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New Year’s Eve 2012

So that was 2012. A year anticipated like no other on an international, national and personal level, and to my mind it didn’t disappoint. The Olympics and Paralympics were generally considered a huge success, and along with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee put Great Britain in a great light, but of course it was mine and Ruthie’s wedding which was the highlight of this marvelous year. That roasting hot August day already seems a long time ago with the all the rain and wind that winter (and to be fair ‘summer’ too) has thus far thrown at us, but the memories of that wonderful occasion remain fresh in the mind, and the new Mrs Munnings and I would like to take this moment to reiterate our gratitude for everyone’s gifts and best wishes.

It was a year that offered numerous PR opportunities for the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, with the Games, Torch Relay and Jubilee, which ringers took advantage of with much enthusiasm. The Guild Striking Competitions at Blythburgh and Leiston were a fantastic event, as was the AGM – though not as well attended as was hoped - at Boxford, and the Social at Sproughton, whilst the young ringers of Suffolk did tremendously well at the National Youth Striking Contest at Birmingham in a year that saw them generally and promisingly active and enthusiastic with quarters, peals, outings and other get-togethers. And as well as our own marriage, it was lovely to see the Guild Chairman and North-East District Ringing Master, Philip and Maggie tie the knot.

Not that it was all good, as you would expect over the course of twelve months. It started badly for me, with a kidney stone taking me out for a few days, dropping The Vestey Ring on my head, and the sad passing of Uncle Eric, all within the first three weeks of 2012.

And from a ringing perspective, Suffolk lost a number of ringers, Marlesford particularly hit with the deaths of Leslie Carter and Alan Rogers within a few weeks of each other, and a year after losing one former resident who had gone on to achieve worldwide ringing fame in the form of Rod Pipe, we lost another one in Harold Rogers, whose funeral was appropriately held at Chediston. As the year draws to a close, we also wish Mick Edwards of Essex, regular treble ringer to peals at The Wolery and Aldeburgh, all the best, as he has been admitted to hospital with a suspected stroke. Get well soon Mick.

But the overwhelming memories of the past 366 days for most, will be fond ones, and the final one today was up there with many of them, though it was a shame to part company with Mason after a great few days with him since Christmas Day.

Straight after dropping him off, I partook in my final peal of the year and my 501st in total, as we succeeded in ringing quite a decent 5016 Grandsire Cinques at Grundisburgh, which took the Guild’s peal totals for the year up to an impressive 147, the highest for the SGR this century! I know I’ve said this before, but how about 150 next year?

Not that peals are the only way of progressing ringing within our borders, and there was one last achievement this year from Clare Veal today, a girl who has achieved much since January 1st 2012. Well done to her on ringing her first quarter of Buxton Bob and Armitage-is-the-name Bob Minor in the success at Great Barton. More of it next year Clare!

A pint in The Turk’s Head in neighbouring Hasketon was essential – though I somehow lost the Suggett’s along the way – but then it was time to pick Ruthie up from work and prepare for an evening to see out a memorable 2012 and see in a hopeful 2013 which has much to live up to.

Ruthie at The Ship in Blaxhall.Me getting into the party mood.Ruthie and Me at The Ship in Blaxhall.We are lucky as ringers to have the chance to ring the New Year in, and I’ve enjoyed many such occasions at St Mary-le-Tower, Sproughton and Hollesley. This time though, we’d been invited to The Ship in Blaxhall by neighbours Toby and Amy. It was a wonderful night in the dark depths of the far east countryside of Suffolk, with some old faces from my days in nearby Tunstall caught up with, and much food and drink consumed either side of the big countdown at midnight. It was great to finish a wonderful year, in a nice place and with my wife by my side.

However your year has been for you, however you spent tonight, Happy New Year and hopefully see you all in 2013!


Sunday 30th December 2012

The last Sabbath of the year was a quiet one. Ruthie was off work and with the choir of St Mary-the-Virgin, Woodbridge not in action again until 2013, she was able to join Mason and me for ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, though with Grundisburgh not ringing this morning, that was all the ringing we did today.

Instead, the day was laid back, with a trip to Tesco to spend Christmas money on clothes for all three of us about as energetic as the remainder of this Sunday got.


Saturday 29th December 2012

Right at the beginning of the year, I set myself the challenge of ringing my five hundredth peal by the end of the year. I needed to ring thirty-eight to get there, not an insurmountable number considering I’ve rung at least thirty peals a year for the last six years. Three and a bit peals per month, that was all. Well doable.

However, my problems with a kidney stone stopped me in my tracks before I even got going, and meant I didn’t get my first of 2012 until February was nearly upon us. I’d pretty much got on track by July when other things quite rightly took precedence. And with two miscalls and another loss in recent weeks, I thought I’d been tripped at the final hurdle.

Today saw me achieve my aim with just two days of the 366 to go though, and in the end it was at an appropriate venue, with an appropriate band and – in my opinion – an appropriate level of difficulty.

Along with St Mary-le-Tower, Pettistree has become my home tower, a place almost as familiar and comfortable to me as my own home, and it was lovely to ring the big one with my wife, mother-in-law and three others who have played a big part in me reaching this total, though others also deserve credit, especially Simon Rudd who called my first, Stephen Pettman and David Salter. And the same composition which tripped us up a couple of weeks ago here, was certainly a test for Mike as the methods were for the band.

What I’m most proud of with my five hundred peals is the eclectic mix of them. I’m very fortunate that it has introduced me to some of the best ringers in the world, such as the Pipes Rod, George & David, Alison & Mark Regan, David Brown, Michael Wilby, John & Steph Warboys, Robin Hall, Philip & Jennifer Earis, Andrew Mills, David Hull and even Robert Beavis, amongst others. I have been privileged to ring peals in some of the great ringing chambers, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, York Minster, Exeter Cathedral, Redcliffe and the Bullring, and participated in the kind of ringing that many will never get the chance to participate in.

But I also delight in the fact that I’ve helped some through their first peal, from Margaret Forrest who impressively rang inside to 8-Spliced Surprise Major, Annie Quilton, Joel Woolf and my brother. That I’ve also found myself ringing peals at places like the sixes at Farndon and Winthorpe in Nottinghamshire and Tushingham in Cheshire, the ten at Staplehurst in Kent as well as many here in Suffolk, such as the old four at Campsea Ashe, the five in picturesque Badingham and the location of my first ever peal Ashbocking. And that I’ve rung peals of Plain Bob Minor, all of which count the same as any of the spliced Surprise Sixteen I’ve rung.

I’m not a prolific peal-ringer, at least compared to the likes of Colin Turner and Paul Pascoe. It’s taken me twenty years to ring what it takes them a couple of years to get under their belt. I hope to be able to reach a thousand peals one day in the future, but it’s highly unlikely I’ll get to two-thousand, let alone the six-thousand that Mr Turner is poised to hit in the next few months.

But peal-ringing remains for me the best and most enjoyable way of progressing one’s ringing, allowing you to ring with all sorts of people at all sorts of places, giving you the time to hone your skills and produce good ringing (though I’m aware that it doesn’t have a 100% success rate in that field!) in methods you might not usually get the chance to ring. So I’m very pleased to have reached this total and thank all those who have rung a peal with me, thus helping me get to this point.

It’s a point long since passed by Jeremy Spiller who today rang in his 1000th peal of Minor alone in the impressive looking hand-bell peal of 196 Plain Minor methods at his and Cherril’s home in Bacton. Congratulations Jeremy.

Hopefully it is a point that will one day – at the rate that he and his brother are ringing them, it will probably be by the end of next year – be reached by Colin Salter, who today rang his 25th peal in the success at The Wolery so amusingly liked by many on Bellboard. Well done Colin, and well done as well to Nicole Rolph who rang her first quarter of Treble Bob in the 1272 of Kent TB Major at Reydon.

Pettistree Peal Band.However they may have celebrated, we celebrated a worthy success at SS Peter & Paul which doubled up as a peal to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first peal on the rehung bells with a band photo and a drink in The Greyhound before picking Mason up from Mum and Dad’s, whose generosity in looking after the li’l chap on a number of my five hundred peals is another thing to be grateful for. Thanks guys!


Friday 28th December 2012

The Wolery.It’s not often that I get to take Mason peal-ringing with me, but that is an opportunity I’m afforded when I go to The Wolery at times like this when I have the li’l chap in my company. He is always delighted to go there because it means a couple of hours playing with the Salter’s youngest Henry whilst I play on the bells at the top of his garden.

That wasn’t the only good thing about this morning’s peal of Seven Surprise Minor methods. It was Colin Salter’s first of seven Surprise, so well done him. But it also offered an unexpected bonus peal, finally taking me to 499 some seventeen days and two losses after getting number 498 at Rendham, and had partly come about through reading my blog, as the Salters read it, saw my predicament and came to my rescue yesterday! With a re-run of the Pettistree attempt booked in for tomorrow and the traditional New Year’s Eve peal of Grandsire at Grundisburgh lined up for Monday, it gives me back some breathing space as my year-long project to reach 500 by the end of the year reaches a tight climax. Thank you to the Salters.

Ashbocking.We weren’t the only ones ringing peals in Suffolk today, and although the other two were rung for the Society of Stowmarket Youths, well done to Cherril and Jeremy Spiller on ringing their 600th together in the handbell peal at Bacton and Julian Colman on ringing his 150th in the success at Great Barton. And although not for the first time, it was nice to see another all-Scase quarter rung at Ashbocking.

Once reunited with Ruthie after work, we three were visited by bridesmaid and good friend Fergie, before we then met up with more of Ruthie’s former school friends Mark, Vicky and her boyfriend Gavin at The Duke of York in Woodbridge. All good fun and all with Mason accompanying us!


Thursday 27th December 2012

I am very fortunate that I don’t have to return to work until next Wednesday, but sadly for Ruthie – and Mason and me as we’re deprived of her company – it was back to Boots at the depressingly early and dark hour of seven in the morning, particularly tough after so much merry-making with family over the last couple of days.

Mason enjoys one of his many, many presents.That said, on this occasion she was finished for the day four hours later, enabling her to join Mason and me in enjoying our Christmas presents, before we spent the afternoon at Kate’s whilst Pete did some computer business at hers.

Henry Pipe's Peal Band.Meanwhile, whilst it was a shame that he couldn’t ring it at Grundisburgh after all, well done to Henry Pipe on ringing his first tower-bell peal a little closer to home, as he participated in a 5056 of Cambridge Major at Great St Mary in Cambridge.

Although Mrs Munnings had to return to her employers briefly after a few hours at her mothers, we then sat in and relaxed for the evening, consuming left over party food and taking in a night of Agatha Christie TV. We are both very fortunate.


Boxing Day 2012

I usually wake up on Boxing Day feeling slightly subdued, partly due to a hangover, partly because all the sense of anticipation is replaced by a morning-after-the-night-before sensation.

But there was still much to look forward to today, as we started and finished the day with my family and took in a repeat visit to Ruthie’s grandparents in between.

All bar Aunty Marian present at last night’s festivities rose in Ashcroft Road this morning, and having imparted our gratitude and bade our farewells, we briefly returned to our abode to unload our presents before continuing on our journey to meet my wife’s family again. There were one or two missing from yesterday’s meal, but otherwise it was the same place, same time, same fantastic food and amusing company.

It was then our turn to host my family this evening, as our home resounded to the company of Aunty Marian, Mum, Dad, Chris and Becky joining Mason, Ruthie, me and Pete Faircloth as he tries to come to terms with Suzanne’s absence over the holiday season.

It went pretty well too, with crackers pulled, buffet consumed and the evening – once the sleeping elders had left – climaxing in an entertaining game of Articulate. I’m ready for that subdued feeling in the morning again...


Christmas Day 2012

Presents under the tree on Christmas morning!As time has gone on, I’ve grown to appreciate just how much Christmas Day offers a snapshot of how life changes but also stays very familiar.

My earliest memories of 25th December are of Christmas round Chez Ashcroft with Mum, Dad, Chris, Nanna and Granndad from the Munnings side (or Nanna and Granddad Green Door as my brother and I called them due to the colour of their front door in their residence in Beechcroft Road), Aunty Marian, Uncle Eric and his sister Sheila. She was a timid looking lady with a stutter dating back to a bomb blowing up half of her bedroom with her in it when she was a little girl in a raid during World War Two, but was also an avid Ipswich Town fan who would often come out with amusing footy banter, usually against our feathered friends up the A140, and with a mischievous grin on her face.

Sadly we have lost a large proportion of that original crowd that for a many years were essential to my Christmas experience, with my Godfather Uncle Eric sadly the most recent to leave us back in January. It felt strange not to have him sat in the corner on wrapping paper duty today.

More happily, new faces have joined the fun in recent years, as Ruthie and Mason have come into our lives, and today we were delighted to welcome Chris’ girlfriend Becky to her first experience of a Munnings' Christmas.

Back in the day, morning ringing for us would be at St Mary-le-Tower, St Margaret and Sproughton, before returning home to what was then my home for the rest of the day.

SMLT and the six at All Saints that I learnt to ring on still make up my Christmas Day ringing in a link to those days gone by, with the sorry sound of just four ringing out at St Margaret from the edge of Christchurch Park as I made my way into the former for good measure, but the later ringing at Suffolk’s heaviest twelve means that my wife and I now make a habit of grabbing a ring at Pettistree first, though another new introduction this year to our celebrations saw the new Mrs Munnings head to St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge to sing in the choir for the 10am service, meaning she was unable to join me in the rest of my ringing today.

Ruthie tucks into Christmas Day at her grandparents.Mrs Munnings and her cracker ‘gifts’.Mason gets stuck into the presents at his Nana and Granddad’s.Following our morning duties, we met up again to undertake a part of the day that has changed in the last thirty years, but has in itself now become a very traditional part of our celebrations since Ruthie and I first started going out – Christmas dinner at her grandparents, her large family and Ron. This in itself has changed over the last five years, with Clare moving up to Scotland but numerous children being introduced to the festivities, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the superb food, company and hospitality, so many thanks again to our hosts.

Apart from a brief trip to our mechanic Bob and his wife Roz to pick Mason up, the rest of the day took on a familiar tone, with a tremendous buffet at Mum and Dad’s, the dangerously tasty punch, the Christmas beers collected since September and the mammoth present opening session complete with more beers and new Ringing World Diary, as Ruthie and I enjoyed our first Christmas as husband and wife. Familiar and different, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.


Christmas Eve 2012

Whilst Christmas Day is the day I usually enjoy most in a year (though 11th August definitely gets that honour in 2012!), Christmas Eve is perhaps the most magical. All that anticipation and build-up is pretty much complete, and then it’s just a matter of enjoying the day and looking forward to tomorrow.

Even going into work was a pleasant part of the day, despite feeling like the only people going in on this odd Monday of a hopefully relaxing and fun week. As is customary, we were generously released by John Catt at lunchtime, and the time we did spend there was taken up with listening to festive ditties on the radio, everyone excitedly imparting their plans for the next few days and the traditional raffle to pass on the gifts kindly sent to the company by friends, clients and associates undertaken, which this year saw me win a 2013 calendar featuring Kent churches and a rather tasty looking bottle of red wine. One final generous act for the year from our generous employers.

Nonetheless, it was nice finishing up another successful year in the office and heading out into the world to begin the festivities. That said, I couldn’t really begin anything until Ruthie finished work at 5.30pm, as a rather more hectic few days for my wife came to an exhausted end.

Once she was freed though, the fun could really start, as we two enjoyed a lovely evening of drinking, eating and catching up with friends, beginning with a couple of pints at The Mariner round the corner from home, as we drunk to the season with Mason’s Godparents Toby and Kala, and their respective other halves Amy and Nick.

Meanwhile, Alex Rolph was ringing her 25th quarter, her sister Nicole her first inside on eight and father Ed his first on eight, all in the 1260 Bob Triples at Halesworth. Well done to the ringing members of the Rolph family and well done north of the border to the half-Suffolk band that helped continue a long-standing tradition by ringing the fifty-eighth consecutive Christmas Eve peal at Long Stratton.

After our crimbo tipple, Kala and Nick headed off for a family Christmas in Felixstowe, our neighbours returned home to cook sausage rolls, and Mrs Munnings and I were collected by Kate and Ron to be taken to Pettistree, where carols in The Greyhound were followed by ringing for and attendance at Midnight Mass very nicely led by Wickham Market – where ringing has now resumed again after a period of silence to accommodate building work at the bottom of the tower – ringer Rob Rose, before returning to lay our weary, but happy heads down in readiness for the big day much anticipated.


Sunday 23rd December 2012

The weather didn’t feel very Christmassy today. We are fortunate not to have had the horrific floods that some elsewhere in the UK have had, though the effects of yesterday’s constant rainfall could be seen in the puddles and lakes covering many of our country lanes and sodden fields today. But it was quite mild. In fact, I’m sure the 13ºC we peaked at on this Christmas Eve Eve was warmer than some days over the supposed ‘summer’ of 2012.

That didn’t stop us feeling festive by the end of a day that started for Mason and me where it usually does on a Sunday morning, St Mary-le-Tower. In theory I could’ve stopped on for the ringing forty minutes later for the Crib Service as there was no ringing at Grundisburgh this morning. Indeed, if you have any ambitions to ring on Suffolk’s lightest twelve over the Christmas period, then you’re likely to be disappointed, as there is no ringing there on Tuesday for the big day or next Sunday. However, I had promised myself to a needy Ufford this morning and so that’s where my excitable five-year old son and I headed for next, before a relatively quiet afternoon of last minute shopping and taking lunch to a frazzled Ruthie at an increasingly busy Boots.

Great Livermere.The afternoon was hectic for other ringers across the county, especially – unsurprisingly – for those with the surname Salter. Colin in particular made good use of the day, ringing his first blows in Stamford Surprise Minor in the peal at The Wolery, his first in the method in the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Bardwell and his twenty-fifth quarter in the success at Great Livermere. Well done Colin and well done too to his older brother George for also ringing his first blows of Stamford, David Rogers on also ringing his first in the method with Colin at Bardwell and to Nathan Colman on ringing his first of Double Norwich in the 1280 at Stowmarket on a busy and productive day of ringing within our borders, which also saw quarters rung at Hasketon and Pettistree.

Our day wasn’t over though. One of the nice things my wife and I have been able to do this year, is get more involved in life at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, when work and ringing commitments have allowed. For the last couple of years, Mason and I – and Mrs Munnings when she’s been able – have been attending Sunday services on roughly a monthly basis in anticipation of our wedding here back in August, and since Ruthie has begun having every other Sunday off work she has been able to join the choir. It has been an absolute joy, and this evening our integration was highlighted by the parts we played in the church’s Nine Lessons and Carols. I read the second lesson of the service, Genesis, vv.15-18, and have to admit to be being slightly nervous at reading to a packed house that included Ruthie’s grandparents and various VIP’s of the town. It seems daft having spoken to Lesley Dolphin and an audience of thousands on Friday, but at least I couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see me!

Still, my brief and vaguely coherent cameo was nothing compared to my talented missus, who sang as part of a quartet solo from the balcony and played the flute magnificently to Candlelight Carol – as her mother said, it’s amazing what she’d do to get out of singing Rutter! The bellingers did their bit too, by playing I Saw Three Ships and Good King Wenceslas on handbells on a night that of course climaxed with the spine-tingling (certainly with a congregation as large as tonight’s!) renditions of O Come, All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald Angels, all observed by an impeccably behaved (mainly!) Mason.

Christmas Decorations in Woodbridge Ringing Chamber.Mason informing me of something in the Bell & Steelyard.Either side it was all about bells, as beforehand Kate and I helped man the eight bells in a ringing chamber wonderfully decorated by the daughter of Peter, one of the local ringers (and sporting one of the most ingenious uses of a model bell!) and afterwards enjoyed some Frosty Bells in Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard down the hill with Kate and Ron, the spirit of Christmas well and truly ensconced in us, no matter what the weather!

This is my final blog entry that will be written and read before the big day, so it’s a good point to send out Christmas greetings from Mason, Ruthie and me, especially as yet again, our Christmas card distribution has been so hopeless! I got to read the latest edition of Awl a’huld today, and thought that Gordon Slack summed up perfectly what it means to be a bellringer at this time of year. Bells are an integral part of so many people’s view of the perfect Christmas. Watch almost any adaption of A Christmas Carol, and bells will be heard ringing out as Scrooge awakes a new man on Christmas Morning, and many will be drawn to church by the sound of our ringing as they look to get in touch with what the festival means to them. We are privileged to be able to do what we do, not just now but all through the year. So enjoy the ringing you do over this period, think about how much joy it will be giving many people and above all else, have a very, very Happy Christmas!


Saturday 22nd December 2012

Ah, those Christmas traditions. Visiting relatives, using the postal system for the first time since last December, Brussels sprouts, panto, Christmas ringing on all of Ipswich’s ringable town centre bells, John Girt at said ringing event telling us we need to get our cars out of St Margaret School’s car-park before he leaves or we’ll get locked in for the weekend, and stuffing the turkey. Though don’t get those last two the wrong way round. You won’t be able to understand the bird, and John will be uncomfortable.

Mr Girt was amongst many people who deserved thanks and credit for helping make this year’s festive ringing in Suffolk’s county town so, so successful for the umpteenth year running, as along with his wife Shirley and fellow St Margaret’s ringer Angela Cable, they watered and fed us superbly with tea, coffee, biscuits and mince pies, in the church attached to their home tower, once the fifty-one bells of the town had been rung simultaneously.

St Stephen.Thanks also have to go to those who – like John G – generously allowed their bells to be rung and arranged access at St Clement, St Lawrence, St Mary at the Quay, St Mary-le-Tower, St Matthew, St Nicholas, St Stephen and our post-ringing hosts St Margaret, as well as all those who travelled into Ipswich on the last Saturday before the 25th and on the occasion of ITFC’s final home match of 2012. But most of all, well done and an immense thank you to Brian Redgers on organising and arranging what remains for me a real highlight of the ringing year. Knowing how hard it often is just to get six ringers together at the same place at the same time, I am constantly in awe at how year after year Brian gets more than enough to man all of Ipswich town centre’s ringable, full-circle bells, especially at this hectic time of year for us ringers. He has had some bad luck in the past with snow, shootings and occasionally key holders, so I’m always delighted when everything works out so perfectly! He, and all those mentioned above, deserved the praise lavished on them by South-East District Chairman/woman/person-elect Mary Garner.

Mason, Ruthie and I were at St Mary-le-Tower where some Grandsire Caters was sandwiched with two lots of nice Call-Changes on Twelve as many of the usuals were joined by Chris McArthur and one of his learners from Brandeston and Kettleburgh.

Beforehand, we had snuck a very pleasant traditional visit to my wife’s Nan to drop presents, cards and season’s greetings to her, and a not-so-pleasant visit to Ipswich’s shops for some last minute Crimbo gift hunting.

Afterwards, the li’l chap was willingly whisked off with his grandparents to take in another of those aforementioned festive traditions, the panto at The Regent, which this year is Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the world’s smallest Surprise Major band.

With Ruthie also occupied with choir practice at St Mary’s once we returned to Woodbridge, I took this afternoon as the best opportunity to raid Tesco for some food for the Christmas period, particularly for our planned evening as hosts on Boxing Day. It seemed everyone else from the area agreed, including my workmate Pete and his wife Mel, as we battled through the huge crowds.

Others found a better use for the day though, most particularly Harry Garrod, who today rang his first quarter in the success at Bardwell, which also doubled up as Ruth Young’s fiftieth this year! Congratulations Ruth and very well done Harry! Who knows, it may be the start of a new Christmas tradition for him!


Friday 21st December 2012

At 11.11am GMT today, the world was supposed to end. Not that those of us left in the office at work seemed overly concerned. As one said, “If it doesn’t happen, it isn’t the end of the world.”

And indeed it wasn’t. The appointed time came and went, without so much as the flimsy fencing around the building site for a residential home opposite the office falling. It meant some of us were able to accept a festive invitation for mince pies and mulled wine at eduFOCUS, one of the other companies at the Deben Mill Business Centre, where I met Tony Pinfold, acquaintance of ringers such as the McBurnie’s and my mother-in-law! Mind you, who in the Woodbridge area doesn’t know Kate?

A lack of Armageddon also allowed me to speak with Lesley Dolphin on Radio Suffolk about Saturday’s Christmas Ringing in Ipswich, pick Mason up after his last day at school and join him and Ruthie in heading to Pete Faircloth’s to celebrate his birthday with pie. Thanks Pete and Happy Birthday!

In the days leading up to our apparently certain doom, I missed Tim Stanford’s impressive feat in ringing his first quarter of Surprise in the 1296 of Cambridge Minor at Pettistree on Wednesday, apparently only the third or fourth time he’d rung a touch of Cambridge. Well done Tim!

Indeed, well done all of us on surviving the latest date of destruction!


Thursday 20th December 2012

Disappointingly, after much build up and anticipation, Grundisburgh practice was cancelled this evening, with the Pipes unable to make it and a number of others put off by what was admittedly a terrible evening.

Chediston.The wind and rain didn’t stop those quarter-pealing at Chediston from ringing their first of Oxford Treble Bob Minor with a 1272 rung in forty-two minutes. Well done guys. The conditions didn’t stop Ruthie making it to choir practice and then us two wandering down to The Mariners, which was looking typically festive and where we were joined by Toby and Amy. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to go to Grundisburgh as well.


Wednesday 19th December 2012

Until a few weeks ago, my plans to ring my 500th peal before the end of the year were going well and looking good. Following the successful peal of Yorkshire Major at Hollesley less than a month ago, I had five to ring to get to the landmark, and seven peals arranged that I was booked into before 2012’s demise. Well six if you believe the world will end on Friday. I had room for error, I could afford a couple of losses.

Even as recently as last Tuesday when we scored that brisk peal at Rendham - one of those seven peals already lost, but still with room to manoeuvre - I still felt confident. The days since then, haven’t been good for my aims. The peal lost at Pettistree on Saturday still left me with two peals from two to score before the end of New Year’s Eve, but I was aware that going into this evening’s attempt of London Major at Ardleigh in Essex that we needed to get it. Sadly, we never really got going and the peal was lost in a big heap. The omens were perhaps not great. Alex Tatlow, who was in the band and was still searching for his first in the method, had seven losses in it to his name. And the peal itself had already suffered a number of setbacks before we even crossed south of the border. It was originally booked in at Henley, before a service was arranged for 8.30pm. With it being unlikely that we’d get started before 6pm, even I wouldn’t guarantee getting a peal of Surprise Major round in that space of time, so it was moved to St Mary-le-Tower, where it promptly came to our attention that The Evening Star would be holding their Carol Service there this evening, prompting Stephen Cheek’s very kind offer of the bells at St Mary the Virgin.

That said, we started well enough, but with something like London, you are rarely far away from a potential collapse. At least on this occasion, it was only half-an-hour in, but this of course opened the door for an attempt at a quarter, which went much the same way as the peal, though an injury to one of the band members finished it perhaps slightly earlier than it would’ve gone.

As I contemplated where, when and how I was going to fit another peal in over the next twelve days, we consoled ourselves with a pint at The Sun in Dedham. It is a lovely pub, particularly the side room, the walls paneled with wood, the lighting dimmed and at this time of year the Christmas tree sitting in the window – I could just imagine Hercule Poirot wandering in!

And at least whilst we were losing our attempt, there was a peal rung elsewhere for the Guild, as Clare Veal and Colin Salter rang their first peal of Little Bob in the 5040 at The Wolery, an attempt which saw Colin’s older brother George ring his 75th in total. Well done to all three of you!

One time I shan’t be able to pick an extra peal up, is Saturday morning, when Brian Redgers’ brilliantly organized ringing round Ipswich will be on, with all ringers welcome. To help publicize this wonderful event to the public, I shall be on Radio Suffolk talking to Lesley Dolphin at about 1.40pm on Friday, so listen out for that.

Meanwhile, I shall return to trying to arrange another peal…


Tuesday 18th December 2012

By the nature of the beast, things get quiet in the sales team during the last full week before Christmas. After all, we predominantly work with independent schools and most of them were closed for the festive holidays by last Friday, with some even shut down the Friday before. Indeed, most companies wind down slowly this week, with people taking early holiday and few major decisions taken, and in turn, so do we, with our last day at work until the New Year being next Monday.

Usually, we are reduced to tidying up desks, shredding, or moving desks. This year, we’ve decided to box a little cleverer and use the time more productively, so this afternoon we found ourselves in a meeting room at Woodbridge Library – which was encouragingly busy - doing some sales training. It was quite dry, especially when I looked at the clock and considered what – God willing – I should be doing in exactly a week’s time, but it was useful and it did help pass another of those dull afternoons that this week normally throws up.

Earlier, we had a visit from Lewis the plumber to replace our faulty kitchen taps, more than a little bit of a relief with our kitchen in use big time on Boxing Day. So tonight we enjoyed a quiet evening at home of cheese and biscuits, hanging our Christmas cards up, and watching festive TV, as well as using our taps lots!


Monday 17th December 2012

With next Monday being Christmas Eve and the following New Year’s Eve, tonight saw the last St Mary-le-Tower practice of the year, and it is interesting to look at my blog on the last practice of last year, as it shows that progress has been made. 19th December 2011 was the culmination of a year of Monday evenings that had seen us push on our ten-bell repertoire, and we were disappointed a year ago not to have been able to ring London Royal (No.3) very well, but there were hopes expressed of moving into more twelve-bell ringing.

Fast forward to tonight, and it is clear that David has been successful in his aims for ringing at SMLT. Looking back, a lower attendance to the norm seems to be a pattern of the last practices before Christmas and New Year, and tonight was no different, so we were unable to ring the Superlative Max which has increasingly become the norm, but London Royal was rung – at least at the second attempt – very well, and we finished the year of practices with a decently rung touch of Stedman Cinques. The way we ring Stedman has been a particularly satisfactory aspect of our ringing in 2012. Stedman more than any other highlights a band’s attitude and levels of concentration. It doesn’t take much to learn Stedman per se. It is double-dodging from 4-5 above, and either quick or slow front work, on any number, bar singles of course. But with no treble ringing a set path and coursing order thrown about a bit more than in standard methods, it takes immense concentration, particularly on higher numbers. At the beginning of this year, we seemed not to have the ability to concentrate and we couldn’t even get through a plain course without a mistake on one occasion. It didn’t say much clever about us.

Encouragingly now, we have moved on. Touches of Stedman Cinques – like tonight’s – represent little problem to us, even on a night where some ringers are missing. And when we get it right, it produces some marvelous striking. It all excites me greatly as I consider the prospects for Suffolk’s heaviest twelve in 2013. Keep up the good work David!

And keep up the good work at Lavenham! As most will be aware, this grand eight in its imposing but spectacular ringing chamber, has a strong ringing tradition, so I was delighted to see that the first quarter-peal by a Sunday service band from SS Peter & Paul for ten years was rung there today. Well done and congratulations guys.

After such an achievement, they would’ve been well within their rights to pop to the local afterwards, and we felt the same about ours, so of course we ended up in The Cricketers, as we reflected on the fact that there is still ringing to be done at SMLT before 31st December. Wednesday at 7pm sees the Evening Star hold their Carol Service at the church, and there will be ringing half-an-hour beforehand if anyone can and would like to help out. A bit harder to man will be ringing from 10.10-10.30am on Sunday for the Crib Service, as I’m aware a lot of people will be ringing at their own towers then, but if you are about, David would be delighted to see you, as he would be if you can help out with ringing for the Carol Service, from 6-7pm on Christmas Eve. And if you have intentions on coming along on the big day itself next Tuesday, ringing will be later than it usually is on a Sunday morning, running from 9.45-10.30am.

Of course most people reading this won’t be able to join us, but it does highlight the busy and different nature of this time of year at most churches, with extra services and changes from usual times, so please do check with your local tower and help where you can. And regardless of how 2012 has gone for your tower, set yourselves some targets and make 2013 a year of progress.


Sunday 16th December 2012

The majority of people seem to be into the swing of the pre-Christmas period that is so enjoyable. Driving through the darkness of Suffolk’s countryside at the moment, the black is punctuated across the landscape by random displays of multi-coloured lights, the warmness of the season seemingly being enjoyed in isolated country dwellings, reassuringly.

Though not exactly isolated in the suburbs of Woodbridge, Kate decided this afternoon to add her abode to the display, so we were invited round for Mason to help decorate her tree. As with helping with ours, it was lovely to see the li’l chap with a big smile on his face, hanging baubles, snowmen and characters from Winnie the Pooh as far up as he could reach.

He was already in a very good mood, having been to the sixth birthday of his schoolmate Samuel, held – as most celebrations seem to be – at St Audrys Sports and Social Club on the outskirts of Melton, where fairground games had been set up, allowing the li’l chap’s ingenuity to flourish. The first game he came across was trying to hook a duck out of a paddling pool. Having been told a prize would be awarded for hooking out the one with the number six written on the bottom, he promptly picked them all up until he found said duck, held onto to it trying to hook the stick to it, before giving up, waving it at the lady manning the stall, and amazingly being given a prize! Sometimes I’m not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed…

I left him to it whilst I rejoined Ruthie, her mother and Ron for a splendid roast lamb dinner – thanks Kate – before picking him up in readiness for our afternoon of festiveness. Preceding all of this was a morning in church at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, with my wife in the choir and me helping make up eight in the ringing chamber. The ringing got better and some very respectable rounds were produced to ring another large congregation in, a congregation which was treated to a presentation by a lady from the Salvation Army and a copy of the East Anglican, which this month gives bellringing a star billing on its front cover, with a brilliant article on the simulator at Helmingham on page five. It’s great PR for ringing in a magazine that will go to the people we’re still most likely to recruit from, and even ringer Peter Lucas from Gislingham gets in on the act opposite the Helmingham story, though he is photographed standing next to a toilet. Probably best to actually read the magazine.

And whilst we missed ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this morning to go to church, we were at SMLT this evening for the last special practice there of 2012, where extensive practice was done of Superlative Maximus. Whilst not our best ringing, it should serve as a useful session, topped by a well-struck touch of Little Bob Max before we three returned to a much warmer home.

Meanwhile, as we were doing all of the above, other ringers were busy in ringing chambers across the county, not least at Great Barton where Clare Veal and David Howe rang their most Surprise Minor methods and their first of Bourne and Caithness in the 5040 at Holy Innocents. Well done guys, and well done to Pete Faircloth who rang his first quarter of Yorkshire Major in the success at Ufford, no doubt imbibed with the Christmas spirit (happy chappy that he is!) by my mother-in-law, now she has her decorations up!


Saturday 15th December 2012

We awoke to the continuing sound of running water, but thankfully nothing worse. We had a busy morning ahead, as I needed to pick Mason up from his mother’s and take him to Mum and Dad’s, who were very kindly looking after him whilst Ruthie and I rang in the annual mid-December Pettistree peal attempt. Part of me considered pulling out to get our tap problem fixed, but that would’ve been unfair at such short notice to the others in the band, however understanding they might have been of our circumstances, so instead Ron very, very kindly popped round – thanks Ron - whilst we were out to see if he could find any solutions. Try as he might, he couldn’t, so straight after ringing, I was on the phone to the letting agents and Lewis the plumber – an extremely friendly and likeable chap as it turned out – was on his way to ours.

In many respects, his visit was reassuring, as he struggled as much as we and Ron had to stem the flow, but it also identified the many problems with our plumbing, which will need sorting out. He at least managed to stop the tap running (though I’m not sure even he knew how!) after over twelve hours of it going, but we have no water in the kitchen until at least Monday when he hopes to return with a replacement tap. With the heating having been off all day, and a pile of washing-up we were unable to attack, Kate very kindly fed and accommodated we three tonight, but not before we had popped into Ipswich town centre for some more Christmas shopping and then paid Aunty Marian a visit.

We were particularly keen to do the latter, as today would’ve been Uncle Eric’s 85th birthday, but is sadly the first since his passing at the beginning of the year. We have missed him ever since of course, especially when he would’ve had a lot to say on the goings on at Ipswich Town, and obviously with his absence at our wedding, an event he would have reveled in. But starting with his birthday today, there will be a number of occasions over the next few weeks when we will particularly reflect upon him not being around, with our first Christmas without him and then the anniversary of his death in just over a month. Unfortunately with all our plumbing problems taking up more time than we would’ve care for, and darkness falling as we left the cosy home of my father’s sister, we had to abandon a visit to him in Ipswich Cemetery, but Happy Birthday Uncle Eric.

The peal attempt earlier in the day in amongst our other problems, is an unfortunate tale, as just a couple of weeks or so after losing a peal just minutes from the end due to a miscall, the same happened here, this time 2hrs15mins into a peal that would probably have come round in about 2hrs35-40mins. Whilst unlucky to have been struck by such misfortune twice in a short period, these things happen. It was difficult composition of 8-Spliced Surprise Minor which had been rung well and called brilliantly up to that point. And besides, if we scored them all, there would be no real achievement in the ones we do get.

Polstead.So well done those who did score today, at least in quarter-peals, and particularly Neal Dodge who not only rang his first quarter of Plain Bob Minor in the 1260 at Polstead, but also his first of Major in the success at Boxford. Well done Neal, congratulations Maggie Ross on circling Halesworth to quarters three times, and although having no Suffolk connections at all – as far as I’m aware – very well done to the band which rang a handbell peal of Bob Minor in Dunstable on Thursday, as it was the first peal for ALL of them! Quite a feat, though I bet they’re glad they didn’t have to sit next to a constantly running tap the whole way through!


Friday 14th December 2012

What do you say to a famous person when you meet them? Not famous like Robert Beavis, but properly famous, or at least famous to most who have a TV.

Ruthie, me and Kate with Alan Davies after his show.Tonight, Kate, Ruthie and I met Alan Davies, the comedian and actor who appears on QI, my wife’s favourite show by far, which ironically we missed a new episode of to see the funny man’s show at The Regent in Ipswich this evening. Having done the show, he then signed autographs afterwards, so we queued with Scott from work who had also attended, eventually coming face-to-face with the star. A blurred photo taken by one of the attendants and the moment came to part with words of wisdom, words he would obviously remember for life. ‘Thank you Alan, and get some sleep.’

It was all I could think of to say, and to be fair he seemed to appreciate the sentiment as he smiled tiredly back and nodded gently. After all, he looked shattered, and perhaps understandably so, as bar a couple of randomly placed dates in February, this was the penultimate gig of a tour that started back in September, taking him across the UK. No doubt he’s been paid handsomely for it, and unlike most of us he can afford a couple of months break following his show in Brighton on Sunday, but a look at his tour schedule was enough to make me feel exhausted.

Mind you, that exhaustion may have had as much to do with a day of eating and drinking, as with typical generosity, John Catt Educational took all its employees out for its Christmas meal today. Like last year, we were at The Crown in Woodbridge, where the food and drink was great. I couldn’t resist getting into the festive spirit and having turkey, and sandwiched it with a terrine and a pannacotta (not literally you understand), but as nice as it all was, it was time spent with friends that was so enjoyable about this afternoon, and this carried on into The Anchor nearby once we’d finished, by which point Ruthie had joined me for an evening that was to be quite superb.

Whilst we were enjoying comedy from sleepy stand-ups, Tim Stanford was ringing his first quarter on eight in the 1296 of Bob Major at Rendham. Since picking up ringing more regularly in the last couple of months, Tim has been a joy to ring with, keen, enthusiastic and popping up everywhere, and as a result, his progress has been really good. He is a great example of why it is worth persevering with young ringers, because even if they do give up – as many do when other ‘cooler’ things come along – they will still have a good grounding if and when circumstances bring them back to ringing. Well done Tim.

So a good night all round. That was until I made the ‘mistake’ of turning the hot water tap on in the kitchen when we finally got home. Because it wouldn’t turn off. And the stopcocks wouldn’t budge. We didn’t seem to have a number supplied by our letting agents for a plumber, and being 11.30pm, we couldn’t get a number. Unless we wanted to cancel Christmas, we weren’t prepared to call a random plumber out at that time, and we didn’t want to disturb any friends who might be able to help that late either. So with everything running freely and unlikely to flood, we left it going, the lesser of two evils, but still not ideal for a good night’s sleep. I just hope Alan Davies got a good night in.


Thursday 13th December 2012

Ufford.Some hit-and-miss Bristol, a decent initial attempt at London and some well-rung courses of Cambridge and Yorkshire, made up the last Surprise Major Practice at Ufford of the year. We were definitely helped by the later arrival of Ruthie and Kate as my mother-in-law picked up my wife from choir practice, but before and after their arrival, it was a typically useful and focused session. Mike is to be congratulated on running these practices so well, and Kate thanked for the use of the bells, and I certainly feel there has been progress made over 2012.

Grundisburgh.Our presence at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of course meant we couldn’t make Grundisburgh practice tonight. Unsurprisingly – even considering the recent upturn – there was no practice at the county’s lightest twelve this evening anyway though. However, there will be next week, as four of the most famous ringers on the planet come to the village, with David and Cecilia Pipe bringing their talented sons Henry and Alfie. David Pipe is of course one of the best – if not the best – ringers in the history of the art, and although her achievements seem modest in comparison (whose wouldn’t?!), Mrs Pipe is an outstanding ringer in her own right. And of course the two boys have made headlines in recent years as first Henry and then Alfie became the youngest to ever ring a quarter-peal, and HJWP rang his first peal at the tender age of seven years old, two-and-a-half years ago. Now at the veteran age of nine, he has since rung five further peals, all - rather impressively – on hand-bells. In exactly two weeks time though, he will attempt his first ever peal on tower-bells, and Grundisburgh has been chosen as the venue.

Now, on the face of it, much-maligned, l’il ol’ Grundisburgh may seem an odd place for such a momentous moment in an already famous ringing career, but it is rather appropriate actually. Henry’s great-grandfather Cecil ‘Jim’ Pipe was born and brought up in the neighbouring village of Hasketon, and was tower captain for many years at St Mary the Virgin. His son, and the young boys’ grandfather Rod – who raised the bar to what many thought was an impossible height to jump, and who we sadly lost last year – learnt to ring in the red brick tower. Although born and raised in the West Midlands, their Ipswich-Town-supporting father David has a great affinity with Suffolk and a peal board above the entrance into the ringing chamber, records that at the age of eleven he rang his first peal of Double Norwich Major - and indeed only his second peal altogether – on the back eight of what was then a ten.

However, when approached about having the bells for this historic attempt, Stephen Pettman sensibly suggested that they pop over from Cambridge for a practice, before throwing a nine-year old onto bells that many bigger and more experienced ringers have struggled on, so next Thursday evening is that opportunity. So do come over and help if you can. Apart from being a chance to get another practice going, and hopefully in the long-run contribute to them getting up-and-running more permanently, it will be great to meet up with this wonderful family and for some of us to indirectly help the ringing career of a young chap, who may very well take ringing onto the next level.

Stowlangtoft.Whilst maybe the most famous, Henry isn’t the only young ringer making progress in our ancient art, and indeed closer to home we saw evidence of that today, as fourteen-year-old Hannah Stokes rang her first quarter at the first attempt in the success at Worlingham. Well done Hannah and ‘well done’ to the band who rang their first of Minimus in the 1272 at Stowlangtoft. And that’s all you can ask for in ringing. Keep trying new things, whether you’re a nine-year-old about to attempt your first tower-bell peal, a fourteen-year old ringing your first 1260, a seasoned band of quarter-peal ringers ringing their first of Minimus, or us lot trying to improve our Surprise Major.


Wednesday 12th December 2012

If I have the opportunity to read this blog on New Year’s Day, 2101, two things in particular will impress – no, amaze – me. One is the thought that my lifespan will have overlapped not just those whose own lives have crossed with people from as far back as the 1800’s and even the end of the 1700’s, but also with people whose lives will cross with those who will be tasked with taking humanity into the 23rd and even 24th centuries.

Most amazingly is that I would be 122 years old, a victory for those of us who ignore the latest health advice telling us that everything we’re doing will kill us (as if we’re going to live forever if we listen to them), over those who obsess about their health and yet are just as likely to be knocked down by a bus tomorrow as anyone. I’m struck by the fact that each report of a centenarian revealing the secret of their long life is a glass of whisky and twenty fags every day since their fourteenth birthday, is generally balanced out by a tragic tale of a teetotal, fitness fanatic collapsing in their forties. So enjoy life, and if you’re reading this on you’re hover screen in just over eighty-eight years time future me, well done – but sort your eyebrows out!

Whether I make the first day of the first month of 2101 or not, today is the last day until then when the date, month and year are the same (12/12/12 for those who haven’t worked it out yet), prompting an unusual number of weddings for a Wednesday in December, and a media rush to find out about babies who had been born at 12.12 today. However, as special and interesting as that all is, it wasn’t the most special and interesting thing about today for me.

Rather, the special part of my day came with a trip to Mason’s school to watch him perform in their Christmas production, Whoops-a-Daisy Angel, the telling of the nativity story through the eyes of a clumsy angel. The li’l chap performed his role as a snowflake, blown around by the wind to perfection, and the whole performance was sweet, spine-tingling festive magic at its very best, and as usual I was grateful to work for letting me out to watch it.

The interesting part of the day for Ruthie and me came after work, firstly in the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree, which saw us participate in a very well rung 1272 of Cambridge, Ipswich, Primrose, Norfolk, Norwich, Hull, Bourne and York Surprise Minor, and was also Mary Garner’s 100th this year – well done Mary! It was very enjoyable, but with nothing in the cupboard at home after a busy couple of evenings, and no time before the quarter to grab anything, we left SS Peter & Paul temporarily in search of food. We had intended to pop to the chippy in neighbouring Wickham Market, but with conditions again very icy and new people in The Greyhound, we decided instead to pop into the pub just yards from the church, rather than getting into the car again.

