who is even less inclined to sit around waiting for things to happen.

Ruthie was working which is good from a financial side of things but did sadly mean she couldn't share a lot of the day with us, but we were at least able to walk her to Boots on our way to the first appointment of this hectic Saturday.

I had arranged to meet with Simon, the new marketing chap at Woodbridge School on today's open mornings at The Abbey and Queens House, their preparatory and pre-preparatory schools in regards to John Catt's books. Eventually I found him and he was very pleasant and amenable and we both enjoyed watching Mason take advantage of the vast array of musical instruments in the music room at Queens, surrounded of course by young girls. To say he was in his element was an understatement - Mason that is, not Simon.

SSoon we had to leave though after a very pleasant morning as I had arranged for us to have dinner at Mum and Dads - where we were treated to holiday snaps - before then going on to Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric's. Another enjoyable hour of conversation on bellringing, football and most other things passed as the li'l chap enjoyed their spinning chair before we were then off again.

St LawrenceIt's not easy finding a parking space in Ipswich town centre on a Saturday afternoon, but at least on this occasion Mason and I weren't shopping! Rather we were there for the South-East District Quarterly Meeting, being held this afternoon at St Lawrence and St Mary‑le‑Tower. Having parked the car up not too far away and dropped off a couple of plates of food I'd prepared for the tea at Church House in SMLT churchyard, we arrived at this famous five with ringing already under way.

I didn't spend much time there - just long enough to accompany Sean on his first ring out of SMLT and have a ring myself - as I was off again, leaving Mason with his grandparents as I went to pick up Ruthie from work in Woodbridge to bring her into Ipswich - via Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric's to pick up the li'l chap's cup which I had left there earlier - for the tea and meeting.

And what a tea! There was a wide and varied spread with the highlight undoubtedly Sean's New York Cheesecake! It helped smooth the way for his election to the Guild - the first time I've taught a learner all the way through to Guild membership - in what was a largely jovial and brief meeting with a healthy attendance, including the presence of the 'wider Scase family'. George's words, not mine.

There was just time to help with a couple of pieces of ringing - and to guide Mrs Harper to the switch for the heaters - at the nearby twelve after proceedings before it was time to take Mason home to bed and draw to a close a very enjoyable and satisfying day.

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Friday 5th March 2010

Last night Ruthie and I watched the first of three programmes following comedian Eddie Izzard's attempts to run forty-three marathons in fifty-one days in aid of Sport Relief. It is an amazing target and one that it looked like he wouldn't manage after 'only' three marathons in three days.

However, by the end of the programme he had run ten marathons in eleven days, a phenomenal achievement already and one that had required him to draw upon resources he didn't realise he had. It was an impressive example of just how much further than one realises they can go.

St Mary at QuayAlthough what I did this morning was far from comparable than Izzard's efforts, I did at least feel I was drawing from deep resources as I rang the fourth to the first peal at St Mary at Quay for fifteen years and at times I wasn't entirely convinced I was going to make it!

It was appropriately rung half-muffled to mark the funeral of Mrs Webb the long-standing key-holder and former worshipper at this now sadly redundant town centre church, whose cortege left her neighbouring house for St Margaret's as we were ringing.

St PeterMMrs Webb has always been amenable to ringers and in the process helped to ensure this church has kept a voice long after its closure, something that I am keen to do too. It is my aim - partly through personal gratification but also because I hope it contributes to all these bells ringing - to ring a peal in all the ringable towers in Ipswich during 2010. I find it very moving ringing at churches deep in urban settings such as St Mary-at-Quay. It sits in the same place as it has done for hundreds of years as it's surroundings change at a rate you rarely see around rural churches, something epitomised by the fact it currently sits between The Mill - a brand new skyscraper - flats and Dance East's studios, all built as the town and country enjoyed the boom years and the still derelict old dock buildings and the skeleton of a partially finished skyscraper abandoned as the bust came. Although there is still that comforting view of St Peter's from the belfry window, this will no doubt disappear when things pick up and new buildings will go up housing more people who will be unaware and therefore potentially hostile to the bells ringing unless we keep ringing them. This goes for St Clements and St Nicholas too.

Of course I had the day off for this extravaganza, one of two floating days off, the other one of which I hope to use for Veteran's Day in July all being well! So apart from enabling me to ring this morning's peal, it also allowed me some more time with Mason and an opportunity to catch up with Mum and Dad, the returning travellers.

TThey regaled us of tales of lost quarters, meeting up with Pauline Munnings - a ringer in Tasmania whose husband shares a grandfather five-times over with my Dad - James Cone a former Ipswich ringer and James Smith, a ringer familiar to most of us in the Guild and much missed of course.

We all wandered into town with the three of them going to the cafe they usually go to before I rang the peal, walked home, then went to pick up Ruthie from the railway station and we then popped in to see Kate at work at the li'l chap's insistence.

Busy, but still not as exhausting as Eddie Izzard's exploits...

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Thursday 4th March 2010

Picking up Mason I was glad to see he was much better, just in time to greet his Nana and Grandad tomorrow who today finally touched down back in the UK after over a month of travelling that took in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Welcome back!

They weren't quite back in time for Grundisburgh where they would have made up attendees eleven and twelve of a disappointing turnout. As usual though, Stephen managed to get the most out of the evening with no piece wasted, with Call Changes for Chris, Bob Doubles for Chris' daughter Erin and Grandsire Triples, Stedman Triples and Cambridge Major for Anne, no relation at all!

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Wednesday 3rd March 2010

For the second month running I finished a peal attempt at The Wolery not being able to feel my feet through the cold. With January’s attempt called off because of the snow, this year has not seen great conditions for ringing in a shed at the top of someone’s garden and nor has it been particularly comfortable in many of Suffolk’s belfries. Frankly I can’t wait for spring and summer to kick in.

The peal at least was a typically brisk and enjoyable affair and was followed by the kind of hospitality that you can only usually get after a mini-ring peal. Well done to David on conducting the hairy Lightfoot/Wearmouth and London/Wells extents plucked from John Warboys' website.

After a warming cuppa and a couple of choccy biscuits, a novelty. Normally when I pick up Ruthie at the end of her concert duties in Colchester, we shoot straight off. But tonight we hung around to celebrate Ruthie's mate Emma's birthday, going to The Marquis, a pub familiar to my better half but one that I had not set foot in until tonight, though I had heard lots about it. And very nice it was too, full of character with old beams, old style windows and a huge fireplace, but also complete with pool table and jukebox, presumably part of the appeal for the students of whom there were many, most of whom had been enjoying the England-Egypt friendly on the TV.

It was an enjoyable night, but late 'un and we weren't half hungry so it was a late bit of pie and veg when we got home which at least warmed us up!

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Tuesday 2nd March 2010

Mason’s cold over the weekend seems to have transferred over to us – though no nosebleeds to report yet – and neither of us were feeling particularly great this evening, especially Ruthie.

It didn’t stop us putting her ladyship’s faithful piano together after a second trip in two days to Tesco, both of which Ruthie accompanied me on – she must be ill!

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Monday 1st March 2010

After the depression of yesterday morning and the last few Monday nights, this evening’s practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower was a very positive affair. This was mainly down to a larger attendance and more particularly there being more experienced twelve bell ringers present than we have had recently. It allowed us to ring a very decent half-course of Yorkshire Max before it collapsed suddenly, ironically due to those who should know better going wrong!

However, it also allowed us to put stronger bands around those feeling their way on higher numbers, including Sean who tonight rang on ten for the first time, taking it on with his usual aplomb!

In fact, he has now got to the stage where is ready to become a member of the Guild and we shall be proposing him for election at this Saturday’s South-East District meeting to be held at Church House in SMLT churchyard. He has also confirmed he will be making a New York Cheesecake or two for the tea and I hope this helps encourage people along. It would be nice for his first experience of a ringing meeting to be of a vibrant and enthusiastic nature with a large crowd, rather than the kind of depressing and lacklustre turnout we got for the meeting at Felixstowe last year. Don’t be easily put off by problems you may perceive of getting in and parked up. Park and Ride is very good – this coming from someone who hates public transport! – and the trains are worth a pop. Or perhaps park up just outside town and wander in as we so often do. This is a fantastic opportunity to come along to the world famous St Lawrence where you will be made most welcome and also have a go at St Mary-le-Tower where we are genuinely looking forward to welcoming lots of ringers of any ability! So make sure you get your names for tea to either Owen or me!

For now though, Ruthie – for whom I had to make a considerable detour around the closed Princes Street bridge to pick up from the station! – and I nipped to Tesco for some bits and pieces before finally sitting down, eating and relaxing!

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Sunday 28th February 2010

Such a disappointing turnout at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning. In keeping with a similar theme on Monday nights, things seem to have gone back in time as we struggle for numbers. Yes there were plenty of good reasons for absences today, but much like the practices it seems we’re being deserted just when we need the extra help! We did manage a very good course (the first half at least!) of Cambridge Major on the front eight though.

Things were slightly worse at Grundisburgh as just seven came along. Mason enjoyed ringing the second (which had been rung down of course!) as we rang Stedman Triples, Double Oxford Minor (including a disastrous attempt of Real Double Oxford where you get calls at the half-lead as well as lead-end) and Norwich Minor with a backstroke start, all on the back seven. It wasn’t dull at least.

As Mason is with us all weekend, I’d avoided arranging any peals for this afternoon which allowed my boy and me to watch Man United and Aston Villa play out the League Cup Final on TV (United won 2-1 for those interested and hadn’t found out yet!). Besides, on such a grotty day I was glad to be able to stay indoors.

Such is the life of a busy bellringer though, it wasn't to last. Come full-time, Clare and Kev were round to carry out babysitting duties as Ruthie and I were required for not one but two quarters this evening. It was part of the follow-up to last weeks late loss of ten-spliced and the first attempt at Ufford threatened to blow-up at the exact same point, again after some very good ringing. It was saved however, though we weren't overly happy about the quality of the last few leads.

There was an immediate opportunity to rectify this though as we all - bar Gill who was replaced by Philip - then headed straight over to Hollesley for the same composition. Apart from Philip ringing the tenor and Maggie and I swapping bells, it was the same people ringing the same bells too. The result was a much more assured finish and another good quarter.

After such a lengthy evening, we were all hungry though, so with Clare and Kev happy to continue babysitting, we headed over to Saffron for a curry where we were joined by Sarah Whitby - it was good to sit down and catch up with her.

Arriving home, Mason was still restless and uncomfortable with his cold, but Clare and Kev did a top job and eventually we got him happily to bed. It was still a late night though...

Whilst we were busying ourselves, others were ringing in the county too. Well done to Gordon Slack on ringing his fiftieth peal in the effort at Tostock in what was incidentally the twenty-second peal of a busy February.