The new people running it are a nice couple called Stuart and Louise, who have come – in what must be a very daunting move for them – down from Scotland to replace Karen and Tony. It certainly seems quieter without Karen in particular, but then anyone coming in would probably have struggled with that! And they have changed the atmosphere a little too, with the pub lit simply by candlelight, a nice touch in my opinion. The food was nice too, though a little on the sparse side for my liking, and already they seem to be getting on with the locals, which is a good sign for the future.

They certainly didn’t put us off returning after the practice for a drink, by which time we had consumed much cake and chocolate on offer for Mrs Roger’s birthday, her grandson Alex continued his progress under my wife’s watchful eye and Tim Stanford rang inside to a touch of Cambridge Minor for the first time with some aplomb. It was nice too to see Bill again after his recent marriage, as well as James Whitby who paid us a visit and even rang down with us, on a night where elsewhere Colin Salter was once more achieving on the end of a rope. This time it was at home, as he rang his most methods to a peal in the success at The Wolery – well done Colin!

Beccles.There is also good news from Beccles, where ringing has started up again after a few weeks out of action, which is great to hear. Hopefully the work done will keep them going until 01/01/2101 at least!


Tuesday 11th December 2012

On a freezing evening like this, at this time of year, our county’s village pubs are – in my humble opinion – at their very best. One such example is The White Horse in Rendham, the delightful village which hugs a corner along the main road between Saxmundham and Framlingham in deepest rural Suffolk, where Ruthie and I found ourselves tonight. In front of a roaring fire, tinsel adorning the walls and timber beams, old photos of the Home Guards of Sweffling & Rendham and the 8th Suffolk Battalion and the 1949 pub dominoes ‘final’ featuring characters with such wonderful names as Ringler Tye and Roy Churchyard, and a pint of Earl Soham Vic each in our hands, the cold outside felt a very long way away!

Rendham.We also felt we’d earned it, having rung peal number 498 immediately across the road at St Michael beforehand, a feeling further vindicated by the positive remarks we received from the locals in the pub afterwards. Despite the entrance of the choir for practice partway through – which we had been forewarned about, and actually created a lovely sense of activity on a night when so many will no doubt have been cowering in their homes - the peal itself was a brisk and well rung effort, especially by young Colin Salter who was ringing his first of Yorkshire. Well done Colin, and thank you to the band for coming out on such a cold night to help me, and particularly to Jonathan Stevens and John Tesh for arranging for the bells to be available.

Having had a slippery exit from Sweffling in the car, we opted to take the main roads back, warmed by our experiences this evening on an icy night. We are very lucky in this part of the world.


Monday 10th December 2012

The decorations are now up at work and the Christmas card ‘filing box’ is out at St Mary-le-Tower, where a decent practice was climaxed with a couple of leads of Superlative Max and topped off with a drink in The Cricketers.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty to occupy ringers this week, with the North-East District Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham and Midweek Ringers going to Henley and Offton, all happening tomorrow, and the Bacton Monthly Practice running on Wednesday night, before the week is topped off with the South-West District Carol Service at All Saints in Sudbury. It’s all beginning to feel very festive.


Sunday 9th December 2012

I’ve mentioned once or twice before, that we in Suffolk struggle to get resident bands for peals of Surprise Maximus. We’re not alone, as Essex has a similar predicament. Every now and again, we like to join forces to meet our aims, so this afternoon, I parked up outside the Pipe’s abode in Ipswich and tagged along with them and David Potts for a lift to such an attempt at Chelmsford Cathedral.

The original plan had been to go for a peal of Jubilee Surprise Maximus, as we near the end of this most celebrated of years. However, a recent car accident involving Philip Wilding who was due to have rung in the attempt, put paid to ringing this out-of-the-ordinary method at short notice, though ultimately we were all more relieved to hear that Phil had come out of what was apparently quite a serious crash, with nothing worse than an injured shoulder. Our wishes go out to this popular and superb ringer.

In his absence and with Diana very kindly standing in, we changed the method to the more familiar Cambridge Max, and despite the indistinct sound of the finest Warner twelve in the world and the huge organ immediately below us practically obliterating the sound of our ringing throughout most of the fifth and sixth courses, we produced a decent 3hrs25mins - which we also rang for the sad passing of Jack Dear from Hertfordshire today, a man well known to many in our Guild, some of whom attended his recent 90th birthday celebrations - before eventually ringing a nice touch of Stedman Cinques for evensong.

Warwick Avenue.Predictably and understandably, most headed onto the pub, but David wanted to be back in time to put his Christmas tree up and I was keen to get back to Woodbridge to meet up with Mason again, who had very kindly been taken to see Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends near Colchester, as well as Father Christmas, by Kate and Ron. As if that wasn’t generous enough, they then fed me, the li’l chap and Ruthie who had by then finished work – thank you very much guys! We made our way home past the typically impressive display in Warwick Avenue, as a very satisfactory day drew to an end.

Brandon.Earlier in the day, Mason and I had rung at St Mary-le-Tower, and then given George Salter a lift to Grundisburgh to collect the keys in readiness for this afternoon’s peal of Freasley Surprise Major. And they weren’t the only successful peal-ringers in the county today, with a notable 5040 rung at Brandon which also saw David Rogers ring his most methods to a peal. Well done David.

And well done Josephine Beever on ringing her fiftieth quarter in 2012 with the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Great Finborough. There was also a nice footnote for Peter and Wendie Summers at The Norman Tower, as they rang their first quarter together for thirty years! For all our difficulties in getting resident ringers for peals on twelve within our borders, it’s great to see that we still have plenty of ringing talent in the Guild achieving!


Saturday 8th December

Christmas shopping in Ipswich. We try to avoid it if we can, but having awoken at Mum and Dad’s and left them to depart to Northamptonshire for the weekend, we felt we ought to make the effort anyway.

It turned out exactly as we expected – crowded, cold and frustrating and the main town Christmas ‘tree’ that I was so impressed with when lit up was disappointing in the daylight, exposed as an ugly metal sculpture. Still, presents were purchased, so I suppose we can count that as mission accomplished.

Exhausted from that, and last night catching up on Ruthie, me and Mason (who had had his school’s disco before we went out last night), our afternoon consisted of much laying about, our slumber only lifted briefly as we wrapped presents and listened to Ipswich Town beating Millwall 3-0.

Great Finborough.Thankfully, other ringers were more active in Suffolk today, with peals and quarters rung across the county, most notably at Great Finborough where Clare Veal rang her 25th quarter. Well done Clare, I’m sure you were having more fun then we were this morning!


Friday 7th December 2012

When I was living in my little pink cottage in Tunstall, I put a touring quarter-peal band up for the night, consisting of the likes of Tim Palmer, Dave Matthews and Simon Webb amongst others who I had got to know during my time in Birmingham. I’d joined in with a quarter at Grundisburgh, but during the evening we went to A Passage to India in Fore Street, Ipswich for a curry. Somewhere along the line, it seemed a good idea for some of us to have a phall. For those not entirely familiar with curry lingo, the phall is pretty much the hottest curry you can get from your average Indian restaurant, a sort of nuclear curry designed to burn your insides.

Predictably, it was an uncomfortable experience and I couldn’t finish mine. Mr Matthews admitted to having an out-of-body experience. And it was lucky it was July and hot (when summers used to be hot), as an awful lot of windows needed opening. Curiously, I couldn’t stop humming a certain Johnny Cash song.

Tonight, I returned to the scene of that excruciatingly hot meal for the first time since that night, this time with Ruthie of course and for the second annual St Mary-le-Tower Christmas Curry. As with last year, we all started in The Cricketers, drinking festively named pints like Elf Esteem, which in couple of months time will probably be called Valentine’s Arrow and then Easter Bunny. Unlike last year though, we were missing a couple as Ian Culham was unable to get back from Leeds where he’d been for work and our esteemed leader David Potts, also due to work.

Still, the rest of us made a good night of it, before Jed and Rowan very kindly gave us a lift to the bottom of Ashcroft Road where we were being put up (with) for the night, and where Mum and Dad were very kindly looking after Mason. Thank you guys!

Meanwhile, well done to Tracey Scase on ringing her first quarter of Norwich Minor in the success at Earl Stonham today. I know a good curry house where you can celebrate Tracey, just be careful not to order the phall!


Thursday 6th December 2012

Ruthie was at choir practice and there was no Grundisburgh practice, so a rather normal, if slightly dull Thursday evening.

However, not so for others! Well done to Glenys Fear, Ray Lewis and Anne Buswell on ringing their first quarter of Stedman Doubles in the successful 1260 at Campsea Ashe today.


Wednesday 5th December 2012

The first snow of this winter in this area fell today. As pretty as it is, experience worries me as I aim to gobble up those remaining peals that I need to ring in the next twenty-six days, as I continue to aim to get to five hundred by the end of 2012.

The Wolery Peal Band.Still, despite the soon-to-be-described-as-treacherous conditions today, I managed to knock one off tonight as we finally scored in a peal of Ewen Surprise Major at The Wolery, that we would’ve rung last month if I’d read my emails properly. It wasn’t our best, as we shivered in the shed in hats, coats and gloves, and Tom discovered part-way through that he’d stepped in something rather unpleasant, but there was some decent ringing over the 1hr46mins and it leaves me with just four more to get to reach the magic number.

It also transpired to be the 200th on the bells, so following the usual copious amounts of tea, cake and biscuits, the band posed for photos before we made our way back home in that winter wonderland.


Tuesday 4th December 2012

A brass band belted out festive favourites beside the trolleys at Tesco, and Fairytale of New York playing on the radio on the journey home. We seem well and truly in the midst of the season, and with that in mind, it seems a good time to remind folk of Saturday’s ringing events with a seasonal theme. In the morning you can attend the North-West District Christmas Social at Buxhall, and then travel across our beautiful county to Benhall for the 4pm North-East District Carol Service.

Sadly, one thing you shan’t be able to do on Wednesday night, is go to the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice, as the third at Beccles has not been re-installed yet. So no Ding-Dong Merrily On High there this week.

However, congratulations this evening to Caroline Bass on ringing her first quarter inside, achieved in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Offton. Once in Royal Brian’s City…


Monday 3rd December 2012

So we have a royal birth to anticipate. If all goes to plan, it will mean another summer of celebration, as the Royal Family continues giving us reasons to ring peals!

Therefore, we began practicing ringing for the big event at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Not that it was our best ringing. Little Bob Max took two courses to produce considered striking, but did indeed improve, London Royal (No.3) was again rung well off the cuff, and Stedman Cinques was reasonably decent and good practice for George Salter, who generally applied himself well.

Whilst most headed to The Cricketers, Ruthie and I took up an invitation to visit neighbours Toby and Amy to catch up and watch TV that wasn’t just about a certain pregnancy!


Sunday 2nd December 2012

Yesterday was good fun, but today was the one that Mason in particular has really been looking forward since we told him about this trip on Friday night.

Mason trying out his bow and ‘arrows’.It began with a legacy of yesterday’s trip to the scene of the Battle of Hastings, as following breakfast, the li’l chap and I stood on the frosty lawn out the front of the Claverton Country House Hotel, testing his newly acquired bow and ‘arrows’, before the real fun began.

Passing some Sunday morning ringing at the 7cwt six at Bodiam, our destination was the Kent and East Sussex Railway, a familiar location to all five of us, as it was here that Kate had been taken to drive a steam engine, as part of a birthday surprise arranged by Ron and her two daughters a couple of years ago, and where we had also taken the boy for a Thomas the Tank Engine Day. On this occasion though, it was to amalgamate two of Mason’s favourite things – steam trains and Father Christmas!

Our ride for the afternoon.From rides on the merry-go-round at Tenterden, to the actual journey on the train where Santa gave the li’l chap a present of a Star Wars jigsaw, something that kept us all occupied on the return train journey in between munching mince pies and sipping port!

Eventually though, it all came to an end. A quick bite to eat and we were homeward bound, Mason zonked out almost before we’d left the car-park! Thank you to Kate and Ron for a wonderful weekend.

I returned home to a couple of emails, referring to events marking the contributions of two Suffolk-born men, which are both taking place on the same weekend at the end of NEXT year! Of all the weekends currently free in 2013, it seems a shame that two very worthwhile occasions are to be marked over the same weekend of 12th/13th October, but that is often how bellringing goes!

The first one to draw your attention to is the Rod Pipe Commemoration Week End in Birmingham, to mark the contribution of the great man we lost last year, and who of course was born, grew up and learnt to ring in Suffolk. There are various, yet unspecified, ringing opportunities in the central occasion being a reception and buffet at the Council House, a superb location for such an occasion and home to all the Henry Johnson Dinners I went to. If you’re not going to the North-West District ADM on the same Saturday, then I would certainly recommend going along, and it would be good to get some noticeable representation from his home county.

HMS Shannon.The second is in regards to Philip Broke, who was born in Nacton and educated at Ipswich School, and captained the HMS Shannon which captured the USS Chesapeake, an apparently significant moment in the War of 1812 (which actually ran until 1815) on 1st June 1813. Strangely, the bicentenary is being celebrated on the above October date rather than the earlier mid-summer date, but there will be significant celebrations on Ipswich waterfront nonetheless and via Jonathan Williamson, we’ve been asked by Tim Voelcker, former owner of Wines of Interest in Ipswich, keen studier of maritime history and even author of maritime-related writing, if we can do something to mark the occasion in October and possibly in June. I have to admit to not knowing about the history behind this until I swotted up on it today, and it is early days yet, but if you are unable to get to Birmingham, it is worth marking this in your diary, as it could be a very good PR opportunity for the Guild. Watch this space!


Saturday 1st December 2012

Mason is at that age when he is soaking up those details which most of us don’t remember not knowing about. A few months ago it was Africa and the animals that live there, where it is, etc. Recently it has been London, learning about the sites, many of which he was familiar with already, through his Cars 2 video game (which takes you on a race through the streets of our capital) and our visit to the big smoke a few months back. I was impressed when by merely seeing a picture of the Houses of Parliament a couple of weeks back, that he was able to reference the gunpowder plot and what it was all about. Currently he is on the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, and can tell you dates and that the latter started in Pudding Lane. No doubt, in the very near future, he will begin learning about the Norman Conquest, the Battle of Hastings, 1066 and all that, but today we gave him a head start and took him straight to where it all happened.

Mason overlooking the famous battlefield.Mason shows us where we need to go.Ruthie, Kate, Ron & Mason trying to find their way round.One of the most famous battles of this country’s history took place on an otherwise nondescript field next to Battle Abbey and town, built up in the years that followed and named after the events of mid-October of that famous year and it was here that Kate, Ron, Mason, Ruthie and I arrived at lunchtime having let in the ultimately successful peal-band at Grundisburgh – well done to Ian Culham on ringing his first of Royal on the tenth anniversary of his first peal and Neil Avis on ringing his 700th – and travelled down to East Sussex. Touring the impressive Abbey and the grounds that overlook the site where King Harold was killed, supposedly by an arrow to the eye, the boy darted around looking at information boards and making the noises of 11th century warfare, delighted and in his element.

Tea anyone?Having had the obligatory (especially on such a cold day!) pot of tea in the Abbey’s café and purchased bow and ‘arrows’ from the gift-shop for the deserving five-year old, we wandered the lovely town and the church of St Mary the Virgin, where we took a pre-emptive look around the Christmas Trees Festival set up for tomorrow, all whilst a quarter of Plain Bob Major was rung on the 21cwt eight upstairs. We didn’t hang around long enough to see who was ringing, but it transpired there were in fact a couple of people I know in the band. Small world, bellringing.

Darkness creeping up early, as we fast approach not only Christmas but the shortest day of the year, we made our way to our accommodation for the night, the Claverton Country House Hotel, a luxurious place to lay our head and prepare for an evening out, which ultimately took us to The White Hart in nearby Cripp’s Corner for some superb food, drink and company. Eventually we got to bed, exhausted but satisfied, not just with a grand day out, but also with Ipswich Town winning away, as our mini-revival (about the 200th mini-revival of the last few seasons, but still one to be enjoyed) continues.

On the downside, we had to forsake today’s South-East District ADM at Bredfield and Pettistree. It had to be a weekend as special as this, which fitted in with five people’s diaries at a busy time of year for us, to take the unusual step of missing a district event, but we still played our part, as Kate and I put Ruthie forward as the District Secretary to replace Jane Harper. Unsurprisingly, she was duly elected in her absence, but sadly, my attempts to persuade one prominent member to stand forward as Chairman to replace the outgoing Peter Harper failed. It was understandable, as this particular member is busy and already does much to help ringing at a tower, district and Guild level, but with seemingly no one else able and willing to step into this important but far from demanding role, it leaves a void for the SE at a worrying crossroads for its future. The attendances for most events have been reasonable, apart from the notable exception of the disgracefully low turnout for the September meeting at Orford, but it is still a small proportion of the district with the largest (by far) membership in the Guild and there is still the sense that things are being kept afloat by the same dwindling number of loyal attendees. We have a talented, young two-thirds of a top table now with Tom and Ruthie, but they could really do with a Chairman/woman to help them along and their most pressing and daunting task is now to find one. So please members of the SE, really think about this hard. Who is willing to be put forward? Who could be put forward? As fast as he’s learning, even Mason isn’t ready for the job just yet!


Friday 30th November 2012

Mason proudly shows off his decorating skills!Usually, even I don’t get properly into the Christmas spirit until December, but following last night’s festive activities, Ruthie on her work’s seasonal do this evening and us going on a very special trip tomorrow, Mason and I pre-empted the change of month and got the tree and decorations out and put up. It of course delighted the li’l chap and hopefully not for the last time this weekend, but as always, I enjoyed the tinsel, colour and shininess of it all.

Elsewhere in the county, the business of ringing was being undertaken and with particular effect at Wissett, where Nicole Rolph was ringing her first quarter of Minor inside today. Well done Nicole! What a nice note on which to leave November and enter December.


Thursday 29th November 2012

There’s still twenty-six days to go until my favourite day of the year and it’s only November, but it all felt a lot closer this evening as braved it into Ipswich on late-shopping night of all nights. The purpose of my visit wasn’t to get presents though, but rather to help ring in the start of the St Mary-le-Tower Christmas Tree Festival which runs until next Tuesday.

Ringers' Christmas Tree.Ipswich  Christmas 'Tree'.Passing the ringers' tree, which was sitting resplendent with the Suffolk Guild badge made by Sean last year proudly atop, I made up eight which rang some decent call-changes for the masses both in the church and on the busy streets, before I ventured out to the Cornhill to view the town’s Christmas ‘Tree’. If I’m honest, I expected to dislike it. I’d heard this structure of metal balls and lights more reminiscent of an art sculpture, had been dubbed ‘The Marmite Tree’ – you either loved it or hated it and a fair amount of people hated it. But do you know what? I actually quite liked it. I still think I’d prefer a real tree and I wouldn’t like a version in my living room, but it looked spectacular opposite the brightly bedecked Town Hall as shoppers rushed around it gift-gathering.

I left them all to it, as Ruthie needed picking up from choir practice, where their apparently complicated festive repertoire was further tested, before we settled down at home for a warming, November hot chocolate.


Wednesday 28th November 2012

In ringing, there is little more disappointing then losing a peal at or near the end. I’ve experienced it before a few years ago, when a group of us travelled down from the West Midlands to Long Ashton on the outskirts of Bristol for an attempt of the Surprise Major method named after the city. As you will see from a successful effort on this grand but heavy eight on Saturday, involving a certain Robert C Beavis, this is a three-and-a-half-hour jobbie, so you can imagine our despair when an erroneous member of the band wouldn’t be put right and we lost the peal just leads from the end. And of course, peals have been ‘lost’ even afterwards when found later to be false, though touch wood, God willing and all that, I haven’t been a victim to my knowledge yet.

Ruthie too has been the victim of a late peal-loss at St Mary-le-Tower, when a peal of Stedman Cinques collapsed a matter of changes from the finishing line back in 2006, and it was here that we experienced a similar feeling tonight, as a 5120 of Cornwall Surprise Major was miscalled four-fifths of the way in. It was frustrating obviously, but these things happen and ultimately it was an enjoyable evening of ringing. We were on for 2hrs55mins, which is swift for this slow-turning front eight of a heavy twelve, and it was all the better for it. I find that when ringing is moved along – within reason – that it improves greatly. As opposed to slower ringing where the bigger gaps give more scope for bad striking, with quicker ringing it becomes about going with the flow, ebbing to and fro and tapping along with sparkle. Often with slower ringing, bells get dragged out, there are inconsistencies and no life to it. It’s not always the case, as it largely depends on the quality of the ringers, where and sometimes what you’re ringing, but it won’t surprise any of you that I prefer to ring a sparkling, swift peal of Major at 2hrs30-45mins than a laboured one of over three hours.

The trade of with quicker ringing, is that you need to raise the concentration levels and think faster, and we didn’t always do that tonight (I include myself in that), thus making the conductor’s job that much harder, but otherwise there was some very good ringing and a jovial session in The Cricketers afterwards, where I enjoyed a seasonal November pint of Butcombe Brewery’s Christmas Steps. That helped get over the disappointment!


Tuesday 27th November 2012

As Suffolk Guild PR Officer, I have been delighted to see the publicity over the Redgrave project, which as well as yesterday’s airspace on Look East took up some well earned column inches in the East Anglian Daily Times. None of it has been done through me and that suits me just fine. I see my role as a point of reference for those who are unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to arrange PR in the way that Christopher Davies and co have so brilliantly done in the last few days. So please let me know if you want to arrange some publicity – as someone has just this week – but also feel free to go ahead yourself.

Otherwise there was nothing much to publicise about my evening, bar a quick visit to Kate’s for Ruthie and me to pick up some mail for someone called Miss Eagle who lives in Edwin Avenue and a haircut for me and a relaxing couple of hours listening to Ipswich Town winning another game! Pleasant, but probably not quite exciting enough to let the media know about.


Monday 26th November 2012

Redgrave.There was an interesting report on BBC Look East this evening about the project at Redgrave, where I understand the six are to have two tenors and a flat bell added, and put in a new nine-bell frame which is to be placed where the old oak frame currently is, which in turn will be moved to lower down the tower. All made possible by an amazing bequest of £120,000 from the late, incredible Albert Driver, there was tremendous footage of him ringing from a previous story on the great man, a good interview with Christopher Davies and there is an article on the BBC’s Suffolk website too. Great PR and very satisfying to see that a family stretching back over 160 years into ringing’s past has offered something that will hopefully have a lasting effect for many more years than that into ringing’s future.

Paul.There was a satisfying sense of learning and looking to the future at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening too. Like everywhere else, ideally SMLT needs to be teaching ringers and whilst latest learner Paul was in the corner on a tied rope running through exercises learnt by David Potts at Saturday’s apparently very successful ITTS Module One course at Reydon, Sonia was having her first go at ringing on ten and twelve and Sean continued his journey into change-ringing.

The learning at the other end stalled abruptly with a disappointing collapse of Superlative Max, considering the good ringing we had in the method just eight days ago. Still, it was a good night, enhanced by Ruthie actually getting served by the same girl who refused her last week in The Cricketers, with no questions asked this time, though my wife was slightly disappointed as she was poised with her passport!

Bredfiedl.Looking ahead, this Saturday sees the last of this year’s district ADM’s as the South-East District holds theirs at Pettistree, with ringing at Bredfield beforehand. Please note the change of venue and please do attend if you can. There is much on offer in these villages with The Castle pub at the latter, The Greyhound at the former, wonderful countryside and all sorts of amenities in nearby Wickham Market and Woodbridge, so that even non-ringers can have a nice afternoon out accompanying their ringing partner/family. And ultimately, it is a very important meeting for the future of the district, as we shall need to vote in a new chairman and secretary to replace the outgoing Mr and Mrs Harper who have done a superb job.

As the project at Redgrave shows, we have a past to be proud of and a future to cultivate, and it is the various events put on by the Guild and its districts which help bring ringers together, get them involved and help progress ringing and cultivate that future. Events like the ADM’s, the North-East District’s Surprise Major Practice at Halesworth on Friday, Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles next Wednesday, Carol Service at Benhall on Saturday 8th December and Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham on Tuesday 11th December. Those in the North-West District, such as their Christmas Social on Saturday 8th December and the Bacton Monthly Practice on Wednesday 12th December. The South-West District’s Carol Service at All Saints, Sudbury on Saturday 15th and the Midweek Ringing on Tuesday 11th December at Henley and Offton. All will need support, as Redgrave has needed support, SMLT needs support and indeed Suffolk ringing generally needs support. Let’s give that support.


Sunday 25th November 2012

Last night was very windy, especially with our flimsy wooden windows and our position next to woodland on top of a hill that is barely protected between us and the coast at Felixstowe. So I was pleasantly surprised to wake and find no damage to our house or anything nearby, though one of our bins couldn’t stand up to the powerful breeze battering it overnight, strewn as it was across the grass like a Premier League footballer who had just been tapped on the shoulder.

Tree Down.Not so lucky was one of the trees in St Mary-le-Tower churchyard, as Mason and I arrived to find our usual way in blocked by said tree and a friendly man from the council dressed in hi-vis orange and about to tackle the unexpected barrier with his chainsaw. He was efficient, as a couple courses of Little Bob Max, some call-changes on twelve and an aborted half-course of Cambridge Royal later and the path was clear and he was nowhere to be seen.

No such drama at Grundisburgh, the next port of call for the boy and me, both for a breezy visit to the park, and for me to run the ringing in Stephen’s absence. Although there was no service here this morning, we apparently delighted those manning and exploring the Crib Festival down in the church, a nice payback for them delighting my son and me beforehand, as we took a wander around the amazing selection of cribs from across the world.

From here we went to meet Ruthie at Woodbridge’s parish church, after she’d sung in the choir for the morning service which also doubled up as the licensing of Canon Penny Brown, the assistant priest at St Mary’s. Present to carry this out was good friend of the Guild and Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Right Reverend Nigel Stock. I’m always pleasantly surprised with all the people he must come across in his work, that he remembers Mason, Ruthie and me and it was nice of him to make a beeline for us over tea and coffee, especially at the end of a difficult week that had not only seen him involved in that big vote on women bishops at the General Synod, but then saw him having to criss-cross the west of the country as his personal and family plans were heavily disrupted by the terrible conditions in the south-west of England, and prior to him heading over to Hintlesham for a confirmation service. It strikes me that women and their multi-tasking skills could probably do very well as bishops!

Mind you, we three had a relatively busy afternoon ourselves, as the li’l chap and I returned to SMLT, this time with Mrs Munnings in tow as we rang for the St John Ambulance County Service. Though not a Christmas service, it is the first of many events that DO have a Christmas theme over the next few weeks that will need ringing for in Ipswich. For us, ringers are needed on Thursday evening to ring for the start of the Christmas Tree Festival, which then runs on through to 4th December, and there will be other services in the lead-up to big day itself in exactly a month, as well as ringers required at St Nicholas for the annual Carol Service there on the evening of Wednesday 12th December and the hugely successful Christmas Ringing at all the ringable Ipswich towers from 11.30am on Saturday 22nd December. No doubt there will be extra ringing around Suffolk at this busy time, including at Buxhall on the morning of Saturday 8th December for the North-West District Christmas Social, and later on the same day at Benhall for the North-East District Carol Service. Please do support ringing wherever you can, as it is often this time of year more than any other when what we do is appreciated most.

For now we did our bit this afternoon, which saw some superb ringing on eight and ten, before we returned home to be picked up by Mason’s Godfather Toby and his fiancée Amy, so we could all attend the li’l chap’s Godmother Kala’s birthday meal at The Black Tiles in Martlesham. It was as usual a wonderful social occasion with good food, good beer and good company and thank you to blog reader Amy for taking us!

Meanwhile, it was good to see The Norman Tower doing some more for St Edmund with an impressive looking quarter of Stedman Caters on the back ten.

We returned from the pub as the wind got up again, and though we aren’t expecting anything anywhere as bad as what other parts of the country have experienced and will no doubt experience tonight, we’ll cross our fingers and say a quick prayer that we again escape unscathed from the weather.


Saturday 24th November 2012

There is an interesting article in this week’s Ringing World by AJB, aka Anthony J Barnfield of Worcestershire, a long-time contributor to the RW well before Messrs Beavis and Tatlow filled the letters pages with their exchanges. On this occasion he was suggesting that despite communication being faster, easier and more encompassing than ever before, many ringers seem entirely unaware of what’s going on in ringing, not just with the fascinating and often exciting scene nationally and internationally, but locally. Many ringers of course don’t have the internet and some that do seem unwilling to use it. I remember one correspondent, who is online, blasting the Guild for having the temerity of using this cheap, fast and efficient way of communicating with its members. A charity, trying to save money?! Disgraceful!

Of course, we mustn’t simply rely on electronic communications and we don’t. After all, as Anthony points out, the numbers taking in ringing online aren’t actually that big. Even the most popular performances on BellBoard are usually only viewed by hundreds rather than the thousands you may expect, and whilst there aren’t any such figures for Campanophile, one can probably assume similar numbers visit there too. Ringing Chat, the ringing forum which clutters up my other email address, essentially seems to consist of the same handful of people contributing, and usually on subjects completely unrelated to ringing. In fact, ringing contributions from anyone other than the ‘in-crowd’ often seem to go unnoticed or ignored. It is heartening that people seem to be kept in the loop by my blog, but I’m also aware that it isn’t read by that many people in the scheme of things, and as much as I believe we have the best ringing website about, I suspect there’s huge swathes of the membership who rarely or even never use it, which is a shame. Even our facebook page only has ninety-eight members out of a prospective 700-800 resident members.

But even disregarding that side of things, many ringers are terrible at staying in the loop, and they and ringing suffer for it in my humble opinion. As Mr Barnfield points out, the RW itself is subscribed to by a minimal number of the 40,000+ ringers around the world, though of course many couples, families and even belfries will share a single copy between them. Awl a’huld is a superb publication, distributed in physical form to the belfries of Suffolk. Whether via the internet, email or post, What’s Ons should be up in every Guild tower and indeed I see them in most of the places I travel to in the county. The dates that events take place on are fairly fixed. First Saturday of the month is the South-East District, second is the two northern districts, the third Saturday is usually put aside for Guild events and the fourth is the South-West District’s for events such as today’s ADM at Bures. The Guild Striking Competitions are ALWAYS held on the third Saturday of May and apart from the odd rare occasion, the Guild AGM has for years been undertaken on the Saturday after Easter weekend. Yet still I hear members claim they had no idea that an event was being held or that something important in ringing had happened. It certainly highlights to me in my role as PRO that we and I can’t just rely on people finding out about our events and what’s going in ringing generally – we have to take it to them, proactively tell them about things and encourage them to get involved.

Hollesley Peal Band.It won’t surprise you to know that I rely mainly on the internet to keep up with most things ringing-related and don’t subscribe to the RW, so it was unusual for me to be reading an up to date copy of ringing’s most enduring and popular journal. Today though, I was taking in the above from the Hollesley tower copy as I stood in the ringing chamber of All Saints before an ultimately successful peal of Yorkshire Major, arranged as a belated seventieth birthday compliment to Peter Harper, which as I mentioned a few weeks ago is well deserved. It also marked exactly ten years since Ruthie’s first peal of Yorkshire and indeed her first of Surprise Major altogether, though she wasn’t desperate for that to be included in the footnote.

Huntingfield.On top of all that, it also took the Guild past 2011’s peal totals with over a month of 2012 left, an achievement made possible in no small part by the enthusiasm of young George M Salter. And along with his brother Colin, he was at it again today, albeit in the name of the Norwich Diocesan Association as they partook in another one of those baffling-looking peals of Doubles, on this occasion at Huntingfield. Well done to the middle Salter brother on ringing his first peal of Doubles, of variations only and with asymmetric calls and to both of them on ringing their most variations and their longest length rung yet.

There was also some Doubles being rung at Old Newton, where congratulations are due to former resident member Hannah Khan (once Kidger) and her husband Nick on the birth of their first child Frank Patrik on a day of ringing in celebration. I hope they’ve got plenty of sleep in!

Once photos of the peal-band had been taken by the Reverend Ruth Hatchett, we took advantage of Mason helping his Nana and Granddad at the Sproughton Bazaar this morning, by having a pint in The Sorrel Horse in the village neighbouring Hollesley on this beautiful peninsula, Shottisham. It is ages since my wife and I have been here, but as usual it was a pleasant place to be with its fire going well, on another cold day, as we chatted on subjects ranging from the recent College Youth’s Dinner to how best Ipswich ringing can attract those attending the UCS into the ringing scene. It is something we ought to be discussing and any feedback from readers would be much appreciated!

Having picked the li’l chap up from Chez Ashcroft (thanks again Mum and Dad!), we headed round Kate’s for a roast and a couple of beers (thanks Kate!) before finally returning home, the wind getting up and ominous weather warnings for much of the country.


Friday 23rd November 2012

Bad news from Orford, as a crack in one of the tower’s buttresses has been discovered to have got quite bad and ringing at this eight has been suspended for now. Hopefully it will be ascertained quickly whether it is ringing that is causing the problem, with proper input from ringing’s technical experts, rather than simply assuming that the bells are the problem, and it seems that Richard Moody is already looking to do this.

Ashbocking.Otherwise though, it was a quiet day today, as Fridays for Ruthie and me quite often are these days. Mason had enjoyed a party and some ten-pin bowling, with his school closed for teacher training day before I picked him up, but besides that and the news from Orford there was nothing much to distinguish it, bar Tracey Scase’s first quarter as conductor in the success at Ashbocking. Well done Tracey!


Thursday 22nd November 2012

Lights, camera, action!

Following a power-cut that had knocked out the electricity at home and left St Mary’s Church Centre bathed in the dimness of their emergency lights, I was stood contemplating sitting in on Ruthie’s choir practice at the latter of the two venues, whilst they warmed up and mother-in-law Kate was trying to control a huge pack of Brownies in the corridor whilst dressed as a Scotsman. It was one of those evenings.

Christmas Tree lights on The Market Hill restored!Cribfest at Grundisburgh.As I stood there though, power was restored and as nice as it would have been to sit on the choir practicing their forthcoming repertoire, I had an unusual event to attend for a Thursday night – Grundisburgh practice. So with my trusty camera, I grabbed a quick photo of the big Christmas tree on the Market Hill outside the Church Centre - now fully lit with its source of energy returned - and continued on with an evening of action that saw me opening up the ringing chamber for the twelve at St Mary the Virgin, the outside here also looking festive – or about as festive as you can expect for late November – with Cribfest in full flow until Sunday.

By the time I left mid-way through to pick my wife up and bring her to proceedings, five others had arrived, with Mum and Dad just pulling in, despite the eleven or twelve promised. By our return though, there was enough to ring on the ten, including Beryl from Burgh, who it was nice to see after such a long time. Grandsire Caters was rung – though we struggled – as was some Cambridge, Yorkshire & Superlative Surprise Major spliced, alongside some Bob Minor and Stedman Triples. Useful, varied and decent. In fact, it was a lot like practices used to be up here, only on this occasion superbly run by David Stanford.

Before anyone gets too excited (I know you were!), there definitely won’t be a practice next week as there is a concert rehearsal in the church, but this was the second practice in a few weeks (third if you include the one for our Lancashire visitors a couple of months back) after a year without one, so the signs are the practices MAY be getting back on track.

Whilst Stephen wasn’t there tonight, hopefully he will be at future practices, as his presence would’ve made twelve, but he is still active and tonight sent out details of his 2013 Italian Ringing Trip, next year leaving on Friday 25th October and returning on Sunday 3rd November. Every year he says it will probably be his last one, but he seems serious this time, so if you’ve never been on this fascinating and highly enjoyable half-term trip, to take in the various different styles of Italian ringing, as well as some English change-ringing in novel circumstances and some marvelous hospitality, this may be your last opportunity. I shan’t go into the schedule he’s sent out, but I’m sure he’d be delighted to hear from people interested in going. I can assure you they have electricity over there, even if we don’t always over here!


Wednesday 21st November 2012

Pettistree.Congratulations to Bill and Jo Lloyd on their marriage in Scotland yesterday. Bill has been a joy to get to know over the last couple of years whilst he’s been learning to ring at Pettistree, so us ringers at the six of SS Peter & Paul he is so familiar with, were delighted to ring a quarter of Primrose Surprise Minor, the method that he himself requested we ring.

It was a swift (coming in at 39 minutes), but superb effort, well rung with minimal, instantly (and usually self) corrected mistakes. As much as it was a shame that the star of the show was still north of the border, and so was therefore unable to listen personally, it did set the tone for the practice that followed, which – in my humble opinion at least – produced some very good striking. Tim Stanford also impressed with his first go at Cambridge inside, rung well from the tenor, despite his initial reluctance, and young Alex continued to improve under Ruthie’s tutelage.

Preston St Mary.None of this was quite as busy as the efforts of Lesley and David Steed, as they rang in the success at Preston St Mary, where the whole band were ringing their first of Kings College Bob Minor. Well done all of them, but particularly to David and Lesley, for whom this followed on from nine (yes, nine!) quarters in Norfolk over a long weekend at Acle, South Walsham, East Rudham, Great Ryburgh, Little Walsingham, Saxthorpe, Wighton, Happisburgh and Northrepps!

I hope they popped into a pub after all that, as they had certainly earned a drink, but whether they did or not, we certainly did after our ‘exploits’ this evening, as we made the short walk to The Greyhound to raise a glass for Bill and Jo.


Tuesday 20th November 2012

Nationally – for those who were interested at least – the day was dominated by The Church of England’s vote to allow female bishops. Spoiler alert – they didn’t. Our very own Right Reverend Nigel Stock was there, probably mindful that today is the fifth anniversary of him becoming Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, but also no doubt that today is St Edmund’s Day, the main focus for many of us here in Suffolk, as we celebrated our patron saint and one time King of East Anglia.

Cathedral Church of St James.As has become the norm over the last few years, ringers have done their bit and as has also become the norm, I found myself talking to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk about our efforts. These days, Mark’s show runs from 9am-12.30pm, so with work I was unable to speak live on the radio. Instead, a phone conversation with Mr Murphy was recorded for later use before I headed off to work, and an interview with the ringers at The Norman Tower before their ringing at lunchtime was planned, though sadly I believe RS didn’t get there until their quarter had started so I don’t think that interview actually happened. Still, their ringing was mentioned on the radio as I listened on my lunch-break and it was once again a good PR opportunity for Suffolk ringing.

The ringers at Bury St Edmunds weren’t the only ones marking the occasion, with ringing in St Edmund’s honour elsewhere in the county too. There was an impressive looking 1280 of Ashtead Surprise Major at Offton and a first inside for George Reynolds with the Grandsire Doubles at Great Barton. Well done George and well done to the Salter family as well, in ringing what must be the first all-Salter peal, and particularly to the boys, George and Colin on ringing their first of Minimus.

Ufford.And having encouraged folk to ring today, I’m glad that Ruthie and I were able to do something too, as we partook in a quarter of the method named after the star of the show, St Edmund Surprise Major at Ufford. That was despite delays as we began raising the bells, only to discover the muffles were still on from the last ringing here nine days ago – meaning my wife and I spent some quality time together taking them off – and a decidedly ropey start until we – well, mainly me – had worked out how many dodges there were on the front. Still, we did our bit and many thanks to Mike for arranging it and Kate for allowing the use of the eight bells at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

With a huge influx of ringers for the practice that immediately followed, Mrs Munnings and I made our excuses, as with empty cupboards and empty stomachs we needed to do some shopping and eating at the end of a very satisfying day.

Hopefully, an equally satisfying day will be had on Saturday at Reydon as a Module One Course of the ITTS is run by Graham Nabb, who will be coming over from the Midlands for it. This is for the next wave of trainers and mentors, the first wave already making big strides. Across the country there are stories of the first pupils ringing quarters, and the session at Debenham a couple of months ago showed how much has been achieved in this county. Please do get in touch with our Guild Ringing Master, about how you can get involved in this vital scheme which will hopefully be providing ringers for future St Edmund’s Days.


Monday 19th November 2012

One surefire way to annoy my wife is to refuse her a pint of beer. And that is exactly what happened tonight, as we went as normal to The Cricketers after St Mary-le-Tower practice and Ruthie was asked for ID by the usual bar manager. Typically, Mrs Munnings had no proof of her date of birth, so we left. As flattered as my twenty-three year old better half was to be mistaken for an under-eighteen, she was slightly miffed that after three-years of coming in at the same time for almost every Monday evening that she wasn’t remembered.

Instead, we returned to Woodbridge where Toby joined us down The Mariners, a pub Ruthie was assured of a pint in, helping calm her down considerably!

Earlier, SMLT practice had been useful, with more focus on Surprise Royal than anything, though Sean also did well trebling to Little Bob Max as he continues to progress – not many people at his stage of learning could ring the flighty, tricky treble to Maximus as well as he is now. I meanwhile was absorbed by a copy of The Ringing World from 29th November 1974, that Mum had discovered at home. She’d brought it up primarily to show me, as it announced the birth of Darren Pickett, a ringer from Shropshire that we know and used to go on ringing weekends with quite a bit. I also remember wandering the streets of York with him at the National Twelve-Bell Final there in 1999 – he’s a good lad! However, as I nearly always do with old RW’s, I got absorbed in this window on the past, as 1975 Diaries were advertised for 65p, the editor justified the controversial rise of two-and-a-half pence per week of the journal, extensive correspondence on how and who to ask for towers (all before the days of emails of course) dominated the letters page, and someone called George W Pipe wrote about a peal-ringing weekend in Dublin! All very interesting.

It all came at the end of a day that saw a pleasant walk back to work with the sound of the single bell at St John’s accompanying me, at the end of a lunch-break that began with a chat to BBC Radio Suffolk to arrange some PR for ringing on St Edmund’s Day tomorrow. I shall be on at some point during Mark Murphy’s show in the morning with a recorded conversation, and the ringers at The Norman Tower will be interviewed before their quarter-peal attempt at lunchtime. So listen out!

Perhaps afterwards, they could interview Ruthie on overage drinking?


Sunday 18th November 2012

Practice, practice, practice!

St Mary-le-Tower.That is the only way the majority of us are going to progress and stretch ourselves in anything and that especially goes for ringing on twelve. Since David took over from me as St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master two-and-a-half years ago, he has gradually worked on our repertoire of methods, first on ten and now on twelve. It has worked on ten as on any given practice night, London (No.3) Surprise Royal can be asked for and usually rung very well. Likewise with Superlative (No.2) Surprise Royal. All this despite not being able to ring more than eight for two months earlier in the year.

The main backbone of this progress has been the monthly third Sunday practice, which has allowed us to focus on specific methods that we don’t get the time to on Monday nights, what with the vital need to help progress those not yet up to that stage. This evening we introduced Superlative Surprise Maximus. Considering it was the first blows in the method for a large proportion and the first time for many years for most of us that we had rung it, the two half courses rung on this occasion were a huge success. The striking needs to be improved, but that is understandable as people felt their way into the method. And hopefully – as it largely has amongst individuals on ten - it will help ringers focus on their striking in methods once a strain for them but now pushed further down the pecking order in the complication stakes. Compared to the new and unfamiliar Superlative, the familiarity of Cambridge and Yorkshire will now hopefully breed better striking on twelve.

Grundisburgh.Of course there was ringing on Suffolk’s heaviest twelve this morning and then on the county’s lightest twelve at Grundisburgh on a very nice and sunny autumnal day that also saw Mason and I wandering into town to see Ruthie at work as well as pop in to Kate’s to collect cheese and eggs, whilst another local Cumberland’s peal was rung – this time at Pakefield – and Louis Suggett marked a visit to the ladies’ toilets at the Northern Universities Association weekend with a quarter of Plain Bob Minor in the early hours. Ruth must be very proud!

Thank you too to yesterday’s band at Southwold who rang the annual peal for the forthcoming St Edmund’s Day at the church of St Edmund King and Martyr, as I continue to receive responses from ringers about their arrangements and hopes for ringing on Tuesday.

In the meantime, keep practicing!


Saturday 17th November 2012

It has always struck me as an odd anomaly that in a hobby/pastime/commitment as open and welcoming as bellringing, that one cannot be a member of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths and the Ancient Society of College Youths at the same time. Some – myself included – have at one point or another been members of both and in most respects they are almost identical. Both are London based/centered societies, that many ringers aspire to be elected to from across the globe, both aiming to reach standards of excellence above most territorial organisations.

One difference until only relative recently in these society’s centuries old histories, was that women were barred from membership of the ASCY – and going further back in time weren’t even allowed to attend the annual dinner, even if their other half was a member – but that difference was eliminated over a decade ago and we have since even had a female Ringing Master in the form of one of my friend in ringing Stephanie Warboys. Still, membership of these proud societies remains an either or. Or neither of course.

Debenham.I enjoy the banter and competition between the two societies, especially as I am married to someone from ‘the other side’ and following my afternoon at Grundisburgh a couple of months back taking part in the College Youth peal weekend, it was Ruthie’s turn to take part in her society’s peal weekend this morning, this time at Debenham with an apparently very good peal of Yorkshire.

Having dropped my wife off at Thong Hall for Mary Garner to very kindly take her over to the fine eight of St Mary Magdalene, Mason and I occupied ourselves with our first trip to the new Co-Op at Wickham Market. Don’t ever let it be said our lives are dull.

Likewise those on the Young Ringer’s Outing to Wilby this afternoon, which I’m glad to hear was a big success – well done George Salter and all those involved.

We returned to the exciting world of the Co-Op with Ruthie later after her SRCY success and meeting her at the Garners, where Chris was able to explain more in depth about the discontinuation of the guestbook on this website. The company responsible for the software that allowed messages to be verified – for want of a better word – has gone belly up as so many companies sadly are these days, the latest big example being Comet this week. It meant people could write messages but couldn’t put them up, so for now at least, any messages can be put on The Guild Facebook page, where you can also enjoy some banter with College Youths and Cumberlands!


Friday 16th November 2012

The highlight of Mason’s day was giving a drawing of Pudsey Bear a football to ‘wear’ so that ‘he could kick the windows.’ Children in Need indeed. Sounds like his school is going to need some help soon.

For Ruthie and me it was a rather less exciting day, though an evening in trying to find entertainment on the tele around CIN and the music channels already playing wall-to-wall Christmas songs was pleasant enough.

A little more constructive was Craig Leach ringing his first quarter as conductor in the success within Suffolk’s borders, but at Norwich Diocesan Association tower Carlton Colville. Of course it was rung for our northern neighbours, but Craig and his family have achieved much on our side of the border in our name too, and is a young prospective who will hopefully benefit both organisations in the coming years.

Chediston.Most definitely under our name was yesterday’s success at Chediston. Well done to Alex Rolph, another young prospect for the region, on not only circling the tower, but more importantly ringing her first of treble bob inside.

Perhaps appropriate that Suffolk and Norfolk’s youngsters are achieving as the plight of children was highlighted today.


Thursday 15th November 2012

Only five days until St Edmund’s Day and still only Great Barton, The Norman Tower and whatever I can organize in the pipeline – please let me know if you’re doing something on Tuesday so I can alert the purveyors of St Edmund, BBC Radio Suffolk. If you haven’t got anything arranged then consider arranging something. It doesn’t have to be much. Maybe a few minutes of ringing at a place where the bells aren’t usually rung, a quarter or perhaps even a peal if you’re feeling particularly energetic, though even I can’t quite put myself through trying to find a band between now and then for what is usually a very difficult night to find peal-ringers!

Preston St Mary.Maybe the regular quarter-pealers of the west will be doing something, following up from their success at Preston St Mary yesterday that saw Kevin Ward ring his first of Single Oxford Bob Minor. Well done Kevin!

Tonight saw me doing no ringing though, as once again Grundisburgh practice was cancelled, the brief glimmer of light from three weeks back seemingly extinguished, the normal order sadly restored. So it was the usual new Thursday-night activity of choir practice for Ruthie and picking her up for me, though we did briefly consider voting in the police commissioner elections being held today, until we realized that we knew nothing about the candidates nor could we find anything about them. Perhaps we should’ve put St Edmund up for it, at least I know something about him.


Wednesday 14th November 2012

Mildenhall.In Suffolk we are lucky to have a healthy number of young ringers. We could always do with more of course, but whilst the loss of the enthusiasm and talents of Louis Suggett, Philip Moyse, Alex Tatlow and even Robert Beavis in recent months and years have been a shame – though inevitable – it is heartening to see a conveyor belt of youngsters replacing them. George Salter rang well last night at Orford and his younger brother Colin is also doing very well, ringing superbly in our peal of Rutland in his back garden last month. Nathan Colman and Clare Veal did top jobs in Sunday’s peal at Stowmarket, the latter being part of a lively bunch of youngsters at Great Barton. The Rolph sisters in the Blyth Valley Benefice continue to achieve and Craig Gradidge has done well this year on higher numbers at The Norman Tower and St Mary-le-Tower. There is a big young presence at Mildenhall and pockets of youth in places like Eye and Harkstead. So there is a bright future.

Wilby.What really encourages youngsters in ringing though, is getting them together. I was pushed on by competing with my brother as a youngster and ringing with other contemporaries like Jonathan Slack and Michelle Chapman, as well as the huge number of youngsters I rang with on Rambling Ringers every summer. It’s not easy for them all to get together, as of course most of them are too young to drive and frankly public transport is not the county’s strong point due to its rural nature. But getting together seems to be something that this generation of young ringers are quite good at, whether it is quarters, national striking competitions or outings. Indeed, there is such a gathering this Saturday, arranged by the elder Salter brother, at Wilby between 3-4.30pm. If you are under eighteen and you’re not already going, then please do get in touch with George. Likewise if you know a young ringer who would benefit from such an occasion, then encourage them to go. Of course, if you are over eighteen and able to help with lifts, then I am assured you are also welcome!

There was an encouragingly youthful feel to tonight’s practice at Pettistree, as the still youthful Tim Stanford paid us a visit, Alex tried his hand at rounds on six with great success under Ruthie’s supervision and Lucy Williamson came along with her father Jonathan, joining in on some Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles on a busy night that saw Mike Whitby juggle the needs of over twenty ringers.

Normally we would have joined them in The Greyhound adjoining the churchyard afterwards, but we had arranged to meet Toby and Amy in The Red Lion back in Woodbridge to watch the end of the England footy friendly in Sweden. Not that we got to watch the match as the pub’s TV reception packed up half-way through, much to the disgruntlement of the bar manager Ross who almost instantly lost all his customers! Although we missed one of the best goals ever scored in international football, we weren’t too gutted at missing the Three Lions’ 4-2 defeat and of course we had a tremendous evening with our neighbours. Though whilst the future of Suffolk ringing may be looking good, the prospects for my head in the morning don’t seem so promising!


Tuesday 13th November 2012

Orford.Just six more to go. Tonight’s 5184 of Superlative Major (a method Ruthie I have got to know much better after our respective successes at Rendham and Stowmarket over the weekend!) takes me to four hundred and ninety-four peals and at the moment on course to make the five hundred by Christmas. There is still much ringing to be done – a bad run of peal-ringing luck will have me sweating – but it was a very satisfactory night in the dark wilds of the Suffolk Sandlings, topped off by a drink in The King’s Head that backs onto the churchyard, where we were informed the comments of diners on the ringing had been most favourable. It just goes to show that when it comes down to it, ringers are not quite the widespread menace we can be led to believe.

Well done to George on ringing his first in the method this evening and to the band generally in their humouring of me in my ambitions – not much more of it to do!


Monday 12th November 2012

Sparkly tinsel, shiny lights on an indoor tree and colourful baubles. All whilst the muffles were still on St Mary-le-Tower bells in memory of the fallen. Along with preparations for the Christmas Tree Festival at Stowmarket yesterday, actually on Remembrance Sunday, the festive season does seem to kick in earlier each year.

Said muffles at said SMLT will be coming off this week mind, after a mesmerizing lower of the back ten led by George Pipe and less mesmerizing lower of the treble and two seconds at the end of tonight’s practice! It was a practice that revealed that work to the troublesome flintwork on the side of the tower is almost finished, leading to speculation that the bells may soon be available for quarters and peals – it all seems a far cry from the fears we had just a couple of months ago.

It was also revealed that this Sunday evening the special practice will see us try Superlative Maximus for the first time in years, as we look to expand an impressive repertoire, a repertoire shown off by a very good few leads of London Royal (No.3), with even the Little Bob to bring it round rung faultlessly!

It was then over to The Cricketers which was already bedecked in the aforementioned decorations for a refreshing pint as we caught up with the trials and tribulations caused by the full diaries of Paul Bray and Ian Culham! Let’s just say they’re fairly full between now and Christmas!


Sunday 11th November 2012

Those serving in our armed forces (and indeed anyone’s) make a huge sacrifice – many pay the ultimate one. Many people may not agree with what they’re being asked to do at the moment in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they sign up to protect the country and its citizens, knowing they will spend considerable time away from family, friends and the home comforts that we will often take for granted and are no doubt fully aware at the time that there is a strong chance they will die doing the job they’ve entered.

St Mary -le-Tower.In bellringing, we have the chance to portray our gratitude in a very vocal way and with muffles a very moving way I believe, and today as Remembrance Day fell on a Sunday, we did our bit. Nothing compared to what those in combat do for us day-in-day-out, but nonetheless I was certainly happy to do what I could, starting with St Mary-le-Tower and the first time we had used Big Wilf’s superb muffles on all twelve and to good effect. The twelve sounded marvelous muffled at back-stroke as we rang a bob course of Grandsire Cinques. There was no turning of the muffles half-way through, though this can probably be attributed as much to me not putting any of them on as the quality of the product!

From here it was onto Grundisburgh where the bells aren’t muffled, but are – when the benefice service of Remembrance is held at St Mary the Virgin – used as part of the ceremony. Hundreds gathered round the war memorial on the pretty green in the type of village often thought of as the type of place being protected by our forces. There were the incredibly young who mercifully have no comprehension yet of the horrors humanity can inflict upon itself, through to the elderly and many in-between, some of whom will have seen the hell of warfare firsthand. As the famous words ‘we will remember them’ were uttered by Ruthie’s Godmother and vicar of the benefice Clare Sanders, Stephen Pettman chimed the tenor eleven times at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, before the large crowd stood in silence. I find the silence increasingly moving each year, as our everyday lives become further and further removed from the horrors of war. Apart from the July 7th terrorist attacks, modern British society is involved in no direct warfare and the only experience many of us we will have is through understandably heavily edited news reports. Many will even have you believe that it is wrong to remember those who have died and continue to die to ensure we live with such freedom, and in many respects that’s what those fighting fought and continue to fight for, to allow people to freely hold such views. But still, the majority stands in silence, even when the eleventh falls during the week. Long may it continue.

Normally I like to involve Mason in such occasions, keen that he doesn’t grow oblivious to the sacrifices made by others for him, but I had already left him with his grandparents at SMLT as this afternoon I was undertaking the hardest element of today’s ringing, a peal of Superlative Surprise Major on the grand 20cwt eight at Stowmarket. Like the twelve at Ipswich and so many other rings of bells today, these were half-muffled, but unlike many they were half-muffled at hand, an interesting and not entirely unenjoyable experience.

Much like the peal itself, with youngsters Clare Veal and Nathan Colman ringing particularly well. I was keen to help young Mr Colman who is that latest keen young peal-organiser and I often have a good laugh ringing with Jeremy Spiller and even with the occasion, today was no exception. Plus it also chalked another peal off towards the five-hundred – ‘just’ seven to go now – and introduced a new society to my peal-ringing records – the Society of Stowmarket Youths. Some may see this as another flag of convenience for those not prepared to join the Suffolk Guild (which it may well be), but much as the Iceni Society has benefited many Suffolk ringers down the years, hopefully this society will help do the same. Many of those ringing today continue to be very active members of the Suffolk Guild and I’m sure that will remain the case and societies like this can compliment the SGR. And we were able to offer a soundtrack to those preparing for the church’s Christmas Tree Festival downstairs. I know. Seemed a bit premature to me too!

Having picked the li’l chap up from Mum and Dad’s – thanks guys – and then my wife from singing for evensong at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, I sat and reflected on what ringing had been done to mark this most special of days. Well done in particular to Nicole Rolph on ringing her first quarter on eight in the 1260 of Bob Triples at Halesworth, but also to those who rang in quarters of Bob Minor at Redgrave and Little Bob Royal at The Norman Tower, a half-peal of Grandsire Triples at Ixworth and the peal at Aldeburgh, as well as The Cumberlands on marking the occasion with a 5058 at Bardwell. At least we can offer something and that is all thanks to those who have offered much, much more.


Saturday 10th November 2012

It was a quite Saturday for Mason, Ruthie and me on the ringing front, in stark contrast to last Saturday.

Ron getting the bonfire going.One of the fireworks.That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, though I’m never fond of tidying and cleaning as we spent this morning. However, come late afternoon and with darkness falling as it does at this time of year, we were round Kate’s where the mother-in-law and Ron treated we three to a bonfire and firework display, before we were well-fed and well-watered. Heck, even Ipswich Town won again!

Thank you Kate and Ron for a lovely evening!


Friday 9th November 2012

Ruthie was out this evening quarter-pealing at Rendham, whilst Mason and I had a quiet boy’s night in.

Meanwhile, I still only have two towers (Great Barton and The Norman Tower so 2-0-0-0 to the North-West District so far!) who have informed they’ll be doing extra ringing for St Edmund’s Day on Tuesday 20th November, which is fast approaching! I hope to arrange something myself, but it would be good to have a decent list to pass onto Radio Suffolk for an occasion that has traditionally given us some good PR.


Thursday 8th November 2012

It felt a little like I’d stepped back into The Green Man in Tunstall in 2005 as Ruthie and I enjoyed a couple of drinks in Ye Olde Bell and Steelyard tonight. Perennial local small-time rocker Mickey Flynn was playing in the corner, much as he often did at my then local back in the day, whilst another aging rocker Karl – one of the very first people I ever met in the village when I moved in – came in, allowing me to catch up with one of the nicest characters from my time in the area. The night was rough around the edges, the acts on show – there is a Thursday night slot for any guest musicians who fancy having a go at winning a Raven West Guitar at the pub every week – are unlikely to get past the audition stages of X-Factor (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing!) but it is the type of laid-back but lively evening that is a good anecdote to everyday life.

Earlier I had been to the latest Surprise Major practice at Ufford, though Ruthie couldn’t make it as not only was she attending choir practice as usual, but was singing for the All Souls service at St Mary’s in Woodbridge. As missed as she was, it was perhaps best in some respects as we had two Ruths present this evening in the forms of Mrs Suggett and Mrs Young. Along with Gills Wakefield and Waterson there was already plenty of potential for confusion, though that wasn’t an excuse for a quite bemusing attempt at Cambridge Major! Otherwise though, the practice run by Mike Whitby was its typically useful self, with Yorkshire, Superlative and a handful of courses of Bristol which improved with each attempt also rung.

Redgrave. Meanwhile, in the last few days, the news that the planning application put before Mid-Suffolk District Council for Redgrave to lower the existing frame and install a new nine-bell one has been approved, which is good for all concerned. It finally feels like this project is moving forward and progress is being made towards the future here, on a day when I quite enjoyed looking back for a while!


Wednesday 7th November 2012

It was a day of returns.

After four years as President of the USA, Barack Obama was returned to the role, though you may not have heard anything about this election in a distant land, as no one’s really mentioned it here.

However, closer to home – and actually at home for some – it was the day that David G Salter returned to the peal columns after an apparently frustrating and boring three-month absence due to illness. We didn’t make it easy for him tonight, as a combination of handling issues, me not reading my emails properly and people not doing their homework meant that the original method of Ewen Surprise Major was scrapped and a late starting peal of Yorkshire was rung instead. Perhaps it was for the better too, as it turned out to be a decent effort, particularly in the circumstances.

The Wolery. Besides, David was chomping at the bit having missed out on a period of time that would typically see him ring 30-40 peals, reduced by all accounts to updating Katharine on the participants on Judge Judy. Peal ringing to the extent that David does it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but ringing is thankfully a varied beast and Mr Salter obviously enjoys it greatly, so Ruthie and I were delighted to help him back into things. He’ll face sterner tests than 1hr49mins of Yorkshire in his shed and he’s planning on easing himself gently back into things (so only twenty before the month’s out then!), but psychologically it was important to get this first one under his belt! And it means I only have eight more to go to my five hundredth!

It was also nice to ring it as a birthday compliment to my brother and to Peter Harper who yesterday celebrated his seventieth birthday. It is only just under six years since the Harpers came to Suffolk to live, but such has been their support of and dedication to ringing in the county and particularly in the South-East District that it feels like a lot longer, in a good way! So many happy returns Peter.


Tuesday 6th November 2012

It was a very social evening as I spoke to my brother on the occasion of his birthday (Happy Birthday Chris!) and bridesmaid Fergie paid us a visit whilst she’s up from Brighton for a few days.

As nice as it was to see her, I left Ruthie and her best friend to catch up whilst I ran Ufford practice in Kate’s absence, picking Pete and Susanne up along the way. We were joined by a decent crowd, including the visit of Jonathan Williamson and the attendance of Mary Garner who brought the good news that Chris our webmaster was recovering well from his operation yesterday. Much was rung from Bob Doubles to an aborted attempt of Cambridge Major which up to the point of total collapse had actually seen some reasonable ringing, before I dropped Mr Faircloth and Miss Eddis off at home, passing the scene of the overnight fire at the bottom of their road which had so gripped the residents of Woodbridge.

It seems we were taking our lives in our hands at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary this evening though, according to reports today that a learner at Bathampton in Somerset was knocked unconscious having been “thrown around the belfry” after becoming “entangled in a bell ringing rope” at their practice last night. Quite how so much carnage was caused on a 7cwt six I can’t imagine, but it caused a stir in the media today and can’t be a good image, though hopefully by-and-large it will have gone unnoticed in amongst Tory MP’s either indirectly getting mixed up in this whole sordid Jimmy Saville thing or entering I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here and the American electorate casting their votes across the pond.

A quote attributed to the local vicar Paul Burden in regards to the incident was striking and is aptly timed as ITTS continues to expand. He noted “it's a reminder that bell-ringing is a very skilled hobby and there needs to be careful training on it." We know anyway that without proper teaching, ringing can be dangerous and the argument can quite rightly be made that considering there are 50,000 change-ringers worldwide, ringing is almost certainly going on somewhere at anytime between 9am and 9pm every day and it is something that has been done in pretty much the same way for centuries, there have been a relatively miniscule number of incidents that have resulted in injury and far, far fewer in anything worse. However, perception is a powerful thing, whether it is that a one-off exchange between an MP and a policeman proves that an entire government are snobs, that the fact we ring bells in churches means to ring you need to be religious or that a rare accident in a ringing chamber shows that this is a very dangerous hobby. Whatever your perceptions of ITTS, one thing it can offer as it grows, is a reassurance to those considering learning to ring or letting their children ring, that ringing is carefully trained with professionalism. After a safe and uneventful evening though, I returned to the girls and breathed a sigh of relief that I had escaped injury!


Monday 5th November 2012

Last Monday I spoke of the support we get at St Mary-le-Tower and we regularly get help from as far afield as North Essex and Bury St Edmunds, but this evening we got visits from even greater distances with Brian Meads and David Rothera coming to tonight’s practice as Chelmsford Cathedral’s was again cancelled and Laith Reynolds over from Australia! In fact, this was Brian and Laith’s second visit in the last few weeks, putting them in danger of becoming regulars!

They contributed to another strong attendance that climaxed with a decent half-course of Cambridge Max and the lowering of the bells in anticipation of the muffles being put on and all three joined us in The Cricketers afterwards as ringing once more showed its unique strengths.

Sunday 4th November 2012

As Mason and I got out of the car at a place of fond memories, The Abbey School of our town of residence, in the pouring rain, there was a pleasant surprise. Rather than the rather desperate sound of the front six or even middle-five being rung from the neighbouring St Mary the Virgin, as is often sadly the case on a Sunday morning as the locals try their hardest on this large eight, the full octave WAS belting proudly out across over a very wet Woodbridge as people flocked with their umbrellas.

With Ruthie already dropped off to meet up with the choir for singing in the service, the boy and I climbed the many stairs to the ringing chamber to be greeted by Janice who used to ring in the area and her husband and Pete and Susanne before li’l chap and I sat in on a service for the first time since my wife joined the choir.

My wife was back there to sing for evensong, but in between Mason enjoyed a sixth birthday party for his schoolmate at Hasketon Village Hall, a venue that will be familiar to anyone who attended the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competition at St Andrew directly opposite in 2010 and where the results of that particular contest were announced by the judges that afternoon, Chris and Alban Forster.

Mason about to attempt flipping beer mats.......and not catching them!Once I’d picked him up, full of party food and the roast that Ruthie had whipped up at dinner, we headed down to The Mariners to meet Toby, Amy, Pete and Susanne for an indoor BBQ, to watch The Broadside Boys for the second weekend running (still very good!) and for some more fireworks, though Mrs Munnings missed these as she headed up to church to do her duty. Quite a pleasant day in the rain really, from full octaves to full pints. I could live with more Sundays like this!


Saturday 3rd November 2012

Exactly a week after Ruthie and I found ourselves just over the Suffolk-Norfolk border, we were over there again, this time with Mason in tow and a little further inland as we headed to the Diss and Thetford area, the B1066 and all that. The occasion this time was the South-East District Outing, something I had been approaching with both excitement and trepidation.

The Debenham Crew at Quidenham.Excitement because I love ringing outings. Not so much for a grab as Ruthie and I don’t keep tower records and we had rung at some of today’s towers already, most recently two of this morning’s peals, Quidenham and Kenninghall on Rambling Ringers four years ago. The former, along with Winfarthing, the first tower after lunch which I also ran the ringing, could both be politely described as challenging but that’s also what I like about these events and what can be extremely useful for learners when they come on outings. If all we rang on were perfect bells it would get very dull for many of us and wouldn’t really help a beginner that much. Stick them on bells that you have to work on and instantly they get a context of their local bells and have learnt a bit more about their handling. Ultimately it is nice to see different places, find out about other towers and their churches and spend time with friends – and in our case family too – on a pleasant social occasion.

My trepidation arose from the up and down attendances of previous SE District events. I largely expected to arrive at the first tower East Harling and find the same small crowd that nearly always loyally supports district occasions and the day would consist of us ringing every time as we struggled to mix things up and keep it interesting. But I am happy to report that that was far from the case as over thirty attended, about the right number for a ringing outing. If you get a lot fewer than that you get the same people ringing everytime and having to find variety out of that to keep it interesting. Too many more and it is hard for people to get a proper and enjoyable ring. Most pleasing was the mix of geographical origin, from the far south-east of the district, to the east coast, to Ipswich and the north of the district.

Mason enjoys a drink at The Red Lion in Kenninghall.It made for an enjoyable lunchtime too at The Red Lion in Kenninghall, a delightfully quaint tavern with little nooks, crannies and rooms and rustic, rural booths to sit in, never too far from a roaring and welcome open fire. It was good to have a chat with David Rogers at a difficult time for him and who was among a handful of members from beyond the South-East to join in, and very welcome they were too.


The day finished for us three at the six of Shelfanger, a lovely light ring with long, long ropes and whilst the others headed onto the climax of the outing which was the 22cwt eight at Diss, we headed home to look after the mother-in-law’s animals in her absence, especially on this weekend of fireworks, listening anxiously as Mick McCarthy started life as Ipswich Town manager with a nervy 1-0 win at Birmingham City. But we really enjoyed our day and well done to Tom Scase on organizing it all and getting folk onto it. Hopefully it will have helped those who came out and inspired them and those in their towers they’ll return to, to get out and give ringing outings – and indeed other district events - a go more often.

Outings are one of many aspects that I feel can help a ringer’s enjoyment of and progression in ringing. Another aspect I’m fond of is peal-ringing and after a busy day yesterday, George Salter was at it again today, as along with Craig Leach he rang his first peal of Caters in the 5040 of Plain Bob at Stradbroke. Well done too, to Diana Leach on ringing her first of Caters inside and Andrew Leach and Stephen Rabong in ringing their first in the method altogether as the NDA came ringing in Suffolk as the Suffolk Guild went ringing in Norfolk! No plans for us to cross the border again next week though, we’ll wear our passports out!


Friday 2nd November 2012

Tis the season again. No, not Christmas just yet, though there are signs of that beginning to kick in with adverts on tele, that house down Warwick Avenue fast disappearing behind models of Santa Claus, sleighs and reindeer and discussions beginning about getting together with family and friends for the festivities at the end of next month. But rather, it is of course that time of year when loud bangs and bright lights fill the air. Quite how the residents next to the Kingston Fields level crossing I mentioned last week are coping I can’t imagine. Bear a thought for their delicate ears on this noisy weekend.

Mason. Bonfire Hopefully no one of too sensitive sensibilities lives in Sproughton, or at least I hope they can cope for this one evening a year when the village is swamped with thousands of people coming for the annual Bonfire and Fireworks Evening, essentially organized and manned by Ralph Earey and the local ringers, though as big as this event has grown they rely on a lot of help beyond the ringing chamber of All Saints! I have helped before, but our attendance with Mason is very much reliant on the weather, so we daren’t commit ourselves ahead of the event and indeed this evening Ruthie wasn’t feeling too well so was sadly left at home whilst I took an excited li’l chap to what seems to have been another tremendously successful edition of this popular occasion.

Worlingham. Presumably there wasn’t time to admire fireworks for the band of ringers who rang three peals in the far north-east of Suffolk today. Though all rung for the NDA, the achievements in particular of our very own George Salter shouldn’t go unnoted as he rang his first peal of variations and with asymmetric calls and his longest of Doubles in the baffling looking 5160 at Barsham and his first of Cambridge Major in the 5120 at Pakefield which also saw Andrew and Diana Leach ring their first of Surprise Major, Christopher McLean calling his first in the method and David McClean circle the tower. Well done guys! And well done to Craig Leach on ringing his most methods in the success at Worlingham.

Congratulations to Alex Scase who rang his first quarter inside in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham today, capping an otherwise very slow South-East District Fortnight. Quite why it has been so quiet will be something the SE committee will look at I’m sure, including the new district Chairman and Secretary, for which I hope members are thinking about finding replacements for the outgoing Peter and Jane Harper.

Talking of outgoing officers, I was pleased to hear from the recently-past Ringing Master of the North-West District Ruth Suggett, as she filled me in on an apparently very successful visit to Grundisburgh yesterday by a group of youngsters that saw eleven of them (plus the slightly older Mary Dunbavin) ringing Plain Hunt on Eleven, beginner Christopher already calling call-changes on twelve for the first time and Edward not only ringing rounds for the first time yesterday but then following it up with Rounds on Twelve! Apparently there are photos going up on Facebook. Well done guys, a very promising sign for the future of Suffolk ringing.#


Thursday 1st November 2012

The wives of Lieutenant Columbo and Captain Mainwaring. Ipswich Town’s defence. Robert Beavis’ unintelligible, stupid brother Rameses who can only communicate in grunts. And the cleaner at John Catt, known only as Mrs M. All heard of but never seen.

Except today, after nearly five years working for the company, I – and most of my colleagues - finally met Mrs M for the first time as we marked the thirtieth anniversary of her first cleaning for us (when the company was still at Great Glemham) with a presentation of a gift to mark our appreciation for her hard work that sees the mess we leave on Friday afternoons magically cleared up by the time we return on Monday mornings. It’s nice to finally meet her.

The directors having taken her out for lunch, even appeared to have arranged a fly-past as during the afternoon the office ground to a halt as a huge old plane flew almost at the same level as us up the River Deben we sit beside, did a U-turn and then did exactly the same again.

Of course, it may have had nothing to do with Mrs M’s celebrations and everything to do with greeting Mr M – Mick McCarthy – as Ipswich Town’s latest cannon fodder. Sorry, manager. After the last two appointments and years of disappointment, my expectations of anyone coming into ITFC are extremely low, whether a player or manager. Still, as a Town fan desperate for them to do well for the first time for many seasons I wish him all the best – he’s going to need it!

In between this big news on local TV, one story came out that astounded and worried me. There is a level crossing in Woodbridge down by Kingston Field very familiar to Ruthie, Mason and I me which is operated by whoever is crossing it, generally agreed to be a relatively dangerous arrangement, for which the sound of trains hooting their horns when approaching it one would expect to be a vital warning signal to avoid any accidents. Except they are now not allowed to, as residents living nearby have complained about the noise. That’s right. People have actually moved into houses near a level crossing and then been put out by the sounds that accompany it. It worries me that if there are people made up of such a staggering cocktail of stupidity and intolerance roaming loose in society, that it is only a matter of time before another tower is picked out for such complaints, so it is yet another warning to be on your guard. We need to keep ringing bells to keep progressing, to keep its many traditions alive such as peals, quarters and outings, but we must never assume that you have the full support of those living around you, even if you have done so for many years. Keep communicating with neighbours and rather than restricting ringing unnecessarily, warn residents of additional ringing, look into sound-proofing – as Jonathan Stevens says on the guestbook, it needn’t be expensive – and simulators. We can’t sit still on this issue.

It may be something that is highlighted at the next Ringing Roadshow, which according to the Central Council President’s Blog has been confirmed for Saturday 6th September 2014 at Newbury. Last time this was held in 2008, there were attempts to get coach loads down there that didn’t entirely work out, so it may be worth putting the date in the diary now!

Today saw no ringing for my wife or me though, as the promise shown by last week’s Grundisburgh practice was not followed up this week, as the county’s lightest twelve sat silent on a Thursday evening once again, which was disappointing. Still, Mrs Munnings was able to occupy herself with singing for a funeral at St Mary’s, Woodbridge and then with choir practice at the Church Centre opposite before we then joined Toby and Amy (the latest readers of this blog!) for a drink in The Mariners, a place now heard of by many but not seen. It exists, honest!


Wednesday 31st October 2012

After five years, it’s good to know people are still reading and – as I encouraged last week – giving feedback on the blog. Tonight I received correspondence from a member in regards to Monday’s entry and what I said about the ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. They are not one of the experienced, Surprise-ringing, hundreds-of-peals members, but still someone who has been out and about in the Guild and they offered a different perspective that I quite agree with and in fact echoes what I’ve said in previous entries. Those at what some may consider the ‘top-end’ of ringing, who ring spliced and Surprise Maximus, who are aiming for some very high standards do indeed need support. But it is a two-way thing of course, as my correspondent pointed out. Too many of these ringers are nowhere to be seen at district events, which are opportunities for learners to meet up and ring with these superb ringers and possibly discover they could do more, gain the confidence and ability to ring on higher numbers or in complex peals, something that would benefit both parties and Suffolk ringing generally. That goes for a lot of learners too and there are a lot of potentially fine ringers toiling away in the confines of just their local towers, missing out on all that ringing offers, not just in terms of opportunities to learn and progress but socially. But it needs both parties to put the effort in – we can’t expect people to just come to us.

Mendham.As it happens, there is just such an opportunity coming this Saturday with the South-East District Outing to South-Norfolk, an area that’s not an obscene distance for anyone in the Guild to make and all would be welcome. There are further opportunities coming up in other districts too, with the North-West District 8-Bell Method Practice at Elveden next Wednesday and Saturday 10th November sees the North-East District ADM at Mendham and the South-West District Learners Practice at Sudbury, St Gregory, both following on from Jonathan Stevens’ Belfry Maintenance session at Rougham in the morning from 10-noon. Please do support where you can.

A proportion of those going over the border this weekend were at Pettistree this evening where appropriately for Halloween we were ringing a quarter of Trick or Treat Bob Minor before the practice. Appropriate because of the name, appropriate because the line is quite tricky, another of those awkward methods that this tower loves trying for. On this occasion we were being asked to make four blows in lead and go down to seconds and back without touching the front, a potentially awful forty minutes in prospect. But actually it wasn’t too bad. In the main concentration was maintained and any ghosts, ghouls and skeletons wandering the streets will have been treated to some quite decent ringing.

They will have been cold though I imagine on a chilly, wet and windy evening and for a while we migrated to the ringing chamber where the heater was on full-blast, busy creaking and rotating, before the numbers turning up made it more practical for many of us to spill out into the church. A busy night kept us warm though as Mike Whitby showed how much more can be crammed into a six-bell practice than a twelve-bell one, something else highlighted in Monday’s blog. Bill was able to knock behind, treble and ring inside to Plain Bob Doubles (not all at the same time!) to good effect, there were Call-Changes for Daphne, right up to Stedman and Surprise Minor which on this occasion included Cambridge, Primrose, London and Bourne, with the London and Stedman in particular rung very well and even finished with me leading down, a real rarity!

We topped it off with a convivial session in The Greyhound, learners and the experienced together, as they had been all evening and as it should be across the Guild.


Tuesday 30th October 2012

Apart from my first trip to my GP for years for a minor ailment and picking our food for lunchtime on Saturday’s South-East District Outing, it was a very quiet, uneventful day. For us at least. For St Mary-le-Tower regular Ian Culham it was a significant day as he rang his first peal of Bristol in the success at Ardleigh over in his county of residence with a little help from Suffolk! Well done Ian!


Monday 29th October 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.It was lovely to see Deborah Blumfield up St Mary-le-Tower this evening, apparently for the first time for exactly twenty-three years! The support we receive from and give to ringers from The Norman Tower is not only welcome from both ends but vital. Much like many six-bell towers, we need help from beyond just our local ringers. But whereas the numbers to get a six-bell tower running effectively aren’t that high and six is generally the first level you get to on the ringing ‘journey’, the situation is a lot more difficult on twelve. Just to man a twelve needs twelve ringers of course and ideally ringers already proficient on at least eight bells. But to run an effective twelve-bell practice ideally needs twice that and perhaps a little more on top. By their nature the touches are longer. Where at a six or eight bell tower dozens of pieces can be crammed in, when it takes the best part of a quarter of an hour to ring a half-course of Surprise Maximus on a 35cwt twelve, it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that there is a smaller range that people present can ring in just one practice night.

Unlike in Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Southampton, London and other similar centres of ringing, we sadly don’t have the benefit of an influx of large numbers of young, ready-made twelve-bell ringers coming to the local university or seem to have the type of employers that attract the extremely smart ringers that would really aide us. It doesn’t always need that of course, but it helps. Though they probably benefit slightly more from students coming in to the UEA then we do from UCS and Norwich is viewed a more attractive proposition than Ipswich for many of the smartest people for employment, the ringers of St Peter Mancroft have a similar backdrop but are ringing Bristol Maximus amongst much else (indeed they rang a peal of it in July with almost an entirely local band) and entering the National Twelve-Bell Competition annually. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s we were in a similar situation at SMLT. I remember in my early days of ringing on twelve partaking in Barford and Newgate. My first blows of Bristol Max were up here. The Twelve-Bell was entered every year and three finals reached, with 4th place achieved on home-turf in 1991. A peal of Bristol Max made up ENTIRELY of local ringers was rung.

But George Pipe was in his prime then and along with Stephen Pettman they created a tremendous standard and Simon Rudd then carried that on with the likes of Mark Liebenrood who was last heard to have become a Buddhist and given up ringing. Mancroft now has Simon Rudd as well as David Brown. George is a fine ringer and still superb to have around but sadly health has curtailed his influence, notably tonight as he wasn’t well enough to come out. Nigel Newton is probably the only regular who gets continued exposure to twelve-bell ringing at College Youths practices in London, but he has to travel up from Essex to join us. And I am most certainly not in David Brown’s league!

We need to do more. The special monthly practices help but only when everyone attends, more peals and more quarters on ten and twelve need to be rung by us but such is the stretched nature of our ringers’ lifestyles – ringing related or otherwise – that many just cannot commit the time needed.

So for now we have to all learn together when we can, not just on twelve but on the stages to get many up to twelve, on ten and even eight. Ian, Mandy and Melvyn try to work their way into Surprise Royal, the Salter boys were both there and progressing well, Sean is ringing the treble well to Little Bob Max and Peter Davies is now going beyond his comfort zone. But the vast majority who come along are feeling their way into higher number ringing – we haven’t got an abundance of experienced twelve-bell ringers and so sometimes the ringing is painful. We have to have patience and have to go through that if we are ever to find ourselves self-sufficient on twelve to a high standard in this county. Above all else we need support.

Tonight was at times one of those painful nights. But Stedman Cinques was rung well again this evening. Perhaps not as well as last week but if not for a miscall would’ve been a decent twelve-bell touch. Yorkshire Max was rung reasonably though needs work and practice. But God willing we shall be back next Monday and continue working at it and hope people like Deborah continue coming and growing with us.

By that point we will have had the South-East District Outing to South-Norfolk and hopefully members will have noted it and will join us on what may be a chilly but no doubt enjoyable occasion. Like David at SMLT, Tom Scase needs your support, please help if you can.


Sunday 28th October 2012

If the extra hour for putting the clocks back was ever needed, it was this morning as we awoke in Norfolk with sore heads. With Ruthie needing to be at work in Woodbridge by nine, there wasn’t time to reflect on the superb day we’d had yesterday, let alone even have breakfast, but knowing that in reality she was going in for ten helped, even if the A12 didn’t. In these times of austerity it won’t happen of course, but this main road to the popular tourist area of Great Yarmouth and The Broads and towards Sizewell Power Station (not to mention the Henham Estate that hosts big events like the Steam Rally and Latitude Music Festival, Southwold and Aldeburgh) really ought to be dualled, if not all the way then certainly much, much more than it is, something that would not only benefit the huge numbers of vehicles which use it but also the communities blighted by the traffic that snakes and roars through their villages. Even on an ordinary Sunday morning like this we found ourselves in a massive tail-back as everyone was forced to sit behind a car pulling a horsebox at 30mph from Blythburgh all the way down to the next available dual-carriageway at the turning to Aldeburgh, seeing lots of cars racing through this small stretch of dual-carriageway approaching this dangerous junction as they scrambled to get round the aforementioned hold-up.

Despite all this, my wife made it to work just about on time and I made it to St Mary-le-Tower to ring Call-Changes on the twelve as we entertained a visiting ringer from Grantham and more importantly to meet up again with Mason. Thank you Mum and Dad!

Reunited we headed onto Grundisburgh where it was good to see Gill Waterson at this difficult time as well James Smith and Claire Haynes as we ‘peaked’ at call-changes on nine and Stephen sorted the clock out on what much be a tough day to be in charge of a church clock!

With the li’l chap having been a little poorly last night and not getting a lot of sleep, yesterday catching up with me and darkness encroaching ever sooner on a grey, wet, windy day, our afternoon essentially entailed sleep but at least elsewhere others were more active, most notably at Stratford St Mary where a peal was rung to mark forty years since Christine Knight rang her first peal, incredible as that sounds! Well done to our esteemed Peal Secretary on forty years of distinguished peal-ringing which has seen her ring much on higher numbers and in spliced-Surprise Major and of course saw her ring her 500th recently. And congratulations to her predecessor as Peal Secretary Alan Mayle on reaching his 500th of Minor in the same 5040. Two Suffolk ringers deserving of praise.

They weren’t the only succeeding on the end of a rope today either as Tom Scase returned from calling yesterday’s Suffolk Guild peal in Bristol to call the latest quarter for the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight at Monewden, an 80th birthday compliment to another long-standing member deserving of praise, Gwen Bloomfield. Happy Birthday Gwen!

Apart from a brief trip for eggs from Edwin Avenue where Kate was busy rope-splicing, it has to be said that the extra hour today was wasted on us – I hope it wasn’t for you!


Saturday 27th October 2012

Ruthie and I were in border country today, straddling the River Waveney which divides Suffolk and Norfolk. Or joins them, depending on how you look at it.

It was for a good cause though as we celebrated the wedding of the Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod and North-East District Ringing Master Maggie Ross and how!

Ringing at Barsham. As a quarter was rung for the event at Lowestoft and then the actual ceremony took place, our day started with getting an excited Mason to his Nana and Granddad’s for a sleepover (thanks Mum and Dad!) before we headed up to settle in our accommodation for the night at The Swan in Gillingham and then set about following the detailed instructions given to us by the stars of the show as they endeavoured to move lots of people around an unfamiliar area for no cost to said guests! Our part of the plan was to meet John and Charlotte Colliss of Hampshire, parents of Ed, one of the best young ringers in the country but also very good ringers in their own right, who had partaken in a peal for the occasion at Ditchingham last night and who were also staying in this nice little location. From here we four headed to Barsham where the happy couple had arranged some open ringing which I was running, returning the favour after they very kindly rang the ringing at our wedding recently. For some time we were the only four there, though that did open up the opportunity for Jean Bower the local who had opened up for us to ring for the first time for two or three years and actually ringing very well to some rounds on five, reigniting her enthusiasm for the art – local towers take note! She seemed relieved when the LeMarechals and Graham Wright arrived, giving her a break and enabling us to ring some Stedman and then Erin as a ferocious hailstorm battered this pretty church!

With our ringing duties done, the party could start and we headed over to where the rest of the festivities were taking place, The Locks Inn at Geldeston. This is a delightful place that almost felt like it was on an island, set as it is at the end of a long potholed lane filled with water and surrounded by soggy marshes and bulging waterways and I was ever so grateful to Richard Rapior on getting me back from the neighbouring village once I’d dropped our car off at The Swan.

Richard, Julie and their lovely little daughter Emily were among the crowds that had greeted us at the tea and cake put on by Philip and Maggie, which also included Tom Britten and his girlfriend Emily, the Whitings, Hughes, Leachs (well done to Andrew and Craig on their achievements in this morning’s peal at Carlton Colville and Happy Birthday for earlier in the week Craig!), Thomas’ and also later the Busby’s straight from their hols in Scotland, as well as some from the annual treasure hunts that High Hill House hosts. It was a lovely atmosphere even before the new legally bound pair arrived, though their plans to turn up by boat were scuppered – ironically – by too much water as the river was too high for their boat to fit under a bridge!

The happy couple with Maggie's mother. Brian Whiting eyes a sparkler up with some suspicion... ...whilst Ruthie seems very excited by hers! The Chairman speaks! The Broadside Boys played as friendships were renewed and made and after being temporarily moved to the other bar in this wonderfully atmospheric pub so that tables could be set up for the evening reception - which was as formal as it got today - we returned for sparklers, sausage & mash and free beer, yet another generous gesture from our hosts. Speeches were made by the bride and groom, the ‘God Spot’ was carried out with much humour by Blyth Valley Team Rector Edward Rennard and a poem imparted and even a film script read by ringer from Yeovil Dave Hammonds as the right tone was hit throughout. It was all over far too soon as the taxis – the last part of the grand scheme arranged to perfection by the newly married couple – arrived to take a sizeable crowd of us back to Gillingham where my wife and I enjoyed another drink with the friendly locals at the bar, taking advantage of that extra hour in bed we’ll get tonight!

Thank you very much to Philip and Maggie for inviting us and for your generosity and we hope you enjoyed your big day in border country as much as we did!


Friday 26th October 2012

Happy Mason Day!

The star of the day was resplendent in his silly socks when I picked him up for the weekend but otherwise it was a quiet evening in anticipation of an exciting day tomorrow.

We did take in the latest Derren Brown offering, Apocalypse on the TV though. It was a project that saw an apparently selfish, lazy man duped into thinking that England had been decimated by a meteor strike and was inhabited by zombies. A bit like going to Portman Road these days. As interesting as it was, it’s not the sort of thing we’d usually watch but it held our attention as Toby’s fiancée Amy and their then flat-mate Cara had been involved with the catering at nearby Bentwaters where it had been filmed and had since regaled us with tales of the living dead coming in for lunch and the TV star’s hair arrangements!

Obviously by this point, the li’l chap was in bed and Mason Day was over!


Thursday 25th October 2012

It is exactly half a decade since I started writing this daily blog. Hopefully its longevity indicates it has been useful, interesting and even entertaining as I aim to keep people up to date as best I can of all the ringing goings on in Suffolk and beyond in amongst some of the other mundane stuff that probably isn’t that interesting to others like trips to Tesco or putting the Christmas tree up. From a purely selfish point of view I really enjoy writing it, searching out what’s been going on, who has been doing what where and with whom, catching up on the gossip and putting across what I am trying to do in my ringing and my role as Guild PR Officer.

The themes on that cvery first entry on Thursday 25th October 2007 were Mason, Ruthie, Ipswich Town and Grundisburgh practice, the same themes as run through the entry for Thursday 25th October 2012, but much has changed.

Five years ago, Mason was ten months old, in plaster casts and a regular visitor to Ipswich Hospital, planned or otherwise. Indeed the very first sentence referred to such a visit, but fast forward to the present day and he is very much his own character, a popular mini-celebrity in his school as it prepares for Mason Day tomorrow and growing up fast and thankfully the trips to hospital (for him anyway!) are a lot less frequent. Tonight saw his latest parents evening so his mother and I headed down to the school to hear from his teacher. The news was mixed with him not doing so well with writing and concentration (flash back to any of my parents evenings or just speak to anyone who knows me well and you’d hear exactly the same!) but excelling in drawing (with a relative like Sir Alfred Munnings you may expect that!) and maths (I’ll get him working on some peal compositions immediately!) and generally loved by teachers and pupils alike. Either way, it is frightening to compare the Mason who is nearly six to the Mason of my first blog entry.

That day in 2007 was actually quite a momentous day as it was also the day that Ruthie found out she was to start working at Boots, an employment she still enjoys to this day. However, the girl who at that time was my girlfriend of just over a year is now the woman who is my wife in possibly the biggest change of the last five years. And tonight she was in attendance at St Mary’s Church Centre in Woodbridge for choir practice in another element of life that has altered since 25/10/2007.

Much has changed at ITFC since that autumn day when a bemused wriglet ‘posed’ for a photo with Jon Walters and Gary Roberts (identifying the latter as Alan Lee was the first of many, many factual errors in my blog over the years!) in the Britannia Building Society. Whilst Roberts has recently joined Swindon Town in the lower leagues, Walters is now a Republic of Ireland international and a star of the Premier League with Stoke City, but it is my favourite club itself which has changed the most and it can’t be said for the better. When we met these two players back then, they were part of a modestly run club boasting a team who were challenging for the play-offs and attracting over 25,000 to home games on average – it was generally a pleasure to go to Portman Road. Of course now we are run by a multi-millionaire (Marcus Evans) and an athletics guy (Simon Clegg), neither of which seem to know how to run a football club, we’re bottom of the table and only 15,000 attended Tuesday night’s match which finally saw Paul Jewell go – going to Portman Road is currently a very depressing place to go, though the li’l chap’s insistence on wanting to go again may bring back some of that joy for me. On this October 25th, the news surrounding this once great club was which manager Evans and Clegg were going to select from Wikipedia. Very depressing.