In keeping with this busy month, as peal-ringers were achieving, so were quarter-pealers and well done to Kate Herd who rang her first blows of Major in the quarter at Stowmarket!

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Saturday 27th February 2010

With no further nosebleeds and Mason his usual cheery self, our Saturday carried on in typical fashion. After a surprise visit from Kala with another present (a blow-up Thomas the Tank Engine Chair) for the li'l chap - what a Godmother! - this included Ruthie going to work so the li'l chap and I walked her the short distance there, bumping into Mr and Miss Whitby down The Thoroughfare.

Polstead churchThe boy and I travelled to Polstead for the South-West District practice, a church in a wonderful setting especially on lovely sunny afternoon like this. It highlighted how different our county can be from one side to the other as the undulating and rolling hills of this corner of the county contrast with the flat and coastal nature of the east. Both are beautiful.

Again I was very impressed with the turnout at this event - the South-West never seems to disappoint on this front - and there was some good ringing - Cambridge Minor and Stedman Doubles were a highlight - to compliment ringing for learners, the way such a practice should be run, so well done John Smith the Ringing Master for running things.

It was a great social event too as I caught up with faces familiar and new - including a good number of learners from Acton - Mason played with Ewan his new friend and both of us enjoyed the wonderful cake on offer. The great thing about ground-floor rings with these sort of events is it allows people to mingle whilst still being an active part of the practice and it worked well today and was enjoyed by us and Mike, Pippa and Anne who had also come across from the South-East, doing what I try to encourage members to do by crossing borders and helping out and learning.

And it all finished early enough for Mason and me to meet Ruthie and journey up to Edwin Avenue on our return to Woodbridge as we were moving her piano from there to Sun Lane, a job that was completed successfully following a bit of tea over there.

Thank you to Ruth Suggett for her kind words on her North-West blog in regards Guild Peal Week and indeed everybody's sentiments - nice to be appreciated!

It was good to see a peal rung in memory of Cesarino Bianchi at Grundisburgh today. He was the Honorary President of the Unione Campanari Bolognesi and a fantastic host fondly remembered by so many from Suffolk and beyond who have been on Stephen's trips to Italy. (It's worth googling Unione Campanari Bolognesi and looking at some of the videos. I think it must qualify as an extreme sport! Ed)

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Friday 26th February 2010

It takes a fair bit to shock me, but the sight of my boy sat up in bed covered in blood was enough on this occasion. Thankfully, despite looking like he'd just killed someone it was 'merely' a nosebleed brought on by his snottiness that actually concerned us more than him and after a visit by former nurse Kate we were reassured. However, it had woken him up and sleep was not restored until 3.30 in the morning making it a very late night. All is well though.

Before all this I had managed to get my report out to the Ringing World, Campanophile and this website and hopefully to the new Guild magazine soon and Ruthie made cookies! Yum, yum!

And the Guild now has a Facebook site, something that was mentioned on Sunday night and I have to admit was suggested to me by Carl Melville about eighteen months ago, so it's been a long time coming! Anyway, take a look!

Finally, but certainly by no means least, Happy Birthday Mum, who is something years old today!

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Thursday 25th February 2010

Slightly different arrangements this weekend in regards Mason that will see us picking him up tomorrow, which meant we had a night to ourselves tonight. With Tuesday having been cut short by late arrivals back from both of us, we made tonight our traditional Tuesday night laze-a-thon on a horribly wet evening.

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Wednesday 24th February 2010

Well done Chris McArthur who rang his first quarter of spliced before the practice at Pettistree this evening. After the achievements of last week, it's good to see people still achieving things on the end of a rope.

This goes for Alex Tatlow too, who is achieving on an almost daily basis it seems - well done and keep it up Alex! Today he rang his first quarter of Plain Bob Triples at Bardwell.

I wasn't hanging around following Chris' exploits as I had a date in Colchester where Ruthie was playing at the Institute. As usual she was superb, but perhaps most of note - pun intended - was a piece called The Ringing Isle, composed by Jonathan Dove - I wonder if he is related to THE Dove - which apparently incorporates bits of Grandsire Doubles (or Grandshire as it stated in the programme) and Oxford Treble Bob Minor. As it happened you could tell the bits they were referring to but it was only loosely based on methods familiar to many of us. Still good fun though.

It was then the journey back to Woodbridge in heavy rain – with a detour round Bucklesham after I missed the A12 turning - as we both had a date at Toby and Tori’s for a catch-up drink and an introduction to their newly acquired kitten Oakley, who achieved something in his own right by staying conscious after prolonged exposure to my socks!

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Tuesday 23rd February 2010

Today saw the return of the gap fair circuit that last year saw me travelling to Edinburgh and Brighton and on this occasion took Peter and me to Ardingly College near Haywards Heath in West Sussex under our guise of gap-year.com. After a couple of hours in the office and having negotiated a road closure and a large fox-hunt, we arrived in plenty of time for a leisurely lunch in the nearby Ardingly Inn before then entering the school grounds for the fair. And what grounds! There was a distinct air of Hogwarts about it, particularly in the atmospheric conditions in which we arrived. It was a far cry from Thurleston, Westbourne or Farlingaye!

We were housed – with the many other exhibitors who after a few shows are now familiar to us – in a grand hall that soon became crowded with kids. However, we rather got the impression they had been forced to come along – the teachers with cattle-prods behind them as they entered were a giveaway – and in reality it was a waste of time in regards to book sales. It did serve its purpose for catching up with other companies that we hope to encourage to advertise with us, so it was not a complete black hole of a day.

Having got lost negotiating our way back round the road closure, our journey home was going fine until an accident on the M25 – predictably enough – put a halt to an early return to Woodbridge. I was at least able to catch the beginning of Ipswich’s 1-1 draw at Scunthorpe on the radio before I was reunited with Ruthie who herself had had much trouble getting back from Colchester and hadn’t actually got back much earlier than me! Oh the joys of travelling.

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Monday 22nd February 2010

Things returned to normality today. After half-term schools were now answering the phone to us and with Suffolk Guild Peal Week finished for another year I passed the day without nervously checking for news on peal success or failure like some kind of expectant father.

After her semester break, Ruthie also returned to Colchester Institute and her late Mondays, though this one was even later than usual, meaning I had to miss the end of another very disappointing practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower.

We were again short for Surprise Maximus as the experienced twelve-bell ringers of Suffolk that were once a tremendous asset to the practice seemed to have deserted us. The twelve-bell learners that are turning up enthusiastically won’t get any better if those who know how to ring on twelve stay away. With twelve-bell ringing a rarity at Grundisburgh these days I’m beginning to wonder if there will be enough people left to ring the new twelve at The Norman Tower when that project comes to fruition. It's sad to say, but twelve-bell ringing in Suffolk is dying unless those who know how to do it can offer a little more time to teach others how to do it.

On the plus side, Sean continues to progress, ringing call-changes for the first time tonight and he has offered to do a homemade New York Cheesecake for the forthcoming (Saturday 6 March) South-East District meeting in Ipswich. Now if that doesn't encourage people I don't know what will!

We were also boosted part-way through the evening by the arrival of David Stanford, George and Di who were returning from Oxford where they had attended the memorial service of the recently departed Stephen Ivin, a colossus of the ringing world.

Having picked up Ruthie and made a shopping list at home - how domesticated are we? - I popped along to Tesco as there won't be time tomorrow. It'll be a long day and another leap from the norm.

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Sunday 21st February 2010

So it’s all over for another year! I’ve only got myself to blame of course and even if I do say so myself it’s been a fantastic and useful addition to the Guild calendar, but it doesn’t half take over, especially when it reaches the size it has.

Today saw a decent end to Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2010, with another two peals scored, including one at Stowmarket that I wasn’t aware of, meaning we equalled 2009’s total of sixteen. However, there was another disappointing loss at Ixworth where they nonetheless rang a quarter of Grandsire Triples.

Iken churchPersonally I was chuffed to finally – right at the death – ring my first peal of the week at the idyllic and full-of-history five of Iken. It was a lovely place to be as the late afternoon sunshine bounced off the Mere and through the belfry window overlooking it.


It was a calming end to a hectic week and busy few months leading up to it. Although I shall write a report for the Guild magazine – if it’s not too long to get in! – website, Campanophile and the Ringing World – expect to see that in about August – I’d like to take this immediate opportunity to thank everyone involved. Those who organised other peals – there’s no way I could’ve arranged twenty-three peals in nine days on my own! – who allowed their bells to be used, conductors and those who rang peals – scored or not – especially those who rang in lots at considerable cost to their spare time! Apologies too if I got things wrong. There was no meeting short or too many this year, but I’m aware I may have made some misjudgements and thank you for people’s patience. Ultimately I hope that much was achieved even if a peal was not scored.

The final day of Peal Week began as most of my Sundays do with ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower where once again we suffered a little with absentees, though we still managed Grandsire Caters.

There were more promising signs at Grundisburgh where we again had enough to ring on all twelve with Anne Buswell ringing Grandsire Cinques inside for the first time. Well done Anne!

With Mason dropped off and lunch had with Ruthie, David Rogers took me to this afternoon’s peal before the resumption of our regular Sunday night quarter-peal attempts of spliced Surprise Major. Tonight’s was at Hollesley and was of ten-spliced with Ashtead and Belfast added to the standard eight. Agonisingly – and in keeping with a theme this weekend – it was lost right at the end with one lead to go. Still, it was a good effort in something very tough so we shall try again next week with a degree of confidence.

We headed off to The Swan at Alderton – where we were joined by Anne, Micky and Kate – for a drink and whilst some stopped for a curry, Ruthie and I headed home for our own tea.

Elsewhere and outside of Peal Week, there has been even more achievements! Congratulations to Alex Tatlow again, this time on not only ringing the most methods he had ever done in the quarter at Great Barton today, but also on calling it.

Following hot on the heals of his first quarter yesterday, well done to Richard George on ringing his first inside at Walsham-le-Willows.

And well done to the North-East District who got over their late peal loss at Sweffling yesterday with an impressive quarter of spliced at Aldeburgh, the first time in living memory - and there's some long-living memories there! :-) - that spliced Surprise Major has been rung by a resident North-East band. Congratulations to them all but particularly Sarah Plummer who was ringing her first of spliced Surprise Major.

Phew! I'm going for a sit down...

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Saturday 20th February 2010

I have long extolled the virtues of the GMC and it's useful but infrequent meetings. I cannot dress them up to be exciting awe-inspiring events, but they're not meant to be. They do take a long time and can often be a test of mental endurance, but they only happen three times a year, hardly a major imposition on anyone. And most of the time they get a lot sorted.

Perhaps no more so than this morning. The three hour meeting was indicative not only of the large attendance of twenty-three - the biggest I can recall - but the amount of important business that needed getting through at the now usual venue of Stowupland church hall.