Still, there was some very good news today in regards Grundisburgh. 1827 days ago the practice at what was then one of just two twelves in Suffolk was a very useful one and that particular practice saw much rung from 8-Spliced Surprise Major to Stedman Cinques, despite the absence of many on Stephen’s Italian trip. Since then though, things have deteriorated at St Mary the Virgin from a ringing perspective. Where there was once Surprise Maximus and Bristol Royal, numbers dwindled so much that there have only been a couple of practices in the last eighteen months or so and one of those was for the benefit of a large group of ringers visiting from Lancashire recently. But tonight there was a practice at the 10cwt twelve and encouragingly, according to Stephen’s email, there were nine prepared to come out, not including SDP himself. Ironically, our engagements at school and choir, coupled with my better half helping her mother adjust the ropes at Ufford and a pressing need for some sort of food meant that Mrs Munnings and I were unable to join them this time, but if this is to be the start of regular practices there again we are happy to help out where we can.

One of the things I have loved about doing the blog is noting the achievements of Guild members, particularly in quarters and peals. So it was appropriate that today saw Peter Mayer ring his first quarter in the success at Campsea Ashe as the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight moves into action after its customary slow start. Congratulations Peter, let’s see more of it from other SE District members before the end of next week!

Before I sign off on the type of rambling that seems to have increased on this blog, I have to thank Chris Garner who has worked hard to put my entries up on the website, occasionally pulling me up when I’ve been a bit too risqué, dodgy or just plain wrong! But also thank you to everyone who has read and commented on the blog, whether positively or otherwise. I appreciate not everyone has liked everything I have written, but whilst every now and again I like to stir some debate up, my aim is not to offend so if you don’t like something then let me know and I’ll try to avoid doing it again!

Quite how long I will continue writing this blog I can’t tell. I enjoy writing it and people seem to enjoy reading it so it may be written up to my dying day or perhaps it will be ended by a change in circumstances and/or technology. But for now I hope to continue writing about Mason, Ruthie, Ipswich Town and ringing for some time.


Wednesday 24th October 2012

Henley.Paul Jewell’s footballing ambitions in Suffolk may have officially come to an end today, but my ringing ambitions continue, this evening’s peal at Henley taking me to within nine of my five hundredth.

And it was a very pleasurable evening too with a very nice 5010 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major specially composed by tonight’s conductor Brian Whiting to mark the seventh ringer’s tenth wedding anniversary to Claire. Congratulations Mr & Mrs Potts! Very enjoyable.

With no room for Ruthie in this particular effort, I made my way straight over to The Greyhound in Pettistree to meet up with my wife, a shaven Sam Shannon and a deaf Peter Harper at the end of an evening that had seen an apparently good quarter of Norwich Minor rung before practice. It seems that it is only Norwich which is going well in East Anglia these days – thanks for all the misery Paul Jewell.


Tuesday 23rd October 2012

Sales team at John Catt = doing well, rewarded with a nice meal out at The Anchor in Woodbridge after we met our target on our latest international publication.

Paul Jewell at Ipswich Town Football Club = doing terribly and having listened to the aftermath of Town’s 2-1 home defeat to Derby County is surely out of a job in the morning if he isn’t already.


Monday 22nd October 2012

Marlesford.If the adage that the number of people in attendance at your funeral reflects how well loved, liked and/or respected you were during your life is to be believed – and I reckon there’s a lot of truth in that – then we had proof today that Alan Rogers was immensely loved, liked AND respected. Not that any of us who knew him needed any proof, but the turnout to his funeral this afternoon was staggering. As Simon Knott points out on his Suffolk Churches website, Marlesford is a small church but with a sizeable south aisle it still has a large amount of seating. Yet when Ruthie and I arrived twenty minutes before the service we found it to be standing room only and had been the case for a while. By 2pm at the start of the service there were almost as many people standing as sitting and it seems people were spilling outside as we squeezed in next to James Smith under the organ.

There was an amazing representation from ringing with at least three past Guild Ringing Masters, three past Guild Chairmen, two past Guild Secretaries, two Guild Treasurers and two CC Reps that I could see amongst the huge swathe of people here for this past Master of the South-East District. They were there from all over the county – the Robinsons from Framlingham, Perrys from Offton, McBurnies from Hollesley, the Roses, Girts, Pipes, Munnings’, Hughes’, Garners, Girlings, Gordon Slack, Janet Sheldrake and Brian Redgers, as well as those who rang regularly with him in Marlesford and the benefice such as Glenys Fear, Elaine Townsend, Tim Holmes and Paul Sharples. Frankly it’s just a snapshot of the ringing turnout there today and only a fraction of the total crowd present as his dedicated work was remembered fondly by Lord Marlesford and his love of bird-watching, walking and Ipswich Town amongst much else such as his tremendous work on the parochial council was celebrated.

Throughout we all undoubtedly had our own memories of a good man and good friend, with recollections of that Marlesford Christmas Dinner at The Froize in Chillesford and numerous laughs had with him in the sunshine at Brian and Peta’s annual BBQ. As with every funeral I’ve ever been to it helped with coming to terms with Alan’s passing which I hoped it did for Katrina. Rest in Peace Alan.

We had the pleasure of James Smith’s company in nicer circumstances later as he popped into St Mary-le-Tower practice on the way back to London having rung in a peal at Grundisburgh immediately after the funeral. Also in attendance was Brian Meads as Chelmsford Cathedral practice was cancelled due to lack of numbers and their presence helped us to ring a really decent touch of Stedman Cinques. There was still some sloppy striking in places, but the concentration was good and the rhythm consistent, making ringing the eleventh that much easier. It all bodes well as David tonight asked us to do our homework on Superlative Surprise Maximus as we make the most of having twelve bells again.

It was all topped by a big crowd in The Cricketers as we enviously watched Nathan Colman tuck into his bangers and mash and tried to convince Paul Bray and my wife of the merits of Stedman. All in all it was a nice way to end a difficult day.


Sunday 21st October 2012

This morning at St Mary-le-Tower was one of those mornings that nothing would go. There seemed a distinct lack of concentration and once that starts it seems difficult to drag people out of it for the rest of the morning, though Mason didn’t care as he played cheerfully with Henry Salter who had been brought along by his older brother George.

Thankfully things improved in the evening as the li’l chap and I returned with Ruthie for the first special practice here since we’d been given the go-ahead to ring the back bells again. Not everything went – Superlative Royal (No2) ground to a halt as people seemed caught out by it not being brought round at the half-course mark and three-spliced Surprise Royal crumbled in the last lead – but the ringing was good, with decent striking, though we’re always striving for improvement of which there is plenty to be made.

In between these two visits the ringing at Grundisburgh was helped by the visit of Peter and Christine Hill. Mason and I met up with my wife for a cuppa after she’d done her bit in the choir in the service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge (incidentally the South-East District ADM in December is no longer going to be held here but instead at Pettistree) and the three of us took our old chest of drawers to the dump as we enjoyed Mrs Munnings’ company on one of her now familiar alternate Sundays off.

Whilst all this was going on, Sue Bowerman rang her first quarter on the treble in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Hollesley and Ruth Suggett followed up her efforts yesterday with ringing her first of Surprise Royal in the 1282 of Cambridge at Stradbroke this evening. Well done both of you! At least your ringing went better than ours at SMLT this morning!


Saturday 20th October 2012

Peal band.Only ten to go now. And the 5016 of Grandsire Cinques at The Norman Tower that marked the latest step towards my five hundredth peal was an impressive one in the circumstances. Paul Stannard and Stephen Pettman had managed to hastily arrange a band at short notice, a task made all the harder by peals elsewhere – well done to George Salter on ringing his first on ten in the success at Stonham Aspal - and the GMC meeting and the eclectic mix of the band showed that as Mark Lloyd and Jon Potter travelled in and Alex Tatlow and Louis Suggett returned from Bristol and Birmingham respectively. It was nice to ring a peal with Paul again and indeed to ring my first peal with John Girt for nearly three years in what was his first peal altogether for almost two years. The boy done well on the tenor!

Well done to Mark on ringing his first on twelve and to Ruth Suggett on the same achievement as she enjoys not being North-West District Ringing Master! That role has gone to Winston Girling, but sadly no one could be found to take over from Abby Antrobus as Secretary at last week’s ADM at Great Barton which is very disappointing. It has to be said that as important as these positions are they don’t have to be demanding roles. Hopefully Abby will be relieved soon.

We were relieved by a pint in the Dog and Partridge afterwards where we were joined by Shirley Girt and Richard Knight, before we collected Mason from his grandparents who had very kindly looked after him for the afternoon. Thank you Mum and Dad for helping me to 490!


Friday 19th October 2012

Next Friday at my son’s school will be Mason Day. It felt strangely inevitable that he would have a day named after him but it is all for a good cause as his contemporaries will be asked to pay to turn up to school wearing silly clothes to raise money for STEPS, the charity which supports children and adults who have lower limb deficiencies like clubfoot as Mason was born with.

This was announced at the school’s harvest assembly, which the li’l chap’s class was leading and which work had very kindly allowed me to pop out to see. And I’m glad I did as my boy stood up and announced his line as loudly as he could “this pineapple is from Costa Rica” as he waved the fruit about before us parents were then invited into his classroom to play a learning game with our children. I returned to work bursting with pride and then left work on my final early shift of the year for what turned into a very surreal afternoon.

In the torrential rain I drove down to the delivery area behind Boots to pick Ruthie up, but as we were about to leave a group of people behind us frantically tried to catch our attention. The reason became obvious on closer inspection as almost directly behind Emily was the unconscious body of a young lady (twenty-seven it transpired) lying in a puddle. A number of us went to her aide, holding umbrellas to keep her dry, getting pillows from nearby Budgens and I got our picnic blanket out of the boot to keep her warm. As she came round and the paramedics arrived she became understandably distressed (as you would if you woke up lying in a puddle surrounded by strangers) and eventually it became obvious that her main problem was too much booze, but I was heartened by the response of those who came across her, especially as in other places she may well have been dismissed and left to lie there and I’m glad my wife and I did our bit, even if we were absolutely soaked by the end of the experience!

Mason eventually picked up and a visit from Kate for a cuppa and we dried out, later cheered by the footnote to the quarter at Rendham – thanks guys!

Sadly, that cheeriness was knocked as news reached us that Dick Waterson had died this afternoon after a lengthy illness. Dick wasn’t a ringer himself, but as the supportive husband of Gill and father of Ben and Molly he was a tremendous friend of ringers and ringing. Empowered by a sense of humour that often had his wife shaking her head he livened up any number of ringing events and even arranged a quarter to mark his and Gill’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary when we were on Lundy Island four years ago. He will be very missed and our thoughts go out to his family.


Thursday 18th October 2012

An early shift at work and sleep for me, hairdressers and choir for Ruthie.

Meanwhile, life in the Suffolk Guild is a little livelier over the coming weeks, beginning with the start of the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight on Saturday which is a fantastic opportunity for members to try all sorts as a concerted focus is placed on this medium. Except for the last Saturday of the fortnight when it is the SE District’s Outing to just north of the border in South Norfolk where support would be very much appreciated.

Cavendish.Support would no doubt also be appreciated at the Surprise Minor practice next Thursday and on Saturday 27th October for this month’s South-West District Practice in picturesque Cavendish, a much-photographed location that sums up just how fortunate we are to be able to do our ringing in such a beautiful landscape. And of course there are other lovely places to travel to in the near future as the North-West District have an Eight-Bell Method Practice at Elveden on Wednesday 7th November, whilst the North-East District continue ADM season in the delightful surroundings of Mendham and Withersdale and the SW have a Learners Practice at Sudbury St Gregory, both later on in the day from Jonathan Stevens’ Belfry Maintenance session at Rougham on Saturday 10th November. From there we have the popular and enjoyable Midweek Ringers during the day on Tuesday 13th November which this month is going to Gislingham and Walsham-le-Willows, the Bacton Monthly Practice the following day and then the ever useful NE District Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham which on this occasion falls on St Edmund’s Day, Tuesday 20th November for which Neal Dodge at Great Barton is still the only person to have responded to my plea for ringing on the day of the county’s patron saint.

So there is plenty to do and support. After all, there will always be an opportunity for quiet days like today.


Wednesday 17th October 2012

Should Ruthie and I be worried that the police seem to be following us around this week?

The Wolery.Following the drama outside St Mary-le-Tower on Monday night, as we headed off to our ultimately successful peal attempt at The Wolery in Ipswich this evening, we found our own road cordoned off at both ends by the boys in blue, a lorry parked up on the side and its driver nonchalantly chatting with police. Quite what had happened I don’t know but they were all gone by the time we returned, by which point Colin Salter had rung his first peal of Surprise and his first blows of Rutland in our success at the top of his garden, ringing really rather quite well. They may look like two-thirds of Hanson in their ‘heyday’ but Colin and his older brother George are turning into talented and enthusiastic ringers which is a joy to see. Ironically it is happening as their father David continues to suffer and has indeed been bedridden this week following an operation a couple of days ago. We wish him all the best and hope he returns to the peal columns soon.

All this followed on from watching England play their rearranged match in Poland on the TV this afternoon after I’d returned to work for an early shift. I’m still not 100%, but I am a lot better, which if the police are going to be following us around for the foreseeable future I’m going to need to be!


Tuesday 16th October 2012

The plan was go to work for an early shift, conduct (or at least attempt to) a peal of 52-spliced Surprise Minor at Monewden and then relax with a birthday meal at The Anchor with Ruthie in the evening.

However, as I awoke in the darkness at 5am to conditions eerily not too dissimilar to those encountered in this region exactly twenty-five years ago I was feeling rotten with a sore throat. I could barely speak and frankly wouldn’t be much use on the end of a phone at John Catt even if I felt up to it so I called in sick, though with this being the last week of working on the current publication it was a day lost I could’ve done without as I look to tie up the loose ends on an international campaign that is tight at the best of times!

Despite then sleeping until nearly noon I didn’t really feel I could justify going for a peal attempt which would’ve required me to be quick and alert whilst I felt as groggy and slow as I did today so I did some ringing round and gave the others an afternoon off, which perhaps worryingly most seemed delighted with!

By the evening I was feeling much better after that morning’s sleep, plenty of fluids, throat sweets, Ibuprofen and an afternoon of rest reading and watching birthday presents and felt ready for the meal out that my wife had very kindly booked at my favourite place in Woodbridge to eat. It was still touch and go whether we could and should go almost up to the point when we left for our meal but I’m glad we did. I get very frustrated being holed up indoors all day (as much as I enjoy it, there is only so much Time Team I can handle) so it was good to get out and some good food and good company certainly helped aide my recovery, as did seeing that Tess Blower rang her first Surprise inside in the successful quarter at Worlingham today – well done Tess!

Either side of eating we enjoyed a pint in the Red Lion as we looked to take in England’s World Cup qualifier in Poland, but perhaps in keeping with today it was postponed as the rain deluged the pitch in Warsaw. At least with the match being moved to 4pm tomorrow and me on an early shift again in the morning, I should be able to catch it then instead. At least that’s the plan…


Monday 15th October 2012

I have had some memorable birthdays. My ninth birthday fell on a Thursday and that evening saw the Great Storm of twenty-five years ago hit the south-east of England, hitting Suffolk hard. It was a pretty horrific looking back and I remember my father stood outside dodging flying roof tiles as he inspected the damage and my parents hoping our old wooden fence would be blown over so they didn’t have to pay someone to take it down in readiness for the new wall they were planning on putting up. But for me it was great as my brother and I got the day off school and started an unexpected three-day weekend by playing with our contemporaries David and Matthew next door. It was the best weekend of my life up to that point.

Offton.I remember well on my eighteenth birthday going ten-pin bowling and my first legal pint in The Limeburners after Offton practice and as the clock ticked into the 15th October for my twenty-first birthday, I was sat in The Marisco Tavern on Lundy Island with the Wilbys Andrew and Michael amongst others, which was a particularly good one! Though sadly a peal attempt of Belfast Major in the morning before we caught our ferry back was lost.

My mates from Birmingham coming over to Tunstall to celebrate my twenty-seventh – my first birthday since I had returned to these shores – in the Green Man along with the new friends I had made in this part of the world is another one I look back on with much fondness.

And of course sharing my big day with Ruthie and then Mason over the last few years has been a joy, both of whom were delightful company to start today’s celebrations with.

Along the way the day has been marked by ringing and not just that lost peal attempt in the middle of the Bristol Channel. I rang in peal of Yorkshire Major at Hadleigh exactly eighteen years ago, Superlative at Henley a year later and a very enjoyable and brisk 5088 of Cassiobury at Ufford in 2006. Today was no exception as I arranged and rang in a peal of Cambridge Major on the back eight at Grundisburgh this afternoon after an early shift at John Catt, for which I am very grateful to the other seven for partaking in, especially my brother Chris who grabbed just three or four hours sleep after a nights work and then bought me a drink in The Turks Head at Hasketon afterwards – thanks Chris!

And being a Monday, my wife and I took in some ringing at St Mary-le-Tower – once we could get in! In the short time it took us to park up and pop into McDonalds yards from SMLT, it appears something had happened on Tower Street and we returned to find the churchyard and car-park cordoned off by the police. We were informed we could make our way round to the east end of the churchyard and ringing continued as normal, but most of Tower Street and half the churchyard were still taped off when we came out, meaning a long walk to their car for some and to The Cricketers for others such as ourselves as I finished my birthday as I have pretty much all of them since that first pint in The Limeburners sixteen years ago – with a pint!

As ever I have been reminded how fortunate I am to have so many friends and thank you to everyone who has sent birthday wishes via Facebook, texts, cards and face-to-face – it has been very much appreciated and helped contribute to another memorable birthday.


Sunday 14th October 2012

Some folk amaze me. Earlier in the week in the Suffolk Coastal newspaper that gets dropped through our door, I read about some residents in Rendlesham who had complained that their lives had been blighted by the noise of people using some recycling bins on their road. The bins have only been moved there in the last couple of months so much like I have for neighbours of new peals of bells I have some understanding, especially as a curfew on when people can use the bins is often ignored. But I find it incredible how sensitive some people are. In our two years in Sun Lane we essentially lived IN a builder’s yard. The gates were opened with great gusto and squeaking at 7am every morning just feet from our bedroom window which during hot summer nights would be open of course. There was a shrill saw that was regularly in use and the beeping of reversing lorries right next to our abode was constant. It was incredibly noisy. But it never really bothered us or even Mason. We got used to it very quickly and accepted our environment, getting on with our lives with few issues relating to our loud neighbours. Yet here are a group of residents up in arms about the sound of people occasionally emptying bottles into a plastic bin.

This morning was even more incredible as I listened to James Hazell on Radio Suffolk whilst I drove around on my Sunday ringing rounds. The topic was noises that make you cringe and whilst there were the usual things like finger nails down a blackboard, metal spoons on the bottom of saucepans or Naaaaridge fans celebrating at Portman Road (though barring any unfortunate cup draws that is an unlikely scenario for a few years judging by current fortunes) and all that kind of thing there were some incredible complaints, including someone who lived near Ipswich Hospital and was annoyed by the sound of ambulance sirens! Mercifully, church bells were not mentioned - at least whilst I was listening – but this is the kind of environment we are ringing in, which is why we should be more prepared than ever to stand our ground as much as possible whilst working with our communities.

St Mary-le-Tower.The St Mary-le-Tower church community has been working together with us ringers on fixing the tower and whilst it was put up a few days ago, today was the first opportunity I got to take a proper look at the scaffolding which now encases the bottom half of the east side of this magnificent edifice and is the first solid steps towards what will be a speedy resolution. Imposing and unattractive as it is, I’m glad to see it up as it means things are happening at last.

Mason and I didn’t actually make it in time to ring, arriving just as those present pulled off for what turned out to be a lengthy final touch, but we had to be on time at our next tower as we swapped the usual journey to Grundisburgh for one to Ufford as I opened up for and ran the ringing there this morning which consisted of Grandsire, Stedman and Plain Hunt of the Doubles variety.

Barsham.And it was the Doubles variety which the Rolph sisters excelled in today. Well done to Alex and Nicole on ringing their most methods to a quarter in the success at Barsham.

It is ringers like these girls who are the future of Suffolk ringing and there are steps elsewhere in different ways to ensure our art’s future as Jonathan Stevens shall be running a session on belfry maintenance at Rougham from 10am-12noon on Saturday 10th November. Much like relations with those who live and work within earshot of our bells, this is a vital aspect of ringing which I hope means a good turnout at St Mary in just under a month.


Saturday 13th October 2012

Last week Mason, Ruthie and I let in ringers from around the country to ring a peal at Grundisburgh; this afternoon the boy and I were responsible for giving access to Ufford to a group of ringers from Essex in Kate's absence. I love the variety of ringing.

Bredfield.As with the band last Saturday, there were people I'd not met and familiar faces, on this occasion Philip Erith, the man responsible for teaching a certain Stephen D Pettman and companion on the back seat of the coach on the only one of SDP's ringing trips to Italy that I've been on. And having been to Pettistree they had shed a handful of participants, so I was delighted to join in with them too as they got to grips with the high fourth rope that Ruthie and I should really have adjusted this week. I can only apologise to my ringing colleagues from south of the border who nonetheless enjoyed themselves sufficiently to send them on their way to Bredfield in high spirits whilst I offered the li'l chap a couple of backstrokes on the treble before I dropped it.

Hopefully he'll one day appreciate the variety of the art that was also shown off at High Hill House in Halesworth where Jonathan Stevens rang his first of Major on handbells in the 1296 of Plain Bob today. Even if he doesn’t one day, I am currently.


Friday 12th October 2012

I shan't be marking my forthcoming birthday in big style. Not through any particular sense of understatement but mainly because my experience of arranging anything involving more than five or six people can become particularly stressful from peals to parties to weddings! Plus it's not a particularly significant one. Thirty-four seeing as you asked.

So apart from a peal on the afternoon of the day itself on Monday that is just as much about me having the afternoon free after an early shift at work and the need to knock another peal off on the route to number five hundred as it is about marking this annual landmark, my celebrations will be restricted to the occasional easily arranged gathering such as this evening's which saw Toby, Amy, Pete and Susanne come round to join Mason, Ruthie and me in having a few drinks and a takeaway whilst we watched England predictably hammer San Marino in the footy on TV. And do you know what? I enjoyed it without having any of the stress of having to make big arrangements!


Thursday 11th October 2012

Thursday evenings had become very quiet since a lack of Grundisburgh practice became the norm. But add Ruthie’s new found commitment to choir practice at St Mary the Virgin, Woodbridge and throw in a late shift at John Catt and the latest special Surprise Major practice at Ufford and seeing out the day named after the Norse god Thor becomes a little bit hectic!

I just about managed finishing work at seven, nipping to Tesco for petrol, letting everyone in at the eight of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and partaking in a very slow course of Cambridge Major before picking Mrs Munnings up from the Market Hill so she could join in this evening’s ringing frivolity. Without wanting to give my wife a huge ego, it seems her presence raised the standard a little as a slow and patchy start blossomed into a quite decent evening with even the method of the night Pudsey – disliked by so many – going quite well before the two of us finally grabbed some tea.

Presumably yesterday’s quarter of Jervaulx (an abbey near Ripon as I aim to educate in today’s blog) Bob Minor at Buxhall also went quite well, with credit due to pretty much all the band for their achievements in the 1260. Well done to Josephine Beever, Richard Brewster and David Howe on ringing their first blows in the doubtless deceptively simple looking method and David and Lesley Steed on ringing their first quarter of it. And well done Andrea Alderton for ringing the treble to it, often a vital bell when one is ringing an unfamiliar method. As yet though, no sign their Thursday evening was quite as rushed as ours!


Wednesday 10th October 2012

When people pass away after a painful illness I find I’m never sure whether to be relieved or sad. Like most people I imagine, it ends up being both and that was certainly the case when I heard about the death of Alan W Rogers of Marlesford early this morning. He had battled cancer for about a decade or so and ever so occasionally he gave insights into how painful and uncomfortable both the illness and its treatment were. And it must have been so hard for Katrina his wife too over such a long period. So in that respect I imagine to an extent his freeing from such pain is a relief.

But you can’t help but be sad at the passing of a man who was such a joy to be around. In public at least he rarely let his long battle get him down or effect how he was around people, remaining cheerful, upbeat and therefore inspirational, putting many of us to shame when we allowed ourselves to get down over our ‘problems’, though of course that was never his intention. I was very fortunate to enjoy one of the Marlesford Christmas meals at The Froize in Chillesford which was arranged by him and was a superb social occasion, typical of an AWR arrangement. Ruthie fondly remembers the hugs he gave her whenever he saw her, whilst I remember fondly the hugs I got, to be passed on to her when we met in her absence! Ringing and particularly ringing in Suffolk has lost a real character and gem today and he shall be missed. Our thoughts are with his family, particularly Katrina.

At Pettistree practice this evening, where a quarter was rung in his memory beforehand, news of his passing seemed to make for an unusually subdued night, though it wasn’t helped by a relatively low attendance to accompany the relatively low temperatures and various aches, pains and illnesses that those present had, though I’m sure Alan would’ve told us off! So subdued in fact was the evening that only a handful retired to The Greyhound afterwards so my wife and I decided to take up an offer of joining Toby and Amy in The Mariners back in Woodbridge.

Meanwhile, well done to Colin Salter who rang his first peal of treble bob and Clare Veal her first blows in Kent Major in the 5088 at The Wolery this evening. It was also dedicated to Alan and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Rest in Peace Alan.


Tuesday 9th October 2012

God willing, in a couple of the weeks or so I shall have been writing this blog every day for five years. Hopefully it offers an insight into not just what I do but into ringing in Suffolk and beyond, but some days it is hard to find anything to write.

Today is such a day. A late shift at work which meant there was no opportunity to go out anywhere and so the highlight was Ruthie making some filling and warming soup as it gets darker noticeably earlier and chillier too, though it was still light as we left John Catt at six and it was actually a very nice sunny autumn’s day.

On a ringing related note though, thank you to Neal Dodge, the first to respond to my request to know about ringing for St Edmund’s Day as he informed me they shall be attempting a quarter at Great Barton on 20th November. Hopefully more will follow his lead and I’ll have plenty to write about on the day!


Monday 8th October 2012

It has felt a long time coming but this evening I rang on the twelve of St Mary-le-Tower again as I rang the tenor to what transpired to be a pretty decent half-course of Yorkshire Max, certainly considering the gap since we last rang Surprise Maximus here.

The practice that it climaxed was a slow burner, gradually getting better with some things going well and others not so but we all felt fairly satisfied by the time we sat down with a pint in The Cricketers to listen to George Salter’s hair-brained schemes and Ian Culham’s busy schedule and tank-driving exploits!

Meanwhile, next month is St Edmund’s Day on the 20th. Traditionally we mark the day of the county’s patron saint with special ringing and we get some good PR from Radio Suffolk and in particular Mark Murphy who likes to make a big deal of the occasion. In the past I arranged simultaneous peals in each district whilst I was Guild Ringing Master but I have to admit that that became quite an undertaking and last year there was less done, though still the odd quarter and a bit on the radio. However, I’m still keen we do special ringing to mark the day and get us some more of that PR so I would strongly urge people to think of ways to mark the occasion with bells and let me know what you’re up to. This year it falls on a Tuesday which will of course clash with practice nights and of course many will be working, but if perhaps you could ring a quarter before practice or if those of you not working during the day could arrange a peal or quarter or just some general ringing at a few towers. Generally I don’t mind what you do, but it would be good to have something to take to Radio Suffolk as it does get noticed by them!

Perhaps we could even ring the twelve at SMLT?


Sunday 7th October 2012

Mason & Ruthie Making Cakes.Mason has had a cough for over a week and so bad has it got that it is difficult for him to sleep at night and last night he coughed so much he was poorly. On top of that we’re a little worried about his hearing as he turns the TV up ridiculously high and often appears not to be able to hear us, though we’re also aware that he could just be ignoring us! So this afternoon Ruthie took us down to her work on her day off to speak with Boots’ pharmacist which in turn led us to the Riverside Clinic in Ipswich. After a reassuring chat with the doctor who seems to think little is actually wrong with his hearing, we returned to my wife’s employers to pick up a prescription to help with the cough and the patient helped Mrs Munnings to make a couple of cakes, seemingly unaffected by everything.

It all came after Ruthie’s debut in the choir at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge at this morning’s service, though after helping to make up four upstairs the li’l chap and I missed out on watching her and went on to Grundisburgh to see if we could ring them well after yesterday’s lesson. As is usual though, there were far from enough to ring all twelve and whilst the ringing was OK it continues to show how much work we have to do in Suffolk to reach anywhere near the standards achieved elsewhere with focus, practice and concentration, though I’d like to think strides were being taken towards that aim with the quarters at Bardwell, Pettistree and Reydon today.

There was no further ringing for Ruthie and me today, though I did return to Woodbridge to meet my better half for a post-service cuppa and biscuit and then that afternoon of attending to the boy’s medical needs. As we went to bed, it seems to have worked though – fingers crossed!


Saturday 6th October 2012

Grundisburgh.Grundisburgh have been much maligned by many, some having been disappointed since the nice little ten was augmented to – in their opinion a less than satisfactory – twelve, others when the new heavier tenor was put in, adding more weight to an already stretched tower (especially as the old tenor still sits above) and thus causing much tower sway and bells to drop and go over seemingly randomly. The general perception has been that it isn’t possible to ring the twelve well, though my better half and I have been fortunate enough to be present when this has been proved wrong on previous occasions. An outing I haphazardly arranged for the Towcester ringers back in 2000 took a superb band there that rang the-then lightest twelve in the world brilliantly and I was thrilled to ring in a couple of peals in the little brick tower with experienced higher-number peal-ringers, in September 2006 to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Jim Pipe’s birth and May 2009 when I partook in a Guildford Society peal of Cambridge Maximus. And even Ruthie enjoyed a peal of Stedman Cinques with the Cumberlands there in March 2005. All fantastic efforts showing that ringing doesn’t have to be unsatisfactory on the bells. But in recent months as the practices have dried up and opportunities to ring all twelve have become rare, there have been further questions raised by some as to whether anyone can ring them well.

Ruthie's new glasses!So I was hoping to catch some of the ringing from this morning’s peal-band that I let in at St Mary-the-Virgin, which featured some of the best ringers in the country, including our very own Louis Suggett. It was a gathering that brought back memories of my time in Birmingham where many a Saturday saw me travel the country to ring quality peals on ten and twelve on all sorts of bells, often making a weekend of it. Sadly I never did catch any of it as a morning of getting fancy-dress for a party this evening and Ruthie’s new glasses, all with a five-year old in tow took longer than we thought. However, Stephen Pettman – who had come to lock-up – had managed to listen to the last twenty minutes and was mightily impressed and Louis – who has rung numerous peals on the bells already – was struck by the difference when surrounded by eleven others used to peal-ringing on this number and on all sorts of bells. It was not only yet further evidence of why I think regular peal-ringing is the best way to raise standards, but also that this 10cwt twelve can be rung well. Yes, they are undoubtedly difficult, but if rung properly they can sound great. So next time you’re ringing at Grundisburgh, persevere – it will be worth it!

Afterwards, all bar one of the band shot straight off to Norwich to ring a peal of Bristol Max at Mancroft. Happily, the one left behind was my good friend from when I rang in Britain’s second city regularly, Paul Bibilo who joined my wife, my son and SDP for a drink outside The Turks Head in Hasketon in lovely but surprising sunshine, before we three set off on the next leg of our day, the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe.

Mason on Felixstowe beach.Diana Pipe ringing at Felixstowe during the South-East District Practice.Having arrived early in this underestimated little seaside resort, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather to wander along the beach before we got on with the main purpose of our visit – ringing! As usual there was a tiny proportion of the district’s membership present to take advantage of the easy-going nature of the light eight here and the experience on hand. On such a nice day in a nice location like this, I’m at a loss as to why more weren’t there. Not that that would’ve bothered a nearby resident who complained quite aggressively about the peal here on Wednesday, though apparently – as is often the case in such circumstances - more have said how much they enjoyed it. To a point I can understand the complaint. The sound-proofing was in this afternoon but as I stood outside the bells were very loud, apparently because they are only sound-proofed on two sides rather than all four. With the incident at Gislingham – though of course that complainant was completely unreasonable even in the eyes of the law – and other incidents in Suffolk and across the country and indeed the world it should serve as a reminder that we have neighbours, some of whom are increasingly intolerant of anything they wouldn’t do and we must make compromises were appropriate. Now that doesn’t mean stop extra ringing, whether it is peals, quarters or outings, but rather use the expertise and technology that Guild members have to hand. Effective and proper sound-proofing that can be opened up when needed is necessary in my opinion, especially in built-up areas. When it comes to teaching ringers, the more towers that have simulators or at least the ability to tie their clappers the more we can do of that without disturbing those living and working nearby. Try and let residents know of any extra ringing, especially known complainants. Communicate, invite locals up to see what you do, but please don’t just capitulate or ignore the issue.

In this case though, the complainant is one of those who has moved in recently, directly opposite the big-church-shaped building and been caught by surprise by the ringing coming from the tall tower-like thing attached to it. Would he complain about match-day noise if he moved in opposite a football stadium or the sound of trains if he purchased a property next to a railway line? I think not. Still, no sign of him today as those present enjoyed a useful session at St John the Baptist.

Ruthie, the li'l devil!Me as Harry Potter. Or Benny Hill. Or Where's Wally.It was far from the end of this busy and enjoyable Saturday though as having watched Ipswich Town lose 2-1 at home to Cardiff City on the TV (the only difference to a normal Saturday with them being that the kick-off was later and the depressing predictability of it all was televised to the nation) we returned to the peninsula, most specifically Trimley Sports & Social Club in Trimley St Martin for the aforementioned party. It was for the 30th birthday of Rob, brother of Kala, so Mason’s Godmother was present with husband Nick as were a handful of other familiar faces at a well-attended party but it wasn’t always easy to tell as it was a fancy dress party! The theme was ‘Heroes and Villains’, hence why the li’l chap was a policeman, Mrs Munnings was the devil and I was dressed as Harry Potter. Or Benny Hill. Or Where’s Wally depending on who you speak to.

It was a lovely way to finish a fantastic day that incredibly saw Christmas decorations begin to go up on Warwick Avenue (though it is the huge display that raises money for charity every year and so presumably takes this long to get up!) and saw a peal-band at Reading made up of mothers and daughters which fits in nicely with the theme of yesterday’s blog! It contributed to a good day for peal-ringing on twelve from Bristol Max at Saffron Walden to Grandsire Cinques at Redcliffe, from Spliced Treble-Dodging Maximus at St Magnus the Martyr to Bristol Maximus in Norwich and from Stedman Cinques at St Martin in the Fields to of course Spliced Surprise Maximus at Grundisburgh. It all ought to offer plenty of inspiration.


Friday 5th October 2012

I rather like the notion of themed quarters and peals. I’m aware that some aren’t fond of them as they feel the emphasis is more on the theme than the quality of the band and I know it’s not the primary purpose of ringing, but I think anything that keeps our art varied and interesting is a good thing in my humble opinion. The all-Scase 1260 at Sproughton recently was impressive as was the all-Michael Cambridge Surprise Maximus at South Croydon last week. In the past there have been Suffolk Guild peals entirely involving Guild Officers and one at Ashbocking in 1998 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Guild involving David Salter the Master of the time and five previous Masters, Martin Thorley, George Pipe, Howard Egglestone, Lawrence Pizzey and Stephen Pettman, an effort marked on a peal-board in the belfry. I’ve always fancied an all-Richard peal sometime and encouragingly a look on Campanophile reveals nineteen Richard’s in the UK who have rung peals of Maximus in the last year, though quite where you would begin in arranging something like that I’m not sure, which allied with the general logistics of such an organization makes these events even more of an achievement.

So yes, I rather like such arrangements and so I hope that succeeds in his ambition to ring a quarter to mark his 70th birthday incorporating a band all of whom were born in 1942. Do help if you can!

Mason and I in our element...No such organization for me this evening, rather an evening playing trains with Mason and Ruthie as we looked after the mother-in-law’s house, the owner of which claims to have arrived in Tenerife (yes, actual Tenerife!) and not in an entirely different country as she today celebrates her birthday. Happy Birthday Kate! I wonder if we could get a band of Kate’s to ring together to celebrate the occasion?


Thursday 4th October 2012

Coming into John Catt in the darkness of 4am, seeing the sun rise lighting the woodlands and Suffolk Coastal District Council’s offices near ours is quite an uplifting experience. Such an early start also sees an early finish and with Ruthie also finishing at Boots before midday we took advantage by spending an entertaining afternoon at my wife’s grandparents, in the process collecting a chest of drawers.

The early starts also see me tiring earlier too, meaning a little snooze was in order whilst Mrs Munnings went to her second choir practice at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge ahead of her debut on Sunday before I eventually succumbed to an early night in anticipation of watching tomorrow’s sunrise.


Wednesday 3rd October 2012

When a rope breaks on you there is a rapid flow of emotions.

Initially and ever so briefly fear as you don’t instantly know what is happening. You wonder if this potentially dangerous bit of kit in your hands is suddenly out of control. And having had a huge weight on the end of the rope to suddenly not have that support is very unnerving. Once the top of what is left of your rope comes crashing down past you in a flurry of fluff there is relief that it is ‘just’ a broken rope. If you are going to break something when ringing a bell then a rope is probably the best option. A smashed stay or busted slider can see rope unpredictably flailing around the ringing chamber, particularly on long drafts. A broken clapper can fly about at speed causing untold damage to bells, fittings and even humans as my father once nearly found out to his cost many, many years ago!

Broken rope.Depending on the circumstances there can be various levels of response to this abrupt end to ringing. Three hours into a peal can cause understandable frustration and annoyance. Just ten minutes into a quarter-peal as we were this evening at Pettistree when my mother-in-law recklessly broke the treble rope is not so bad. Indeed on this occasion it caused much amusement as she posed for photos with the offending item as Mike Whitby and Jonathan Stevens climbed the stairs to put a new rope on, having to push the bell off first as Mrs Eagle’s handling was so good that the bell set itself when the rope broke. (More photos of Kate and her broken rope on facebook.)

It did leave us with some logistical problems though. Kate needed to be gone by seven to be elsewhere so she wouldn’t be able to partake in a new attempt but we were keen to ring something to mark her birthday this Friday. A quick call to Mary Garner ascertained that after valiantly ringing through a peal at Felixstowe this afternoon and then fighting her way back round the A14 which had been closed south-east of Ipswich most of the day due to first a overturned onion lorry near the Orwell Bridge and then a three-lorry crash at Seven Hills, all with a sore throat, she was understandably not up to a quarter too.

So with the rope-breaker departed, the quarter which had started out as Fryerning and Flamstead Surprise Minor and then just Flamstead developed into a hurried though decent quarter of Doubles before another varied practice from handling for Alex (he is doing extremely well!) and call-changes for Daphne to various Surprise Minor methods whilst chocolates and cakes were consumed and Mrs Rose’s mobility cart was showed off.

With a 4am start for me tomorrow, Ruthie and I decided against a trip to the pub at the end of a long day that had seen us pop to St Mary-le-Tower this afternoon to collect something I’d left in the ringing chamber, in the process not only negotiating the heavy traffic due to the problems on the A14, but also an accident on Tuddenham Road on a busy day for the emergency services. At least they don’t have to deal with rope-breaks as well.


Tuesday 2nd October 2012

There has been a steady stream of interesting stuff coming out of Aunty Marian’s since Mum and Dad began helping her clear her cluttered house in the aftermath of Uncle Eric’s death, much of it ringing related, with old photos and newspaper articles featuring members in various stages of their youth, many forgotten characters and fascinating insights into events over the decades. Today, Ruthie and I were drafted in to help move a wardrobe, a manoeuvre made possible by all that work. It made for an interesting afternoon.

FelixstoweHopefully an interesting afternoon will be had by members at the South-East District Practice on Saturday between 3-5pm at Felixstowe. A lovely, light, easy-going eight in an easily accessible location and somewhere that be incorporated into a wider visit by ringers and non-ringers alike. Spend an afternoon on the seafront or enjoy some of the places to eat, drink and shop in that this seaside resort has. It should be useful for learners, but we will need as many experienced ringers as can come out to help. As I said last month, we need support or the whole thing crumbles and will make things as hard for places like St Mary-le-Tower as it will for places like Brandeston and Wickham Market to meet the ringers that will help them progress as they want to. We have this superb support network of ringers of all abilities resident across the county so let’s use opportunities like this to get as many of them together as we can.

The same goes for other events coming up such as next Tuesday’s mid-week ringers to Sudbury, St Gregory and Edwardstone, the monthly practice at Bacton next Wednesday and the North-West District’s ADM at Great Barton, the first of the season and a particularly vital one this year as they look to replace Ruth Suggett and Abby Antrobus in the vital roles of Ringing Master and Secretary respectively. Both have done fantastic jobs and hopefully members of the district will come out in force to see the roles filled. As with replacing any role within the Guild, it will need members to be actively working on finding replacements in the lead-up rather than the role being landed on a reluctant and unsuspecting person.

Over the last few months we have seen the proud history of the Suffolk Guild revealed, let’s make sure there’s some worth looking ringing in 2012 in the future.


Monday 1st October 2012

As a preacher of concentration I was very annoyed that I didn’t follow my own gospel today.

Picture of St Martin, Tuddenham St Martin On early shifts all this week and aware that now we are entering October I have thirteen peals to ring in three months if I am to reach the five-hundred mark by the end of the year, I had arranged at much effort a peal attempt at Tuddenham St Martin for this afternoon. And I mean much effort. Having spent hours trying to get a sixth ringer with ultimate success (indeed at one point I had seven) I received a message early this morning from one of the six saying they had been up ill all of last night and now couldn’t ring. A bit of frantic messaging began in between work and returning home to get Mason to his mothers – thanks Ruthie for getting him ready!

Eventually I had a full compliment again (and indeed again I had seven at one point) and I arrived at this church in its proud setting on top of the hill which this picturesque village sits on and which shamefully these days I only usually travel through on the way in and out of Ipswich. The keyholder’s wife had arrived after a gentle reminder and with the rain pouring outside it seemed perfect conditions for peal-ringing.

And indeed it was, though I’d forgotten just how odd-struck and hard-going this otherwise nice little six are which is perhaps not surprising as there has been no regular band here since the Rushmere ringers used to come here for monthly practices on a Friday some years ago. However, the band generally aquitted themselves well and extents of Wells and London were rung with little trouble before we entered Primrose where my head exploded. I could perhaps offer the early start or the vigorous pulling I was having to carry out as an excuse, but the plain and simple truth is I got my figures muddled up and set it up far too quickly, only to be informed everything was actually fine and in the right order!

Thankfully it was just the third extent and not the sixth or seventh and we’d ‘only’ been ringing an hour rather then two, but it was extremely annoying. Annoying because all that effort to arrange and ring the bells as well as were had gone up in smoke due to such a schoolboy error. But also because of the time people had taken out of their day to travel there on a quite appalling afternoon (some getting there quite a bit earlier after a mix-up over times), especially Ian Culham who had rearranged his work around the attempt. And frankly - though the history of conducting is littered with even the best making basic errors – I felt a bit of a prat.

Still, collecting my wife from work and being able to extend our repertoire beyond ringing on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower this evening helped pick me up. Sadly we didn’t ring on all twelve tonight as we simply ran out of time, but the ringing was enjoyable and useful with Royal rung in the forms of Cambridge, London (No3.) and Yorkshire and nostalgia stoked by a picture from Aunty Marian’s of an early-1970’s Suffolk Guild AGM. It’s quite sad that we don’t seem to do these group pictures at our showpiece event anymore (maybe something to do at the 2013 AGM at Stradbroke on 6th April?) as they are extremely interesting to look back on, as this one was. The beaming features of ringers no longer with us here in Suffolk one way or another could be made out, such as my nan Lillian, the Bedford brothers, John Jennings, the Baileys and the Guild Ringing Master of the time Howard Egglestone, as well as many familiar faces looking much younger, such as Dad, Aunty Marian herself, the Pipes, Girts, Jimmy Wightman and a couple of young rascals named Salter and Pettman on the back-row looking mischievous!

We also received a thorough, interesting and useful update from Owen Claxton about the work to the tower. It seems to have been a frustrating experience for all concerned, not just we ringers as the abnormally bad summer and specialized nature of the work has meant scaffolding, equipment and indeed workers are still tied up on jobs that were expected to finish long ago. In keeping with the day, it was quite annoying to discover that the restriction on ringing that has frustratingly held us back for the last two months seemed to have been down to a flippant misunderstanding, but on the plus side it now seems unlikely that we’ll have to restrict our ringing now and we may even be able to return to ringing quarters and peals here sooner than we expected, though as our departing tower captain pointed out there are so many variables until the work actually gets under way that nothing can be ruled out at the moment. It was good to have the beasts back tonight though.

Despite leaving straight after practice last week and being punished by having our wing-mirror smashed in and nearly being hit by an unfortunate learner motorcyclist on the way into the county town this evening (no one and nothing was damaged bar the poor lad’s pride and his bike), we risked the wrath of the gods by missing The Cricketers again though on this occasion it was for a trip to another pub. Our destination this evening was the favourite local The Mariners for a catch-up with Toby and Amy. It was a nice-way to unwind after a depressing afternoon and brought a smile to my face. As did the peal rung at St John-on-the-Wall in Bristol yesterday when I realized what the methods spelt out…


Sunday 30th September 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.After two months I was relieved and elated to hear the sound of the back four at St Mary-le-Tower booming over Ipswich this morning, thanks in no small part to the Salter boys’ efforts in pulling the tenor up, though ironically the best piece of the morning was a very decent course of Superlative Major on the front eight. Still, I’m looking forward to some higher-number ringing again.