The Norman TowerThe highlights for me included the exciting developments at The Norman Tower where the project to augment to twelve and add a sharp second came before us for grant approval. For too long twelve-bell ringing in Suffolk has suffered, especially as those in the west of the county who have the inclination and ability have had to either travel all the way to Ipswich or Grundisburgh or leave the county to take advantage of ringing on these numbers. The sharp second will also give them a light eight, a vital learning tool. It is all being pushed through by the Cathedral themselves and promises to offer huge positive publicity to the Guild.

There are also exciting developments for the revamped Newsletter, now to be a magazine with the new format set to be introduced with the forthcoming spring edition. There was much discussion on the number of copies, costs of producing it and so on and it's worth noting that what will hopefully be an entertaining, informative magazine offering vital advice to those who use our belfries has come about entirely on the back of GMC discussion and organisation, offering Carol the support she needed.

There was also confirmation of the arrival of the new Guild Mini-Ring - The Vestey Ring - before the end of April and a dedication service at the Cathedral on a Sunday at the end of May/beginning of June. Keep your eyes peeled for more details!

A formal proposal to be taken to the AGM in regards to the status of Vice-Presidents and Life Honorary Members was finalised and details of the AGM at Ixworth on Saturday 10th April (please come along!) and the Guild Social to be held on Saturday 20th November by the North-East District (likewise!) were also revealed.

Having been taken there by Kate I was brought back by Peter Harper - my gratitude to both - as Kate was called by the Lord partway through!

And after such a long morning away, I was conscious that Mason and Ruthie had been stuck in the house for a substantial amount of time so we decided to get out and about. Quite what made us choose going into Ipswich town centre at such a time I'm not sure as it was a nightmare, but it did allow us to take in the peal of Bob Triples on the front eight at St Mary‑le‑Tower which sounded like it was going very well and congratulations Carl.

Alas there was less success elsewhere with two peals lost right at the end at Debenham and Sweffling. Heart-breaking for those ringing and a big blow to Suffolk Guild Peal Week. I was able to derive considerable consolation from the impressive efforts at Elveden which saw the North-West District ring their first residential peal of Stedman Triples. Well done all of you!

And I derived further consolation from listening to Ipswich Town hang on to a 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday - particularly after Tuesday nights debacle at Peterborough - as we travelled home from shopping...

On the quarter-peal front, big congratulations to Richard George on ringing his first quarter, Chris Davies on his first of Bob Doubles and Albert Driver on reaching his 95th birthday, all recorded and celebrated with today's quarter at Redgrave.

Friday 19th February 2010

Suffolk Guild Peal Week got back on track today with a peal of Bob Major at Orford which was reported to me with glowing praise by the conductor! Wonderful to hear and well done and thank you to all who rung.

There was a big achievement on the quarter-peal front too, with big congratulations to Helen Naunton who rang her first quarter at Mendham and at the first attempt to boot. Well done Helen and to the whole band who made it a completely Redenhall affair!

Our evening was at The Dog in Grundisburgh, scene of one of my highlights of the year, the Pettistree Dinner. With Clare and Kev very generously looking after Mason (especially as Kev needs to be up at 4am tomorrow to drive lorries) round ours, Kate took myself, Ruthie, Ron and his son Tom to the meal that lived up to the expectations set by the last two dinners held at this destination.

Well done to Daphne Rose who won Mary's 'Monthly' Plate, succeeding Anne who had held on to it since it was previously handed out at last years dinner!

All in all a very enjoyable evening before we returned home to relieve the babysitters.

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Thursday 18th February 2010

On the face of it a quiet day on the Suffolk Guild Peal Week front with no peals scored. But this belies the frantic activities going on this morning to salvage a peal attempt of Bob Triples due to go ahead at Grundisburgh this afternoon. The replacement for the only dropout of the week so far needed replacing themselves and whilst there were two or three who could make it, the time critical element to this - it needed to start as close to 2pm as possible - and the fact I was at work and unable to do much from there meant I decided to reduce it to Minor after running an ITV-style text competition for a volunteer to drop out.

After all that, the peal was lost, but a decent go was made of it by all accounts and my gratitude to those who took part and apologies for the uncertainty and messing about!

It's worth noting Giles Croucher's efforts these last couple of weeks. Jonathan Stevens has done a great job bringing Giles on at Rendham and he's also been coming along to Pettistree so I was pleased not only to see he rang his first quarter at his home tower last Thursday, but also a follow-up at the same destination today. Top stuff Giles, keep it up!

With Stephen away this evening, I ended up running the practice at the location of this afternoon's lost peal. My call for help worked to a certain extent as we had eight offering useful practice for Anne Buswell in particular. Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Grandsire and Stedman were rung on eight, sandwiched by Cambridge Minor at the beginning and spliced Doubles and Minor to finish with a band made up almost entirely of Pettistree regulars.

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Wednesday 17th February 2010

In organising Suffolk Guild Peal Week I tried not to organise myself into too many peals. Partly this was because of commitments such as work, Mason, seeing Ruthie at some point, the GMC and the forthcoming Pettistree Dinner. But it was also because I was keen that this didn't just become the Richard Munnings Peal Week and that as many people as possible got a go.

However, the Guild Ringing Master is in danger of not scoring a peal in the Guild Peal Week he has spent so long organising! After Sunday's loss, tonight was my next opportunity, calling Pudsey Major at The Folly in what had been salvaged of the peal of Bristol Major originally planned for St Mary‑le‑Tower.

After teaching David Potts and Brian Meads how to ring them, we set off and actually produced very good ringing in the circumstances. However, it was very trippy and a near collapse saw us come out to the end of the first course in rounds! As with the only other two losses this week, a quarter was scored as it was still early, this time of Yorkshire and conducted by Louis. Indeed Arnie thought it was the best ringing he'd heard on the bells, a compliment indeed!

Peal bandAnd as with the other losses, there was plenty of success to report too, including the third first-pealer of the week! Huge congratulations to George Salter who is following in a proud family tradition, becoming the fifth generation of said family to ring a peal, on this occasion at The Wolery.

There was also success at Kersey with a peal of Lincolnshire Major, so well done there.

Meanwhile I partook in the hospitality that is not just typical of Gordon and Janet but also any mini-ring that I've ever been to as we enjoyed drink - I had the soft option of tea this time! - and nibbles before I headed over to join Ruthie at Pettistree practice where they too had rung a quarter.

A pint in The Greyhound, a naughty pizza and a return to a chilly Sun Lane followed as I tried to sort out a replacement for a last minute drop-out for tomorrow's peal at Grundisburgh!

Well done again to Philip Moyse by the way, as well as to Hugh Spink as they both rang in their first quarter of St Clements Minor at Blythburgh today.

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Tuesday 16th February 2010

Of all the weeks I need to go smoothly it is this one. With peal bands coming out of my ears, logistics and practicality - as well as people's good nature and flexibility - stretched considerably, I don't need things to go belly up too much.

The FollyAlready the Wednesday evening peal at St Mary-le-Tower has been mucked about, though this has been salvaged through Gordon Slack's generous accommodation of our band at The Folly, so thanks Gordon!

There's also a slight timing issue that could cause problems on Saturday - but hopefully this issue will be cleared up with little pain.

However, when Ruthie and I returned to Sun Lane from our respective jobs we discovered the boiler had died for the second time of this long, dark and cold winter. Sid the boiler man who came out last time is going to come out Thursday morning so hopefully it'll be sorted quickly, but it was an addition to my lot I could've done without this week.

However, Suffolk Guild Peal Week has continued apace today. And how!

First up, massive congratulations to Alison Evans who became the second first-pealer of the week with her effort at Tostock in a peal that also saw Carl Wilby ring his first inside, Dr Abby ring her first behind and Lesley and David ring their most methods to a peal. Well done all round, a fine effort!

And well done too to Peter Trent who rang his first peal of Superlative Major at Palgrave! Brilliant stuff!

Ruthie and I meanwhile coped with the chill by making pancakes on this Shrove Tuesday, a little oasis of calm in amongst a hectic schedule!

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Monday 15th February 2010

Sean - our learner at St Mary‑le‑Tower - has obviously spent far too much time with me! Having been down to Poole to visit Louisa this weekend, he returned this evening to discover his keys and phone were still on the South Coast!

It meant he had to leave a little early to try and rouse his housemates - or break into his house - but not before he again amazed us with his progress. Tonight we tried him on leading for the first time and the results were astounding. For the vast majority of time he was spot on. And I don't mean there or thereabouts, I mean spot on, right on the mark!

It was the highlight of a night that saw more than an entire band of Surprise Maximus ringers absent from tonight's practice meaning we never rang all twelve - Grandsire Caters was the peak - but did allow us the opportunity for a bit of fun as we rang Original Major and tried to cope with the new stay on the treble which whilst making it easier to ring at backstroke has made it extremely fleet at hand!

It was good to see David Rogers who was fresh from the peal of Grandsire Triples at Offton today - well done to Peter and Gordon! - and Louis Suggett who today called Alex Tatlow's first peal at Great Barton as Suffolk Guild Peal Week gathered pace. Congratulations Alex, hopefully the first of many!

Well done too to the quarter-peal ringers at Blythburgh and Reydon, particularly Andrew Leach on his first of Kent as conductor and Craig Leach and Philip Moyse on ringing more methods than they had ever done before.

Good to see so many achievements at all levels going on!

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Sunday 14th February 2010

Happy Tacky Love Day - as Ruthie so affectionately refers to it as - also saw my introduction to the 2010 Guild Peal Week, though not an entirely successful one.

We were at Hollesley to ring a peal not only to mark Ruth Hatchett's forthcoming licencing there tomorrow, but also for Anne Buswell's first of Plain Bob Major. Unfortunately Mike felt it wasn't of sufficient standard to ring a peal - the correct decision in my opinion - and called it round for a respectable 1808. However, it was all good experience for Anne who will be going for the Triples later in the week and the early finish did at least allow us to enjoy a pint in The Sorrell Horse in nearby Shottisham which looked wonderful, basked in the afternoon sunshine that we have missed.

And the 'loss' was - as with yesterday's - offset with much success elsewhere, again most notably by a first conductor. Yes, congratulations young Philip Moyse on joining your fellow Reydon ringer Tom in such proud ranks. The peal at his home tower was even more impressive for having a band entirely made up of village residents - how often does that happen these days? - and for Michelle's achievements. This is the kind of thing I hoped to be achieved when I first reignited Guild Peal Week three years ago. Happy Birthday to Michael too!

There was further achievement with the second peal of the weekend at Monewden where Jason Busby rang his first of Cambridge - well done Jason.

With the traditional score at Aldeburgh - good to see that back on track after last month and congratulations to Michael, Mary and Alan on their respective milestones - we have had a very good start to this year's Peal Week.

However, it was soured somewhat today by a message from Owen. Despite being arranged for months, the peal on Wednesday night at St Mary-le-Tower won't be able to go ahead now as there is an Ash Wednesday service on in the church. Whilst that is obviously understandable, I wish they would've picked up on this sooner than three days before the peal! Very, very, very annoying. It left me searching for an alternative venue at very short notice in a part of the world where the very few pealable eight's around are already being used this week! I shall continue to search though.

It didn't spoil the lovely evening that Ruthie and I had though as we went to The Cherrytree for a very nice meal for Valentine's Day. We were surprised how quiet it was though. In fact it was slightly busier with drinkers in The Mariners where we retired following our meal.

All of this followed on from some decent ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh, both of which benefited from the visit of Stephen and Janet fresh from yesterday's peal at Monewden and both of which saw us ring Grandsire Caters, not bad particularly for Grundisburgh with Stephen away. It's worth noting too that he won't be there this Thursday either, so all help would be appreciated!

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Saturday 13th February 2010

Whilst we were entertaining Mason on the steam trains down in a still snowy Kent, Suffolk Guild Peal Week got underway in typical fashion - with a loss.

It was a big shame that the accomplished band that attempted London Surprise Royal (No3) at St Neots in Cambridgeshire, especially as it would've been a fantastic way to kick-off these next nine days. It just goes to show that nothing in ringing can be taken for granted and you shouldn't be too disheartened when things don't go right - it happens to the best.

However, they did ring a quarter of Cambridge Royal so it wasn't an entirely wasted journey and it was made up for by successes elsewhere, most notably with Tom Britten's first as conductor at Rendham. Congratulations Tom! Not only that, but I got a very excited text message from Claire - not the keenest of peal-ringers - announcing it! Now that's the spirit!

A family peal at Monewden - with welcome guest Mr Whiting - gave us a very decent start to proceedings, so well done everyone today.

And there was a reminder that even in Guild Peal Week, quarters still abound with achievements attached to them. Well done to Kate Herd on ringing her most methods in the success at Old Newton.

The li'l chap meanwhile was like a pig in muck, meeting his hero Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends, including the Fat Controller who didn't like my hoody on this freezing day! It was good fun though and Mason certainly enjoyed it.

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Friday 12th February 2010

Following on from a pleasant conversation with the local traffic warden - now that doesn't happen often! - on the way home from work and getting Mason fed, watered and put to bed, my evening started with a knock on the door by Mike Whitby who was accompanying me to Grundisburgh for a quarter of Yorkshire Royal. In keeping with the week there was a footnote for Don and a band photo and I was delighted to have finally rung for his birthday!

The man himself, David, Mike and myself nipped to The Turks Head for a pint before I gave Mr Whitby a lift to Woodbridge and then returned to Ruthie and the li'l chap and braced myself for the nine days ahead.

Good luck everyone!

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Thursday 11th February 2010

Another eightieth birthday this week as the prolific quarter-peal ringers of the North-West marked local ringer Keith Rands birthday with a quarter at Old Newton. Happy Birthday Keith!

With Mason picked up and Grundisburgh practice called-off due to illness, holiday and possibly the icy conditions and the Cumberland's practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening, it was a quiet night in for Ruthie - who had spent the afternoon in Colchester letting people in to see Stephen Cheek play - and me.

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Wednesday 10th February 2010

With just three days until the start of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2010, it has got to that time when I open my emails and check my phone with considerable trepidation, especially as today's relatively hefty - though still nowhere bad as last months - fall of snow threatens to disrupt things if it carries on for much longer. Thankfully I only have four places that need filling over two peals at the far-end of Peal Week - can anyone help? - but with so many peals going on and therefore peal-ringers tied-up, it's fair to say that any drop-outs now - especially for the midweek peals - would be a severe headache. That's not to say that people should be making peals at all costs. Indeed I've been informed this evening that one ringer may be attending a funeral that could rule him out of a peal depending what day it is on and obviously I wouldn't expect members to ring in a peal in such circumstances. But I hope people can be as flexible as they possibly can and avoid dropping out if they can and that patience is shown as ringers push their boundaries. Good quality is essential of course, but it would be great to have something to show for all the organising that has been done and not just by me! Thank you to everyone that is helping!

Pettistree Quarter Peal BandThe snowy conditions didn't stop a healthy crowd getting to Pettistree practice tonight, though it was very chilly - even with the heating on! - as I sat in the church whilst Ruthie rang in another deserved nod to Don Price's significant birthday with a quarter of Price Bob Minor. I had looked at it in case I was called into action and it is a tricky bit of work, so I think the band rang it admirably with the quality one expects from this group of ringers.

The church was far too cold to remain in though so the fifteen strong attendance huddled in the relative cosiness of the belfry where everything from good call-changes from Daphne - who is coming along very well and received her membership certificate from the Guild this evening in the pub - to spliced Minor was rung.

The night of course was capped by a warming drink or two in The Greyhound before we gently rode home, Ruthie generously doing the driving tonight.

Well done to another Ruth - that of the Suggett variety - who rang her first quarter of Rutland Major at Ixworth today. Congratulations Ruth! Hopefully it's the first of many achievements over the next week-and-a-half...

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Tuesday 9th February 2010

Every Guild, Society, Association and indeed any ringing group should have a Don Price. His skills in ringing and carpentry and more specifically his generosity in using these skills has made him invaluable both inside and outside the belfry and the time - and no doubt petrol costs - that he devotes to Grundisburgh and St Mary-le-Tower when he lives in Reydon in the north-east of the county has long been received with much gratitude by Stephen and me, not to mention the other ringers at said towers. And even if you are a Cumberland, his sixty-year plus membership of the College Youths is to be admired, as are his ringing skills even if we joke about them sometimes and even though he himself plays them down considerably.

Don Price's 80th Birthday Peal BandOn top of all this he is a very, very nice chap and all these attributes meant that it was inevitable that his landmark 80th birthday today was going to be celebrated enthusiastically by his ringing friends, primarily with a peal at Grundisburgh but also a quarter at Offton, both rung tonight. On top of that there was a post-peal party in The Turk's Head in Hasketon, all of which I hope he enjoyed. So although he is unlikely to read this - being that he never touches computers! - Happy Birthday Don!

Sadly after all that, Ruthie and I were unable to be a part of the celebrations as we had an engagement in Colchester where she was playing. It was of course an important part of her course though and the opportunity to nip to the nearby ASDA for our cheapest shop for years helped a little bit to soften the blow of missing out on this evening's festivities.

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Monday 8th February 2010

There was another return of snow today, a now familiar and frankly boring feature of the last two months of this cold winter, but thankfully it didn't settle meaning life carried on as normal.

It meant our work wasn't affected and the journey into Ipswich for St Mary‑le‑Tower practice was as easy as usual. However, with many of the same people who were away yesterday morning away this evening we didn't have enough to ring Surprise Maximus and we didn't even have Sean our usual shining light as he was unable to make it tonight.

We did manage London Royal - handy practice for those going to St Neots on Saturday - Bob Major - handy practice for Anne for Sunday - a good steady touch of Grandsire Triples on the back eight - the beginning of preparations for a peal attempt this forthcoming December - as well as Yorkshire Royal, Plain Hunt on Eleven and Grandsire Cinques. So a useful night.

Ruthie and I then dashed - only in the metaphorical sense you understand - back to Woodbridge where we were met by Toby for an evening in The Mariners before going back to his place to meet Tori and her friend Hannah on a late night!

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Sunday 7th February, 2010

There's still a number of regulars away at St Mary‑le‑Tower, pretty much all of them Surprise Max ringers as February begins to resemble August for absences. It meant there was another low-turnout this morning and a fair bit of Surprise Minor - Norwich and Cambridge - before some call-changes on eight - rung very well by Elle Earey - and a very nice three leads of Bristol Major on the front eight that finished bang on half-past despite a false start as the fifth ringer struggled to remember his start!

First Sunday of the month means ringing at St Lawrence after SMLT of course. Some call-changes for Elle and a nice touch of Grandsire Doubles and we were on our way, though not the last to ring on the bells today.

Mason and I headed to Grundisburgh where there was an encouraging turnout enabling us to ring Grandsire Caters, mainly due to it being first Sunday allowing those who go to Ufford on the second and fourth Sunday's to come here.

With the li'l chap having to put up with my company until tomorrow morning it was a laid-back afternoon of playing with toys and watching CBeeBies until Ruthie got home from work and we headed up to Kate's where my better half had arranged to collect the WiiFit from. Whilst there we enjoyed our first real indulgence for a couple of weeks with some takeaway pizza before Ruthie offset that back at home on the newly acquired WiiFit.

Well done to Anne Buswell and Elaine Townsend (aka Mrs Roger) who rang their first quarter of Double Oxford Bob Minor at Pettistree today. More of the same please girls!

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Saturday 6th February 2010

Ruthie was at work today so Mason and I were again left to occupy ourselves. We managed it though, first up with a long and interesting chat with Sarah Frith who was learning to ring in Ipswich and at Sproughton prior to my return but having left the area gave up. However, she is now down in London and has taken it up again with gusto and is keen to get in touch with various people up this way.

We then had the pleasure of a visit from Kala, in town booking her and Nick's long awaited honeymoon. She was going to catch a bus back to Wickham Market as their car arrangements had been complicated somewhat by her husband writing off one of their cars earlier in the week - he's fine by the way.

However, I was going up her way this afternoon and so I gave her lift before heading to The Ship in Blaxhall where Toby works on Saturday lunchtimes. Except today he'd called in sick meaning he missed out on the surprise visit of his Godson!

It didn't matter too much as the li'l chap and I enjoyed a chat over an orange squash and a pint of Wherry. Besides, we weren't far from our ultimate destination, my old stomping ground and fondly remembered Tunstall for the South-East District practice. On this sunny winter's afternoon it wasn't hard to recall why I enjoyed living here so much, especially as we stood feeding the chickens opposite the church.

The practice itself went well with a good turnout from the local ringers and ringing from Grandsire and Plain Bob to London and Norwich.

After another trip over the road to see the chickens we were off to the second part of a very relaxed and enjoyable occasion, Orford. Despite losing the sunshine as the mist and fog got thicker the nearer we got to the coast, our party grew substantially with David Steed and Lesley Wilson coming from the other side of the county to join David Rogers from Norfolk and Stephen Cheek from Essex in putting absent south-east members to shame. There was enough to make this practice worthwhile for those who had made the effort, but a few extra - especially those who are experienced in the art that many are trying find their way through - would have genuinely made all the difference.

As it was we rang from Plain Hunt on seven to Yorkshire Major and enjoyed the visit of Mitch and Jayne complete with five-month old Ellie-Mae and Lemmy who understandably attracted the attention of everyone who wasn't ringing!