Hasketon.The theme of good ringing continued onto Hasketon where the fifth Sunday benefice service was taking place and where it was good to see Tim Stanford as well as John improving, as he feels his arms getting stronger! Not that Kate, Pete, Mason and I escaped Grundisburgh entirely, we four climbed the tower for a team effort in winding the clock in Stephen’s absence after ringing at St Andrew in the neighbouring village. Well Kate wound, Mason looked out for the weights and Pete and I stayed out of the way.

Once Ruthie was back from work, we had the pleasure of Pete’s company again as we popped round his to meet up with his father who is up for a few days. A typically convivial afternoon was had, even when Susanne returned home and it was good to catch up.

I’m looking forward to catching up on my twelve-bell ringing.


Saturday 29th September 2012

As ringers descended upon the east of Suffolk for the Open Towers Day in aide of the Elmsett Belfry Fund, Hollesley ringers from one of the eastern coastal outposts of our Guild found themselves passing Exning, the western outpost of our Guild on the way to their outing to Cambridge.

They were joined by friends and associates such as the Spreadburys and Chris and Becky, my brother being on home turf of course. We even shared a couple of towers with some ringers from Sussex who were also on an outing today as just a couple of days after sharing Grundisburgh practice with ringers from Lancashire, ringing continues to show its unique ability to bring strangers together.

 Mason, Kate, Kathy, Sue & Ruthie wait halfway up the roundabout way to Bottisham belfry.Either side of our trip into this famous city we explored its outskirts, first at Bottisham where Mason’s uncle Chris was once a resident and then after much more successful journeys in and out on the park and ride than last time we tried, we went to Fen Ditton and Cherry Hinton, a delightful and easy-going ground-floor eight and six respectively.

Ringing in the colourful ringing chamber of St Andrew's, Cambridge.Ruthie & Mason take it easy.In amongst the grand building s of one of the most famous universities in the world, we were quite successful in our ringing, if not always our geography as we rang at the ancient, easy-going but not wonderful sounding six of St Edward and then in the colourful ringing chamber of St Andrew, the home tower of the prestigious Cambridge University Society of Change Ringers who were celebrating their annual dinner this evening. In between, most of us had lunch in The Eagle, a huge and superb pub where Kate and Ruthie met up with my mother-in-law’s former teacher and later we finished our trip to the big smoke with a ring at the highlight of the day for me, the 31cwt eight of Our Lady, the imposing Roman Catholic church whose spire dominates much of the city centre. (More photos on facebook.)

It was a hugely enjoyable day, well supported and an extremely useful experience for the learners amongst our party and many thanks have to be given to Kathy and Anne for making all the arrangements so superbly. Ringing outings are notoriously difficult to organise and very time consuming too, with so many phone calls and emails to be made, logistics to be sorted, lunch to be thought of and stress to be battled with! It’s why I find it so frustrating when outings are met with apathy and lack of support by people who I’m sure would enjoy and/or find them useful if they just gave them a chance, as we found with today’s.

I hope the same was the case on the Open Towers Day as ringing showed off its best attributes, perhaps no more notably than at Sproughton where young Oliver Scase is to be congratulated on ringing his first quarter at the first attempt, impressively surrounded by a complete band of Scases, with one eligible ringer in the family sat out! Well done guys!


Friday 28th September 2012

After a year with us, it was my colleague Rocio’s last day at John Catt before returning to her native Spain, so us in the sales team plus one of our bosses, Alex, found ourselves in The Coach and Horses up the road from the office in Melton to mark her departure.Not that it was a boozy day. Rather, after a relatively quiet day at work following that quick pint I picked Mason up for the weekend as usual and we had a nice night in.


Thursday 27th September 2012

Bar the Surprise Major practices at Ufford, Thursday evenings have got very quiet for Ruthie and me. Not tonight though. Whilst my wife went to her first practice with the choir of St Mary-the-Virgin’s in Woodbridge after persistent bugging on Sunday, I was attending something once very familiar but now a rarity – a Grundisburgh practice. It took a group of visiting ringers from Lancashire complete with some familiar faces, but it was a practice nonetheless, with a decent sprinkling of Suffolk ringers to complement the twenty-five or so who squeezed into the compact ringing chamber. In fact, it got so cosy and warm that I had to turn the air-conditioning on. Well, I opened the window.

Much was rung on the twelve from call-changes to Grandsire Cinques to Little Bob Max, but we also rang on the ten and eight to show them there is more to this ring than the twelve with a bad reputation. That said, interesting comparisons were made between here and their local light twelve, Accrington, a ring in an even smaller ringing chamber, a set of stairs up the middle and Yorkshire tailends.

I returned home in Emily the car who had earlier passed her MOT with flying colours, complete with new wing mirror as my better half and I grabbed a Chinese after an unusually busy Thursday evening.

Talking of busy, Saturday looks like being so around east Suffolk for the Tower Open Day in aid of Elmsett Bell Fund. Please do attend if you can – sadly we can’t as we shall be busy elsewhere…


Wednesday 26th September 2012

Much excitement as Ruthie’s new Boots uniform arrived today, complete with exhaustive guidelines and do’s and don’ts from the obvious of ensuring good hygiene to the less obvious like how long staff are allowed to wear the uniform once their day at work is complete.

My wife had long changed out of her current uniform by the time I finished work at 6 and we dropped Emily the car off at Champkins in anticipation of her MOT tomorrow. After a good chat with Bob and Roz who run the garage and are counted amongst some of Mason’s family from his mother’s side, we were picked up by Kate, Ron, Max and Jude on the way to another varied and decent Pettistree practice climaxed with some well-rung intentional variable-treble London but also including some hanky-panky that went wrong and saw Mike kicking out at the belfry heater as we creased up in laughter. I’ll perhaps explain another time.

It was topped by a convivial evening in The Greyhound where the topic of conversation ranged from Jack Dear’s 90th birthday celebrations in Hertfordshire which were attended by Mike Whitby and Peter Harper to the frequency of TV ad breaks in between Sam throwing his drink about.

Grundisburgh.Meanwhile, it is worth noting that there WILL be a practice at Grundisburgh this Thursday as a group of Lancashire ringers are visiting, so if you have been getting withdrawal symptoms from the finest twelve in the village, tomorrow is your opportunity to ring on them again!

It is an exciting note to finish off with on an exciting day, I’m sure you’ll agree.


Tuesday 25th September 2012

Maybe Lee Harvey Oswald did kill Kennedy. Perhaps man did land on the moon. Elvis is almost certainly dead and I’d wager not residing in an unfashionable Berkshire town. I suspect that Princess Di was actually killed by a combination of crazy photographers and not wearing a seat-belt. And anyone watching the huge amounts of TV footage from goodness knows how many different angles and thinks that they were anything other than planes flying into the Twin Towers is probably a little bit mad. Great conspiracy theories debunked.

And another one at St Mary-le-Tower it seems. No sooner had it appeared some ringers were reaching tipping point then today’s meeting gave the go-ahead to ringing on all twelve, at least for the time being. The actual work itself is apparently not due to start for some weeks when the restrictions may be put back in place, which still raises the undesirable possibility of the grand back four being silenced for Christmas. And of course quarters and peals are out of the question until work is completed which is entirely understandable. Above all else though, I hope it puts people’s minds at rest that the church and choir aren’t conspiring against us!

The Norman Tower.In the absence of twelve-bell ringing at SMLT, the only practicing twelve-bell tower in Suffolk has been The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds and tonight saw them bid farewell to one of their own, Alex Tatlow who sets off on the adventure of university. Along with Philip Moyse leaving for Southampton last week and Louis Suggett to Birmingham a couple of years ago, Alex taking up education in Bristol is a shame for Suffolk ringing, though exciting for him. His conducting, composing and enthusiastic peal and quarter-peal arranging will be missed round here as well as his willingness to come out to ringing across the county, but as with Philip we wish him the best, confident in the abilities of the youngsters left in Suffolk such as the Veals, Salters and Rolphs - amongst many others – to step up to fill the void left.

Ruthie and I weren’t in the west of the county this evening after I’d had another late shift at John Catt, so we just had a night at home after a fruitless day trying to sort out our wing mirror – even retracing our journey over my lunch break as we aimed to find the mirror-backing that would save us a substantial amount of money – as Toby popped round for a cuppa. The world seems a more pleasant place without conspiracy theories!


Monday 24th September 2012

It is very easy for conspiracy theories to ferment. JFK was shot from the grassy knoll by commies. The moon landings were filmed in a Hollywood studio. Elvis faked his death and is living in Slough. The Duke of Edinburgh bumped off Princess Diana. The US government flew rockets into The Twin Towers. Michael Jackson was killed by his doctor. Oh wait, that last one was apparently true. But you get the point.

On an infinitely smaller scale it is understandable perhaps that the ringers of St Mary-le-Tower are beginning to suspect a conspiracy. Much like the cases above, it’s small things that can be added up and if paranoia set in enough can convince one that something is awry. The number of times that the choir has held practices or even events at the same time as the well-established (I suspect several decades counts as well-established) Monday night ringing which has clogged up the social services car-park the church uses outside of work hours or even occasionally caused the cancellation of ringing. The fact that Charles the vicar completely forgot about our AGM in April which he should have been chairing, suggesting perhaps we’re not that important to the church. But it has been the ongoing debacle over getting the tower fixed thus restricting our ringing considerably that has turned more to take the conspiracy theory seriously. From the suspicious way the bulge was first spotted (we could barely see it when we were looking for it so how did someone just happen across it?) to the complete lack of urgency about fixing it, this whole affair has left a sour taste in the mouth for some. As someone commented this evening, if there had been a problem with the organ, would we still be waiting two months before anyone had even inspected it? Everything seems to be hanging on the word of an architect who seems unaware that just ringing the front eight can produce more tower sway than ringing all twelve as the weight is not evenly distributed at that point. Getting qualified advice and inspection from the ringing family was mentioned this evening but we shall see if that is taken seriously by the church.

Personally, whilst I can understand the paranoia and am far from happy with how this is all being dealt with, much like many of the theories originally mentioned, conspiracy theories in this case may be a little fanciful. After all, Charles was very supportive when we had complaints from Churches Bar and the Pipes and Whittells play big parts in the church itself. And there is apparently an inspection and meeting tomorrow which will finally move things forward. But it seems that it is unlikely we shall be ringing all twelve before Christmas unless we can persuade those taking the decisions that ringing all the bells won’t make any difference to the risks. In the meantime the frustrations grow as another big crowd was left short-changed, including visits from David and Mary Lynch from Cheltenham and good friend of SMLT, Laith Reynolds all the way from Australia, all hoping and expecting to ring on this famous twelve.

It all came at the end of the first day of a week of late shifts at work, though we did squeeze in a welcome back to Toby and Amy as their cats quite happily sat indoors, smiling smugly at us and I’m glad to say that for all the troubles at Suffolk’s first twelve at the moment there was seemingly trouble-free ringing carrying on elsewhere, most notably at Hinderclay with a quarter. Well done and best of luck to Richard George on ringing his first of Plain Bob Minor and his forthcoming service on The Falklands respectively.

Meanwhile, we decided to head home instead of going to The Cricketers, in the process having our wing mirror smashed to pieces by someone driving in the middle of the road. With two days until Emily’s MOT, we could be forgiven for smelling a conspiracy…


Sunday 23rd September 2012

Pretty much the only thing that could’ve been worse then trying to get a pair of cats back inside a one-door upstairs flat, would be trying to get a pair of cats back inside a one-door upstairs flat in the pouring rain. Cue just that scenario as Rosie and Oakley continued to give myself, Ruthie and Mason the run-around today.

At least like yesterday we had something to distract us. On this occasion it was a very fine cheese and wine party at Kev the Rev’s pad. This was something we were keen to attend, not just for the obvious attractions of glasses of red and chunks of Danish blue but also because we’re keen to remain involved with Woodbridge’s parish church which so superbly hosted our wedding ceremony recently. As photos were taken for the church’s website (I’m not the only one!), we made some new acquaintances as well being joined by Kate and Ron who also joined us for a drink or two in The Mariners before that rain took hold as we again took advantage of my wife’s new working schedule of working alternate Sundays.

Beforehand we attended the service at St Mary-the-Virgin, though having rung at Pettistree first thing and then nipped to Gill Waterson’s in Wickham Market to ensure the ringers at Grundisburgh could get in this morning, we didn’t make it in time to help the five ringing on some of the 25cwt eight at the church at the centre of most of this morning’s happenings.

Whilst we then set about chasing cats, well done to George Salter on ringing his first peal of Double Norwich Major in the 5184 at Kersey this afternoon. And well done as well to Simon Veal on ringing his first quarter inside on his 15th birthday and Clare Veal on ringing her first as cover in the success at Great Barton which also appropriately saw the first QP featuring all three ringing Veals. Congratulations guys! Making a very positive footnote even more so was the news in regards the man at the centre of the disgraceful scenes at Gislingham earlier this month. I’m not sure exactly how he’s been dealt with but it sounds like good news to me!

The news got slightly better back at home as we at least got one of the cats in this evening, but we didn’t half get wet doing it!


Saturday 22nd September 2012

ITTS is in my opinion something of great importance to the future of bellringing. I’m not one of the doom and gloom merchants when it comes to our art either in Suffolk, nationally or even internationally. Locally we have a decent number of youngsters taking up ringing and running with it with impressive results. There are numerous young ringers meeting up from nearly all corners of the county to enjoy outings, quarters and even peals and they impressed in the National Youth Striking Competition a few months back. And we don’t have to rely on youngsters to keep things going. Anyone of any age can take up ringing and contribute significantly to it. We’ve seen that at Pettistree with Susan Schurr who started in her seventies and was a vital part of the band for over a decade, ringing many quarters and progressing a lot in that time. Mary Garner didn’t start until her thirties and we all know how much she has done for the Guild since. We have nearly 800 members which I think is fairly impressive. Nationally there are young bands ringing peals of spliced Maximus and higher, including those with connections to our part of the world such as Louis Suggett and the Hill sisters, Katharine and Rosemary. Such an example occurred today at Reading. Even internationally ringers of all ages are mobilizing to ring on higher numbers and in even more complex efforts in the USA and Australia and ringing is thriving like never before on the continent with the Central European Association.

But there is much that needs to be improved. Here as with most places outside the major centres of ringing like London and Birmingham there are towers that lie silent, untouched and often unmaintained. Many peals of bells rely on people going to more than one place, stretching those members considerably. The 800 members sounds good until you realize there are nearly 2,000 bells hung for full-circle ringing within our borders. We need more ringers and we can’t rely just upon the hit and miss way we have traditionally gone about things. For every star of our Guild who has consistently taught ringers well, there are probably dozens more who aren’t doing it as well as they could if they just allowed themselves to be helped. Without ITTS I’m sure ringing will bumble along but we’re already seeing how things have changed in Suffolk. District and Guild events were usually well attended, vibrant occasions. I remember in my early days of ringing the best part of 200 people attending an AGM. Now I almost expect to turn up at a South-East District event and see the same few faces trying to make the best of a bad situation. In 1988 the Guild rang 208 peals involving 215 different ringers. Last year it was 128 with 133, though that is at least an improvement on some of the totals from the early 2000’s. The number of ringers able to ring confidently on higher numbers is dwindling alarmingly. Try putting together a band for a peal of Surprise Maximus and you’ll have to work hard to get a resident band. So there are warning signs even if you don’t think things are already going wrong and now is the time to put a concerted plan into place. Judging by this morning’s ITTS gathering for Suffolk’s learners, teachers and mentors at Debenham, there is hope that the scheme may well be exactly what we need. The Ringing Foundation certainly thinks so having granted £27,000 to the whole thing recently.

Ringing at Debenham for ITTS.Jed Flatters the Guild Ringing Master educating one of the learners.ITTS Training.Ruthie will be the first to admit she’s had a slow start in her role as a teacher. Frankly there were times leading up to the wedding when there was barely time to eat, let alone find a new recruit and put in the hours required to teach them. And since returning from our honeymoon just a month ago she has found her working hours changed, though largely in a good way. She has been dabbling, helping occasionally with the teaching of Ruth at Hollesley, Sonia at St Mary-le-Tower and most recently, Elaine Townsend’s grandson Alex at Pettistree but she hasn’t got herself a signed up youngster just yet. She isn’t alone in that, but what this morning’s get-together showed was what is possible. There were an array of learners with their teachers and their mentors at this grand ground-floor eight which sits between the west porch and the church of St Mary Magdalene. All ages, all sizes but all very capable even at this stage, all under the watchful eye of Trevor Hughes, a man very experienced in this area and whom we are extremely fortunate to have in Suffolk. It was interesting after all the talking to see it actually in action and taking shape, but this isn’t the sum of it. The plan is for this to grow so there are even more pupils, teachers and mentors. The early signs are good.

The same can’t be said for our efforts to look after Rosie and Oakley, cats of good friend, Godfather of Mason and usher at our wedding Toby and his fiancée Amy whilst they’re away. Our job in their absence is to let the cats out of the flat in the morning and get them back in as it gets dark. We managed the former easily enough and also spent a while round there keeping said cats company this afternoon, but when it came to getting them back in for the night, the phrase ‘like trying to herd cats’ sprung to mind. It was just like trying to herd cats. The upshot was that despite every trick we could think of, they spent a chilly night out in the cold. Maybe we need to go on the cat-training equivalent of ITTS.


Friday 21st September 2012

After another early shift at work, I didn’t expect to be stood in front of a six-year old’s birthday party with a magician called Steve Sausage pulling a £20 note out of an untouched lemon. But having caught the end of said party at Woodbridge Town Football Club to collect Mason that is just what happened to me. It has to be said that Steve Sausage was superb, a real entertainer who had the kids enthralled but once the boy and I had left there and picked Ruthie up from work, our next port of call was also enthralling.

Mason about to shoot.And he's off!Ready for the next shot.Six years ago today my wife and I first started going out and although after last month’s wedding we now have a bigger anniversary to celebrate we still wanted to mark this date. On our first anniversary we went ten-pin bowling at Kingpin in Martlesham Heath and so we thought we might recreate that this evening, only this time with the li’l chap in tow for his first go at bowling.

He actually did surprisingly well and gave us a run for our money and most importantly he thoroughly enjoyed himself.

And whilst we were enjoying this special day, well done to Kevin Ward and Judith Kaufhold on ringing their first quarter of Double Oxford Bob Minor in the success at Edwardstone. And well done too for yesterday to Nicole Rolph on ringing her first inside in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Chediston. At least their experiences weren’t quite as random as mine today.


Thursday 20th September 2012

Brandeston.Having pealed the 41 a couple of times (14/11/2011 & 30/7/2012) we had some options. There were various suggestions. Stopping was one option, but we’ve really enjoyed these little get-togethers complete with good ringing and brain-stretching. We could carry on ringing it, maybe try different compositions but we felt we needed to move on. Working towards 23-spliced Surprise Major was murmured but that didn’t seem practical right at this moment. So the next logical step seemed to be to try for a peal of 52-spliced Surprise Minor and this afternoon saw us on familiar ground at Brandeston as we attempted the unfamiliar for the first time. As with every stage leading up to the 41 – especially the first attempts at a new number – the expectations of actually scoring today were low. New methods and names to be crammed into a head bulging with lots of other ones the brain was desperately trying to cling onto, a new composition for me to learn all added to the fact that we had no Brian on the treble this afternoon and I had been up since the pitch darkness of 3.30am to work the early shift that enabled me to drive out to this pretty rural location next door to the local preparatory school which bears the village’s name. I don’t know about the others, but for me this was the hardest thing I’ve had to do on the end of a bellrope.

Despite loosing today’s peal we were therefore quite satisfied with our efforts. An initial miscall saw a decent 10-15 minute attempt curtailed before a forty-minute attempt sadly collapsed, fatally wounded in one of the new eleven methods, Offley, before we rang the bells down as a class of smartly dressed youngsters toddled over from next door to learn about the church. As is nearly always the case with these attempts, the intense concentration required produced good ringing and helped the time fly by. And in Mr Whiting’s absence we were reassured by Philip Moyse’s presence before he heads down to the University of Southampton this weekend on an exciting new chapter in his life. Best of luck Philip and thank you for coming out today!

The good vibes continued in The Chequers at Kettleburgh afterwards as Tom Scase revealed he has a new job that nonetheless scuppered our best laid plans for future attempts and we went through ideas for the next Guild Social. Not sure anyone would take on board these suggestions…

The early finish allowed Ruthie and me to pop round to Toby and Amy’s to wish the lady of the flat birthday wishes before that early start caught up on me at the end of a very satisfying day.


Wednesday 19th September 2012

Last year I called autumn about two months too early so I’m wary of doing the same this year, but there is that sort of feeling in the air. The weather has been relatively nice (better than what we’ve had for most of the ‘summer’ anyway) but there is a distinct chill in the air with a cool wind and although we started this evening’s ultimately successful pre-practice quarter of Lightfoot Surprise Minor in daylight, it soon required Mike Whitby to switch the lights on from the tenor in order to see through the murk as darkness falls ever earlier.

And whilst there was quite a thin attendance this evening, much was achieved. Elaine rang Durham inside, whilst her grandson Alex continued his impressive progress on handling under Ruthie and Mike’s tutelage. Jane did well with Lightfoot, Hilary likewise with Norwich, Derek practiced hard at Bob Minor on the treble and most impressively Bill seemed to have a little ‘eureka’ moment with Bob Doubles inside. All this as Mary and I tried to get our heads round our next challenge which begins tomorrow.

The Wolery.Furthermore, elsewhere saw progress too and well done to Clare Veal on ringing her first peal of Bob Triples in the success at The Wolery and to a young ringer called Katharine Salter who on the same occasion called her first of Triples. She’ll go far. Well, at least as far as the top of her garden.

For us there was time for a brief social visit to The Greyhound but it had been a long day and there’s a very early start in the morning so I was straight in bed when I got home, tucked up from the chilly autumn night outside.


Tuesday 18th September 2012

Our recently acquired wedding album gives us the reason and my early shifts this week at work gives us the opportunity to get out and about to see people and this afternoon we took full advantage by popping round Ruthie’s grandparents to show off the photos from the big day which already feels a very long time ago!

Friendship, fun, progress and so many other aspects give the reasons and ringing gives the opportunities to get out and about too and there is plenty of that going on in the weeks and months ahead, particularly with ADM season beginning in less than a month with vital roles to be filled. I actually shan’t be able to make the South-East District ADM at Woodbridge on Saturday 1st December as I shall be away treating Mason to a special Christmas trip, but if you are in the area and can make it then please do for what should be a lovely afternoon and evening in a lovely part of the world (of course I’m biased!) that is extremely easy to get to by car, bus and train, plenty of things to do beforehand and for non-ringers of all ages and many places to eat and drink at when you’re not ringing on this grand eight. Perhaps most importantly though, there are TWO vital positions to fill as Peter and Jane Harper stand down from being Chairman and Secretary respectively. Even though I shan’t be there I am doing my bit in trying to line up two candidates who I feel will be ideal for the jobs but I hope I’m not the only one searching for replacements.

I hope too there are people searching for a successor to Ruth Suggett as North-West District Ringing Master as she is sadly stepping down from the job at the first of the 2012 ADM’s at Great Barton on Saturday 13th October. She won’t be impossible to replace (that would be admitting defeat for any replacement!) but she will be difficult to replace. And as with the roles in the SE, it is important (IMHO) that as many of the membership are there to make sure the correct people are selected and voted in. After all, these will be the ones laying the groundwork for how the district and its members socialize, learn, progress and work together. They will be the ones who many will want to turn to for advice, support and guidance. Let’s not just leave it up to a handful of the same old people to decide who carries out those vital roles – let’s all get involved! Even better, put yourself forward!

There are plenty of things going on before then, not least the South-West District Mini-Outing to North Essex on Saturday, Surprise Minor practice on Thursday 27th September and the Towers Open Day on Saturday 29th September in aid of Elmsett Bell Fund. All good opportunities with many good reasons to take advantage of them.


Monday 17th September 2012

There won’t be too many practices around currently that will finish with courses of Glasgow and London Major and three leads of Bristol Major and even fewer which will have rung them as well as we did at the climax of a St Mary-le-Tower practice that this evening also contained Yorkshire and Superlative Major and some Cambridge Minor with Sean on the treble which featured some of the best striking I’ve heard in Suffolk for a while as ringing continues to be restricted to the front eight, despite an attendance of over twenty.

We were helped by the presence of past Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond, but we shall have to manage without her for the next ten months as she takes advantage of her recently begun retirement by travelling. She is extremely beneficial to ringing at SMLT, both through her ringing skills and also her boundless energy and enthusiasm, encouraging people beyond what they thought was possible and she will be much missed until next July. At least we were able to see her off with some good ringing and a drink in The Cricketers. Hopefully we’ll be able to greet her return with twelve bells.


Sunday 16th September 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.My brother Chris and his girlfriend Becky were amongst a large crowd at St Mary-le-Tower this morning as ringers flocked from as far afield as Cambridge, Bury St Edmunds, Reydon and Essex to ensure that the bells were rung for this morning’s service. It made it even more frustrating therefore that not only are we still restricted to ringing on the front eight but there seems no sense of urgency in rectifying it, despite Owen Claxton’s pushing on our behalf. The contractor we were told would be starting a couple of weeks ago is now on holiday and so the most famous aspect of this church remains curtailed and the building surrounded by tape as if part of a crime scene. Even once someone does eventually turn up, erect scaffolding and finally inspect the small bulge in the side of the tower still unmoved despite regular ringing over the last two months since it was first spotted we may have to endure weeks and even months more restrictions on the say-so of an architect who may or may not have any idea of how bells effect towers. In the meantime, visitors booked in for peals and outings from across the country over the next couple of months have had to be put off or moved.

Grundisburgh.That included a peal attempt for the College Youths peal weekend that I was part off, which was due to be rung at Suffolk’s first twelve but instead had to be rung on the back ten of the county’s second twelve, Grundisburgh. It was far from ideal as these bells become increasingly difficult to ring. Despite Stephen Pettman’s best efforts in trying to maintain them, the sheer weight of metal in such a flimsy tower causes just about all of the bells to ‘blow and suck’ as GWP described his experience on the eleventh. It’s a shame for SDP as he has worked so hard here for so many years. At least he has twelve bells available, though there were only enough to ring eight of them this morning. Or nine if you’re into that kind of thing.

Despite the difficulties this afternoon, we managed some good ringing in difficult circumstances and a 5040 was rung successfully in exactly three hours, with particular congratulations going to Anne Bray on ringing her first for the superior society in the process and whilst it was nice to ring with all the band, it was particularly good to ring a peal again with three particular band-members. After all his problems I feared we’d seen the last peal featuring George Pipe but he was his usual reliable self in today’s effort and as ever it was good to see James Smith – and his lovely better-half Claire – both last night in Sproughton and this afternoon. And of course it is always nice to ring peals with my brother, not an opportunity we get that often. And it now leaves thirteen peals to reach my five hundredth, something I’m still hoping to achieve before the year is out.

Sadly everyone disappeared afterwards but having dropped Mason off at his mothers at lunchtime with an early start at work tomorrow morning, Ruthie and I decided to take advantage of the tail-end of this weekend’s beer festival at The Cherry Tree back in Woodbridge. Most of the beers were understandably gone but we still sampled some nice ones before walking home, taking a break in The Mariners on the way. It was the perfect way to alleviate our frustrations in Ipswich.


Saturday 15th September 2012

I have to admit to being a little worried as to how today’s Guild Social would pan out. Tickets were slow to sell and the response from some was at times deflating. I was aware of the various reasons why many COULDN’T come, but as with any district or Guild event that people spend time, effort and even money on to arrange it was the people that WOULDN’T come that made you wonder why anyone bothers. But do you know what? I don’t think this evening could’ve gone better.

I believe the final attendance was 82. Still well short of the capacity we were given for the Sproughton Tithe Barn of 120-150 and still a tiny proportion of the Guild’s near-800 membership, but it felt right and through ticket sales, the raffle and the bar I’m sure it raised a decent amount for the Guild. More importantly, people had a good time. The good thing about barn dances is that it gets people mingling and you find yourself dancing and chatting with someone you’ve never met and many a friendship (and I’m sure more!) has been ignited by such a gathering.

Ron and Kate putting out the food.Ralph Earey and Jane behind the bar. You could either dance... ...or just chat.Mason gets in on the act.There were smiles galore and conversations were going on all over this superb venue as old friendships were renewed and new ones made with every district represented and non-ringing friends and family soaking up the occasion. The food was wonderful with Ron and Kate doing a brilliant job of purchasing and dishing out a ploughman’s to the hungry masses, Inertia Reel did what they do best and got huge numbers of people dancing including Mason who had a whale of a time and many – including Ruthie and me - pitched in serving at the bar which was so enjoyed that we ran out of the bitter for the evening Mole Trap by Suffolk brewers Mauldons and came fairly close to running out of most other drinks. We even had to draft in what was still drinkable of our wedding beer Henrietta to meet demand!

It was proceeded by a small amount of ringing at All Saints across the road, the sound of this nice little six that my brother and I learnt to ring on meandering gently into the barn on this sunny late summer’s evening setting the tone perfectly for what lay ahead and much thanks need to be offered to Peter and Jane Harper for arranging things, the mother-in-law and Ron for the grub, Diana Pipe for overseeing the raffle and Ralph Earey for making local arrangements. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t come really missed out – make sure the same doesn’t happen for the 90th Anniversary Guild Dinner at Woolpit on Saturday 16th March. If it is half as good as tonight’s event was then it will be a fantastic occasion.

It was a day to celebrate the Guild which was a fitting end to a day of celebrations which included ringing for a wedding on the back six at Ufford. My wife noticed the bride was someone who used to be in her year at school so had fun spotting familiar faces not seen for a long time and I’m glad to say we produced some good ringing to celebrate the bride and groom’s happy day as they and their family and friends stood beneath the tower in glorious sunshine as this summer finally gives us a concerted effort.

The Wolery.And the achievements of George Salter have been something to celebrate today as he not only conducted his first peal in the success at Mistley just over the border in Essex but then followed it up with conducting his second peal at the top of his parent’s garden in Ipswich which also doubled up as his fiftieth peal in total. Well done George and well done to those who partook in the 2012 Guild Social and made it such a memorable evening.


Friday 14th September 2012

Whilst it was a quiet night in playing wizard games on the Wii with Mason for me, Ruthie was out ringing, on this occasion in a quarter of Lincolnshire Major at Rendham in an effort that was apparently WAAFS before she eagerly returned to watch the first episode of the new ‘J’ series of QI. That’s Friday nights sorted until the New Year.


Thursday 13th September 2012

Our evening began and finished with the company of Pete Faircloth as we picked him up for this month’s special Surprise Major practice and of course ended in the pub.

The practice at Ufford was typically useful, with Rutland (or, ‘oh Roy, it’s Jutland’) and Cambridge the most rung this evening.

And despite our friend Sam having left The Red Lion in Woodbridge, our couple of pints there after practice as Susanne sailed on the River Orwell were typically refreshing and Pete’s company good. Well done Pete!


Wednesday 12th September 2012

Plaw Field Bob Minor is one of those truly awful methods, full of an unnatural four blows here, three blows there and perhaps even worse up to fifths and back down. So of course we had to ring it to a quarter at Pettistree, land of the awkward line. As with all these type of methods, no matter how good the ringing, it is liable to blow up in your face without warning as we found to our cost after a few minutes this evening. However, keen as ever to score we got back on it and ended up ringing a hard-fought quarter.

As always the practice followed with Elaine’s grandson Alex having more handling lessons from Mike and Ruthie, Bill improving further on Bob Doubles inside and Derek beginning to get to grips with pace on the treble to Bob Minor. Another useful evening was topped off by some spliced Doubles and Minor before we showed our photo album off further in The Greyhound and then later to Toby and Amy in The Mariners back in Woodbridge as we strove to recover from that awful method.


Tuesday 11th September 2012

Just four days until the Barn Dance at Sproughton Tithe Barn that this year is the South-East District’s attempt to host the Guild Social. It is an event I’ve been looking forward to for some time and to be fair there is a decent crowd expected of all age-ranges (from Mason upwards) and all ringing and dancing abilities, including none. However, there are still plenty of tickets available and we are also in need of some more raffle prizes. So if you can come then please do and even if you can’t, please get in touch with either Peter Harper or Diana Pipe if you can spare something for the raffle.

There is also some good food available too – all within the ticket price of just £9 – which is being provided by the mother-in-law who we popped round to see after work and before a trip out to Tesco and a play with our new vacuum cleaner. A month on, I think it’s fair to say life has calmed down, no matter how much I’m looking forward to Saturday!


Monday 10th September 2012

With the closing ceremony of the Paralympics last night, the huge victory parade in London for Team GB and the cloud and cooling wind replacing the roasting hot sunshine of the last few days, today felt very much like the end of a much anticipated summer, personally, nationally and internationally. Of course the highlight for Ruthie and me has been our wedding, but it has been wonderful to see a packed few months from the Diamond Jubilee weekend, Torch Relay, Olympics, Paralympics and Euro 2012, even if England were their customary disappointment albeit very much expected this time round. All through it ringing has played its part and I’m glad that we in Suffolk have got some PR from it, though it has often been hard to get heard above every other organization and business trying to tag onto this historic ‘summer’.

A lot of what members have done is highlighted in the latest edition of Awl a’huld which I hope all towers have received. If you haven’t then please do contact your Deanery Rep or Alan Stanley, Sue Freeman or Richard Gates on the editing team. The magazine gets better and better each time and on this occasion has really caught a snapshot of the Guild as a whole from the efforts of the Long Melford ringers to Five Rings Triples in Aldeburgh to a peal of Olympic Major at Felixstowe to flag-waving at Gislingham. And once you have received your copies, PLEASE MAKE SURE SOME ARE DISTRIBUTED INTO YOUR COMMUNITY. At the very least make sure one is down in the church, but if you can then pass one to your incumbent, leave one in the local pub, doctor/dentist waiting rooms or indeed anywhere that a non-ringing member of the public may pick it up and have a greater understanding of what we do and hopefully even be inspired to join in the fun! It won’t be found by them gathering dust in our ringing chambers.

Somewhere that does distribute its copies and also contributes regularly to its church magazine Inspire is St Mary-le-Tower. Hopefully that link will push the painfully slow – in fact practically non-existent – progress towards diagnosing and fixing the flintwork that has silenced this particular building’s most famous aspect – the twelve that people come from around the world to ring – for a month and a half now and looks likely to do so for at least another month-and-a-half. Despite Owen being told three weeks ago that the company selected to do the work couldn’t start for two weeks, there is still absolutely no sign of work getting underway. So the churchyard still looks like a crime scene, scarred by tape that has been battered by the vagaries of the British weather.

It is a frustrating situation that seems to be having an increasingly negative effect on the ringing that people are travelling from miles around for. Despite David’s best efforts, the ringing on the front eight that we are restricted to hasn’t been the best over the last couple of Mondays, though this evening saw an improvement on a week ago. We’re all chomping at the bit to return to higher number ringing - an opportunity not readily available in the county even with the addition of The Norman Tower many miles away in Bury – and to hear the back four booming over the town, one of the most glorious sounds in Ipswich.

One thing that has continued as before is a trip to The Cricketers after practice as ringing friendships continue once the bells have stopped ringing. Tonight saw an interesting insight into life in late 19th century Eleveden and Yoxford where the two strands of Uncle Eric’s family once lived as Mum brought in some old postcards that my late Godfather had held onto. With perhaps post-party blues prevalent amongst many people in the UK following the end of a summer much looked forward to by so many, it was perhaps a timely reminder that life continues on and we are in fact a part of a rich tapestry of history. This summer, a very memorable part of history!


Sunday 9th September 2012

Today saw the 2012 Tour of Britain cycling race begin in Ipswich before travelling up through Woodbridge and various other places in East Suffolk before taking their lives in their hands and entering Norfolk. Cycling is one of those fringe events that has been thrust into the mainstream – at least for now – due to the huge success of British riders at the Olympics, Paralympics and the Tour de France and is perhaps something that can give ringing some inspiration to replicate to a lesser extent its tremendous upsurge in popularity.

 I contemplate how to save Noo-Noo.Mason with his rescued Noo-Noo.A relieved Noo-Noo.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.Sproughton Annual Teddy Bear Parachute Jump.

Of course ringing isn’t an Olympic sport so it is perhaps harder for us to follow exactly in their footsteps and for now we had to miss the Sunday morning departure of the big race to ring, as Mason and I were happily joined by Ruthie on the usual circuit. After nearly five years of working almost every Sunday, my wife today started a permanent pattern of working alternate Sabbaths after much pushing from her. It meant she was not only able to come to St Mary-le-Tower and for the first time watch the li’l chap ring at Grundisburgh but also to view the annual Sproughton teddy-bear parachute jump as toys were gently released from the top of All Saints tower. Some plummeted and one even made it across the road and off towards the mill. Mason’s effort ‘Noo-Noo’, draped in the St George’s Flag produced a fine few flights, although the first one saw it land in one of the many trees occupying the north side of the churchyard. Traditionally the crowds then reconvene in the church for a paper-airplane competition, the launch-pad being the suitably placed gallery ringing-chamber and as ever really good fun. It was also nice to cool down a little from the baking hot sunshine, loathed as I am to knock the glorious sight of summer this year of all years!

It all highlighted how this easily accessible yet pretty village just yards from junction 54 of the A14 and well served by public transport in and out of Ipswich hosts a cracking event and next Saturday should be no different when the Tithe Barn opposite the church offers up real value for the £9 it costs to get a ticket for the barn dance being hosted there. Food is included in the cost of the ticket, there will be much merriment and good company as well as some ringing on the six I learnt to ring at for those who want it. There’s still time to get a ticket, please don’t miss out.

With excitement stoked for next week’s festivities and a fun afternoon had, we three grabbed a quick bit of tea and headed up to Woodbridge to ring all eight quite well for evensong before taking advantage of the superb weather to have a pint in the garden at The Mariners with Pete and Susanne.

Whilst all this was going on, well done to George Salter on ringing his first quarter of Surprise as conductor and Colin Salter and Nathan Colman on ringing their first of Cambridge Minor, all in the 1296 at Stowmarket today. The youthful nature of those achieving suggests we have some chance of emulating even a fraction of what cycling has. It would be no bad thing.


Saturday 8th September 2012

Since our own wedding day my wife and I have gladly signed up for ringing at as many weddings as we can, no longer fearful of what we may see that might fill us with dread and generally being more able to spare the best part of a couple of hours to ring before and after a ceremony. We rang for one last week, have another one next Saturday and were at Grundisburgh for a couple’s nuptials this afternoon. These events now jog happy memories, especially today as we arrived to find that Kev the Rev – who oversaw our marriage four weeks ago – was taking today’s service and we find ourselves being a little more patient with those couples undertaking the same big step we did less than a month ago. Which was lucky as despite arriving at the gates five minutes early, this afternoon’s bride entered St Mary-the-Virgin nearly fifteen minutes late! And a short-looking service lasted a lot longer than we expected. It did allow us to show off our newly completed wedding album to Mum and Dad who were also ringing and gave me the chance to read some of the old Annual Reports on the ringing chamber shelves. As I transported myself back to 1995, when I conducted my first peal (though I wasn’t very brilliant at it!), David Salter was Guild Ringing Master, the Revd Lawrence Pizzey was thirteen years into his role as Guild Chairman, Bruce Wakefield in his sixth year as Guild Secretary, Paul Stannard had just taken over as Guild Treasurer and thousand-pealer Mary Dunbavin was a Mitchell and rang her 200th peal in a year that saw the Guild ring 159 peals (2011 saw 128) with 173 ringers (133), 96 of which were resident (interestingly 111 I make it) according to the Master’s Report. A lot has changed in the last seventeen years, some for the worse but much for the better. Let’s remember the legacy we’re carrying as members, when it comes to helping ringers progress through practices, quarters, peals and of course the events put on to bring learners and the more experienced together such as next week’s Guild Social.

The rest the of day for Mason, Ruthie and me saw us travel to my wife’s schoolchum Verity’s house next door to Heath Road Hospital for a BBQ. It seems somewhat ironic that we now have weather as scorching and perfect for outdoor events such as this whilst the big national events that would really have been made very special with more of the same come to a close having largely been washed-out. But still, it helped make this afternoon all the more enjoyable. Almost like going to weddings now!


Friday 7th September 2012

After four days of normal shifts at John Catt it was a 6am start for me today. It did at least mean I had a wonderfully sunny afternoon off and allowed me to listen to the front six of Woodbridge ringing for a wedding as I left work and the quarter at Hasketon as I fed the chickens at the mother-in-law’s in her absence before picking Mason up after his first week back at school.


Thursday 6th September 2012

We now have a completed and soon to be well-travelled photo album from our wedding as for the second evening this week we happily drove down to Trimley St Mary to see Dean and Hilary our wonderful photographers. It is an album we had much anticipated and it certainly hasn’t let us down!

Meanwhile, there are now just nine days until the Guild Social at Sproughton. If you haven’t got your ticket yet then why not!? I know it’s not fashionable these days to attend district or Guild events, but your presence would really be appreciated and all for the sake of attending a barn dance, chatting with friends familiar and new and having a drink. Please get in touch with to get a ticket.


Wednesday 5th September 2012

It seemed odd ringing a peal at The Wolery without David for this evening’s peal of Havant Surprise Major as he remains unpealable due to his sciatica, hence why I was calling this enjoyable 5056 and 1hr53mins of ringing. Mr Salter Snr did greet us afterwards whilst he prepares for an operation next week which will hopefully see him back peal-ring in about a month.

We in Ipswich got cracking at just after seven, during which time The One Show on BBC One featured the new bells of St James’ Garlickhythe, more famous perhaps as The Royal Jubilee Bells rung on a barge during the Jubilee River Pageant on the Thames earlier in the ‘summer’. It again shows how ringing continues to thrive in various spots and is far from a dying art, which also seems to be the case at Thurston where it is interesting to hear the five have been augmented to six which is good news, as it was that they were experienced by good crowds on the NW District Open Towers Day on Saturday.

Meanwhile, those looking to ring at Woodbridge this Sunday morning will want to know that there is no service and therefore no ringing as everything (bells and all) is shifted to the evening for 6.30 with ringing from 6.

And finally, but by no means least, well done to Richard Brewster on conducting a quarter-peal for the first time, achieved with the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Preston St Mary today as Richards took over conducting duties in Suffolk!


Tuesday 4th September 2012

Two disappointing bits of ringing news following on from the disappointment of Saturday afternoon’s SE District Quarterly Meeting.

Firstly, this Saturday’s North-West District Striking Competition has had to be cancelled due to lack of interest. Even Abby admits there were mitigating circumstances such as other events, but it is still a big shame as these are enjoyable events.

An even bigger shame was a practice at Gislingham being halted by a complainant on Sunday evening. As I’ve mentioned before, a complainant where bells are ringing regularly having not been rung for years or ever at all is going to get as much sympathy as anyone who complains about bells is ever likely to get out of me. But this fine eight have been ringing for several years now and despite not being tremendously loud outside the local ringers have carefully managed the amount of ringing on the bells specifically in order to placate residents of this pretty village. What is worse is that those ringing were a group of youngsters. We are forever hearing about how the youth of today have nothing to do and as such are seemingly running amok getting into drugs, drink, crime and violence, all whilst intimidating law-abiding folk. And yet here we have a group of children harmlessly learning a skill and continuing an ancient tradition with the permission of those responsible for the bells and all they get for it is alleged abuse and swearing from someone old enough to know better. To their credit the stunned youngsters ceased ringing, not that I’m aware they got any thanks for this. I’m willing to accept this may be out of character for this riled resident with seemingly little patience (they had apparently only been ringing for a few minutes) and maybe he might be having a truly awful time of it, but in my opinion nothing really excuses this disgraceful behaviour. If any trouble does come from this I’m sure the Guild will support the ringers of St Mary-the-Virgin.

That said, it is further evidence that we have to be wary of our circumstances. As far as I’m aware the Gislingham ringers have always been mindful of their neighbour’s feelings and it sounds like this chap is not the most patient of types, but generally we need to continue the efforts that so many towers already carry out across the county to ensure good relations in their communities. It can be expensive, but sound-proofing and simulators are becoming increasingly essential if we want to teach people bellringing to the required standard from regular, extensive handling lessons to peal-ringing. Regular but not excessive (depending on circumstances such as sound-proofing and proximity of dwellings) additional ringing such as outings, quarters and peals are to be encouraged but also advertised locally in my opinion so nearby residents and particularly newcomers are aware of the bells but don’t get fed up of them. It pains me when tower correspondents (often not peal-ringers themselves) won’t allow peals or even quarters on their bells as it instantly puts bells on the defensive and makes it harder for any future local ringers at those towers that might want to progress further without annoying locals. Invite residents to practices, open towers or talks. Compromise where necessary but please don’t just cave in. Offence in the shape of education where possible is a much better option in my humble opinion.