Next month is the South-East District afternoon of fun, disguised as their quarterly meeting. Please don't be fooled by the mention of a meeting - it is far from formal and is likely to be very short. It's being held at St Lawrence and St Mary‑le‑Tower in Ipswich so it should be a fantastic afternoon of ringing, eating and drinking in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere - please turn up!

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Friday 5th February 2010

Another month, another target met by John Catt's sales team. We're fairly chuffed with this, especially in these tough times and it seems Jonathan and Derek were too as they took Pete, Michael, Madeleine and myself out for dinner as a reward. The location was as usual The Cherrytree and the food was typically good as was the beer.

Arrangements with Mason are slightly different this weekend with Ruthie and I looking after the li'l chap until Monday morning. Therefore I met Kara at Woodbridge railway station after work prior to her going on the train and in the process getting Mason's hopes of a ride on the choo-choos up! Instead we were back to Sun Lane for tea, much to his initial disappointment!

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Thursday 4th February 2010

A broken down horsebox on The Green in Grundisburgh blocked my way to the church in my car this evening, but this minor inconvenience didn't really explain the pretty paltry turnout at tonight's practice. Only eight were present including learners Chris and Erin, but it was at least a useful night for them and the touch of spliced Surprise Minor was good fun!

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Wednesday 3rd February 2010

We are at the beginning of a very busy month for peal attempts and we started well tonight with a peal of twenty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods at The Wolery. It was my first peal of the year here too following last month's cancellation and we seemed a little rusty especially at the start as we initially struggled with Lindisfarne. Indeed we had to have a restart, but it improved vastly as we got back into the swing of it and it all came round in one hour forty-two.

I returned home to meet a much better Ruthie who had been well enough to go to Colchester - more out of necessity than being 100% - and ring in a successful quarter at Pettistree before returning home to complete the project that had taken us out to Iken recently.

Well done to Kate Herd by the way, whose first quarter - indeed blows - of Triples was rung at Stowmarket on Sunday. Congratulations Kate, a big achievement!

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Tuesday 2nd February 2010

Poor Ruthie wasn't very well today, probably struck down with what Mason had at the weekend. Indeed, when I came back home at lunchtime I found her sleeping on the floor complete with duvet!

She was better by the evening but I still made the journey to Tesco on my own as it was best for her to stay indoors on an otherwise unmemorable day.

Still some places available on Guild Peal Week, please don't be afraid to let me know if you can help!

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Monday 1st February 2010

There was a mixture of good and bad news in regards our learner at St Mary‑le‑Tower, Sean. His girlfriend Louisa is currently teacher training and has just been given a job at a school in the Cambridge area, which whilst very good news for both of them means Sean will probably have to move up that way when she starts in September.

The good news is that he ought to be at a sufficient standard to join practices in that area and continue his thus far flourishing ringing career when we lose him. Tonight - once Mr Potts and I had rung the back four up following Tuesday's inspection by Oggy - he rang on eight for the first time and with a significant number of people still away this evening we were able to give him plenty of practice, all under the artistic eyes of the photographer who had been up yesterday morning. Apparently the photos are for a forthcoming guide written by Dr John Blatchley of St Lawrence fame, so look out for that or avoid it depending on whether you want to see us staring out of the pages!

Well done to Andrea Alderton who today at Woolpit rang more methods to a quarter then she had ever done before!

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Sunday 31st January 2010

With a large number of regulars away, we made a change-ringing journey around East Anglia at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning as Norwich, Cambridge and Ipswich Minor were rung in the presence of a photographer and his assistant, there in preparation for a photo-shoot for tomorrow for some reason I can't recall.

From here my Sunday took a substantial diversion from it's normal route. Once I'd dropped Mason off earlier than usual, I was on the road with my Master's hat - or rather badge - on. My destination was Dennington for the re-dedication of this fine six which has been re-tuned and rehung by Whitechapel's, whose Master Founders Alan and Kathryn Hughes were present today.

There was a full house in this huge (but freezing!) church, with an encouraging number of youngsters in the congregation - perhaps something for Ole and the local ringers to tap into?

The Chamber Choir from nearby Framlingham College added to the grand occasion as did the presence of a surprising number of ringers for an 11am service on a Sunday, which in turn lent itself to some busy ringing before and after the service. With it being difficult to get Jonathan and me together for testing the work, today was a useful opportunity for me to get a feel of all six bells and for Jonathan to listen outside.

The service was a lot longer than I anticipated - there was an awful lot of people to collect from and give communion to - and with the extensive ringing afterwards I had little time to grab what food and drink was left over in the village hall and have a chat with Bishop Nigel and his wife Carolyne before I had to dash off to my next - admittedly self-imposed - engagement.

Following on from the success of the eleven-spliced at Rushmere a couple of weeks ago, I felt confident enough to push myself and the band a little further and try fourteen methods. The destination this time was Monewden and although Arnie was unable to make this afternoon's attempt, Maggie undertook the task admirably. As did everyone else in the band with a good - although initially tentative - peal scored that I was well chuffed with and for which we were able to ring for the forthcoming birthday of Chris' mother. Now we've done fourteen we'll have to go higher!

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Saturday 30th January 2010

With one of her colleagues off work injured, Ruthie has been called in to work Saturdays at Boots. Whilst in unfortunate circumstances - her ladyship gets on very well with Diane the poor victim - and meaning we won't get to see each other much at the weekends at all, the money as always will be handy!

With it being a fifth Saturday and therefore no nearby ringing events and with it being very cold outside, Mason and I were left to occupy ourselves with occasional trips to Budgens - I must be getting old, I kept going in, getting something, getting home and realising I'd forgotten to get something else. Or maybe it's the cold!

Therefore a fairly unmemorable day passed only with a brief walk up to Edwin Avenue to collect Ruthie's now fixed flute from Kate's neighbour - thank you muchly Nigel! - in the evening.

Thankfully not everyone was ringingless today as quite apart from the continuing efforts from the handbells at Bacton (particularly the 10080 in 675 methods and well done Mr Tibbetts junior!) there was a significant quarter at Tostock where Alison Evans rang her first inside. Congratulations Alison and keep it up!

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Friday 29th January 2010

After months of arrangements I was today in a position to put up a timetable of peals for Guild Peal Week. Please take a look and let Chris and me know if there are any peals that need adding or amendments that need making to what is currently printed. Especially get in touch if you feel you are able to help in any of the peals that need ringers, although the St Mary‑e‑Tower one on the second Saturday is looking increasingly likely to be cancelled! Still, if a whole load of twelve-bell ringers get in touch to say they can ring that will change!

Ruthie had a bit of a disaster at uni today as one of her friends managed to accidentally dent her flute, but after some consultation at Edwin Avenue on her return to Woodbridge it seems the situation is not as bad as first thought.

However, it left things a little tight on an already tight schedule as once she was back, I'd picked up Mason from his grandparents and fed the li'l chap, read him a story and put him to bed I was off to Halesworth. It's not ideal coming out on a Friday night with everything that has to be done straight after work and I was hampered further from more snow this evening.

However, it was a tiny fraction of the amount we had a few weeks back that caused so much trouble and by it's very nature, the event I was attending - the Fifth Friday Surprise Major Practice - doesn't come round that often. Which is a shame as it's a really useful practice, excellently run by Maggie and offering lots of opportunities for people to ring and focus on things like Bristol, spliced Cambridge and Yorkshire and six-spliced - as we did tonight - that they wouldn't normally get. It was good to see the whole top-table of the Guild there and a decent turnout when considering the icy, snowy cold conditions outside. Well worth a visit when the next one is held on Friday, 30th April when hopefully the weather will be a lot nicer!

Thursday 28th January 2010

No sooner has he turned three then the old boy is poorly! Picking up Mason the day after his birthday he had a bad cough and cold, though he was typically unperturbed by this until he tried to get to sleep in the evening.

However, a combination of vapour rub, a cup of tea and leaving his light on seems to now be doing the trick after he apparently had quite a restless night last night.

More toings and froings in regards to Guild Peal Week as I attempt to make up several peal bands, a task I have succeeded with for some and nearly done so for pretty much the rest so thank you to those who are helping out. However, I seem a little over-reliant on a few people for whom it could be a long week, so if you aren't in a peal between the 13th and 21st of February then get in touch with me please!

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Wednesday 27th January 2010

I've already said this probably far too much for someone who is still only thirty-one, but some days make you feel old, though often in a joyous way.

Today was one such day and primarily because it is Mason's third - yes third! - birthday today. I've said it every year, but I can't believe where the time has gone and I'm sure all parents will understand where I'm coming from when I say that I struggle to comprehend that the tiny, fragile, sleeping creature oblivious to his surroundings that I tentatively held for fear of breaking him three years ago today is the same boisterous ball of energy that cheerfully bounces his way through life and gives us so much joy now.

I popped round to Kara's after work to give him birthday wishes and he was typically cheerful, especially when his Uncle Tom came round with a Bart Simpson pencil case as a present! He won't appreciate it now, but maybe in years to come he might read this, so Happy Birthday Mason!

The other thing that made me feel old - again in a nice way - today was reading about the extraordinary exploits of the next generation of the Pipe family. At the age of just six, young Henry not only rang his first quarter last night, but did it on handbells! I remember well when he was born (not in the sense of being at the birth of course!) and it doesn't seem - and indeed wasn't - that long ago. So it seems scary that he has already taken this significant step on his journey as a bellringer. If he is to usurp the achievements of his father in the same way as he did to his father then we're in for some mind-boggling ringing events over the next few decades. The spectacle has begun - it's well worth watching the footage of him ringing after his quarter on You Tube. He definitely has his father's cheekiness and confidence!

For Ruthie - no concerts in Colchester tonight - and me, it was the simpler but also still accomplished delights at Pettistree. Unfortunately they'd lost their quarter, but it was made up with a huge amount of snackage, even for this practice. There was still the usual variety from call-changes for Daphne and Doubles for Giles to knock behind to - which both did really well - to the best variable-treble spliced Doubles and Minor I have ever rung in!

And of course it was all topped off by a pint in The Greyhound!

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Tuesday 26th January 2010

For the first time since the clocks went back in October there was a semblance of daylight as we left work at the normal time of five today. Admittedly it had been a clear and sunny winter's day that had led up to this point, but the beautiful bright red sunset that silhouetted Woodbridge's skyline as I walked home gave me hope that spring and summer aren't as far away as they have seemed over this cold winter!

When the clocks were put back, Ipswich Town were still looking for their first league win of the season and had a nasty habit of conceding goals in injury time when things should be wrapped up. Since then, things have improved greatly with Town winning games and not conceding those late goals, but tonight against WBA the late loss of concentration cost us a win as the game finished 1-1. I would be annoyed if I kept losing quarters and peals in the last lead because of mistakes and as these are well-paid professionals it's perhaps even more annoying that they can't keep their mind on the job all the way through, but in the scheme of things nearly beating one of the best teams in the division (some say the best and they've only lost one away game all season) is not such a terrible state of affairs.

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Monday 25th January 2010

I've said over and over again. Ringing is like no other hobby that I can think off and if it's not unique then it is certainly a rarity. Fellow ringers can walk into a belfry hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of miles from home and be able to grab hold and ring the same methods as the local ringers can. If he or she hasn't already got friends there then they have by the end of the evening.

Tonight we were visited by Andrew Ogden (of Taylors. Ed.), many miles from his abode in deepest Staffordshire, but a good friend of mine from my days in that part of the country. This evening he was able to take advantage of ringing's wide and warm embrace - I wish more people would - and partake in our practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening. He's over to inspect our bells tomorrow - meaning we had to ring all thirteen bells down - as well as Rushmere St Andrew's, Coddenham's and Rougham's and his presence motivated a rare visit to The Cricketers by Ruthie and me as we caught up with Oggy before returning home to make and eat fishcakes very, very late.

Hopefully our new learner Sean will be able to enjoy the opportunities that ringing offers in the coming years as he shows a huge amount of promise. His timing and handling are really good - obviously still some tidying up needs doing, but that'll come - and this evening he rang on six for the first time, so well done him!

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Sunday 24th January 2010

We were again missing a handful of Surprise Max ringers at St Mary‑le‑Tower, but with the help of brother Chris still up after the party yesterday we were able to man the twelve and even ring Stedman Cinques, though I wasn't overly happy with the striking on this occasion.

Things weren't so good at Grundisburgh however as we met five plus Mason, so whilst he rang away merrily on the down-turned dumb bell and then second, we rang Erin, Stedman and Grandsire on the front, middle and back five respectively.

Having dropped off Mason after a superb weekend with the li'l chap, I was met by Chris back at Sun Lane for lunch with Ruthie. Whilst she then returned to a quiet Boots we headed back to the county's lightest twelve for Mason's (and Freddie's) annual birthday peal. Despite meeting eleven for Royal - a misunderstanding over the phone - Nigel Newton generously and gratefully stepped down with a heavy workload to get through and solved a particularly awkward situation. Mr P had very kindly composed a 5003 and despite some hairy moments around the half-lead and big bobs a reasonable peal was scored. For all the criticism that Grundisburgh gets - often justifiably - today reminded me there is a nice little ten if you work at them.

There was time for a couple of pints in The Turk's Head before I met my better half back at home after her quarter at Ufford, which combined with our peal and the first peal on the re-hung bells at Fressingfield today made for a very satisfying day of ringing in Suffolk.

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Saturday 23rd January 2010

MasonMasonMidweek birthdays are hard to celebrate, but especially in the case of Mason when we have him at the weekends. It is his third birthday on Wednesday (I know, I know, where's the time gone!?) and with Mum, Dad and Unky Chris unable to make any parties next weekend, we decided to hold one this afternoon. So four Munnings, two Eagles and one Douglas - Clare had to work - gathered around in Sun Lane. Kala his Godmother also came along, though sadly Toby his Godfather couldn't as he was working. However, as you can see from the photos the li'l man had a great time!

Iken ChurchIt followed on from a morning at Iken, the ring of bells in the nicest setting in Suffolk in my opinion, with the church overlooking the mere and even - or perhaps especially - on such a misty morning it looked spectacular. Mason, Ruthie and I were there as part of a uni project that required some photos of Ruthie playing the flute in a nice setting. Iken church was the obvious choice and the shots turned out fantastically - it was lovely start to a lovely day.

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Friday 22nd January 2010

Some months ago, Bruce Wakefield asked me if Ruthie and I could come along to Woodbridge practice as a film crew were producing a programme on the town's very own Brian Eno, a former member of Roxy Music - a famous band of the 1970's - and producer of music for such big names as U2, David Bowie and Massive Attack and they wanted to film some ringing at St Mary-the-Virgin.

Unfortunately we couldn't help out for some reason and I'd largely forgotten about it. Until tonight. With Ruthie performing a very important recital in Colchester - she did very well by the way - and Mason long tucked up in bed, I found myself flicking the channels, something that drives my better-half mad. In the process I came across a Brian Eno evening on BBC Four. My mind instantly went back to the filming in the town of my residence over the summer and I wondered if the first programme - Another Green World - might be the programme. The first shots of a postman - the job of his father - wandering towards The Mariners confirmed that it probably was and I settled down to watch it. The ringing - featuring faces familiar to many of you including the 'mother-in-law', our Guild secretary, Pete and Susanne - comes in a short burst at just over half-an-hour and in a longer sequence right at the end of the hour long programme. I'm still not sure what relevance the ringing had to the overall purpose of the show, but it is very good publicity and well worth watching on iPlayer if you can. Well done to all concerned.

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Thursday 21st January 2010

Sometimes you hear little tales of how much joy ringing can bring to people.

John Mardon learnt to ring in his seventies in Essex and in his later years moved to Sproughton. Unfortunately I didn't know him very well as he moved here when I was living out of the county and a stroke suffered two or three years ago meant that he had to reluctantly give up a hobby he enjoyed so much. However, what I did know about him was that he was a very positive person who always kept cheery no matter what life threw at him and even had a go at ringing after his stroke which had left him in tears of joy.

Sadly John died earlier this month at the age of 89, but I received an email from Ralphy that he in turn had received from Edwin Parsons. It was in regards to his first quarter:

All Saints, Purleigh, Essex
23rd June 1993
1260 Plain Bob Doubles (45 minutes) (9 cwt)
1 Edwin Parsons (C) 4 Yvonne Towler
2 Bernard Taplin 5 Patrick Saltmarsh
3 James Towler 6 John Mardon
First Quarter Peal: 6

Apparently, the story goes that he was so happy at getting the quarter he blasted his car horn in joy all the way home and even more so when he got home to let his neighbours know what he had achieved!

I thought this was a wonderful story and not only should be an inspiration to those who learn at a later stage in life, but also prove a motivation to all of us. It's so easy to get dragged down by ringing, to start feeling it's a routine, a hassle and a big effort we can't be bothered with. But this is a timely reminder that to many it is a joy and a lifeline. We owe it to people like John to give it our all, whether that's going along to your local practice on a cold, wet night, popping along to a district or Guild event or saying yes to that quarter or peal that you might be reluctant to ring in but could mean the world to someone.

For various reasons it's been some time since I went to Grundisburgh practice, but tonight I made it! On the downside, not too many others did, but that did at least enable us to do lots for Erin and her father Chris. Whilst he rang call-changes, his daughter peaked at bonging behind to Stedman Triples on the front eight. They are at the beginning of the same wonderful journey that John went on and enjoyed and that some of us seem to have lost our way on, but I hope they both get the support they need and deserve.

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Wednesday 20th January 2010

Another peal has been added to the growing list for Guild Peal Week today - it's far from too late to put your requests in, especially as - as far as I know - there is only one potential first-pealer this year! Some people have been ever so generous with their time in ringing in several peals over the nine days that perversely make up this 'week', but it would be quite nice for more people to get involved and help out if you can, even if it's for just one peal. Nonetheless I have been impressed by the general response and thank you for that.

No actual ringing tonight though for the second Wednesday running as Ruthie and I were meeting up with her sister, brother-in-law, mother and Ron for an evening at the Seckford Theatre in the grounds of Woodbridge School. We were watching Mansfield Park & Ride (I'm sure you can work out what it is a comedy parody of!) as performed by the impressive Eastern Angles group. As with their production of The Haunted Commode at the same venue about a year ago, this was excellent fun that had us laughing out loud (lol!). As is typical with this event we bumped into a familiar face, this time in the shape of Chris Barker who seemed in fine form.

Our night out ended where it had started - with a pint in front of us at The Mariners!

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Tuesday 19th January 2010

Ringing is an inclusive hobby that knows no borders and in many ways is one large family - admittedly sometimes complete with bickering aunts and uncles - and there are many opportunities for ringers of all levels to expand their experience. One such opportunity that I have been asked to - and am happy to oblige - bring to people's attention is the Essex Ringing Course. It's worth pointing out that this is a popular course not just aimed at Essex Association members but to ringers everywhere and indeed people come from all over the country to attend. Unfortunately the last day clashes with our AGM, but whilst this isn't a call for our members to abandon our showpiece occasion, it is a good opportunity not just for improvers and learners but also for those more experienced to help out. Not that there won't be opportunities to learn at the AGM Day of Fun!

As if to further hammer home that ringing not only stretches beyond the walls of your local belfry but out into the rest of the world, this morning my survival pack for the 2010 Central Council weekend dropped through my letterbox. This years will be held in Derby and will be my third and therefore the final one of the usual triennial 'shift'. I'm still deciding whether I want to carry on with this into a second trimester or not. It's great seeing so many familiar faces from across my ringing life, but personally I don't think that I am that useful there and I'm not convinced that the council itself - at least in it's current form - is that relevant to everyday ringing. However, there may be someone out there - not necessarily the next Ringing Master of the Guild - who feels they can make a difference or would like to represent their Guild at this level. Any change would need to be sorted by the AGM in April so you will need to start thinking about it now!

More mundane matters were the order of the day on the domestic front as we continue our healthy eating - well, healthier - and less beer policy, even on our traditional boozy Tuesday night in. Even watching the Manchester derby on the TV (Man City won 2-1 for those interested) got us reaching for the beers!

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Monday 18th January 2010

There was a good turnout at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice tonight and a decent variety of ringing from rounds on three for Sean - who also rang on four over the course of the evening and is still progressing fantastically - to Yorkshire Max and then London Royal for the first time for some time as I again strove to fit so much into such a short space of time.

Sadly some of the striking still left a lot to be desired, but this is being worked upon and getting better and with Sean's progress and getting through the London the practice had a positive and jovial atmosphere to it.

It left me feeling good as we returned home for some more healthy eating and the introduction of a new local football show on BBC hosted by Town legend Matt Holland called Late Kick-off which suitably enough - though not surprisingly these days - was several minutes late in kicking-off! Still, a reasonably good-watch for anyone like me who can't get enough of the beautiful game.

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Sunday 17th January 2010

It was a day of ringing achievements in Suffolk today, starting at St Mary‑le‑Tower where it felt like a minor achievement to ring Grandsire Cinques on a morning when four or five Surprise Maximus regulars were missing. It was an even bigger achievement when you take into account the lively noise emanating from kids corner as Ben - whose grandparents Hedley and Hazel were up from Canterbury - and Mason occupied themselves cheerfully whilst we rang!