On a much happier note, my wife and I headed to Trimley St Mary this evening to see Dean and Hilary of D & H Wedding & Social Photography. Following their superb work on our wedding day, they had somehow managed to whittle down 600 photos to 393 from which we had to choose up to 150. Having done that, we this evening saw the result on screen, accompanied by our first dance song of One Day Like This by Elbow. The happy memories of a fabulous day came flooding back and apart from one slight tweak the photos are now ready to be printed out in an album we imagine will see quite a lot of smiling faces over the next few months and indeed beyond. Nothing disappointing about that.


Monday 3rd September 2012

There is a lot of good work going on at St Mary-le-Tower at the moment with good intentions in trying circumstances. Like anywhere though, you get bad nights and tonight was certainly one of those. Pretty much everything crashed to a halt with concentration and seemingly homework lacking. As is quite often the case in this situation it was the learners who were the stars of the evening with Sean doing well at trebling to Cambridge Minor and Sonia now steaming onwards with some decent rounds on six and then eight.

Ruthie and I passed on the chance to have a drink at The Cricketers on this occasion as we returned to Woodbridge to pop round Toby and Amy’s to share some fizzy wine with them and their flatmate Cara as we caught up with each other.


Sunday 2nd September 2012

More front-eight ringing at St Mary-le-Tower as one of the most famous twelves in the country and indeed the world continue to be restricted. The work on the tower can’t start soon enough.

Grundisburgh.Mason.Mason.It was followed by ringing at St Lawrence and then a few blasts of Rounds and Call-Changes on Five for Mason at Grundisburgh in between taking photos of us with another low attendance here, before the day gave way to another fifth birthday party. This time it was the turn of Samson (he who lives on a boat!) and Molly as a fantastic do was held in Newbourne Village Hall and its superb surroundings, resisting the temptation of the beer festival on at The Fox nearby!

Meanwhile, well done to Ambrin Williams who rang her first of Minor in the quarter at Wickham Skeith today. Good to see such a youthful band offering hope to the future of Suffolk ringing. Good too to see the band from the first peal on the twelve at The Norman Tower take centre stage on the front page of Campanophile! Let’s hope there will be Maximus ringing soon at both our other two twelves!


Saturday 1st September 2012

If the South-East District stopped running its monthly events or even ceased running at all would anyone notice? Possibly not as no one seems to notice when it IS running monthly events judging by the paltry attendance at Orford for its Quarterly Meeting today. There were eighteen at the actual meeting, two of which were Aunty Marion and Mason. A handful of members popped in at various other points of the day but in total there was probably no more than twenty-five there today out of the near 400 that makes up the membership of a district that boasts by far the best transport links out of all four of the Guild’s districts.

 Those who managed to get to the SE District Quarterly Meeting at Orford. Those who managed to get to the SE District Quarterly Meeting at Orford.Not everybody can make it, I recognize that. Indeed, Ruthie and I missed this very event last year but that was a one-off. Mother-in-law Kate for example was at Brownie Pack Holiday which in her position as District Commissioner has to take precedence. Others will have had weddings to ring for or even attend, family events, work commitments and other perfectly valid excuses for not being ABLE to come. I’m also aware – having been in the position myself in the past – how difficult it is for those with non-ringing partners and family to take time out to attend, especially at such a geographical outpost as today’s venue. And obviously if 200-300 district members descended upon us for such an event it would be impractical, though if such attendances did begin occurring I’m sure we could find a way of making it work! But it would just be nice if some people came apart from just the same dedicated but dwindling crowd that ALWAYS supports these events.

Mason at Orford Quay.It was a long way away but it was also in a fantastic location that could have been enjoyed beforehand or even – as Mason, Ruthie and I did whilst the service was on – during the event by ringers and non-ringers alike by visiting the quay, the castle, the three pubs, the various shops and teahouses and the castle. Or even just exploring the beautiful countryside that surrounds this vibrant but laid-back coastal dwelling. Besides, there were people who came from almost every corner of the district apart from the lesser spotted ringers of the Shotley Peninsula. Members travelled from Sproughton, Ipswich, Debenham, Hollesley, Pettistree and Wickham Market and I’m sure there would’ve been willing drivers able to offer lifts. We would’ve been more than happy to take anyone who couldn’t get there under their own steam for whatever reason, either by going to theirs or picking them up from Woodbridge, Melton or Wickham Market depending on circumstances. Just a couple extra accompanying their colleagues from the above towers would’ve made the world of difference this afternoon.

To go back to my original question, I don’t think anyone would notice if the events stopped – for now. The likes of Pettistree, St Mary-le-Tower and Debenham will still run successfully without such events I’m sure. But without that link to other towers, how many potential twelve-bell ringers are ringing at places like Kettleburgh or Stutton, Bramford or Tunstall that SMLT will never come across because there would be no district events where their paths would cross? What about the potential peal-ringers that we’ll need in years to come? How will we find out about them or them about us? It is a two-way thing. The learners need to support these events more often – there was just Richard Moody from the host tower today which is not unusual for host towers who seem to feel it is our event rather than theirs – but why should they bother to come if the more experienced ringers can’t be bothered?

Worryingly, part of today’s mercifully and typically brief meeting saw the Harpers remind us that we have just three months to replace them as Secretary and Chairman, but looking round the small crowd huddled in the corner and dwarfed by the huge frame of St Bartholomew church it was hard to see where those replacements will come from, inhabited as it was by the same people already doing jobs or already having carried out sterling service for the District and Guild. Hopefully the North-West District won’t have such problems replacing Ruth Suggett as their Ringing Master at next month’s ADM at Great Barton, though she will be extremely difficult to replace. Ruth has been superb for that part of the world and she was the first person to approach me after my election as Guild Ringing Master back in 2006 to offer her help. She will be sadly missed in the position, though I sincerely hope she continues her enthusiasm for teaching and encouraging other ringers.

The rest of our meeting was fairly routine. After all, much information is already out there through emails, Facebook and the website, such as the fact that Wickham Market ringers are carrying out their Monday night practices at various other towers like Pettistree and Campsea Ashe until mid-October whilst substantial building work is carried out at All Saints. But nothing beats that face-to-face communication, especially when considering the moving tributes Ray Lewis, George Pipe and Muriel Page gave about the recently departed Phil Willis of Wickham Market and Leslie Carter of Marlesford and it gave reps and tower correspondents the chance to collect the latest edition of Awl a’huld – please look out for it and distribute it wisely. It was also an opportunity to announce that there will be a district outing to South Norfolk on Saturday 3rd November – SE members, PLEASE support it!

Beforehand the bring-a-plate-to-share that has worked well elsewhere made for a nice tea and Tom Scase the District Ringing Master did well to run ringing for so long with such a sparse attendance, culminating in a well rung half-a-course of Yorkshire Major. We didn’t stay for the ringing afterwards, conscious that we had to get the li’l chap to bed and attend to Max the dog who we are looking after in Kate’s absence at the end of a long but enjoyable day that started with another peal to mark a significant anniversary of someone’s first peal. Following on from a peal at Ashbocking to mark the twentieth anniversary of my first peal and one at Burgh to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mary Garner’s, this morning we gathered at Monewden to mark Ruthie’s. The actual anniversary is tomorrow but the star of the show shall be working then. It is of course a jolly excuse to ring a peal but it is a nice thing to mark and automatically gets people reminiscing, especially on this occasion Stephen, Mary and of course Mrs Munnings who each rang the same peal as they did a decade ago with Mike and Brian very kindly joining me in filling in for Felicity ‘Flick’ Caryer who was also ringing her first peal that day but sadly no longer rings, Annie Brechin who is for some reason struggling to keep her peal totals going in the Czech Republic and Kate who was unable to ring for the same reason she was unable to come to Orford later in the day.

It was a decent effort, a very good band ringing a simple method well, so thank you to all of them for ringing, especially Brian who then travelled the width of the county to ring in the successful peal of 4-Spliced Surprise Major at Elveden – well done to Ruth Suggett and George Salter on ringing their first spliced Surprise Major.

We two however joined Mr P for a post-peal pint in The Turk’s Head in Hasketon before heading onto Pettistree to ring for a wedding – grabbing a bite to eat in The Greyhound as continued to move – and then to the coast to be joyfully reunited with my son who Mum and Dad had very kindly looked after for the morning. It’s just such a shame there weren’t more there to share the moment.


Friday 31st August 2012

Mason the cheetah.After he’d spent the day at Africa Alive, I collected a cheetah called Mason for the weekend. He was soon tamed.

Meanwhile, well done to Mandy Shedden on ringing her first of Surprise Major inside in the 1250 of Cambridge at Ixworth on what must have been an emotional occasion for her.


Thursday 30th August 2012

Not finishing work until 7pm, the evening was a short one but also a late one as I headed down to Ipswich Railway Station to pick Kate and Ron up after their amazing sounding trip to Scotland watching eagles and visiting the Edinburgh Tattoo.

Earlier in the day there was much activity in Great Barton as a 1272 of Norwich Minor was rung, Neal Dodge’s longest length rung yet as well as his first of Treble Bob and 10th quarter overall. Well done Neal and to Clare Veal and Brian Evans who in the same success were ringing their first in the method. Keep it up guys!


Wednesday 29th August 2012

Those ringers who remember one-time Saxmundham ringer Harry Archer may well have a chuckle at the latest addition to Pealbase. It lists all those who have rung 100 or more tower bell peals on the tenor. There are all sorts of famous names known throughout the world of ringing that you would expect in the list like Mark Regan, Andrew Mills, Peter Border, Alan Regin and so on, but coming in at number 113 (as I write this) is Harry, a man who apparently dabbled in Plain Hunt but essentially knocked behind to everything. All 336 peals he rang were on the tenor, bonging behind to either Doubles and Triples, surely the only person on the list to have achieved that.

Having taken in this interesting bit of info, I set about working a slightly late shift at John Catt, not finishing until 6pm and thus preventing me from ringing in my wife's first quarter in her new name of Ruth Munnings as she partook in the success before Pettistree practice. What followed was lively with Bill progressing onto Bob Doubles inside for the first time and Mrs Roger's grandson Alex getting his first handling lessons off Mike and Ruthie. Both Bill and Alex did very well.

It was topped with a pint at The Greyhound and then a drink back in Woodbridge at The Mariners with Pete.

Hopefully there will be more of the same over the coming weeks as Suffolk ringing launches into its September programme. There are the usual District Events such as this Saturday's South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Orford where the actual meeting will be a tiny, tiny part in amongst much useful ringing, food, companionship and for those who want it, beer in a truly wonderful location. The following Saturday sees the North-West District Striking Competition and BBQ at Thornham Magna which promises to be good fun whilst on the other side of the county on the same day there will be the North-East District Method Practice for Learners at Sweffling, the kind of event that will be very useful for any learner. And not to be outdone, the South-West District will have their Mini-Outing to North Essex on Saturday 22nd.

Dotted in amongst these events there are all sorts of other things to take advantage off such as the North-East District Surprise Major Practice at Halesworth (where young Philip Moyse could do with the support in the absence of Maggie and Bold Philip), the North-West Open Towers Day on Saturday and perhaps biggest of all and the most fun, the Guild Social at Sproughton Tithe Barn on Saturday 15th. Please take a look at What's On to see what you can make. It is physically impossible to attend everything, at least in their entirety but they are all very different events broadly with the same aim - to enhance the ringing experience. We have a wonderful hobby, art, craft or whatever you want to call it and these events show this up tremendously. They're all put on at much time, effort and sometimes even expense by ordinary people like you. Many of them work, receive modest incomes, have non-ringing family, friends and commitments to balance as well as ringing but they still put on these events for people to enjoy and learn at. Please take advantage as much as you can and get as much out of ringing as you can, much like Harry Archer did.


Tuesday 28th August 2012

I enjoy ringing at Ufford. Lower Ufford in which the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary sits is a pretty settlement down in the valley and out of the way. Picture postcard cottages of many colours sit with their thatched roofs and tidy gardens alongside the church, good old-fashioned tin-hut village hall and traditional vibrant local pub, surrounded by fields, woodland and little streams. The only real indication that there is an outside world is the East Coast Railway line that runs just far enough out of the community not to be intrusive even if there were that many trains going up and down it between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

We don't come out here often, conscious that we can't go everywhere but we like to help out when we can and when needed. Such an occasion cropped up this evening as with Kate away, Ruthie and I were asked to run the practice and bolster the numbers, the mother-in-law worried the attendance might be a little low. We were happy to oblige and even happier to see Mrs Eagle's fears proved unfounded as a large crowd turned up. Amongst them was Sally after a very difficult few days, the two older young Salter boys giving their still poorly father a break and Harriet and Alfie, a mother and son partnership visiting from Saxlingham Nethergate over the border. Hopefully it was a useful evening for all and indeed the ringing varied from Call-Changes and Plain Hunt to Grandsire Triples and Cambridge Major. As usual, a very enjoyable visit to this typical Suffolk village.

Meanwhile, good to see the North-East's ladies quite rightly shouting about their recent peal at Sweffling on the front of Campanophile.


Monday 27th August 2012

As Bank Holiday Mondays go it wasn't the most exciting, but in keeping with a very laid-back weekend it was enjoyable as Mason howled with laughter through a stream of Top Gear Christmas specials.

Ruthie had to go to work again, but was back in time for the three of us to go to St Mary-le-Tower practice where ringing is still restricted to the front-eight. There was a very good crowd, but it continues to frustrate that the most famous and noticeable aspect of this grand church is so restricted. Still, things are happening, though as this weekend has shown, everything moves very slowly at this time of year.


Sunday 26th August 2012

Fifteen days ago we were the centre of attention in St Mary-the-Virgin, Woodbridge and as fantastic and memorable as that day was it was kind of nice to just have a relaxed ring to some call-changes on the front-six and sit with Mason in our usual spot at the back of the church for this morning's service, all accompanied by a nice ringing couple from Sussex. The changeable weather made it difficult for us two to go out anywhere whilst Ruthie returned to Sunday working, but it was still just very enjoyable for us to spend time together on our first really quiet weekend for months.


Saturday 25th August 2012

Paul & Jannet Stannard.Peal band.Congratulations to the band at The Norman Tower who rang the first peal on the bells since their augmentation in April. Sadly the first attempt was lost over the Diamond Jubilee weekend, but I'm sure that was instantly forgotten in the glow of this tremendous success. In particular, congratulations to Alex Tatlow on ringing his 50th peal and well done to Tim Hart on ringing his first of Maximus in a very good news story for Suffolk ringing.

It was an undoubted highlight on a quiet day for Mason, Ruthie and me, one punctuated only by nipping round to Pippa Moss' for a quick bit of sofa moving. It all seems very far removed from just a couple of weeks ago!


Friday 24th August 2012

We hadn't seen him since his mother had very kindly picked him up at the end of our wedding day so Ruthie and I were delighted to pick Mason up from his Nana and Granddad's after he'd been on a trip out to The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway which he'd obviously enjoyed very much.

Meanwhile, there's only three weeks until the Guild Social at Sproughton. This is something where people have made a genuine effort to provide something for members. The venue has been chosen carefully, extensive arrangements made, money forked out, much time taken. I really hope that all who can, will attend.


Thursday 23rd August 2012

Orford.It has nearly half the Guild's members, the best transport network in the district with the vast majority of towers just a few minutes drive from either the A12 or A14 and many easily accessible from railway stations and plenty of experienced ringers ready to help learners and improvers many of whom who no doubt travel into Ipswich to do their shopping but won't travel to help or be helped as we aim to progress ringing in this county for its ringers. So Tom Scase, the young and enthusiastic Ringing Master of the South-East District to which I'm referring makes a good point in the penultimate paragraph of his report of the recent District Quarter-Peal Evening. Ironically the next District event is on Saturday 1st September at Orford, one of the furthest points from everywhere else not just in the SE but in the entire Guild, but as with all Guild and District events I'm sure there will be opportunities for lifts and car-sharing and it will be well worth it. Not only - providing members turn up - should it be a useful afternoon and/or evening (depending on how much time you can spare) but there are few places better to be on a late summer's day than at this picturesque section of the Suffolk coast with it's castle, pubs, cafes and quayside as well as ample countryside to wander in. Turning up to a ringing event doesn't just have to be about ringing.

There were ringers elsewhere taking advantage of the opportunities our wonderful hobby offers and encouragingly they were youngsters. Congratulations and well done to George Reynolds on ringing his first quarter in the success at Great Barton and Neal Dodge on ringing his first inside at the same time. Congratulations and well done as well to the latter on his successful GCSE results and on that note it was good last week to see Philip Moyse get the marks he needed to go to the University of Southampton and Alex Tatlow get what he needed for a place in Bristol where he will team up once more with Robert Beavis. We will be sorry to see them go this autumn of course as they are two of our most talented young ringers and you do rather wonder how Bristol will cope with Beavis AND Butthead, but congratulations to them both.

Enjoying ice cream in Woodbridge.Ruthie and I have obviously had much to celebrate recently, but this week has very much been about getting back into reality. This morning saw another 4am start not just for me but also my wife as she dropped me off in darkness at work and then later took her mother and Ron to Ipswich Railway Station for their trip away. But the early start of course meant another early finish and allowed us to deal with the practicalities of our recent union, with banks and the like being dealt with. We also set about arranging to thank everyone who has so generously given to our house-fund which may take a while. There was time to imagine we were still on holiday though as we took advantage of the sunshine to have an ice cream on Woodbridge's riverside and a pint outside The Mariners. Gradually we're getting back to normal and part of that will process will hopefully be going to the SE District Quarterly Meeting in nine days time. We hope to see you there too.


Wednesday 22nd August 2012

Normally a peal of Yorkshire Major would be a fairly mundane affair - after all, if it's not the most pealed method in history it is one of the most pealed and I've rung dozens of peals of it. Indeed it is now my joint leading method according to Pealbase, bizarrely with Bristol Max - ah, the variety of peal-ringing.

This evening's success at Ardleigh over the border in Essex was special for Ruthie and me though as eleven days after becoming Mr & Mrs Munnings, this was our first peal together as a married couple and of course my wife's first in her new name. It was a humid evening in a close belfry but with trapdoors open and fan on at full-pelt there was some very good ringing - WAAFS to quote a certain Mr Salter who is sadly laid up with illness at the moment. Get well soon David.

It was nice to ring with Cherill again - an all too rare opportunity these days - and nice to get one under my belt after all the fun of the last couple of weeks as I return to the challenge of getting to my 500th by the end of the year. 'Only' sixteen to go.

And it was nice too to have a drink with the band in The Sun (no page three girls behind the bar or slightly incoherent rants about the days 'news' you'll be glad to hear) in nearby Dedham before popping into The Greyhound in Pettistree to enjoy a tipple with the ringers after their practice. It was particularly good to see Hazel looking so well after her operation, but it came at the end of a very long day following a 4am start at John Catt and with another one tomorrow morning so it was an all too brief visit. Still, a special evening.


Tuesday 21st August 2012

We enjoy visiting my Aunty Marion. Interesting conversation is exchanged about ringing, family, even football though she gave up going to Ipswich Town matches over twenty-five years ago. And of course this afternoon when we popped in after another early shift at work and a visit to Mum and Dad's to show them photos we had the wedding and Ireland to chat about. However, I can't ever say it's exciting. Until this afternoon that is.

As we sat looking over photos and putting the world to rights, two fire engines and several police cars arrived in the narrow street that my father's sister lives on and smoke could be seen rising from behind the house opposite hers. As it turned out it was just a shed fire, but it was all very dramatic at the time and when it came to us leaving, we had to be guided out of my Aunty's driveway by a policewoman as we negotiated a myriad of vehicles, emergency personnel and hoses.

We got home in time to grab a bite to eat and pop over to show the wedding photos to Toby, Amy and their temporary flat-mate Cara before an early night with a very early start in the morning.

Whilst all this was happening, well done to Caroline Bass who rang her first on eight in the pre-practice quarter at Offton. It may not have been as 'dramatic' as our afternoon, but it is good to see and well worth shouting about.


Monday 20th August 2012

Less than twelve hours after arriving home from a lovely honeymoon I've hardly had time to look back on, I was back in work. Reality doesn't bring you down with a bump quite as hard as sitting you at your desk at 6am in the morning.

Still, as ever the early start gave me an afternoon to sort stuff out which today saw me trying to upload pictures from the holiday onto Facebook - it might just get it done by our first wedding anniversary. Otherwise I wandered the house dozily discovering the copious amounts of feathers, confetti and porridge oats that Kate and Ron had very kindly left in various nooks and crannies of our home whilst we were away before I picked Ruthie up from her first day back at work to visit one half of the guilty party.

Eventually Ruthie and I ended up with cake and photos at St Mary-le-Tower practice to a lovely welcome, though sadly we are still restricted to front-eight ringing here as although a contractor has been booked they can't start for two weeks. The worse-case scenario seems to be that the work could take until November, though we obviously hope it won't be that long. Efforts are also being made to see if ringing all twelve really would make all that much difference to the tower.

Despite these problems there was a large, lively crowd in attendance attempting the methods of the moment, Cornwall and Glasgow Major, which all spilled over into The Cricketers on a humid evening. Tales of weddings, Ireland and Brian Whiting's quarter-peal trip to the South-Wales/Gloucestershire/Herefordshire area as well as all we'd missed whilst away were regaled but it had been a long day with another early start in the morning. Welcome back to reality!


Sunday 19th August 2012

Ruthie on an overcast Bray beach.And back home in the sunshine with the local pussy.We started today on Bray seafront overlooking the Irish Sea on a dreary morning. By the end of the day we were sat in our sun-drenched garden looking at photos from our wedding (is that really eight days ago already?!) that had been sent through by Hilary and Dean, as well as catching up on the millions of Facebook messages and footnotes, another one of which was very kindly added by the band who rang the 1250 of Yorkshire Major at Hollesley this evening.

Our car 'Dougal' who we had to part company with today.In between we enjoyed a routine flight home with none of the fearful anticipation that was a precursor to our flight out, either side of which we bade farewell to Dougal and said hello to Emily again.

Ireland has been absolutely fantastic. It is a beautiful country with wonderful people, glorious bars all complimented by the best tasting Guinness in the world. We hope to return in the future to see some of the bits we missed and maybe even return to some of the highlights of our trip and would certainly recommend it to others!

Whilst we were reflecting on a wonderful honeymoon, Neal Dodge will hopefully be reflecting upon a job well done having rung his first peal at the first attempt in a 5040 at The Wolery that also saw Clare Veal ring her first Minor inside. Well done Clare, but particularly well done Neal!


Saturday 18th August 2012

Breakfast saw a hangover of the sad events involving the owners of Beechwood House where we had been moved to yesterday. The owners were still flustered and we and a French family who were also staying last night had agreed to come down early for the first meal of the day as the owners were going to the lady's father's funeral at 10am but that suited us as we had a lot of travelling ahead on our last full day in this wonderful country.

Being just a few miles down the road from Ireland's second largest city Cork, we thought we ought to have a look round the 2005 European Capital of Culture. We probably didn't do it justice. There seem to be plenty of bars and restaurants but it was too early in the day, even for us though we did take time out to have a cuppa at O'Briens Sandwich Bar. There appears lots to explore too, but with our longest journey since our first full day in Eire to come, we didn't really feel we had time to fully appreciate it, so we contented ourselves with a wander round The English Market.

The pretty church at Gowran.As disappointing as it was not to see more of this south coast metropolis, we were glad we gave ourselves plenty of time to get to our final overnight spot of Bray back up near Dublin. Even more so as it allowed us the chance to take the scenic route to the east coast, passing along the edge of the Wicklow Mountains and popping into Cleere's Bar in the small village of Gowran with it's partially ruined but picturesque church of St Mary's as well Redmond's Bar in the fantastically named Bunclody as the Irish geared themselves up excitedly for the start of the English football season. The fact that many of them seem to be Liverpool fans suggests they're maybe not quite as excited now.

Eventually we arrived at the coast, driving up from Greystones to the Wilton Hotel in Bray before wandering down to the seafront and a meal in the lovely Esplanade Hotel. We ended up back at our own hotel bar and then a pint of Guinness in bed whilst watching Match of the Day.

Tomorrow we will return to Suffolk but those ringers already there have been busy on the end of a rope. Particularly well done to the band who all rang their first of 42m/v Doubles in the peal at Reydon England's east coast as the Price's Diamond Wedding Anniversary continues to be deservedly celebrated.


Friday 17th August 2012

More than at any point this week, my wife and I felt like proper tourists as we went through the ABC routine. Another Blinking Castle. Two in fact. Not that we minded, especially as we stood on the banks of Lough Leane next to the marvelous Ross Castle just outside Killarney. It was a beautiful spot, but it wasn't the most well known castle we would be visiting today.

The Blarney Stone.That honour went to Blarney Castle, home of course to the Blarney Stone. There was a little of the theme park about the place as the castle is the centrepiece of some impressive grounds that also includes Blarney House, but whilst it was interesting looking round them, it was the castle and the opportunity to kiss the famous stone which we were there for. Of course the whole myth of eloquence being bestowed upon you could be said to be blarney. After all, I have now planted a smacker on that bit of rock stuff and yeah, I don't feel know more elephant. Innit.

Ruthie undertaking the rather awkward operation of kissing the Blarney Stone.Forty-five minutes of queuing to get to the top of the castle to carry the act out also allowed for some exploring of the actual castle but after a few hours wandering around the estate and a drink in the Blarney Castle Hotel we felt we ought to get booked into our B&B, Davmar on the outskirts of Blarney itself. This is where things got interesting as we arrived to find we'd been double-booked due to an unfortunate error that saw a French family staying in our room for three nights instead of the two that the B&B owners had thought they were staying. Thankfully though they had found another place not far away and took us there only to find ourselves in the middle of some drama. The guy who opened door to us was flustered and understandably so. His son-in-law's mother had died a couple of days ago and they'd buried her this morning. If that wasn't bad enough, his father-in-law had died today and so they were removing the body this evening and having the funeral tomorrow. It was far from ideal and we had visions of eating our breakfast on top of a coffin tomorrow morning, but of course it was very unfortunate for the B&B owners and they were superb in the circumstances.

Having settled into our room we thought it best to get from under their feet and into Blarney village centre to get a bite to eat, fortunately coming across Margaret from our original B&B, who - still full of remorse for the misunderstanding - very kindly drove us in. Having sat in on someone's retirement party in Christy's Bar, we made our way further down the hill and to the Muskerry Arms for some top notch grub in yet another character-filled Irish pub. It's something this country does very well.


Thursday 16th August 2012

Ruthie relaxing next to Lough Gur.Me relaxing next to Lough Gur.Cows in the middle of 'The Great Stone Circle'.Today it was from Limerick to Killarney, but not before a morning's trip and look around Lough Gur not far from where we'd stayed overnight. In its own right this is a stunning location, but what makes it even more interesting is that it is the site of some ancient settlements and forts, a visitors centre, exhibition and very enthusiastic attendant helping to relay its fascinating history. The talkative lady at the visitors centre was adamant that the 'Great Stone Circle' was a must-see and whilst interesting, as we stood looking at a mass of stones surrounding some unimpressed looking cows we felt a little like we were in an episode of Father Ted.

Band playing at Sheehan's in Killarney.Still, it all set us up nicely for some lunch in The Old Bakehouse in nearby Bruff before we made our way through some more beautiful Irish scenery to our evening destination, Glena House. Having settled in at this lovely guesthouse, we followed the many horse and carriages into the centre of Killarney to find a lively town. It is a popular tourist spot so not unexpectedly we had our pick of bars, restaurants and traditional folk nights and after an explore we started off with a pint of Guinness (all this iron must be good for us) in Charlie Foleys Bar and then The Speakeasy Bar which felt like I imagined an real Irish pub to be, before settling upon Tatler Jack for some good old fashioned pub grub. We then topped off our evening out by listening to folk music in Sheehan's in The Killarney Grand Hotel on probably our best night on this holiday so far.

Back in Suffolk it seems a good time was being had in Bardwell too. Well done to Neal Dodge for ringing his first quarter on eight and Simon and Clare Veal on ringing their first of Grandsire Triples in the 1260 today. Very happy to see so much going on back home.


Wednesday 15th August 2012

Today was the day we entered Clare (County Clare that is, not the home of the grand ring of eight in Suffolk). It was also the day that Ireland was battered by its biggest storm in decades as Hurricane Xena hit the west coast.

 Ruthie outside a very wet Dungaire Castle. Ruthie back at the hotel bar after a very wet walk.The very wet Atlantic coast looking over to The Aran Islands.Not that we really had the worst of it where we were. It was wet and quite blustery that's for sure, but it merely added to the atmosphere of this spectacular bit of coastline alongside the Atlantic and of Dungaire Castle which we visited first.

As the weather cleared and deteriated sporadically we made our way inland towards our next overnight stop of Limerick and in particular Patrick Punchs Hotel. From this base we wandered into the centre to see the sites such as St Mary's Cathedral - home to a 24cwt eight - and King John's Castle before grabbing a pint in the Curragower Bar on the other side of the River Shannon.

We perhaps shouldn't have left here in our search for food as we went past a stream of clubs and sports bars that can be found anywhere in the UK but if we hadn't we wouldn't have found the wonderful Glen Tavern to eat and drink at. And at least that was closer to our hotel as the heavens opened on our walk back. Goodness knows what the worst of the storm was like...

Ladies Peal Band.White Horse.As Ruthie and I celebrate the first few days of marriage, it is worth noting there are some who have a lot more experience at this lark. Congratulations to Don and Helen Price who tomorrow celebrate their Diamond Wedding Anniversary. The Price's are a lovely couple who have done so much for ringing not just in the Reydon and Southwold area but also far beyond so I was glad to see this significant and impressive landmark celebrated with a peal at Sweffling which was impressive in its own right, rung by a North-East District Ladies' Band as well as being Rona Sporle's first inside. It wasn't the only peal marking Mr & Mrs P's anniversary with achievements. Another peal was rung in their honour on the back eight at Grundisburgh with Colin Salter ringing his first tower-bell peal on eight, Alex Rolph ringing her first on eight full-stop and Andrew Leach ringing his first peal as a conductor, whilst a quarter was also rung at Pettistree. Congratulations Don and Helen and well done Rona, Colin, Alex and Andrew. Maybe we should stay out of the country more often!


Tuesday 14th August 2012

We left the hustle and bustle of our Dublin base after breakfast, heading out into the 'real' Ireland both Ruthie and I have been looking forward to seeing so much as we spent the morning travelling from the east coast to Connemara on the west coast.

Arriving far too early to check into tonight's accommodation we had a gentle drive around the area of its nearest village Oughterard. After going through some stunning scenery, we were a little disappointed that all we could find to eat was what seemed like a cafeteria in Peacocke's Hotel at Maam Cross, especially as there was a bar which had won an award for its food closed a few yards away.

View from outside our B&B for the night, Waterfront House.Still, a pint in Faherty's Bar in the village helped soften the blow and pass the time until we could book into Waterfront House. As the name suggests, this is a B&B on the waterfront of Lough Corrib, a complete contrast to last night's large hotel next to a busy tramline in the city centre of Ireland's capital and a beautiful place.

Luckily, despite its isolated location down the end of a long dead-end track, it was within walking distance of the local golf club where we ate and partook in the nation's most famous tipple.

We eventually settled down back at our delightful accommodation for the night as back home congratulations are due to Philip Gorrod and Maggie Ross on ringing their 450th quarter together in the success at Blythburgh, whilst yesterday the band that rang at St Nicholas in Ipswich also rang quarters at St Matthew where Joanne Sharples rang her first of Minor inside and at Rushmere where Kay Lucas and Colin Salter rang their first of St Clements. Well done guys!


Monday 13th August 2012

She was terrified. As we wandered through the various security checks at Stansted Airport and then sat in the waiting lounge for a couple of hours, my wife muttered the occasional swearword and winced everytime she saw a plane take-off or land. A few hours later as we landed at the other end, she smiled from ear-to-ear and skipped into Dublin Airport excitedly planning where to and when we could next fly. I've never seen someone so excited to be so underwhelmed by a new experience.


Underwhelmed is certainly not a word to describe our experience in Ireland's capital today though, from picking up 'Dougal' our hire car (as we've christened it) to arriving and settling into our lovely room in Albany House, the first of six different places we're planning on staying in across Eire this week. But the highlight this afternoon was standing in the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse, overlooking the city, clutching a pint of the black stuff after enjoying a fascinating tour of the process that goes into making one of the most famous brands in the world. With views of Croke Park, the many church towers of Dublin, the Aviva Stadium, the airport, Irish Sea and the Wicklow Mountains, this has to go down as the most spectacular location either of us have ever had a pint in and as previously recalled, this well known drink tastes far better here in its homeland then back across in Blighty.

Ruthie and any others who have listened to me tell the stories over and over again like a forgetful old man will be aware that I've been to this city before a couple of times, once in 2000 to ring the first quarter on the sixteen at Christ Church Cathedral and then in 2001 to ring the first peal on them. On both occasions it was with a predominantly Brummie band and there was a fair amount of drink and ringing related tales to impart from these boozy visits in a strange city and I've lost track of who I've told them to and how often but for the new Mrs Munnings it was nice to see some of the places she'd heard so much about, including the entrance to the ten at John's Lane that terrified so many and the infamous Porterhouse that was the base for much of my previous two visits to this fine metropolis.

But it was another new location that was another real highlight of the first day of our honeymoon as having watched a bus drive into the back of a taxi (nothing and no one was hurt apart from pride and the taxi's boot!) we stumbled across The Brazen Head, apparently the country's oldest pub and dating back to 1198. Even on a lovely sunny day like today, it isn't hard to imagine how welcoming and cozy this character-laden public house is in the winter with a roaring fire, low timber-framed ceilings and small rooms coming off each other through wonky doorways that you wish could talk. More immediately though it fed us handsomely on a day when we hadn't had much of an opportunity to eat.

Whilst we were enjoying the first day of our holiday we continue to be touched by those who have rung quarters and peals for our nuptials. Those on Brian Whiting's quarter-peal week in Wales very kindly rang a 1344 of Superlative Major at Monmouth (a tower where appropriately we have been to together), whilst yesterday Essex gave us a nod with their quarter of Doubles at Mistley and there was a nice footnote from the band that probably had to work hardest for it by ringing a quarter at St Nicholas in Ipswich today. And this evening it was nice to be celebrated by some old friends in Birmingham with a peal of Avon Delight Maximus at St Philip's Cathedral. Many thanks to everyone who has rung something for us. Maybe Ruthie might get a few footnotes to congratulate her on overcoming her fear of flying so spectacularly!


Sunday 12th August 2012

It was a fantastic day yesterday, the best thing to come out of it being that Ruthie and I woke up at Ufford Park Hotel this morning as husband and wife! The worst thing to come out of it though was that we woke up with very thick heads.

Today was a day to recover from our biggest party for some time but primarily to clear up. With that in mind we were up early and after a cooked breakfast Kate came round to pick us up and take us to The Abbey where we helped Philip Merry the caretaker tidy up the mess that yesterday's events left behind. The wonderful flowers that Debs provided were taken down to Grove Court Nursing Home so they shan't go to waste and whilst there was a fair amount of buffet left over after what was a hot day, efforts were almost instantly underway to ensure that that doesn't go to waste either. Sadly the same might not be the case for the superb beer that Claire Monk supplied from Welbeck Abbey as it seems I might have overestimated the amount of ale that would be consumed. There were a handful of people that for various unfortunate instances were unable to come to the evening do that I had been banking on consuming a fair bit but even then I was quite some way out which I'm really annoyed with myself over. My new mother-in-law Kate - in keeping with how helpful and generous she has been with the whole wedding - took some up to Philip and Maggie's in Halesworth to store in their cellar and we may have a plan, but the likelihood is that it will need drinking soon, so if you do have an event very shortly at which you feel large quantities of real ale could be consumed then let us know! It is very good stuff.

That and the sore heads aside it was an otherwise satisfactory and relaxing day which also saw us ringing together as Mr & Mrs Munnings for the first time as we 'helped' out at Ufford this morning, popped to Ipswich to drop glasses off to Sainsbury's and pick up father's suit from Ashcroft Road before leaving them with Toby and Amy to drop off at Alexander's whilst we're away. Such visits were also a good opportunity to reflect on yesterday's festivities with those nearest and dearest to us.

When not carrying out such practicalities we sat back and began opening the many, many cards and gifts that people have very kindly given us and gasping at the generosity of everybody who contributed to our house fund - thank you so much to you all, it truly was overwhelming at times, in a wonderful way.

We eventually ended up at Edwin Avenue not only to work through some of that lovely left-over grub but to bid farewell to Clare, Kev and Katelynn. In amongst everything it's been a wonderful distra_ction to get to know our niece, oblivious as she is to all that has been going on and my new sister-in-law and brother-in-law have an immense help this week and particularly yesterday. Apart from anything else it has been great to catch up with them.

With them preparing to travel back to Scotland, an early start and another big day tomorrow and with tired minds and limbs, my wife and I headed home to catch some of the Olympic Closing Ceremony, including a prominent place for the song that was our first dance.

Many thanks to the band who rang the 1259 of Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower for their footnote and as we looked through the photos and messages on Facebook we thought about how lucky we are to have so many friends. It's just a shame we couldn't ask more of them to come and help contribute to our fantastic day and thick head!


Richy and Ruthie's Wedding Day - Saturday 11 the August 2012

Wedding.Best Man & Page Boy relaxing.Kev (Usher), Me, Chris (Best Man) & Toby (Usher) with Mason (Page Boy) in front.Cutting the cake.

It has been over two years in the making since that sunny June day during the 2010 World Cup when I proposed to Ruthie in Elmhurst Park . There has been much organizing, much saving, much spending, meetings, phone calls, emails and a large degree of stress and even at times panic. We were therefore determined to enjoy our wedding today and thanks to our friends and family we were able to - we are extremely fortunate.

For me the day started in a relaxed manner, helped further by word that my wife-to-be was in an equally relaxed mood. A morning of enjoying the sunshine out in the garden gave way to getting spruced up as ushers Toby and Kev (who came with Katelynn) arrived, closely followed by Chris' other half Becky, creating a party atmosphere before we'd even left the house. Photos outside Melton Grange taken, champagne guzzled and we were on our way, arriving at the church in plenty of time.

Having posed for some of the obligatory pre-ceremony photos and greeted numerous guests, Chris and I grabbed a quick opportunity to ring in a half-course of Yorkshire Major which rather nicely turned out to be the piece that heralded my bride's arrival outside which in turn prompted the Best Man and I to rush to the front of the church and await her arrival.

As is tradition, I knew nothing - literally nothing - about Ruthie's dress so even putting aside seeing my better half for the first time since yesterday evening, this was a very exciting moment. And wow! The dress and Ruthie were stunning - well worth the wait as was what followed. The ceremony was superb - many people commented how it was the best wedding ceremony they'd ever been to - thanks mainly to Kev the Rev who kept things light whilst still reminding those present the importance of the event. Hymns were sung with gusto, brilliantly accompanied and assisted by Jason Busby playing the organ whilst Sarah turned the music for him. And before we knew it the register was signed and we were out into the bright sunlight as Mr & Mrs Munnings with a great sounding touch of Stedman Triples ringing out, to speak properly - or as properly as one could in the circumstances - to our guests and partake in more photos, official and otherwise!

The speed of which everything passed was to be a theme today for my wife and me as almost before we'd had a chance to blink we were in the beautiful grounds of The Abbey having our photos taken, our first pints of the day in our possession thanks to Claire Monk. No sooner had those been done and it was down to the business of eating and how! Suffolk 'n' Good came up trumps with the food, particularly a gorgeous hogroast that was devoured by our close family and friends, many going up for seconds, some even for thirds. Another tick!

Speeches were made, with Kate starting us off superbly, me muddling along in the middle and then topped by Chris hitting the right note, gifts handed out as we tried to acknowledge as best we could the many that helped our day run so smoothly.

Then it was party time!

As guests for the evening reception arrived to mingle with those already there, Glenn our disco man got going and in no time at all inside and out were filling with guests chatting excitedly and we were up in front of everyone again for our first dance, One Day Like This by Elbow. It seemed a suitably uplifting song for the occasion and is a few minutes which will stick with us for life.

It was a dance which started an evening of dancing, interrupted only by the cutting of the cake and introduction of the fantastic buffet laid on by our evening caterers Becky and Chloe but as with the rest of the day it flew by too quickly. Soon it was time up on the party and the day. There are so many thanks to be made - Mason for being a wonderful Page Boy, Kev the Rev for the brilliant service and the Busby's for the teamwork that created such a marvelous sound from the wonderful organ at St Mary-the-Virgin, Philip Gorrod and Maggie Ross for running the ringing (never an easy job at a ringer's wedding!) before and after, Deb for the flowers (and her mother Doreen for dropping the button-holes at ours this morning!), Wendy for the scrummy cake, Hilary and Dean for putting up with us as they tried to take the photos we'd requested, Ron for driving the ladies to the church, Miss Monk for supplying the beer, the band who very kindly rang the quarter at Pettistree this morning, Colin the printer who provided brilliant invites and service sheets, Glenn the disco man, the caterers, the school and to all our family and friends who shared in our happy, happy day. Thank you to the bridesmaids Fergie and Clare for keeping Ruthie calm and thank you to the ushers Toby and Kev and Best Man Chris for keeping me upright and to Mum and Dad for supporting us with advice and hints and for enabling us to go on honeymoon to Ireland next week. But one person who more than anyone deserves our gratitude is Ruthie's long-suffering mother Kate who through her trade, friendships and generous financial help when needed made this whole occasion affordable and wonderful. In fact it had been commented that the service sheets should've perhaps had 'Sponsored by E.B.Buttons' emblazoned across the front! Apart from anything else we are grateful for the advice and guidance when at many times the whole thing seemed extremely daunting and we were stumped as to how we should and could go about things. As much as we've enjoyed today we're glad we don't have to do this again as I'm sure Mrs Eagle is too! Thanks Kate!

It was Kate who appropriately took us from The Abbey to Ufford Park Hotel, our accommodation for the night. It was a special place to finish a special day filled with so many happy memories.


Friday 10th August 2012

Yesterday was a day of a_ction and as you would expect for the eve of the big day itself, today was too. Almost bizarrely though there were long periods of doing nothing until at 5pm we were finally let loose on The Abbey itself. With the help of Suffolk 'n' Good Hogroast who are providing tomorrow afternoon's grub, our one-armed bridesmaid Fergie, Claire Monk who brought the casks of her superb Henrietta and Chris and Tracy from the school, tables were placed and laid, food and drink brought in and the bar set up.

Mum and Dad had very kindly looked after Mason today so arrived with him and Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick once they'd booked into their B&B and prior to them all going for a meal out at The Bell & Steelyard and they were closely followed by my brother and Best Man Chris who was also going to be my companion for the evening as Ruthie and I parted company, not to meet again until she walks into St Mary-the-Virgin church tomorrow at one, as is tradition of course.

Whilst my fiancée went to her mother's for the night to share her last hours as an unmarried lady with Kate, Clare, Kev and Katelynn, me, my son and brother returned to Pytches Road where we were later joined by Pete and Susanne as I relaxed before a hectic day tomorrow.

At the moment our lives are revolving around the wedding and even though there is a very large event happening down the road in London it feels a little like nothing else is going on in the world so in many respects it is nice to see the ringing fraternity going about their normal business, particularly Louis Suggett who today rang his 200th peal and in impressive style by ringing in a peal of 41-spliced Surprise Minor on handbells in Bacton.

For me though it was an early night in anticipation of a big, big day.


Thursday 9th August 2012

Thank you for the footnote and congratulations to Mike Whitby for ringing his 1100th quarter as conductor in the pre-practice success at Pettistree yesterday. The latter is well deserved by a very good conductor, very good ringer and very good friend - many, many ringers have benefited from his 1100.

The former was for an occasion that is now almost upon us after over two years planning and saving. Whilst we have carried out an occasional job this week, such as collecting the bride's dress, getting some presents and of course partaking in the rehearsal, up to now the last few days have been filled more with anticipation than action, more talking about Saturday than actually preparing for it.

This is what 212 glasses looks like.Our booze store!Mason with his wedding haircut.Today however saw a day of action, kick-started by picking Mason up, complete with homemade card for the occasion. With the boy collected, we three joined one of the ushers, Mason's Godfather and our neighbour Toby at Alexander's to collect suits for me, him, Dad and Chris and having got the li'l chap's hair cut and picked ties and rings up from Edwin Avenue - briefly chatting with Kev, Clare and Katelynn - we popped across the road to sort our 'costumes' (as Mason insists on referring to them) and went to Ipswich to drop Dad's off. Whilst in town we nipped over to Sainsburys in Warren Heath to pick up the 212 glasses we're hiring from them and purchase a new shirt for the wedding, just having time to return home for lunch before heading down to St Mary-the-Virgin where Jason Busby, North-East District Chairman (good time to remind NE members of their District Outing and Quarterly Meeting at Orford on Saturday morning) and our organist for the big occasion. He was practicing for the event, useful for him, exciting for us, especially when Ruthie got to practice walking up the aisle to her entrance song!

Also exciting was the Guild ringing its first peal of Glasgow Surprise Major for eight years with a successful 5120 scored at Ixworth. Well done to all concerned but particularly Louis Suggett, David Potts and Alex Tatlow who were ringing it for the first time and congratulations to David who at the same time rang his 150th peal.

Well done too to all involved in the young ringers outing yesterday, a nice warm-up to the Young Ringers' Afternoon on Monday 20th August in Blythburgh and Southwold - good to see so many youngsters taking advantage of the holidays with outings and peals of Glasgow!

Aiming to catch-up with those involved at Ixworth today, it was the special Surprise Major practice at Ufford this evening. It perhaps wasn't our best but there was lots of encouraging perseverance, shown best by 8-Spliced Surprise Major which took four attempts to get past the first couple of leads. All in all though, many thanks and congratulations have to go to Mr Whitby again for getting this practice going - in keeping with today it was a useful night with some excitement thrown in!


Wednesday 8th August 2012

I suppose it was a bit much to expect everything to go right! Last night after the rehearsal and drink, one of Ruthie's bridesmaids Fergie fell on the way home, dislocating her shoulder and meaning her arm is now in a sling. Whilst painful for the poor girl, the main thing is she's had it seen to and she'll be able to carry out her duties to the full on Saturday and was still able to go to lunch with my fiancée and the other bridesmaid Clare to The Coach and Horses before helping collect THE dress from Just A Day Bridal Wear in Ipswich.

And whilst my other half's best friend went to A&E, we went to Macro, a monster of a supermarket, accompanied by Kate, Clare and Katelynn as we picked up some essentials for the reception, such as pint glasses and fizzy!

That trip was the start of an evening that saw us at Pettistree for practice and The Greyhound for a drink afterwards, allowing the Douglas' to proudly show off the addition to the family. Apart from the li'l 'un's presence it was also nice to see Mary Hallett return to the belfry, though it seems likely to just be over the holidays. Even so, she showed she still has talent on the end of a rope and good to see her back!

It was also nice to see George Salter ring his most Surprise Minor methods to a peal in the success at The Wolery today. Well done George, glad that went to plan!


Tuesday 7th August 2012

If we thought it felt real yesterday, it felt incredibly real this evening as Ruthie and I joined Kate, Mum, Dad, bridesmaids Clare and Fergie, ushers Kev and Toby, Kev the Rev and of course Katelynn at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge for our wedding rehearsal. Only Chris as Best Man was missing as he's on holiday but I'm sure he'll catch up and for this evening Toby stood in ably as Kevan ran us through our roles for Saturday, though we didn't have time to join the ringers practicing upstairs.

Kate took the family and Fergie for a drink in The Mariners afterwards at the end of a day that saw my fiancée writing out place name cards (my hand-writing isn't really suitable for such tasks!) as Fergie popped round to offer moral support.

Meanwhile, well done to Clare Veal and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first treble bob and first of Yorkshire Major respectively in the quarter at Bardwell.

All part of an exciting week!


Monday 6th August 2012

It's starting to feel very real. Ruthie and I are now off work for two big weeks, Clare, Kev and Katelynn have been down since Saturday, today saw my fiancée's other bridesmaid Fergie arrive from Brighton and share a cuppa with us and we finished the day with a couple of pre-wedding drinks with Toby, Amy, Kala and Nick in The Mariners or at least as many as we could afford as this expensive month kicks in!

Earlier in the day my other half's sister, brother-in-law and niece popped round before we headed out to St Mary-le-Tower where people flocked from distance to partake in another eight-bell practice where Cornwall was attempted with varying degrees of success. The ringing wasn't always the best but then pretty much every piece was rung for someone - it isn't always going to be perfect is it? Talking of those who travel to support us, have you seen our Guild Ringing Master and Rowan on the front page of Campanophile? A nice article showing yet another way in which ringing can be enjoyed.

With very nice words and best wishes from the band for Saturday ringing in our ears we passed on going to The Cricketers as we headed back to Woodbridge for those drinks with Mason's Godparents and their other halves as practical arrangements for the morning of the wedding were made. It is indeed starting to feel very real.


Sunday 5th August 2012

Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to watch the Women's Olympic Marathon on the tele today which is a shame as judging by the number of peals being rung by some of the best ringers in the country along the route I would've been treated to some great ringing. Most notable of them all was the 5007 of Stedman Cinques rung by the first ever all-female band to ring a peal at St Paul's Cathedral. Well done ladies!

And whilst I'm at it, well done to Colin Salter too on ringing his most methods to a peal in the Salter + Mary Allum peal at The Wolery today.

Whilst some of the finest female ringers were ringing it to a peal, we'd love to ring Stedman Cinques for even just a short period at St Mary-le-Tower but sadly of course we are restricted to ringing on the front eight with so still no sign of anything being done about the tower damage. It means that for now the famous twelve that arguably spreads the name of SMLT further than any other aspect of the church remains out of action whilst the outside of the building is still scarred by the hastily constructed tape that is meant to keep people away from any falling masonry.

We are at least able to ring all the bells at another of the town's famous old rings, St Lawrence which we did on this first Sunday of the month before I left Ipswich for Grundisburgh, the sound of St Margaret's bells continuing the town centre ringing relay seeing me on my way.

All this was done without Mason as I'd dropped him off beforehand to go to a Christening in his mother's family and once I'd picked him up from the bash at St Audry's Social Club afterwards it was an afternoon of dodging showers as I mowed the lawn and the li'l chap pointed out the rain! I'd rather have watched the marathon!


Saturday 4th August 2012

The last Ipswich Town match we attended at Portman Road was a 5-1 win over the then Championship leaders (and since promoted to the Premier League) West Ham United, an electric night the day before the funeral of Uncle Eric, the man who inspired my brother and me to become Town fans, long-standing season-ticket-holder, fan since the very beginning of their illustrious professional days seventy-five years ago and a blue through and through.

Mason takes everything in.The players come out.Mason attempts to photograph the game.So it was appropriate that today my next visit to the home of East Anglia's most successful football team to watch them play was again against the Londoners and with Mason by my side as he took in his first ITFC match. Today was merely a pre-season friendly, the attendance considerably smaller and the atmosphere far less charged than that late January night, but the outcome was much the same (though we 'only' beat them 3-1 this afternoon) and the li'l chap seemed to genuinely enjoy himself, excitedly leaping up and down as the players came out of the tunnel, cheering in the right places and even joining in chants of 'cheerio' and 'who are you' as the visiting fans began leaving after our third goal late in the game. There was the odd occasion when he got a little bored but the laid back and far from full-pelt nature of the occasion meant that was the case for most of us and whilst more time was spent taking in the surroundings then watching the football (though this in itself is all part of going to the footy, especially when the team on the pitch so rarely offers anything much to actually watch) he was delighted to tell everyone who asked afterwards that 'we' won! Hopefully I have set him on a lifetime of sharing in my regular pain and anguish with the Tractor Boys.

Ruthie chose not to join us this afternoon as she spent some time with her first niece Katelynn, meeting her for the first time in her six-week life today as her parents Clare and Kev arrived in Suffolk in anticipation of a big week for us, but the boy and I met her before the match and then rejoined them afterwards round at Edwin Avenue for a BBQ with Ron and then Kate once she had returned from ringing a quarter at Earl Stonham as part a successful South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening which saw Phil Sweet ring his first away from cover at Bramford - well done Phil and well done Tom on organising his first of these as District Ringing Master.

My son, fiancée and I eventually left Kate's at nine to a sound of a live band playing very loudly in a marquee on the vast grounds of one of the large houses almost directly opposite us, a party already in full swing at this point but which was to go on for another four hours as if it was in our own living room. It annoys me when people live (and even worse move in) next door to a pub and complain about kicking-out time or a church and complain about the bells so despite Ruthie pointing out some subtle differences in the situations - such as the fact you wouldn't expect a full-blown rock-concert from a private residence next door to an old people's home, many bells are sound-proofed and neighbours warned about additional lengthy ringing, that we don't usually ring non-stop into the middle of the night and indeed that the vast majority of peals don't go on anywhere near as long as the band and then the disco afterwards went on for - I have to admit I didn't mind this one-off too much. It didn't disturb Mason who has from a young age been used to sleeping through noise and even Ruthie nodded off before its conclusion. I think as a society we can be a little too intolerant of noise in this country, expecting and even demanding silence whilst somehow expecting everybody else to go about their lives with their work, hobbies and celebrations without disturbing us from time to time.

Such intolerance wouldn't have helped Christine Knight reach her much sought-after landmark of five hundred peals as she did at Clare today, something I still hope to achieve before this significant year is out. Congratulations to our hard-working Peal Secretary on deservedly reaching this total that at one stage a few years back she may have understandably believed wasn't going to happen.

So here's to the next five hundred Christine and a good season for your favourite Tractor Boys, hopefully with Mason watching on!


Friday 3rd August 2012

Ufford Peal Band. Many thanks to Mike Whitby for organising this evening's peal of Wedding Delight Major at Ufford, arranged especially for mine and Ruthie's forthcoming big day. It was hard work on a warm evening, the organist competing with us for the first five courses and the sun blinding Brian, myself and Mike for nearly half the peal, but we were very touched, as we were by the Rambling Ringers peal for us and the engagements of Chris Crabtree and Ellen Dew and Claire Monk and her chap Tom at Lanivet in Cornwall where the society are currently on tour. Of course with everything we are unable to join them this year but it's nice they haven't forgotten about us!

And with Mason not being picked up until tomorrow morning we took advantage by enjoying a couple of pints in The White Lion across the way from our exertions this evening as we thanked Mike and the others for a lovely gesture.


Thursday 2nd August 2012

St Chad's Cathedral. Those who know me well and many of those who don't will be aware I'm not great at practical tasks. I struggle with putting stuff together like bookshelves, beds and toy airports. From a ringing perspective I managed to get the clapper stays on at Hollesley but only because it is much harder to get those wrong than to get them right, but otherwise my lack of practical skills has been shown up most noticeably by my attempts to put muffles on clappers, most memorably for me at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham when I had to climb the terrifyingly horizontal, steep ladder there to carry out the task - those who have been there will know what I'm talking about! It was back in my student days and the late, great John 'Jimmy' McDonald, tower captain at the eight in this Roman Catholic edifice and pioneer of much Triples ringing had managed to persuade me to reluctantly take on the job for a fiver and a pint afterwards in The Gunmakers Arms nearby which may or may not still be open but was once a great little drinking hole for those who rang at Chad's tucked away in the back streets before new owners drove them out to the frankly better and superb city centre Wellington with its huge range of ales. As with every occasion I've ever put muffles on, they began coming off almost as soon as the bells were pulled off!

So at the end of a day that had seen a trip to the dentist so disorientate me that I'd forgotten I'd driven to work until I had walked home, I was perhaps not the best person to help untie, pull up and re-secure the ropes at Ufford. Nonetheless, I found myself up amongst the eight bells here with Kate whilst Ruthie measured from downstairs and I - touch wood - think we did OK, though the seventh rope needed removing for some splicing. Our task wasn't helped by the enormous amount of rope due to an error some years ago which saw Taylors use the measurements for when these were a ground-floor ring, but I expect we'll find out more about my handiwork when - God-willing - we'll be going for a very special peal tomorrow evening.

Talking of special peals, if you're planning on watching Sunday's Women's Olympic Marathon either by the track or on the tele, listen out for the bells of St Paul's Cathedral where they will be attempting the first-ever all-females peal on the bells during the race, though sadly without Alison Regan who was to have rung the eleventh before her sudden death recently. Having been extremely fortunate to have rung one there at the beginning of 2006, I know how physically and mentally draining these bells can be and any peal is an achievement here, but if successful this weekend it will be a superb effort and very historic. They won't be the only ones to listen out for though with the bells of St Vedast, St Mary-le-Bow, St Lawrence Jewry, St Katherine Cree, St Magnus the Martyr and St Margaret's Westminster all ringing out for the occasion on what should be a marvelous and memorable spectacle as ringing continues to embrace these Games.

I shall enjoy listening out for them, secure in the knowledge that I've had nothing to do with the maintenance of their bells - good for me AND them!


Wednesday 1st August 2012

Congratulations to Mary ‘Spliced-41-Surprise-Minor’ Garner on ringing her 1000th quarter this evening, a deserved landmark for someone who - even when she perhaps shouldn’t in her hectic calendar - comes out to help whenever and wherever she can, whether it is peals, quarters, practices, weddings and pretty much any other reason you can think of for coming out to ring a bell.

Mary's 1000th quarter peal.It was reached at the appropriate location of Pettistree her home tower, in the appropriate method of Thong Hall Minor named after her and Chris' lovely home and with an appropriate band made up of just a selection of ringers she has rung with for many of those thousand quarters. Well done Mary!

Ruthie and I made it just too late to enjoy the celebratory champers but in time to help finish off the chocolate cake for the same occasion as the varied practice continued with mixed Doubles & Minor with variable treble muscling into the itinerary alongside Cambridge, Surfleet, York, Winchenden and Rounds and Call Changes on another varied evening, aided by the visit of Daphne's ringing friend Clare.

We finished with a lively evening in The Greyhound where trying to add to landlady Karen's copper pile was the game of the night on what was a very high-spirited occasion.

And talking of high-spirited, well done to Harkstead who revealed they too joined in the fun on Friday morning for the Olympics where Team GB got their first gold medals of these Games today. Congratulations all round then!


Tuesday 31st July 2012

The internet served up plenty of interest for ringers today.

For example, people have been viewing and liking our efforts from last night on BellBoard so much we are now on the 'leader border' on the homepage. Keep it up guys!

Our peal at Brandeston isn't on Pealbase just yet though as Andrew is away at the moment, but before he left he added a new list of all the ringers who have rung long lengths over 10,000 changes, yet another very interesting pot of peal-ringing information, to me at least. I've never rung one myself though I was once asked in a 11,111 of Stedman Cinques on the back twelve of the Bullring which was called off prior to starting and I partook in an attempt at the extent of Major on Stuart Hutchieson's mini-ring when it was in his and Liz' old house in Armitage, Staffordshire which would have taken us roughly sixteen-seventeen hours to ring if it hadn't been lost after a couple of hours due to a miscall.

However, there are plenty of Suffolk ringers on the list, the latest of which was Louis Suggett after the record peal of Bristol Sixteen in Birmingham at the beginning of the year. And there have been a handful of 10,000+ peal for the Suffolk Guild over the years, though not since the 12,240 of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor on the back six at Grundisburgh on the penultimate day of 1988, proudly recorded on a peal board behind the tenor rope there. Prior to that there had been long lengths of Doubles at Brandeston (12,120) on 12th April 1982 (also recorded on the wall behind the fifth rope there) and Tannington (10,200) on 10th May 1981 as well as a 10,080 at Dennington the third day of November 1974, 10,080 of Plain Bob Major at Debenham in 1967 on 16th September (again on a peal board next to the treble rope there) and 10,080 of Minor at Holbrook back on 7th November 1953. Pealbase only has complete records back to 1952 at the moment, so perhaps those with such figures to hand could fill us in on what 10,000+ peals were rung for the Guild prior to then?

One person who probably won't be featuring in any long-lengths anytime soon is the chap who features in and posted this horrendous bit of video titled 'All the Bells, None of the Ringers' on You Tube. He has allegedly been identified as a RINGER called Charles Russell who actually rings at Cricklade the unfortunate church in the film. This is the type of thing we as a Guild were fearful would be encouraged by the Martin Creed Project but we only imagined non-ringers would be stupid enough to do such a thing. For a non-ringer to do this, who doesn't know what the consequences might be is bad enough, but it is staggering that it has been carried out by a ringer who should be fully aware of what damage could've been done to the church, bell fittings and/or himself. With this being an open blog to people of all ages and sensitivities I am restricted to using terms like plonker and dipstick from the Only Fools and Horses dictionary of insults and hope he learns from this. If he doesn't he shouldn't be allowed near a belfry anywhere again.

Ruthie and I felt on fairly safe ground heading to The Range in Ipswich this evening to purchase some table place cards for a certain forthcoming event as July comes to an end and we enter a big, big month for us.


Monday 30th July 2012

As evening's go, this one was particularly satisfying. When we scored our first peal of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor as a band way back in November we wanted to do it again to show it was no fluke. It may have taken a while, but I think we've now shown it wasn't.

Brandeston.Ironically, the ringing for this evening's success at Brandeston probably wasn't quite as good as we managed just under a couple of weeks ago at the same venue when Whitley foiled us, but you can't muddle through a peal like this and all the band deserve immense credit for their concentration levels on another intensely humid 2hrs32mins in an airless belfry. Hopefully it is an effort Alison Regan - who we dedicated the performance to on the eve of her funeral at Worcester Cathedral - would have approved of.

Everything was wrapped up and a drink enjoyed in The Chequers at nearby Kettleburgh before daylight finally succumbed to darkness and I returned to Ruthie for some long-awaited tea very, very pleased.

Also satisfying is the continued mentions of bands who rang on Friday to mark the Olympics that now seem a ordinary part of daily life, with St Margaret's in Ipswich the latest to be added to the list of towers that partook in the satisfying response of Suffolk ringers to a big day.


Sunday 29th July 2012

The fact that ringing is still restricted to the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower meant it didn't matter so much that we were very short there this morning, though with the continued stipulation that someone guard the bottom of the tower whilst we ring we only just had enough to ring on all the bells available to us.

Even in Stephen's absence we had one more at Grundisburgh if you include Mason who had another go at calling Rounds on Five before I took him onto another birthday party, this time his mate Zack's. Thankfully the weather held out for them though their gazebo was in danger of being blown away by the time everything was being wound up!

Meanwhile, the list of towers open on the Thetford to Bury St Edmunds Open Towers Day on Saturday 1st September has been released. It's a shame it clashes with the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Orford but I imagine there will be plenty of ringers from elsewhere in the county and indeed from outside of Suffolk to mean that they shouldn't miss SE members come 3pm!

It is also well worth pointing you in the direction of the Young Ringers Afternoon, which this year is taking place at Blythburgh and Southwold on Monday 20th August, with the option to join Reydon's practice in the evening for those who want. It is important to note this is open to young ringers and their parents/guardians from across the county and I'm sure Maggie won't be against any furreners from over the border!


Saturday 28th July 2012

It is of course important that we ring as well as we can as much as we can, but taking into account that people need to practice and make mistakes to get better it is perhaps vital that at funerals and weddings in particular the ringing is as spot as we can get it. The former because of the occasion - it is better for those grieving that we show to be giving their lost loved one the best possible send-off rather than crashing about as if we couldn't be bothered. The latter because it is usually the only time we get paid to ring. And mainly because both occasions are very personal for particular people for whom that service and everything about it really matters. It is often debated about whether the general public know the difference between good and bad ringing but we shouldn't take the chance - we really have to be very selective about who rings and make sure they are up to the task.

Hasketon.Disappointingly I don't think we pulled off the best ringing we could've for the two weddings we rang for today at Grundisburgh and Hasketon though thankfully neither couples hung around too long afterwards so weren't subjected to our less then perfect performance, the latter shooting off on a carriage pulled by a couple of Suffolk Punches from Hollesley. Let's just hope they don't listen too carefully to the video�

I'm glad to say the ringing was better later in the day when we travelled to Rendham for Hugh Spink's first of Stedman and 50th quarter as Suzanne and Richard Stevens very kindly occupied Mason. Thanks guys! Congratulations to Ruthie and Maggie on ringing their fiftieth together and Bold Philip on circling the tower to quarters. No footnotes to match Donald Carter's from the peal at Chilcompton on Thursday though.

The boy gathered up we headed to The White Horse opposite the church for our trillionth drink on a Saturday, happy that we had rung as well as we could as I'm sure they did in the peals at Freckenham and Hopton for which congratulations are due to Janet Sheldrake and Gordon Slack at the latter for ringing their first of Bristol. Well done guys and nearly there Christine!


Friday 27th July 2012

One of the most historic days in this country's modern history started with an interview with Terry Baxter on his Radio Suffolk Breakfast Show and ended with Sir Paul McCartney performing to the Olympic Stadium and an audience of billions across the globe.

My audience wasn't quite as big as the former Beatle had at the end of the Opening Ceremony of the long anticipated Olympic Games, but I was still happy to impart how Suffolk ringers were doing their bit.

Olympic Ringing: Bardwell Band.

I've done to death my displeasure at The Martin Creed Project but at least he got bells into the headlines on a day where getting airspace in the media was not easy, even if change-ringing itself featured very little. I was getting ready for work so was unable to ring anywhere myself, but whilst a lone bell from St John's was all I could hear when I popped my head out of the door at the appointed hour, there were plenty of bells ringing in the towers of Suffolk, with Bures and Palgrave to be added to the list of those advertised here and on the Guild facebook page.

And throughout the day there was ringing going on, whether it was for the Olympics or not and particularly well done to Ian Culham on ringing his 25th peal and to him and George Salter on ringing their first blows in Beverley and Surfleet in the success at Harkstead.

As that was happening, Ruthie and I were watching a spectacular opening ceremony for the Olympics. It has felt like it's been coming forever so it feels strange that it is here, complete with the huge bell 'made' at Whitechapel. And whilst the ceremony was (in the main) an interesting watch it was a long old show, finally finishing at nearly one in the morning. It seemed a long time since that interview with Mr Baxter.


Thursday 26th July 2012

Often when I put messages out to ringers and the media about ringing events the response is sporadic and lukewarm. Even when the Olympic Torch passed through Suffolk recently, bringing the occasion to our doorstep, there weren't as many bells as I'd hoped ringing and there was only Radio Suffolk highlighted what we were doing or indeed replied at all.

So I was surprised as my inbox today filled with more and more reports of towers ringing tomorrow - the majority of them at or around 8.12am - with Beccles, Buxhall, Earl Stonham, Great Barton, Great Finborough, Haughley (where the Lord of the Manor will be apparently ringing his bell too!), Redgrave, Rendham, Rickinghall, Stoke Ash, Sweffling, Wetherden and Worlingham all joining the list mentioned on yesterday's blog and Don Robinson from Framlingham informing me that the bells of St Michael & All Angels will be ringing from 5.55-6.25pm as part of the town's celebrations.

However, I was even more surprised to have five messages on my phone from Radio Suffolk, BBC Look East and Alan McBurnie, as well as an email from the East Anglian Daily Times as the idea of ringing bells for the start of the Olympics seems to have grabbed their imagination too.

With everything going on it is important to note that life goes on away from events down the road in the capital, including the last opportunity to attend the North-East District Ten-bell Practice until November next Wednesday as the usual host tower Beccles will be out of action from 20th August whilst new bearings, gudgeons and pulleys are put on, a new wheel is put on the sixth and the frame painted.

As well as that there is the South-West District practice at Higham this Saturday, the superb South-East District Quarter-Peal evening at Earl Stonham, Bramford and Offton followed by a meal which is usually a brilliant social occasion at The Sorrel Horse at Barham the following Saturday and then prior to a certain other event there is the North-East Outing and Quarterly Meeting at Orford and BBQ in aid of Elmsett Bell Fund on 11th August.

But for now let's enjoy our ringing on Friday, whether it is for the Olympics or not and make this spotlight count.


Wednesday 25th July 2012

Many thanks to all those who have let me know what ringing they will be doing for the opening of the Olympics on Friday, either via or the Guild facebook page. Surprisingly - to me anyway - there are twenty-two bands ringing (or at least twenty-two that have thus far let me know) at or around 8.12am for Martin Creed's All The Bells. As a Guild I think we found ourselves in a similar position to the Central Council when it came to this controversial project. It was difficult to endorse something which was so poorly prepared with such little understanding of change-ringing before everything was suddenly dropped on us back in November and in theory there is still a worry that some people may get the wrong end of the stick and cause damage to themselves or the fittings at easily accessible, unmanned towers, though hopefully the message will have come out from change-ringers sufficiently to make this scenario highly unlikely. To give the project its dues they have adapted the idea when challenged and seemed to have worked more closely with ringers as time has gone on, but I think it was always something that was best left to individual bands to ascertain whether it was the right thing to do in their community.

East Bergholt.Therefore I'm actually quite impressed with the response from Suffolk ringers to welcoming the official start of the biggest sporting event on the planet to our shores, with ringing from literally every corner of the county. Perhaps most notably East Bergholt will be ringing with the possible attendance of TV cameras, Wickham Skeith shall be topping their efforts with breakfast in the local hostelry and Huntingfield will be chiming their bells so about twenty villagers can get involved - under close supervision I'm glad to say! But it's worth noting that other towers ringing first thing on Friday morning are Acton, Bardwell, Barrow, Brandeston, Burgh, Campsea Ashe, Eye, Holbrook, Hollesley, Kedington, Kettleburgh, Reydon, Rushmere, Southwold, Sproughton, Stoke-by-Clare, Stoke-by-Nayland and Tattingstone, whilst Long Melford will be ringing from 9.30-9.45 as there will be a service on at 8.12. Well done everybody!

Pettistree Practice.Pettistree Practice.Unfortunately Pettistree are unable to get enough to do any ringing on Friday (However,Saska will be chiming one of the bells 42 times. Ed) - which was always going to be prohibitive to getting all the bells ringing as Mr Creed envisaged before he spoke with anyone involved with change-ringing - but there were more than enough for practice this evening as we welcomed Hazel back after her recent operation. We took it in turns to enjoy a lovely summers evening outside as another varied repertoire was carried out from Bob Minor for Derek to Cambridge for Chris to Whitley for Jane, all preceded by a quarter of Ipswich and followed by a drink at The Greyhound as Ruthie and I took advantage of the warm conditions to join Kate, Ron, Max and Jude outside.

SS Peter & Paul wasn't the only belfry where there was useful ringing occurring as quarters were rung at Exning, Ixworth and Preston St Mary where credit is due to Andrea Alderton for ringing her most Doubles methods. Well done Andrea. It all seems a good precursor to Friday - keep letting me know what you're doing!


Tuesday 24th July 2012

I corresponded with a Guild member today when they asked for some advice on PR for their tower, something I'm always willing to give to the best of my abilities. However, although I am the PRO of the Guild, I can't claim to be an expert on public relations and so one of the first bits of advice I give is to look at the Central Council's Public Relations Committee page on their website, which also offers up some useful publicity material. I also recall (I believe) Brooke just over the border in Norfolk putting strategically placed signs around the local area advertising their practice night which apparently had a really good response. There are ways and means and if you do want pointers then please don't hesitate to ask.

Almost at the same point as I was dealing with that, I received an enquiry via the Discover Bell Ringing website from someone in Suffolk wishing to find out more about learning to ring, which was a nice email to drop into my inbox. It shows just how many ways we can get recruits these days and why - whilst I am very happy to do as much as I can - it is each and everyone of us who has a responsibility in publicizing ringing positively whenever we can to whoever we can.

And whilst I am happy to help, each day is becoming increasingly taken up with wedding preparation. Today saw as many phone calls as I could fit in around my lunch, whilst this evening we took advantage of another gorgeous evening by walking down to Wendy, our cake-maker, to pay our dues and then sat outside The Coach and Horses whilst we ran through the many choices of shots available to us from our photographers. It was then home to carry out the delicate task of table planning before the night was out.

All in all, a very productive day.


Monday 23rd July 2012

It is the start of a week which will end with the biggest sporting show on the planet beginning seventy miles down the A12. Whatever your thoughts on the Olympics - I know even just amongst our membership alone feelings are extremely mixed - it is a unique and frankly huge event and along with the Diamond Jubilee I've tried to make sure that the Suffolk Guild has used it to their benefit in terms of PR, as has ringing generally of course.

If I'm perfectly honest, it was never going to involve huge swathes of publicity for our art. Every organization, charity, company, Tom, Dick and their chum Harry has been trying to get a slice of the action, something highlighted first by the Jubilee celebrations and perhaps even more noticeably when the Torch Relay came through the county a few weeks back. But it certainly won't have done us any harm being associated with everything that has gone on and there is one final opportunity on Friday for ringing to muscle in. This is the day which - for ringing anyway - has been overshadowed by the ill-thought-out (if any thought could be attributed to it at all) Martin Creed Project. As a Guild - much like the Central Council - we have distanced ourselves from it, at best feeling it's not the way for ringing to celebrate the start of the Games, at worst fearing someone getting hurt if a non-ringer arrives at an easily accessible, unmanned tower thinking they can ring the bells, for which no doubt we'd get hammered. I'm sure nothing of the kind will happen - key-holders that I've come across within our borders are normally very sensible people and even those that are non-ringers are generally aware that not just anyone should be allowed to come and use the valuable equipment in their care.

That's not to say we want to stop those bands that want to take part at 8.12am - or whatever time the unpredictable Mr Creed has decreed now - in four days and indeed I'm aware that Southwold ringers will be taking part. If you are partaking in this or if you are doing any ringing specially for the opening of the Games of the XXX Olympiad on Friday then please let me know as I'm hoping to put it out to the media in the hope we may get a little slice of publicity through everything that is happening.

St Martin's in the Bull RingOf course the opening ceremony is everywhere in the news with Sir Chris Hoy being announced as the flag-bearer for the UK team in Stratford, another good bit of news for British cycling the day after Bradley Wiggins became the first from this country to win the Tour de France. However, it was another impressive achievement that caught my eye yesterday (though not quite in the same league!) as our very own Louis Suggett rang as part of what is believed to be the youngest band to have rung a peal on more than twelve bells with the Spliced Fourteen in Birmingham. Well done Louis and well done to his bandmates. Much has been made of how ringing is dying out and is full of grey-haired, brace-wearing anoraks, but whilst this band with the average age of just twenty years and six months were succeeding in the Midlands, another youthful band of mainly twenty-somethings were ringing a peal of 8-Spliced Treble Dodging Maximus at St Sepulchre in London. We have a promising group of pre-uni youngsters in Suffolk of course who went to The National Youth Striking Competition recently and whilst we will lose at least some of those to further education, we will hopefully get some of them back and have a decent sprinkling of post-uni ringers already offering a bright future to our art locally, from established talents like Ruthie, Tom Scase, Abby Antrobus and Becky Munford among others to those in the earlier stages of a journey that'll hopefully see them through life, such as Sean Antonioli and Caroline Bass. So there is much to crow about when we put our art out there to the public.

A couple of the Guild's promising youngsters were in Ipswich this evening as George Salter and Alex Tatlow joined us as ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on a Monday returned after its week's absence. As with yesterday morning it was restricted to the front-eight and with a centurion guarding the dropzone at the bottom of the tower, which we expect to be the case for the next four weeks, but it was good to have them ringing again. Not everyone seemed to agree as whilst Sonia was experiencing her first foray into ringing with others a cry from below signalled disapproval from someone either drunk, daring or generally intolerant. Either way, the fearsome heavies who went down to speak with them got their best view as their backside was seen jumping over the wall in terror.

It was all very exciting and part of a session preceded for us by a visit to Otley as we accompanied Kate to see her Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ray as we strove to gather in the final invite reply for our afternoon shindig in nineteen days time and followed by the obligatory drink in The Cricketers. As pastimes go, I can think of worse ways to spend a Monday evening. Not sure that would get on Radio Suffolk this week though.


Sunday 22nd July 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.Although they were only out of action for one practice night, it was still a relief to have ringing back at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, albeit only on the front eight and with a guard on duty at the bottom of the tower to stop those dippy people who ignore barriers and warning signs and then sue when they get smacked over the head by a bit of flint from above. The ringing wasn't as good as it should have been with concentration poor, spoiling some otherwise decent pieces, but it was important to get the bells ringing again ASAP.

Mason had another quick go on the second at Grundisburgh before we picked Kate and Ron up for one of the highlights - if not THE biggest highlight - of the ringing social calendar for me as we headed to Kimberley Hall for Peta and Brian Whiting's annual BBQ. Their abode is a wonderful location, the type of place I missed whilst I was in the Midlands, a beautiful house surrounded by lovely big gardens, in turn surrounded by gorgeous Suffolk countryside as far as the eye can see, the fields and woodlands looking resplendent underneath the bright sunshine and big clear blue skies as the weather finally turned into what it should be at this time of year.

Enjoying the sunshine in the Suffolk countryside. On The Vestey Ring.  Philip Gorrod & Doug Perry. Boules on the lawn.Legs were out, as were the handbells, The Vestey Ring (which I managed to help put up without smashing my head in this time!) and the boules, leading to typically competitive but good-natured competition marshalled by Doug Perry. Although I was designated driver, the one pint of homebrew I had indicated that the ale was as usual well up to the occasion as was the vast array of food which fed the biggest crowd for this event for years, a sign of how popular it has become. Amongst that crowd it was good to catch up with people like the Hohls, Perrys, Fiona 'Fidget' Lankester, Sparlings and James Smith who was accompanied by his good lady Claire, originally a ringer at Rushmere and now returning to the art in Hull and a lovely girl with it. But it was also great to meet Caroline Bass who has started ringing with much success since last year's BBQ and was accompanied by her fiancé William who patiently smiled as ringer after ringer tried to cajole him into taking the art up that his fiancée has taken to so well!

It was immensely enjoyed by myself and Mason and many, many thanks to Peta and Brian for again being such tremendous hosts - my year really wouldn't be complete without this highly enjoyable event. The only downside was Ruthie not being there, having to work with other Sundays booked off for a certain big event in twenty days time and she wasn't just missed by me. God willing she'll be there as Ruth Munnings for next year's BBQ when hopefully we'll get the same weather, the same large turnout and SMLT will have all twelve bells going.


Saturday 21st July 2012

We were deliberately leaving Mason's suit for the wedding as late as possible, knowing that if we got it months or even just weeks ago he'd undoubtedly have a growth spurt and end up a foot taller. But with just three weeks to go we could leave it no longer and so it was into Ipswich town centre for the second Saturday running, which would normally be a sign that insanity had set in. More so.

Whilst down there we decided to inspect the offending bit of flintwork on the east side of SMLT's tower. Eventually we spotted the bulge and whilst it does look worrying I'm staggered anyone not looking for it had spotted it. So presumably someone was looking for it�

Mason with his airport.The li'l chap's reward for traipsing the streets and generic shops of Suffolk's county town was a trip to Toys R Us to choose a toy. The airport he chose now sits in Pytches Road International, taking up more room than Gatwick. Or so it feels.

We managed to drag him from it long enough for the grand replacement of Kate's broken pond liner, which required her youngest born to stand in side the relined hole as freezing water poured in whilst she pushed the new liner into shape. To say she didn't enjoy the job is an understatement, but it all contributed to a successful relining and relaying of the main feature in Mrs Eagle's garden. It was lucky too, as with a hole in it, that was one job that couldn't be left as late as possible!


Friday 20th July 2012

Everyone's become an expert on jet streams and particularly the badly placed one that has given us what seems like permanent rain and chilly conditions since March, but it is apparently about to shift.

Ron, Kev the Rev & Kate looking after the BBQ.Ruthie & Deena talk around a mysterious ringer called S Eddis. No, too obvious, Susanne E.Pete looks terrified.There was still time for it to spoil one more outdoor event as this evening's Woodbridge Ringers BBQ was marked by rain on a cool evening that at one point even threatened its go-ahead at all.

As always it was based at Kev the Rev's and was well attended by supporters of the band, ringers and non-ringers alike. Despite the conditions it was still good fun.

Cotton.And at least ringing is an indoor pursuit (unless you go to Cotton or are standing in a field with The Vestey Ring) which means life can still go on rain or shine, enabling achievements such as Ian Wright's first quarter on eight which he rang at Rendham as we shivered the rectory garden.

Meanwhile there is more good news from St Mary-le-Tower where ringing can resume from Sunday morning, albeit only on the front eight. So whatever the weather conditions, SMLT's bells shall once again be ringing over Ipswich.


Thursday 19th July 2012

Since Brian Whiting, Mary Garner, Mary Dunbavin, Maggie Ross, Tom Scase and myself (and various stand-ins who have very kindly helped out along the way) started meeting more regularly to attempt peals of multi-spliced Surprise Minor we've lost an awful lot of peals. Almost without exception the ringing has been good, some peals lost earlier than others, some in circumstances that we could shrug our shoulders and put down as a good experience to learn from, others in very frustrating and disappointing circumstances.

Brandeston.This evening at Brandeston - scene of our last victory way back in November and probably the tower we've been to most with this 'project' - fell into the frustrating and disappointing category. For over an hour-and-a-half we rang superbly, with a good brisk pace and good striking, Ruthie filling in magnificently for Brian on the treble and Louis Suggett pretending to be Mary D. There were mistakes as you would expect - after all it came at the end of a long day for most and the airless belfry at All Saints made for a muggy, humid evening, even with yet more grey and drizzly weather outside. But the concentration had been great and most mistakes had been instantly and often self-corrected which made it all the more disappointing when we got to Whitley - the twenty-sixth different method of the attempt and with the finishing line almost in sight - and everything just collapsed. Within seconds all that good work was undone, a lesson if we ever needed one that you can't let your guard down for a moment in this fast moving operation.

Myself and my fiancée reflected on it all with Maggie and Tom at The Chequers in the the neighbouring village of Kettleburgh afterwards before we two made our way in the rain to Tesco to collect ingredients for and then returned home to make our offering to tomorrow night's Woodbridge Ringers BBQ. Hopefully the weather won't disappoint us.


Wednesday 18th July 2012

More encouraging news via the Guild facebook page about St Mary-le-Tower. The damage is affecting only the outer layer of stonework of the tower which means we shouldn't be out of a_ction for very long. In fact hopes are high of a compromise that would allow us to resume ringing shortly on the front eight, though with the danger of falling bits of flintwork heaving the heavy back-four around is not an option and so therefore there is no twelve-bell ringing for now.

No such problems at Pettistree, touch wood, God willing and all that where there was a decent crowd for practice this evening including John and Sonia up from Sussex, though there were some absences and the ringing struggled this evening unusually. We perhaps should have seen it coming with the pre-practice quarter, which whilst successful saw the initial 66 changes of Stedman needing three attempts as it proved livelier than it really should've. However, the highlight was listening from outside the belfry as Ruthie tried to ring six at once to a couple of courses of Plain Bob Minor. Down treble. Lead after the four treble. Follow the four. Four lead!

It was all topped off in The Greyhound of course at the end of a busy day's ringing in Suffolk as the first peal ever of Greenfinch Bob Triples was rung at The Wolery, the band's first quarter of Rodbourne Bob Minor was scored at Great Finborough, 4-spliced Surprise Major was successfully negotiated at Elveden, The Stowmarket Youths performed Bristoll Surprise Minor at Bacton and a quarter to celebrate Philip Gorrod and Maggie Ross' engagement was rung at Halesworth. Well done to all concerned and congratulations Philip and Maggie!

Good news all round then!


Tuesday 17th July 2012

More wedding-related meetings, back at The Abbey and this time with Glenn the disco man and Suffolk 'n' Good Hog Roast who are providing our afternoon grub. As with last week it was a productive gathering and there was a real sense of the day taking shape. There was plenty to mull over as we took a moment in The Cherry Tree nearby and then onto Tesco as the mundane took over.

You may have recalled in recent weeks I've mentioned a couple of events to look out for and support if possible. Sadly the Surprise Minor practice on 26th July and the Weston Country Fair on 30th July have been cancelled, the latter the latest victim of this abysmal 'summer' thus far as the ground is waterlogged. However, there is a suggestion that a proper summer is on its way at last and so the fair has been rescheduled for Sunday 26th August. Unfortunately that clashes with when The Vestey Ring is at Mildenhall for their open tower weekend, which whilst good for Mildenhall - please do go along and support this young band - means a PR opportunity has been lost.

On the plus side there is still much ahead, with more details on the Open Towers Day in the North-West District on Saturday 1st September. There will be towers open from Thetford at 9.30 down to Bury St Edmunds. Of course if you can't make that, you may be able to spare a few hours for the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Orford on the same day.

There have also been a couple of great events with the North-West District Cycle Outing from Huntingdon to St Ives apparently being jolly good fun and the hugely successful and long-running Veteran's Day at Debenham last week was well attended. In fact, so long-running has this marvelous occasion been that it's arguable that some of the youngsters who helped out in its early days are now veterans themselves!

We couldn't attend either sadly and we may not be able to attend much over the next three weeks and four days (yes it has got to that stage!) but if you aren't busy planning a wedding then please do look at What's On and help out where you can.


Monday 16th July 2012

Ruthie in the Coach & Horses.There's been Monday nights without St Mary-le-Tower practice before. Numerous bank holidays in the past, Holy Week, the occasional service have all seen the weekly session cancelled. I've missed the odd one through holiday, illness and losing peals of spliced Surprise Minor. But on each of those occasions we always knew there was next week. However, this week's absence of twelve-bell ringing is different of course as we nervously await the outcome of an inspection on the tower, but at least I had a very happy celebration to fill the gap as Kate very kindly took myself and Ruthie to The Coach and Horses (thanks Kate!) to celebrate my fiancée's birthday before we then went on to The Mariners for a drink where we were joined by Toby.

I think it's fair to say Miss Eagle enjoyed her day from being serenaded by Mason and me first thing (good bit of conducting from the li'l chap!) to her Pimms with dinner to her drinks in our favourite pub in Woodbridge and was most appreciative of the footnote from the peal at Tostock - thanks guys!

However, as much as we've enjoyed this evening, we'll be hoping we're both at SMLT practice next Monday!

Happy Birthday Ruthie!


Sunday 15th July 2012

Bad, bad news from St Mary-le-Tower as a bulge was spotted this afternoon in the flintwork on the east side of the tower meaning that a decision was taken to suspend ringing at least until an inspection has been made, reasonable and frustrating in equal measure. Most immediately it meant this evening's special practice was cancelled, as was tomorrow's practice. Of course until the inspection is made we don't know what the future holds. We may be up and ringing again by next Sunday, we may be restricted to front eight ringing or in the worse case scenario we could be looking at a lengthy loss of ringing at one of only two venues in the county that people can practice their higher number ringing on a weekly basis.

It is annoying as real progress has been made over the last year in ten-bell ringing and a big push on Surprise Maximus was just getting underway. Our last practice was extremely well attended, had a young and vibrant feel about it and produced some really good ringing and this morning likewise. Amongst our number was Mike Pollard, the young chap studying at the University of York and working at BT for the next three months. It would be extremely disappointing having welcomed this ready-made and talented Surprise Maximus ringer for the bells then to be out for a substantial period or - God forbid - all of his stay.

Still, his presence at Grundisburgh afterwards meant that we were able to ring all the bells at east Suffolk's only 'ringable' twelve as a big attendance here seemed to eerily foresee the need to get twelve ringing somewhere in this part of the world.

Mason in his policeman's outfit.Sadly that was the last of today's ringing due to the news from SMLT that was to filter through later in the day, but it was still a fun afternoon as Mason donned his new policeman's outfit for his friend Serenity's fifth birthday party held at the now familiar Fred Reynolds Centre in Woodbridge, scene six months ago of the li'l chap's own fifth birthday party.

And despite the silencing of Ipswich's showpiece peal, there was much being achieved elsewhere in the belfries of Suffolk, most notably at Ashbocking where there was a list of achievements. Well done Catherine Looser on ringing her first of Minor, Alison Looser and Colin Salter on ringing their first of Minor inside and George Salter (another of the bonuses we've had up SMLT in recent months) on calling his first of Minor, all in the 1260 of Plain Bob. Meanwhile, well done to College Youth Alex Tatlow on ringing his first peal of Rutland in the 5088 at Kersey.

Both George and Alex have benefited - at least I think and hope they have - from ringing regularly at St Mary-le-Tower over the last few months and whilst I'm sure they'll continue to progress regardless, I hope that the 35cwt twelve will be available to continue helping them and others very shortly.


Saturday 14th July 2012

As Ruthie and I rang for a wedding at Pettistree it was impossible not to think exactly four weeks ahead to our wedding day. And as the outdoor element of yet another day was ruined in this abysmal 'summer' by a torrent of persistent rain, it was also impossible not to feel a slight pang of dread when it comes to the one thing we have absolutely no control over.

This afternoon's marriage of an apparently lovely couple who live in Rendlesham but have seemingly thrown themselves into parish life here to an extent that makes our monthly efforts at St Mary-the-Virgin seem quite feeble was quite reassuring. Whilst the heavens opened (obviously no hosepipe ban up there) in a familiar downpour, the smiles were retained and photos merely moved to inside as the party continued unperturbed. Whilst we'd obviously love to have a hot sunny day on 11th August, the main thing will be getting married and sharing it with friends and family, something today's new husband and wife seemed to be remembering.

Ruthie gets stuck into her birthday cake.Their big occasion was slap bang in the middle of our day, preceded by a trip into Ipswich to purchase birthday presents for Mason's school-friend whose party he's attending tomorrow and for Ruthie on Monday and a visit to Aunty Marion's and followed by popping in to see my fiancée's Nan and then tea at Kate's where we had an early mini-birthday party complete with cake for my better half. It'll be her last one as Miss Eagle which again makes it impossible not to think ahead to four weeks time.


Friday 13th July 2012

There is an awful lot of effort gone into organising the Guild Social in just two months. Barring any unforeseen circumstances there is no danger of it being called off as there have been enough tickets sold for the barn dance at the wonderful Sproughton Tithe Barn to make it worthwhile, but amazingly there are still plenty available. I say amazingly as if you haven't got anything else on on the evening of Saturday 15th September I can't imagine why you wouldn't come along.

It is an event that non-ringing partners and family could enjoy just as much as ringers, it will be a relatively cheap evening out, in a central and easily accessible location. Above all else it should be good fun so please support it.

Iken.There is much going on before then of course including the Surprise Minor practice on 26th July (though it doesn't say where so maybe if you turn up at a six-bell tower you'll get lucky!), the summer holiday practices at Great Barton every Thursday from the end of July to the end of August, the South-West District Practice at Higham, the South-East District Quarter-Peal Day, North-East District Outing and Quarterly Meeting, Midweek Ringers at Hollesley, Tunstall and Iken amongst much, much more. Please do look at What's On and support what you can, it will be greatly appreciated.

Ruthie was doing her bit to help by ringing in a quarter of Lincolnshire Major at Rendham this evening to wish John Massey a bon voyage to Panama. At least John has a good excuse not to come to the Guild Social!