Grundisburgh was most notable for the appearance of Jasper with Kate, Pete and Susanne as he rang on ten and then twelve - with Mr P double-handling on 1-2 - for the first time. Nice one Jasper, I'll see you at SMLT soon!

The afternoon was my turn. I don't get to achieve much new for myself all that often, so today's peal at Rushmere St Andrew left me feeling particularly chuffed, though with sore hands - with little room to manoeuvre on the tenor, my hands rather than the rest of my body ended up doing most of the work!

And after a slow start to the Guild's 2010 peal total with peals called off last week due to the snow - even the monthly attempt at Aldeburgh succumbed! - I was worried this one wasn't going to get off the ground as we waited for Paul to arrive with the key. And waited. And waited. Eventually a harassed and very apologetic Mr Sharples turned up just as we were considering leaving and so the third Guild peal - after yesterday's impressive effort at the Norman Tower - was completed with some good ringing.

The late start meant a late finish of course and with a quarter at Hollesley just over an hour later, Mary and I needed to get a move on, especially as I needed to drop the keys off at Paul's! We made it, with me having been via Sun Lane to pick up Ruthie and we were at arguably the county's finest eight on time, where we met Kate who had taken part in probably the biggest - certainly numerically - ringing achievement of the day within our borders. The quarter of Pudsey Royal at Beccles with five firsts in the method as well as a first on ten is to be applauded - well done to you all!

Our quarter-peal was scored too and whilst ringing a quarter of Eight-Spliced Surprise Major is something to be pleased with, we could've rung it better.

Still, congratulations to all who have achieved something today. It's easy to look on Campanophile to see who has rung what in quarters and peals, but if you have achieved something that is worthy of mention but doesn't get included on the site or printed on the pages of the Ringing World then let us know so we can let everyone know about it!

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Saturday 16th January 2010

Although there was no ringing for us for the second Saturday in a row, we were able to take advantage of an annual tradition for Ruthie's family as we celebrated her grandfather's recent birthday around her grandparents' place.

There were fourteen of us and two dogs, with Mason, Freddie and Poppy getting on the best I've ever seen, so all in all it was a very pleasant occasion with once again typically fantastic food, company and hospitality. Throw in a spectacular ending to Ipswich's game against Coventry - we went 3-2 up after seven minutes of injury time just one minute after the opposition had equalised - added to the considerable feel-good factor before we left for home very contented and with a warm glow.

On the ringing front, congratulations to Tom Britten on scoring his first quarter of Pudsey yesterday at Rendham.

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Friday 15th January 2010

When I became Guild Ringing Master nearly four years ago - sometimes that seems like an eternity ago, but mainly I can't believe where the time has gone! - I had the intention to go around as many practices as was practical, partly as a way of exploring our wonderful county and it's beautiful churches, but also to meet up with Guild members, especially those who for whatever reason don't go to district and Guild events.

Since I started in April 2006, I have been to practices at Debenham, Felixstowe, Framlingham, Halesworth, Kettleburgh, Leiston, Long Melford, Old Newton, Orford, Southwold, Tunstall and Wickham Market to my memory. Before I finish next year (if I don't get voted out in the meantime) I'd like to go to more, especially those where new bands are springing up, like Chediston, Wissett and Gislingham.

However, work, finances, time and mostly commitments such as Mason - as wonderful as he is - have made it difficult to go to more as I would've liked. Having very kindly allowed me Rushmere St Andrew's bells for a peal this Sunday though, Paul Sharples asked if I'd like to come along to their practice this evening. With the above thoughts it mind I was delighted to come along.

I made it eventually, but not before being reminded why Friday nights in particular are difficult to get out for. Once I'd picked up Mason, got another healthy - but long-time cooking - tea ready for Ruthie who as usual didn't get back from Colchester until nearly seven, got the li'l chap changed, read him a story and got him to bed, time was getting on. Still, I was there for a healthy chunk of the practice, which was useful for me too as I had a couple of practices at ringing the tenor in one of the cosiest belfries in Suffolk.

It was good to see people like Paul, Delia, Liz and Tim and to add Rushmere to that list of towers visited - hopefully it's not the last!

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Thursday 14th January 2010

Picked up Mason for a bit of potty training - for him, not me - today, though it isn't going brilliantly! Still, playgroup seems to be bringing more language out of him and some of things he's coming up with are priceless!

No Grundisburgh on this occasion on a very quiet day on all fronts. Even organisation for Guild Peal Week seemed to slow down today!

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Wednesday 13th January 2010

It was my first trip of the year down to Colchester tonight and more specifically Ruthie's seat of learning. I wasn't going down just to pick up my better half either, though that was a primary reason for the journey. Nor was it to see her perform which is normally why I spend evenings in this garrison town.

No, this time I was there to watch - at her ladyship's recommendation - comedian Rainer Hersch. Despite the fact he has toured the world, appeared at the Edinburgh Festival and made numerous radio and TV appearances primarily for the BBC, I had never heard of him and wasn't sure what exactly to expect from a comedy show entitled All Classical Music Explained (ACME).

As it turned out, it was hilarious, especially his comparison of the murder rates of Saddam Hussein and the nineteenth century composer Giuseppe Verdi and even though I know little about classical music (what I do know I have Ruthie to thank for) I thoroughly enjoyed the evening before bringing her home after her night behind the bar.

Whilst we were laughing our socks off south of the border, other ringers were keeping things going, with particular congratulations to Alex Tatlow who was ringing his first quarter on eight at Bardwell. Well done!

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Tuesday 12th January 2010

Guild Peal Week is really picking up, but we still need some more peals to better last year and I'm sure there's more members out there who could benefit from doing something - unless there's a whole bunch of peals I don't know about yet! Anyway, thank you to all those who have already committed themselves to ringing and organising, keep it up guys - and those who haven't already, get involved! You'll enjoy it, honestly!

After the Christmas and New Year period that saw Ruthie and me eating and drinking far too much - well it is only once a year! - we've decided to think and eat a bit healthier, starting this evening with our shop in Tesco where we discovered aisles we never realised existed. I mean, fruit and veg...?

It impressed my old neighbour from Hollesley who we bumped into, but a long chat with him meant we spent an awful long time in there and our usual Tuesday night in - in it's healthier form - started a bit later than usual.

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Monday 11th January 2010

I know I said this a week ago, but things really are grinding back into normality this week. The snow and ice are thawing, the temperatures are balmy and though still a little treacherous in places, people - in Suffolk at least - are getting back on the roads to work and schools after all the 'excitement'.

Not quite everyone got back to normal as a mix-up of the trains meant Ruthie didn't go in to Colchester today, but she has a not inconsiderable essay to complete for this week anyway, so she was able to use her time wisely both during the day and into the evening, sensibly choosing work over ringing tonight.

There was a decent crowd at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice, enabling us to ring Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Max, with both Mr and Mrs Pipe in attendance and proving invaluable. There was more of an emphasis on striking too, something that showed improvement at times tonight but still needs a lot of work. Sean is coming on in leaps and bounds too, already a competent handler before any of the refining truly begins. All in all, the future of ringing at SMLT looks hopeful on the basis of this evening.

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Sunday 10th January 2010

There were definite signs of a thaw today. When I got to my car this morning, there was little snow on it and things were more wet than icy or snowy. I had been prepared to turn back if things were too dangerous on the way into Ipswich for ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower, but I went via the main roads and Kesgrave where the roads were clear and in a normal state. It can't have been too bad for others either, with David making it in from Stowmarket and even more impressively Don making it down from Reydon. As such we were able to peak at Yorkshire Royal, with Mary generously taking Mason downstairs as I'd forgotten his buggy!

Despite the much improved conditions I didn't want to risk mine and Mason's safety on the unpredictable back-roads to Grundisburgh so I headed straight back to Woodbridge and walked the li'l chap back to Kara's. Having bumped into Mike Whitby I discovered that in hindsight the roads to our lightest twelve were fine, but if we had the benefit of hindsight I'm sure there's a lot we'd do differently...

With nothing now organised for the afternoon I had prepared myself for a quiet afternoon. However, a chance glance at the EADT website informed me that Ipswich's game at Leicester - which had been shifted to today to accommodate the city's rugby team's game - had not only beaten the big freeze but was the only one in the country to have done so this afternoon and as such was to be shown on TV! Now all I had to do was find somewhere to watch it, not something I thought would be too much of a problem in a town just miles from Ipswich.

I duly called Pete and Susanne and arranged to meet them in The Mariners. When I got there and discovered they weren't showing the football I then arranged to meet them in The Red Lion. Having discovered that they weren't showing the football either, we ended up - with almost every Ipswich fan in Woodbridge - watching the game in the very crowded bar at The Bull Hotel. It promptly ended up 1-1, not a bad result despite us taking the lead after just fifteen seconds!

The evening was set aside for an occasion inspired by the TV programme 'Come Dine With Me' that Ruthie and I love. Kala had volunteered to host us, Toby and Tori - Nick was away on business - for a wonderful three-course dinner-party in Wickham Market. It was a superb night, great fun and in the conditions we were glad a taxi did the driving for us on the way back!

Well done to Abby and Louis on respectively ringing and calling their most methods to a quarter at Tostock today. Good to see.

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Saturday 9th January 2010

I don't enjoy sitting around the house all day. That's not to say I don't enjoy Ruthie's company, I wish I could spend more time with her and the same goes for Mason. Indeed, the recent conditions have enabled me to spend a lot more time with them than I normally would've been able to and that's been great.

But I'm a people person, I love getting out and about, not necessarily by ringing either. The boredom of being just sat at home is exaggerated in the li'l chap who like any kid his age gets frustrated being cooped up all day.

With no ringing events on that we could guarantee safely getting to and nothing much opened in walking distance, this could've been a big problem. However, we in Suffolk are extremely fortunate to live somewhere that looks equally beautiful in almost any weather conditions and no more so than two minutes walk from Sun Lane. Ever since Suffolk was blanketed for the first time this winter before Christmas, I have wanted to see what it was like down on the River Deben. This a truly wonderful spot in the height of summer, but I'd never seen it in the snow. So today we put Mason into his buggy and headed out for a walk.

We weren't to be disappointed. From the deep snow on the banks and Narnia-like forests on the opposite side of the icy river from the picturesque Tide Mill, it was an amazing scene.

It was the highlight of an otherwise mundane day, with not even any football to liven the day - only seven football matches beating the weather the whole of the Premier League and Football League - but it had seemed to do the trick as the li'l chap enjoyed the programmes on a constant loop on CBeeBies more than we did! It was nice to spend time with my two favourite people though...

Through all the troubled conditions however, an extra well done to Louis, Becky and Alex on their achievements in the quarter at Great Barton today.

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Friday 8th January 2010

It was bound to happen eventually. After being sent home early from work twice already this week and the snow only getting worse, it felt inevitable that John Catt would decide not to open at all. Although Michael had amazingly got in from Easton, most of the workforce had sensibly decided it wasn't safe - and in some cases just not possible - to travel in from distance. So the handful of us that did make it in decided to have a warming cuppa and close up for the day.

The snow has also put paid to a weekend of quarter-pealing across the county that Claire Monk and Tom Britten had organised and that Kate, Ruthie and I were to take part in. I had already decided against taking Mason tomorrow, as I had originally planned, but with the conditions now getting quite daft, the county running out of grit and Claire unable to get down from Sheffield the whole thing had to be cancelled. It was a shame but totally understandable and we'll do it later in the year when the conditions are better!

It also means that I can't really justify battling out to Bury St Edmunds for the North-West District Meeting tomorrow which I had also planned to. What is more I can - for once - understand why many will feel they also can't go along. However, it is - to my knowledge - still on and with many unable to make it, I hope those who can make it safely do so to help support their fellow ringers in that part of the Guild.

On the plus side, the day off and all the snow meant that Mason, Ruthie and I were able to take up an invite from Toby and Tori to pop round the corner to partake in some snowy fun. A huge snowman was built, snowballs thrown and snow angels generated before even more fell.

We were able to quickly return the hospitality and Mason's Godfather and girlfriend came round to Sun Lane for some drinks as we all warmed up inside from the incredibly cold conditions outside.

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Thursday 7th January 2010

Watching the news it seems we have had the snow bad here but not as bad as most of the country. However, it is bad enough to take it's toll as we found with our work colleague Madeleine who came in looking pale. When she slumped on the table complaining of feeling ill we were naturally very concerned. It transpired she'd slipped on the ice walking in and when Pete took her to the Riverside Clinic in Ipswich it was found she'd fractured her wrist in two places.

It highlighted the dangers of the conditions and once again we were sent home early from work. It was with a little trepidation that I got in the car - which has sat dormant since Monday night - to pick up Mason from Kara's. I was prepared to walk if needs be, but ideally I wanted to be outside for as little time as possible. The roads were actually not too treacherous - there was no getting stuck or broken down buses as with a couple of weeks ago - so it was a fairly routine pick-up of an excited little boy.

However, Colchester Institute had been closed all day - and Ruthie received word this evening that it is closed tomorrow - so she hadn't ventured beyond the front door and Stephen rather sensibly called off Grundisburgh practice, so it was a safe night in the warm for us this evening.

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Wednesday 6th January 2010

The heavy-ish snow (other parts of the country have had it much worse than us I believe) that has been either falling or hanging around with ice for the last three weeks non-stop had a huge impact on my day as not only did we get sent home at lunchtime, but the peal that I was in at The Wolery this evening was called off. You know it's bad when David Salter calls a peal off!

Admittedly the main reason - though it would have been tricky for any of the band to get in - was that George Thoday had to come up from Essex where the conditions were much worse, something that Ruthie could testify to as she spent the day in Colchester.

No sooner had I received word of the call-off then my phone rang with Mike Whitby asking if I could ring in the Wednesday quarter at Pettistree. With a lift from Kate on offer and Ruthie needing to get some work done I accepted the invite.

We rang the quarter of St Clements - well done Anne! - successfully and well, but with many people understandably and sensibly choosing not to come in for practice the band headed straight for The Greyhound until Alan and Daphne turned up. Whilst they all returned to the freezing church to ring and then no doubt quickly back to the pub, Kate wanted to get some work done down at the crem, so we left for the evening.

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Tuesday 5th January 2010

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love said to me, "it's time to take the decorations down."

She's right of course, as - at least as I understand it - it is bad luck and form to keep them up beyond tonight and with no chance to do it tomorrow they were likely to be up until February if we didn't get them down this evening.

Our endeavours were interrupted only briefly by Mr Faircloth coming round to take possession of our old TV, but with Christmas packed away for another eleven months we settled down to an otherwise typically relaxed Tuesday evening.

It's been fascinating to watch the phenomenal output coming from Pretyman Avenue and the handbell peal band in Bacton in the early days of the new year. Already nine peals have been recorded before the first week is even out and although none of them are for the Suffolk Guild - which is a shame - it is interesting to me at least to see how far they will go!

Talking of peals, the return to normality this week has seen a necessity to pick up arrangements for Guild Peal Week 2010 from Saturday, 13th February - Sunday, 21st February. After an initially fantastic response, things have slowed down a little, but I would really appreciate if as many people as possible help out on this, especially as I look at the weather forecasts and worry that the whole thing will be whitewashed...

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Monday 4th January 2010

It was a day of returns and resumptions today as I and the rest of society truly ground back into normality.

The potentially depressing return to work proved not to be that depressing at all and wasn't even as subdued as you might expect with people excitedly chatting about their Christmas off. We were also treated to some entertainment as a bin lorry skidded past our office and into the trees next to us, narrowly missing a lamppost and in the end the day went surprisingly quickly, meaning that in no time at all I found myself in Ipswich town centre for the resumption of another weekly appointment that had taken a break, that of St Mary‑le‑Tower practice.

I had arrived early to meet with Sean again, himself back after spending most of the festive period in the US. He again showed a tremendous talent for picking things up and taking advice in, listening carefully and taking everything very seriously. In fact, when Alan McBurnie and David Potts arrived I was able to sandwich him between them for his first Rounds on Three, not bad when you consider the time away he's had during his early weeks as a ringer and the fact that he hasn't actually had many lessons at all.

Having picked up Ruthie from Ipswich station after her first day back at Colchester Institute, we returned to a practice high on numbers - including the return of George Pipe to Monday's at the Tower - but sadly low on aptitude. The striking was rusty, as was the concentration, but I suppose that could be put down to the break - the last practice seems a long time ago!

With neither me nor my beloved having had tea, we decided to return home rather than to the pub to sit back, eat and relax. I need another break now.

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Sunday 3rd January 2010

From my calculations via Campanophile and www.peals.co.uk, the Guild rang 131 peals in 2009. Although the primary purpose of ringing peals - or indeed doing any ringing of course - has to be to produce quality ringing, further the progression of a ringer, mark occasions, etc, it would be nice to continue the upward trend in the numbers of peals rung for the Guild. Trying not to get too statty about it, that means an average of eleven peals a month to beat last year, a tall order.

However, we made a good start with a peal of Stedman Cinques at St Mary‑le‑Tower this afternoon, the Guild's first peal - to my knowledge - of the new decade. I had arranged it foremost as Tom Britten's first peal of Stedman, but it also transpired to be the first of Stedman Cinques for Maggie and the other Tom, so well done to all three of you.

This tied the peal in nicely with the objectives of peal-ringing stated in my opening paragraph, as did the fact we were able to ring it in thanksgiving of the life of Cliff Barron who died over Christmas. I was honoured to have known Cliff and rung peals with this legend of the ringing world, though perhaps my abiding memory as a young student was how he knocked back the beer with such frightening ease! A top fella.

My afternoon's graft followed on from a so-so morning's ringing at SMLT which saw us squeeze in Grandsire Caters (with Mason ringing from the sidelines!) and Little Bob Royal after I'd arrived late in the snowy conditions in what is beginning to feel like a long winter.

St LawrenceBeing the first Sunday of the month we then trotted over to St Lawrence where in George's absence I ran the ringing before then carefully heading to Grundisburgh where I was again greeted with a healthy crowd that allowed us to ring Rounds on 12 for Erin and Grandsire Caters prior to me dropping the li'l chap off.

Following the peal I met the returning Ruthie and Kate who had just rung a quarter at Pettistree in honour of Mitch's birthday - Happy Birthday old chap, you don't look a day over fifty - in what was Mike's 1200th quarter, so well done Mr Whitby. We then walked up - picking Ron up on the way - to the familiar Saffron Curry House for an Indian with Pete and Susanne before we all retired to The Mariners for a nightcap. Happy days.

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Saturday 2nd January 2010

As predicted the morning and part of the afternoon was spent searching for a replacement battery for my car. Our search - for which I was very thankful to Kate for driving - took us eventually to the Boss Hall Industrial Estate near Sproughton having been to the Suffolk Retail Park in Ipswich with the crowds. Mason showed extreme patience as we also went shopping for trainers and camping gear.

It was all sandwiched between Kate and my attempts to get the old battery out and put the new one in which saw the bonnet refuse to open at one point, the screw holding the old battery snapping off and the Kate nearly getting her hand stuck in my engine. If you didn't laugh you'd cry... However, my deepest gratitude to Kate and also to Ron who helped by lending equipment and giving advice by phone on Bossingham's Helpline.

It did leave time a lot tighter than we had expected though, with the only thing in the diary being the first district event of the decade, the South-East District practice in our resident town on the fine eight of St Mary the Virgin. We made it in time after a brief lunch and were rewarded with a decent turnout for the icy conditions, though perhaps still slightly disappointing for an event held just off the main - gritted - A12.

As Ruthie and Kate nipped to Tesco, Mason and I popped to The Angel across Market Hill with Pete and Susanne. We only stopped for one though and having been joined by Jasper we headed back home in time to meet the returning Ruthie.

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New Year's Day, 2010

So a new year and a new decade begins. Goodness only knows what the next ten years hold in store for all of us, but hopefully this next year will hold many joys - although no doubt some low points too - including maybe a surprise promotion for Ipswich Town and an almost as surprising World Cup win for England in South Africa. Closer to home and perhaps more realistically I am praying that this year will see Suffolk Guild members realising what gems of sociability and the truly beautiful places that ringing in this county beholds. And hopefully that will mean an attendance of over one hundred at the Guild AGM at Ixworth on Saturday 10th April. Please put it in your diaries if you haven't already and if at all possible come and support the fellow ringers that are prepared to come out and support you. It would be good to see a big rise in attendances at Guild and district events in my last full calendar year as Guild Ringing Master.

I shall also be handing over the Ringing Master's job at St Mary‑le‑Tower and we will probably have a new government, but whatever else the year holds in store it will hopefully get better than it has been so far. After a day that started earlier than I would've chosen following last night's party, as Mason - who had no hangover - woke early, we decided we would get out of the house and travelled up to Edwin Avenue to see Kate, Clare and Kev. This was fine until we came to leave.

A few weeks ago they raised the kerbs outside Kate's house, presumably in anticipation of raising the road itself judging by the shoddy makeshift ramps leading up to the driveways. It was on these kerbs that I managed to wedge my car whilst manoeuvring to leave and in the process stalled the car and killed the battery. With the help of Clare, Kev, Kate and Mr Smith their neighbour - all of whom I am very grateful to - we were able to jump-start the engine and rescue the car so we could return home, but no doubt there will be a little shopping around for a battery in the morning...

2009

2008

2007

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