Thursday 12th July 2012

When I rang my first peal of Yorkshire Maximus in 1994 at St Mary-le-Tower, I was still a mere youngster, a wide-eyed fifteen-year-old with just six peals under my belt. I was amazed to be ringing a peal at SMLT and incredibly nervous, even more so when I discovered two superstars of the art Mark Regan and Alison Surry were taking part. They were just names in The Ringing World before that, ringing complex stuff at spectacular locations so to ring with them was an honour but very nerve-wracking, especially at that stage of my ringing career. However, over the next 5042 changes they completely helped to relax me with nods, winks and smiles to help me through. That day went a long way towards convincing me that big-name ringers were approachable and giving me the confidence to mix it in Birmingham a few years later. As big time ringers no doubt used to ringing sparkling peals in complicated and testing methods with the very best in the business, it was extremely good of them to travel over to Ipswich and help me bash my way through a peal, but it wasn't unusual. They continued to support other ringers over the years whether through peals, quarters and practices when they could very easily have cut themselves off in the world of perfect spliced-Surprise Maximus. Mark very kindly returned to our county from Worcester to talk at the fringe debate at last year's Guild AGM at Henley whilst Alison Regan (as she became sometime ago) became Ringing Master of the Worcestershire & Districts Change Ringing Association.

Her death at far too young an age in the early hours of this morning, after an apparently short illness was a big shock to those who knew her in ringing and is a big loss to the art. The W&DCRA - an association I knew well in my time in the Midlands - need to find a new Ringing Master in tragic circumstances but of course that is nothing compared to what Mark and their family are going through right now and they have understandably asked for privacy at this extremely difficult time.

As well as I get on with Mark, that peal of Yorkshire was the only one I rang with Alison and I didn't know her well, though she very hospitably welcomed me into their home after a lost peal attempt at St Mary-le-Bow when Mr Regan was in charge there and she was always extremely pleasant to chat to when I got the chance. I'm sure I shan't be the only one in Suffolk who will want to pass on their condolences in memory of a celebrated ringer.

Ufford.I imagine the special Surprise Major practices that have been running at Ufford in recent months are very much in the spirit with which the likes of Alison and Mark have undertaken their ringing with an emphasis on focus, progress and good ringing. There was plenty of that this evening at the latest practice, though a course of Cambridge came to an unexpected halt when the sixth ringer let go of their rope to retrieve their falling trousers! They shall remain nameless on this blog except for the clue brown sauce!

There were mistakes of course as you would expect, but whilst it is difficult to place any of us in the same bracket as the Regans, I hope those of us there to help lesser experienced ringers through were able to be of at least some encouragement as Mark and Alison were back on that summer's day in 94.


Wednesday 11th July 2012

You may have noticed that Ruthie and I are getting married on 11th August. The more astute amongst you (or at least those who can read and add up) will have noticed too that that is exactly one month away and it's beginning to feel like it too. Everyday now we seem to be in communication with someone to do with the big day, whether it's the disco man, the caterers or the flower lady from the church. Those dreaded payments are being made, invites are coming back and there has been twenty-four bottles of wine for the reception tables sat in our hallway for the last week, in the process breaking the record for the longest any alcohol has remained unopened in our household by quite some distance.

And then there are the many actual face-to-face meetings in the next four weeks and three days with what seems the huge numbers of people involved in making our big day run smoothly as we look to dot the i's and cross the t's and add flesh to the skeleton of the day. This evening saw three such meetings, though two of those were combined as we met our photographers Hilary and Dean at our reception venue, The Abbey School whilst we also met up with Tracy our contact at the venue. The nitty-gritty was bashed out with both parties and a wander around the beautiful grounds with our photographers discussing shots and locations all made it seem very real even before we visited the home of Wendy who is doing our cake.

That meeting was useful and soon became more of a social trip as Ruthie knows this neighbour of her Nan's very well as we sat chatting about weddings and the new addition to the Eagle family amongst much else. It was very enjoyable but we came out at nine feeling very hungry (especially after discussing cake) so with no food at home (crisps and Smarties don't constitute a nutritional tea even for us) we popped into The Coach & Horses nearby for a quick bite to eat.

Preston St Mary.Before we even get to that fast approaching date in thirty-one days there is another significant date in five days time when Ruthie celebrates her birthday, so thank you from her to our good friends at Pettistree for their footnote to this evening's pre-practice quarter. Happy Birthday to Pippa Moss too and to David Steed who celebrated his birthday by ringing a quarter of Bridge's Pleasure Bob Minor at Preston St Mary which was a first in the method for all the band. Well done guys!


Tuesday 10th July 2012

Congratulations to Alex W Tatlow who this evening became a member of The Ancient Society of College Youths in this month's meeting at The Counting House on Cornhill following ringing at the new twelve nearby and whilst I was proud to propose him, sadly I couldn't make it down there as I had intended and had so hoped. Therefore I was grateful that his seconder David Potts was there, so thank you David.

The reason I couldn't be in London tonight was that we were picking Kate up from Ipswich Railway Station following her mammoth trip to Scotland to see her first grandchild Katelynn for the first time. With just one car, getting the mother-in-law home on what turned into a stinking evening of torrential rain quite rightly took priority with Emily the car. Sadly the trains were next to useless for getting back from an evening College Youths meeting to Woodbridge - so much for the adverts begging us to use the train for an evening out in London, unless you want your evening to finish at about eight - meaning I had to pass on the CY's this time. Disappointing as it was to miss out on Mr Tatlow's big moment, my fiancée and I were delighted to see Granny Eagle and to see all the video and photos and hear all the stories of Ruthie's niece as she gets used to her new surroundings.

Welcome to the world Katelynn!

Welcome to the College Youths Alex!


Monday 9th July 2012

It was an extraordinary evening at St Mary-le-Tower. On a hot and humid practice (that in itself is quite extraordinary!) we had nearly thirty in attendance including the visits of Nathan Colman, Peter, Christine and Rosemary Hill and Mike from York. Whilst the latter was a visitor tonight he could be a regular for a little while as he is working in the area for the next three months and seems to be a handy young ringer - when asked what he could ring he nervously replied that he hadn't rung for six months but before then he was ringing Bristol Maximus! And his youthful entry meant that there were seven ringers there younger than me, not something I'm used to!

All in all the large crowd produced some of the best ringing we've had at SMLT for some time which is saying something as we have had some very good ringing in recent months. Stedman Cinques, Yorkshire and Cambridge Max were dispatched with little trouble and few minor mistakes and Sean - who collected a peal card kindly produced by Stephen Cheek for his brilliant efforts a couple of weeks ago - got to grips with the difficult job of placing the treble in amongst the much larger tenor bells in a decent couple of pieces of Little Bob Max. What was particularly pleasing was that looking around we could've rung this well even without the help of our visitors, as welcome as they were of course!

Amanda & torch.Richy & torch.Ruthie & torch.However, the highlight of the evening was the entrance of Amanda Richmond with her Olympic Torch. Cue much applause and cameras and phones coming out as Amanda very kindly passed the torch round. After seeing them on the TV and of course through the streets of Woodbridge on Thursday it felt strange to actually touch one!

Whilst we topped this wonderful evening off with a drink in The Cricketers, there was extraordinary stuff going on elsewhere in the county with congratulations to the resident Suffolk band who rang the very first handbell peal of the 41 standard Surprise Minor methods with a different backwork each lead in Pretyman Avenue in Bacton. It's no easy feat as usually when the 41 is rung it is with the methods with the same backwork grouped together, meaning you have some continuity and to an extent a comfort blanket. Taking that away, ringing two bells at once and at the speed they rang it is indeed quite extraordinary.


Sunday 8th July 2012

I first remember hearing about the project to augment the ten at The Norman Tower to a twelve at the end of The Guild Dinner in 2008, held at Woolpit Village Hall, the same venue as the next Guild Dinner on Saturday 16th March 2013. At the time I was still in the relatively early stages of being Guild Ringing Master and was flushed with an abundance of often misguided enthusiasm and I was keen to investigate the possibility of setting up a twelve which would be easily accessible to ringers in West Suffolk so they didn't have to traipse over to St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh (though we're always happy to see them!) whenever they could or even leave the county altogether and also which could be used as a base for regular higher number peals and quarters.

By that point I'd prodded Winston Girling about the possibility of probably the most central and accessible tower in the Guild augmenting to a manageable twelve but he perhaps understandably was more interested about the idea of SS Mary & Peter becoming a ten, though nothing much seems to have come of that. So during the post-dinner mingling I spoke with a couple of experts and experienced ringers and asked for their advice, thoughts and ideas on the subject. One suggestion - though it would need a huge amount of work and money and would perhaps be a little too ambitious - was Elmswell, a church that most will have noticed from the A14 with a substantial tower currently hosting an unringable 12cwt five.

At this point the other Guild member told me of the plans at The Norman Tower, instigated by the now sadly late Very Reverend Neil Collings who was Dean at the Cathedral at the time which were still in the very early stages and therefore very hush-hush. I have to confess that I hadn't considered this iconic Suffolk tower, partly because peals are rightly restricted in their busy surroundings but also because I assumed they wouldn't want to risk spoiling a lovely ten.

Over four years after first hearing about the exciting plans in their very confidential form, I was delighted to finally ring on my third twelve in the county and I needn't have worried on either count. Whilst we could still do with somewhere easy to ring and freely available to attempt regular higher number peals that so benefit other areas of the country, it has become increasingly obvious that getting enough people motivated would be near on impossible. And although the smaller bells are quite quiet this is something that is being worked on and certainly didn't detract from a wonderful noise as complete sounding as the ten were. Well worth the years of fundraising and hard work.

Sadly the quarter of Grandsire Cinques I was there for was lost but quite apart from ringing on the twelve the trip was worth it to discover that Alex Tatlow has become the face of the Rwandan Olympic Squad in Australia. It was only a matter of time before his fame spread beyond our borders of both this country and ringing.

Ironically the filling of one gap by getting twelve-bell ringing to the west of our county has created a chasm in another - that of ten-bell ringing within our boundaries. Arguably the two best tens in the county are at the far extremities of Suffolk, with Sudbury St Peter edging onto Essex in the South-West District and Beccles just the breadth of the River Waveney away from Norfolk in the North-East District. Apart from the back tens of our three twelves (let's not get into a debate right now about the quality of our lightest one), in between these Mildenhall have been restricted to front-six ringing for as long as I can ever remember for reasons I think most people have forgotten (though there are moves to rectify this), Stradbroke are not the easiest, Mindinho are a mini-ring which puts the frighteners on far too many people and Stonham Aspal are� Well Stonham Aspal is a lovely village.

It is definitely an area that needs looking at as it is extremely difficult to help people make that huge leap from eight to twelve without some ten-bell ringing as a stepping stone, though practices at SMLT try to help bridge that gap, time permitting on a Monday night. Apart from bugging Winston at Stowmarket again, my belief that St Margaret's in Ipswich would be better served having a nice light ten rung from a gallery than the current eight so high up the tower and the occasional half-joking, half-serious suggestion to augment Ufford, one place I've always thought would make a nice and useful ten is Woodbridge.

Not that I brought it up this morning whilst I enjoyed the eight as Pete and Susanne brought their Spanish exchange student Sergio up to watch a lively session that brought about some decent call-changes before Mason and I stopped to an unusually sparsely attended service for Sea Sunday. Maybe a ten would've drawn more people in�?


Saturday 7th July 2012

The Olympic Torch Relay came back into Suffolk and then left for the final time today with The Norman Tower completing three days of ringing in the county doing its bit. I have to admit that there wasn't quite as much as I'd hoped and whilst it was always going to be difficult to get significantly noticed above everything else connected to this historic visit it wasn't quite as much the PR success I'd wanted. However, we did get some exposure on Radio Suffolk, our efforts were well appreciated in Kelsale and hopefully other areas and I am very grateful to all who did ring this high-profile visitor through our communities.

Meanwhile, I was very sorry to miss this evening's South-East District Practice at Helmingham. Frequently I mutter and rant about people who miss district and Guild events but I have always accepted there is more to life than just ringing. Folk have from time to time got other things on and a life outside of ringing can be just as healthy as a life consumed with our limitless art. My main bugbear has always been those who simply don't bother, who may be found sat at home reading the paper or watching TV when they could either be improving their ringing and the experience of their fellow ringers or could be helping others less experienced then themselves.

Ruthie.Richy. Mason.I'm glad to say that wasn't us this evening as we attended a birthday BBQ for Nick - husband of Mason's Godmother Kala - which had been rearranged from the Sunday of the Diamond Jubilee Weekend when the weather was truly atrocious. Thankfully it held - just - for us this evening as we all enjoyed the British theme held over from its previous date with silly hats, glasses and general Britishness enjoyed and endured in equal measure on a wonderful occasion of beer, food and party games which of course Mason couldn't resist getting involved in! It was a celebration worthy of a celebratory few days.


Friday 6th July 2012

Ringing and ringing at St Mary-le-Tower in particular saw me burning the candle at both ends, or rather the torch at both ends to use a loose, tenuous and impractical metaphor.

It was for the Olympic Torch leaving Christchurch Park, Ipswich and Suffolk that my brother and I found ourselves at the town's only twelve at 6.40 in the morning along with our parents and Delia Hammerton, Owen Claxton, Mike Whitby and Amanda Richmond, who let slip for the first time that she had carried the torch in Aldeburgh yesterday. Work has already begun on getting the torch up the belfry!

We were accompanied this morning by simultaneous ringing at St Lawrence by Stephen Cheek, Pippa Moss, George and Di Pipe and George Salter, who made an appearance at the end of ringing at SMLT with his mother Katharine and little brother Henry waving his Olympic flag excitedly. Obviously we wouldn't normally make this much noise at such an early hour, but it had been requested as part of the celebrations and with the rain, music and surprisingly large crowds for the time of day and weather conditions I don't think we were a particularly noticeable intrusion in an excitable town centre.

St Mary-le-Tower BBQ.St Mary-le-Tower BBQ.Fast forward through a day at John Catt where much of the talk was about the famous torch which had passed the office yesterday and having picked Mason up from his friend Samson's house, which is in fact a wonderful houseboat in a superb location on the banks of the River Deben, we made our way to the Pipe's house for the SMLT BBQ. Strictly speaking this was a one-off occasion partly to present Owen with a bottle of whiskey to thank him for his twenty-two years of service as tower captain and in his speech he could almost have lifted his words from my blog as he spoke movingly of the many characters he'd met, places he'd been and experiences he'd had which simply wouldn't have been was it not for ringing. However, I'd like to think this could become an annual event if all were agreeable as it really was lovely social evening. St Mary-le-Tower has had - and still does - its fair share of bashers for whatever reason, justified or not, but this event showed us for what we are - simply a group of friends who enjoy ringing together. There are no pretensions, but rather an understanding that we are learning as a band and we need the help that we very kindly get from those who also attend this evening from Bury St Edmunds to Essex, Stowmarket to Reydon. More help and additional friendships will always be welcome so don't be afraid to come up on a Monday night.

As usual the hospitality from George and Di was top notch and even the weather was kind to us as the morning rain, wind and chill we've become so used to this 'summer' gave way to golden sunshine. By the end though I was glad that Ruthie was driving - I was very tired at the conclusion of a long day!


Thursday 5th July 2012

I have to admit I primarily thought about the Olympic Torch passing through our county as being a superb PR opportunity for Suffolk ringing. Whilst appreciating its significance I hadn't been overly fussed if I saw it in the flesh or not, fully prepared to ring at all the ringable towers on the route if needed and if I could've found enough others to accompany me. I had booked the day off work for this reason, determined that I would be available where and if needed.

As it happened there wasn't as much ringing as I had hoped but in the end from a purely selfish and personal view this turned into a blessing as I was able to fully appreciate the spectacle.

From a ringing point of view I did do my bit, losing a peal attempt at Reydon after Peter Harper very kindly gave me a lift up there. Although disappointing - especially as it was bedevilled by a lack of our much needed companion concentration - our loss wasn't a disaster. We wouldn't have been ringing whilst the torch came through this part of the world anyway and in fact had started at 8am to ensure that we were finished in order for local, Michelle Williams, to make it across the village to see the show pass by. And the locals doing the flowers in the church seemed delighted by our efforts.

Kelsale.As they did at Kelsale where we had been requested to ring as part of their celebrations on the route and were very kindly rewarded not only with water and biscuits in the tower but a drink in The Poacher's Pocket, particularly deserved by Stephen Cheek who made the 80-mile round trip to make sure we had eight. Many thanks to all who came along though, it was much appreciated by me and by the locals who were absolutely ecstatic at how everything had gone.

I'm sure they felt the same way in Felixstowe where a peal was scored in the aptly named Olympic Surprise Major, but for Ruthie, me and others who had travelled up from Woodbridge, our ringing was done with our work on the hard-going ring at SS Mary & Peter, as we then made our way back down the A12 to our town of residence to catch the famous torch being carried through the streets very familiar to us.

Pete & Ruthie.Olympic Torch.And for all my take-it-or-leave-it attitude to seeing the torch itself, I'm glad we did. I have never seen so many people in Woodbridge, ever. It was heaving and the atmosphere superb as we made our way through the crowds on The Thoroughfare, bumping into Mum and Dad and Mike Whitby along the way before settling on a fantastic spot outside The Anchor. With more police about then we would expect to typically see in a year here and the various sponsors lorries ratcheting the noise up a notch, the anticipation was immense before the torch itself (or at least one of the 8,000 that are being used) came out of Quay Street, rounding the mass of spectators gathered on the corner and onto Station Road in front of us. At that moment there was a real sense of occasion as we all realized that this relay that had been travelling round the country, featured so heavily on the news and in people's thoughts and is eventually to end up at the opening of the biggest sporting occasion on the planet in front of an audience of billions was there right in front of us. Quite how the actual torchbearers themselves felt I can't imagine, though there was an obviously proud one in The Cherry Tree where we ended for some tea, posing for photos with his torch, family and friends.

Olympic Torch.We were very fortunate with our positioning too as just a few hundred yards away at Deben Pool the huge convoy stopped to have a quick break before continuing, allowing us to join the swarms of people who made their way over there for a second glimpse. Our day ended with a visit from my brother Chris who had seen the spectacular celebrations in Ipswich this evening, all of us feeling privileged to have seen this one-off event. It certainly felt more than a PR opportunity!


Wednesday 4th July 2012

My latest stint on the radio ended up happening at just before 12.30pm, the very last item of Rachel Sloane's show today. Hopefully it'll be good publicity not only for the ringing taking place for the torch relay, but ringing in Suffolk in general.

The famous torch arrives in the county in the morning and in Ipswich tomorrow evening but Ruthie and I found ourselves in the town twenty-four hours early as we rang a peal of Wye Surprise Major at The Wolery. Wye is Yorkshire with a very minor variation at the three-pull dodge in 5-6 so in theory it should represent no problems, but often these trivial variations of standard and familiar methods can be the trickiest from a concentration point of view as people carry plough on through the only bit that is different. Whilst there was a little bit of that we didn't really suffer such problems this evening and a brisk and decent peal was scored, mine and Tom's hundredth together as it happens. In that ton he has been a very reliable ringer.

All being well there will be more good ringing tomorrow!


Tuesday 3rd July 2012

There seems a lot to organise at the moment. Most immediately is ringing at Kelsale for the Olympic Torch passing through on Thursday and the publicity for ringing on that day generally.

In regards the former it is proving harder than I thought to get a band together for a short bit of ringing - only four have said they could and two of those are Ruthie and me! It would be a shame not to ring them as the bells have been requested for this one-off occasion.

On the subject of the latter, I am due on Radio Suffolk at noonish on Wednesday to speak about the ringing so if there is anything going on elsewhere that I didn't mention in my previous blog (I'm aware that I missed Aldeburgh off that list) then please let me know ASAP so I can give you and your bells a shout out!

On top of all that, the most important arrangements for my fiancée and I are also becoming ever more consuming. This evening saw lots of phone calls to the caterers, cake lady, photographers, disco man and The Abbey where we're having the reception in an attempt to sort final meetings and those dreaded payments! There is indeed lots to organise!


Monday 2nd July 2012

Well done to Mason this morning on tidying up his bedroom, not just without being prompted but before Ruthie and I even got up.

Well done too to a few ringers I forgot to mention yesterday in amongst my ranting. Colin Salter rang his first of Minor and first inside at The Wolery which is becoming a good training ground for the Salter family, whilst over at The Norman Tower well done to Abby Antrobus and Richard Walters on ringing their first of Yorkshire Royal in the 1282 on the back ten of Suffolk's newest twelve.

Turning from yesterday to later this week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday sees the Olympic Torch coming through Suffolk. There sounds like there will be much in the way of ringing along the route, either beforehand, after or as it is coming through, though understandably many ringers actually want to see it. One place that I have been asked to get some ringers in for though is the eight at Kelsale. The torch passes through here at 1.25pm on Thursday, with it being suggested we get to SS Mary & Peter at about one though there will be spaces made available for the ringers. Please let me know if you can help out.

Meanwhile, for those interested there are peals at Reydon and Felixstowe on Thursday as well as ringing at Southwold. And there will be ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence not only that evening at 6.20 as it comes to the celebrations at Christchurch Park but also the following morning - by request it is important to note - at 6.40! That's right, 6.40 in the morning! There is also ringing in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday.

I have let the local media organizations know but sadly haven't heard back from them but sometimes they work very last minute so there may be something and so I'd still like to know from anywhere else that is ringing that I haven't mentioned above. The bells of All Saints Northampton could be heard on the local news coverage of the torch entering the Eastern region for the first time today, lets hope that the bells of our county will be heard by the wide audience that is following its progress.

Back to today and not all of yesterday's lessons seemed to have been learnt at St Mary-le-Tower practice. There were still too many lapses of concentration but we did - eventually - finish the practice very well with a good three leads of Yorkshire Maximus and a nicely rung touch of Stedman Cinques to send the birthday boy David Potts to the pub happy.

We didn't join him on this occasion however as we had a date back in Woodbridge with Toby and Amy at The Mariners as we braved the rain for a couple of pints and then back to our tidier house. Thanks Mason!


Sunday 1st July 2012

We are - believe it or not - half-way through the year and so it seems a good point to take stock of my aim to reach my 500th peal by the end of it. On 1st January I needed another thirty-seven peals and with eighteen down and nineteen to go you could argue I'm pretty much on course. Ideally though I'd rather not be sweating on it at the end of December - the ideal scenario is not pulling off for the New Year's Eve peal attempt of Grandsire at Grundisburgh on 499 - and with a busy few weeks coming up I could've done with getting this afternoon's attempt of London Royal at St Mary-le-Tower.

Its loss after a good opening course prompted the usual post mortem that can vary from someone simply acknowledging their mistake(s) to a full blown debate on the state of ringing and even society. Today's veered more towards the latter. There were some good points raised, most pertinently people's apparent inability to concentrate for more than a few minutes. I have long despaired that we seem unable to get through almost any piece of ringing at SMLT without someone going wrong but it's not a problem confined to just this corner of Ipswich or indeed to Suffolk. Maybe it's because there is so much to remember in this modern world, with deadlines, targets, bills, and long and often stressful working hours but it is possible to concentrate in ringing. Nationally there is some extremely good and clever ringing going on in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge and many other centres of excellence. But they ring regular peals and push themselves, forcing good concentration. I think quarters are a good means of honing concentration skills but there's nothing quite like the thought of your slipping off the line bringing down the previous two or three hours work to focus the mind, especially if you are surrounded by a brilliant band who have yet to make a mistake.

But increasingly, fewer ringers are going through this vital experience, not just here but around the country and the world. It's perhaps understandable. In today's austere and pressured society where people are asked to put even more into their work than ever before it may be a bit much to ask them to work hard at the hobby meant to relax them, especially if it means putting aside two to four hours to ring and travel to and from a peal. But it does seem people's dwindling ability to concentrate seems to have a direct correlation to the dwindling number of people ringing regular peals. Whether fewer peals are being rung because people can't concentrate or people can't concentrate because they are ringing fewer peals I don't know. I suspect it is a bit of both, but it is a shame that peal-ringing seems to be looked upon with such disdain by so many ringers that would greatly benefit from ringing more of them.

Blaxhall.Blaxhall Fete.For me the disappointed shout of 'stand' by David Potts who was not helped at all by a good band not performing well today brought to the end a hectic ringing-related period that had started in the same belfry for morning ringing and then took in St Lawrence, the sound of St Margaret's bells, Grundisburgh and then Blaxhall where we had been requested to ring after their Patronal service and their fete. As hard as this anti-clockwise six can be it really was a lovely scene to see a packed church with many youngsters all spilling out to the quintessentially English scene of gazebos, tents and flags. Stephen Pettman had managed to get seven with myself, David and Adrienne, Mike's Burn and Whitby and his brother-in-law who is also called Stephen who used to be a near neighbour of mine when I lived in Tunstall.

The day was finished off by collecting Mason from his grandparents who had very kindly looked after him whilst I was losing peals and then watching Spain annihilate poor Italy in the final of Euro2012 on the tele. They are an incredible team bursting with talent but perhaps most importantly are underpinned by incredible powers of concentration that have enabled them to become the best at what they do. We could learn a lot from them from a footballing and bellringing perspective.


Saturday 30th June 2012

I remember well when the Rambling Ringers had voted that they would be going to the north Buckinghamshire area for the following year's tour in the late 1990's, Alan Jarvis - a most amusing ringer and cricket obsessive from Lichfield - bemoaning in his thick Black Country accent how embarrassed he was going to feel telling his work colleagues that he was going on holiday to Milton Keynes.

Today on the Pettistree coach outing we were able to see first hand what he meant. Despite the more open spaces, forested areas and ample cycle lanes, there's still no disguising that this is - at least to me - an incredibly depressing place, much like many new towns. In my eyes it is a glorified business park with identikit housing estates filling the gaps, a soulless place with no history, no matter whose football team you draft in.

Winslow.Where's our coach gone?Thankfully we were just passing by on our way to the beautiful countryside nearby not yet encroached upon by the unfortunate but necessary overspill up the road. Within that wonderful rolling scenery we found first the churches of Winslow and North Marston - the latter of which I ran the ringing at - before a lunch at The George and Dragon in Quainton, a delightful pub with great food (proper pies!) whose who only fault was the same one that mystifies me at so many pubs and restaurants I take Mason to. Why do they all think it is good idea to torment a child - usually the most impatient being in a party and generally slowest eater - by bringing out everybody else's dinner first?

Still, they set us up nicely for the afternoon ahead which started at Holy Cross and St Mary in the village, once we three had found it after a wrong turning out of the pub! It was well worth finding though, if only for the spectacular marble monuments in the belfry that just about leave room to ring!

Soulbury.From here it was onto Whitchurch, the 'interesting' bells at the ancient Norman church of St Michael & All Angels in Stewkley and finally Soulbury where we were treated to tea and biscuits before the journey home. Credit is due to Mike Whitby on arranging the ringing - never an easy task on a long day like this - but many thanks and well done to Mary Garner on organising the day. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and there's photos on the Guild Facebook page!

Hopefully the youngsters representing Suffolk in the National Youth Striking Competition at St Paul's in Birmingham today also enjoyed themselves in a contest in which they finished a respectable fourth, in another one of those delightful British cities. Well done guys.


Friday 29th June 2012

It was a day of racing for Mason, Ruthie and me.

Mason enjoying his first race.Carrying the Olympic Torch.For the li'l chap and me it was at his school's sports day, the main focus of which were his two races. There was no cheating (or using his initiative as I prefer to view it) this year and the result was no wins, but he thoroughly enjoyed his morning of Olympic-themed racing. Then it was the parents. First the mums and then us dads for which I finished in true Ipswich Town territory - mid-table. I was just relieved not to finish last.

Come the evening and it was my fiancée's turn, only she was on four wheels as the Boots team from Woodbridge got together for someone's leaving do to race at Beacon Rally Karts in Martlesham before a couple of drinks in the nearby Red Lion whilst Mason and I had a lads night in to rest our weary limbs!


Thursday 28th June 2012

Ruthie Gardening.Once again there was no Grundisburgh practice, so this evening was put aside for more practical matters as the garden got a haircut, interupted only by a bizarre visit from an Israeli girl flogging art door-to-door and a less bizarre call from my brother recalling his recent adventures in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, congratulations to former resident member and still good friend Claire Monk on her engagement. The planning starts now Claire!


Wednesday 27th June 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.I felt a little like a proud father this evening. For the name Sean Antonioli is up in lights as he rang his first peal at the first attempt in the 5040 of Plain Bob Major at St Mary-le-Tower tonight. I remember well Sean and his then fiancée and now wife Louisa arriving at the bottom of the steps at St Lawrence on the very first Sunday that we rang this historic five after their restoration and rehanging. They showed interest in taking up ringing though you're always cautious when people come along at first. When they find out just how involved ringing can be, it is as likely to scare them off as excite them.

However, whilst Louisa was ultimately unable to fit in learning around teacher training on the south coast and her subsequent employment, Sean has dived into it as much as his own work has allowed him. He has diligently taken in everything we have told and shown him and picked things up fantastically, asking questions all along the way and doing his homework. In short he's been a model pupil for first myself and then David and Amanda who have to take a huge amount of credit for his progress.

Sean Antonioli.Along the way he has notched up some quarters and even won a striking competition so it was inevitable that a peal attempt would come round sooner rather later. Sadly David couldn't ring but he would have been full of pride much like us at how Sean did, not least because it wasn't an easy baptism. He was ringing the flighty treble that trips even the most experienced ringer on the slow-turning front eight that saw us come in just three minutes shy of the three hour mark on a humid, sticky night at the end of a long day at work. Yet apart from the odd blip that you would expect on such an occasion he rang superbly and fully deserved his drink outside The Cricketers afterwards as he showed off his sore hands. We jokingly told him he only had 5839 peals to catch Colin Turner up, but even if this ends up being his only peal (and we hope it doesn't) then he can be very proud as his name enters onto Pealbase. I was honoured to have called it, even if I did need to do a little double-checking with Ruthie at one point!

BLythburgh. He wasn't the only one achieving today though I'm glad to say, with Robert Beavis ringing his first of Lincolnshire Major in the 5152 at Grundisburgh and the entire band ringing their first blows of Aldington Pleasure Bob Minor in the quarter at Preston St Mary. But it was in the 1296 of Cambridge Minor at Blythburgh  where the most was going on with Alex Rolph ringing her first of treble-bob, Philip Moyse ringing his 150th quarter and Maggie Ross her 900th. Well done and congratulations. I'm very proud of you all!


Tuesday 26th June 2012

SomerleytonIt's a busy week with the Surprise Minor practice at Somerleyton and Carlton Colville on Thursday, the NE District Surprise Major practice at Halesworth on Friday and then of course the National Youth Striking Contest in Birmingham on Saturday before we go to the other end of the spectrum for the annual and extremely successful Veteran's Day at Debenham next Wednesday. Please do support any event you can and if you are able to make it to the West Midlands to cheer our youngsters on I know they'll appreciate it.

And there was plenty going on this evening too, most notably Caroline Bass ringing her first of Minor in the quarter of Plain Bob before Offton practice. Well done Caroline!

Having said all that, it was a quiet evening for Ruthie and me. If there can be such a thing just a month and a half before our wedding. Having laid down a route around Ireland for our honeymoon, tonight we set about booking up our remaining accommodation and getting very excited about it!

Lots to look forward to!


Monday 25th June 2012

Brandeston.Having spent the last couple of weeks dealing with differing expectations of the England football team it was time to return to the expectations of our 41-Spliced Surprise Minor band this evening. We had an aborted attempt to ring this on The Vestey Ring before settling on seven Surprise Minor methods back in April which refreshed the memory, but other than that it has been the best part of four months since we went for this last and expectations were low of scoring a peal at Brandeston this evening.

Indeed that is how it turned out, though it was my fault as during a senior moment I departed my position at the back in Wearmouth (Westminster above) and tried to put everyone right around me. Still, it proved a typically useful evening as we then practiced the London-above section, including the dreaded Kelso before retiring for a pint outside The Chequers in neighbouring Kettleburgh on a rare warm and sunny evening. That's right, warm and sunny! That was above expectations!


Sunday 24th June 2012

Five Rings Triples Band at Aldeburgh.It is four years since we were in the midst of the Aldeburgh peal controversy. In those four years the peals have continued without - to my knowledge - any serious complaint, the local band continues to flourish and today highlighted how highly the community that came out and defended us back in 2008 still hold the bells at SS Peter & Paul. For today the last day of the 65th Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts was marked by a course of Five Rings Triples followed by a quarter of Single Oxford Bob Triples (which was a first for Mary Garner and Philip Moyse so well done guys!) at the request of organizers. Instead of complaints there was an audience inside and out when weather permitted and I'm glad to say we were able to put on an ultimately successful show for them, which was lucky as everyone knew exactly who we were from the write-ups on us in the programme!

For all that I have been encouraging members to ring Five Rings in anticipation of the nearing Olympics down the road, this was the first time I'd personally rung it. Out of context it's far from inspiring stuff but it is a good way of tying ringing in with everything that is happening and it certainly worked in raising our profile today with Julie Hughes combining looking after Mason and Richard downstairs with giving a presentation on our craft to the listening crowds, including representatives from the Arts Council!

Euston.It wasn't all that was being achieved in a belfry in Suffolk today with the most notable being the success at The Norman Tower where five were ringing their first quarter of Little Bob and one was ringing his first on ten. Well done to Ruths Suggett and Young, Lesley and David Steed and Tim Shorman on the former and David Howe on the latter. Well done too to Nicole Rolph on ringing her first of Minor in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Euston and to the band who will be representing us at next Saturday's National Youth Striking Competition at St Paul's Birmingham on their quarter of Bob Triples at Bardwell, particularly Clare Veal on ringing her first in the method and Simon Veal on his first on eight.

My own quarter-peal ringing was neatly sandwiched in between morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh and a tense but ultimately unsuccessful evening as Pete and Susanne came round to ours to accompany us in watching England drop out of Euro2012 to Italy in the usual way - by losing a penalty shoot-out. Nonetheless, like the situation at Aldeburgh, at least things have got better from four years ago when we didn't even qualify for the tournament. Let's hope both situations continue to improve.


Saturday 23rd June 2012

The waiting is over and congratulations are due to Ruthie's sister Clare on giving birth to Katelynn, a first child for her and her husband Kev and a first grandchild for Granny Kate!

The world in which my fiancée's niece has been born will of course be one she knows nothing about yet, but it seemed a very familiar one to us today. The windy, chilly and wet weather that has essentially been our lot for almost every day for the last three months continued, England are psyching themselves up to valiantly fail to get past the quarter-final of yet another major football tournament, Birmingham this afternoon won the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest for the nineteenth time and for the third year running and Kirby regained the Essex Association North-East District Call-Change Striking Competition.

The latter was the latest event this 'summer' spoilt by the weather as what could've been a wonderful BBQ at the bottom of Great Holland tower with superb views out to sea and the Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm turned very uncomfortable as the wind and rain came in and sent most of us into the neighbouring church hall bar the unfortunate couple manning the BBQ itself.

Still, we had a good time and were well looked after as the reason we were there was to judge the contest with a little help from Mason who was on a high after an afternoon at a fifth birthday party in Hasketon which had allowed Ruthie and me the chance to have a bite to eat in The Turks Head. For once the weather held out for the knights and princesses party in the birthday boy's lovely wooded garden, but it had turned nasty by the time we got down to the north-Essex coast. Nonetheless, the hospitality was superb.

Stephen Cheek the district ringing master seemed understandably disappointed that only four teams turned out, two of which came from Kirby whose B team were deserved winners on an afternoon that for all disappointment of the low turnout, showed that call-change ringing doesn't have to equate to bad ringing.

Elveden.Well done to them, well done to Birmingham and well done to Bristol who came fourth with contributions from Suffolk connections in the form of Molly Wasterson and Katie Hill who were both in the band at Melbourne today. Closer to home though, well done to Alex Tatlow on calling his first peal of Double Norwich in the success at Elveden and to Abby Antrobus and Maggie Ross on ringing their first in the method.

It has indeed been a day for congratulations. Welcome to the world Katelynn!


Friday 22nd June 2012

It was a day marked by lots of waiting for good news, but hopefully more of that later.

Otherwise it was back to Kate's to house and animal-sit.

Meanwhile, please keep letting me know what your local tower is doing for when the Olympic Torch comes through Suffolk, either via email, the Guestbook or the Guild facebook page. I'm getting a good picture to pass onto the media.


Thursday 21st June 2012

Following my ramble about place notation and method structure on the blog last week, a couple of people (only a couple of people mind, the rest of you may have been bored rigid by it) commented how well-written it was and how it offered just enough information to get people interested but not so loaded with detail to turn people off. It was very nice of them to say so and I hope that is the case generally as it is good to be able to write something to make it worthwhile folk reading this blog in amongst my inane gibbering about work jollies, football and how much we dislike going to Tesco.

In fact someone suggested that I should do the same with coursing order and course bells and with nothing much of note happening today other than checking up on Kate's animals in her absence, the start of the Euro2012 quarter-finals and the kind of wet and incredibly windy weather more keeping with the winter solstice rather than the summer solstice, it seems a good point to throw it in.

For coursing order is another one of those phrases that throws even some very experienced ringers into utter confusion. It means little to them and yet if you have ropesight (that may be for another day if you don't know about that!) you are actually already using it essentially. When you talk about your course bells you could just as easily rename them your shadow bells because that is what they basically do.

Let's assume you're ringing the fourth to a plain course of Plain Bob Minor. Your course bells are the second and sixth. They start one bell apart from you, and apart from when you get to either end of the change (so either leading or at the back) when they are the bells that lead/lie before and after you, they remain one bell apart from you, though this distance will often vary in more complex methods.

321456, etc

As you can see, the second leads, followed by the fourth, followed by the sixth, followed by the fifth, followed by the third. The order in which they go round the Plain Bob cycle also corresponds.

2nd - 3-4 down, 5-6 down, 5-6 up, 3-4 up, 2nds.
4th - 5-6 down, 5-6 up, 3-4 up, 2nds, 3-4 down.
6th - 5-6 up, 3-4 up, 2nds, 3-4 down, 5-6 down.
5th - 3-4 up, 2nds, 3-4 down, 5-6 down, 5-6 up.
3rd - 2nds, 3-4 down, 5-6 down, 5-6 up, 3-4 up.

So the second is shadowing/coursing the forth, the fourth is shadowing/coursing the sixth, the sixth is shadowing/coursing the fifth, and the fifth is shadowing/coursing the third which is shadowing/coursing the second and so it goes round. Therefore the coursing order is 2,4,6,5,3.

This extends out to higher numbers and although the order is altered when calls are put in, by identifying your course bells and staying close to them you can't go far wrong, even if you lose your way. Even when the methods get more complicated, it is still possible to see coursing in action. Just type in Yorkshire Surprise Major or Bristol Surprise Maximus into Visual Methods and even if you don't know the method or could ever dream of ringing it, you will still see bells working together and shadowing each other in set orders. In fact the reason why a seemingly simple principle like Stedman can go so badly wrong so quickly is because the coursing order can become so convoluted with the quick and slow work and calls thrown in.

So the participants in this Saturday's National Twelve-Bell Contest Final at Melbourne in Derbyshire will need to be alert for the test piece of 264 Stedman Cinques. This is - in my humble opinion - the highlight of the normal ringing calendar. There is a real sense of occasion about it with hundreds of people attending, hours of ringing and the superstars of our art present. If you aren't doing anything else on Saturday - and we are as ironically enough we're judging another striking competition - then it is well worth a trip. There is something for everyone from a bouncy castle and treasure hunt to the obligatory supply of beer, more details of which can be found at here.

But even if you can't make it, you can still listen as there will be a live stream of the ringing online which will be a must-listen. I remember being terrified enough whenever I participated in this event years back as there would usually be a large crowd listening to the Birmingham band, so I'm not entirely sure how I would've felt if I knew it could be heard live around the world! I hope they have a grip on coursing order!


Wednesday 20th June 2012

Tomorrow is the longest day of the year but as per usual during this 'summer' it is forecast to be cold, wet, grey and cloudy so many of us at Pettistree practice took advantage of this warm, clear, sunny and late evening in the churchyard of SS Peter & Paul during a break in proceedings.

Otley.That break came about as James Whitby's girlfriend Emma had come along to see what all the fuss was about and was being used for Ruthie's latest bit of ITTS training and on that note it's good to see Jed's report on the course at The Norman Tower a couple of weeks ago. Jimmy and Emma's presence and that of Jane, a learner from Lester Brett Trophy Champions Otley helped to compensate for an evening where regular attendees were either away, busy or injured, with both Mike Whitaker and Jane Harper present but unable to ring as the Suffolk Guild's injury list begins to resemble something that even Roy Hodgson would struggle with.

We finished afterwards in The Greyhound for some medicine, daylight still abundant until late. I'm glad we enjoyed it whilst we could.


Tuesday 19th June 2012

Before Euro2012 I had very low expectations of the England football team's chances at the tournament. Personally I believed - and I certainly wasn't alone in this conviction - that they would most likely crash out in the group stages, outplayed and well beaten. With the exception of players like Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart, John Terry, etc, the collection of players they've taken out to Poland and Ukraine are very average when compared with a lot of the other teams out there. Frankly when Grant Holt is being suggested as a possible squad member you know you're scraping the barrel.

Yet this evening, Pete, Ruthie and I watched them from the Red Lion as they overcame the latter of the aforementioned hosts to not only get through but win the group, decisively, outright and by a clear margin, setting up a quarter-final match with Italy on Sunday evening. In the past we have toiled, struggled and downright failed at tournaments with a squad of players considered one of the most talented collectives in the world and yet this time round we've comfortably reached the next stage with a bunch of very average participants. The general consensus amongst those in the know is not that James Milner has suddenly become Lionel Messi or Andy Carroll the new Christiano Ronaldo but that there is a good team ethic. Players from Liverpool and Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal and many other clubs usually in competition with each other from August to May are working together. There's no grumbling when someone is on the bench, but rather complete support for those on the pitch.

It's something we ought to be striving to do more in the Suffolk Guild. Of course we're not in competition with ringers from beyond our borders bar the odd occasion such as The Ridgman Trophy and once upon a time in The National Twelve-Bell Contest. But surely we all want to get better at ringing and we stand more chance if we all work together as a membership. That means helping out where we can, whether that be at district or Guild events, weekly practices, with handbells or getting the boundaries of our districts and deaneries (or whatever we end up calling them) right so they offer the best chance for ringers to support each other. And it means officers and members working together, supporting each other. We all have our different ways and we all have to do it in amongst varying degrees of other commitments, whether that is work, other hobbies, relationships, children or whatever. We need people to take up the positions in the Guild and the districts. For example, by next April we need a new Guild Chairman to replace Philip. In the South-East we need a replacement Chairman or Secretary to relieve one or both of the hard-working Harpers. But when those positions are filled - hopefully by people other than a seemingly dwindling number of members willing/able to carry out such roles and who seem to end up shifting from position to position - they need to be supported, not heckled and grumbled at. Remember, we are all volunteers doing what we think is best for ringing in Suffolk. Constructive criticism can help, but outright negativity and constant gibing won't.

Harkstead.It's not just officers who need support however. Our improvers need support too and I'm glad to see many are receiving it and at least two today. Well done to Nathan Colman on ringing his first quarter of Rutland in the pre-practice 1282 at Offton and Catherine Looser on ringing her first inside in the success at Harkstead. We'll see over the next few days how far teamwork will get the Three Lions, but at least we know that teamwork can progress ringers like Nathan and Catherine.


Monday 18th June 2012

The attendance was lower than usual and the striking and concentration levels weren't the best we have had, but even tonight and even in David's absence there were highlights at St Mary-le-Tower practice, particularly Sean (who otherwise was having the kind of forgetful day that I had last Thursday!) finishing the evening off with ringing the treble to Grandsire Caters and extremely well too.

Kelsale.A subject that came up over the evening was ringing for when the Olympic Torch comes through Ipswich, arriving on the evening of Thursday 5th July and leaving again early in the morning on Friday 6th July. On both occasions (even 6.30 on the Friday morning!) we have been asked to ring in the town centre but of course there are many towers being passed by the torch in Suffolk, on the Thursday, Friday morning and then on the Saturday as it re-enters the county in the west. It would be good to have ringing at all these towers, if not as the torch arrives maybe as people await its arrival and I know there is some going on. There are peal attempts at Reydon and Felixstowe and I know that at Kelsale they're desperate to have the bells rung so if there are ringers available from about 1ish until 1.30ish on the Thursday afternoon then please do get in touch with me.

I know to some the Olympics is a big waste of money or they are simply uninterested and if I'm honest Euro2012 is the sporting highlight of the summer for me, but they are a fantastic PR opportunity, another chance to ring bells to a large audience, to get us into the media and into people's consciousness, maybe getting us new recruits or at the very least giving the general public a greater understanding of what we do. They're unlikely to be coming to our shores again in our lifetime so let's make the most of it - do let me know me know what your tower is doing or if it wants to do something and you can't get a band together.

Don't try and contact Pete Faircloth on his mobile though - it's somewhere on the A12 smashed to pieces after a slight oversight! Let's just say he was having a day like I had on Thursday too!


Sunday 17th June 2012

There was an old skool feeling about the very successful special practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. With Amanda and Ralphy ringing 11-12 to a course of Little Bob Max and Gill and David Sparling in attendance we could been thrown back several years. Former Guild Ringing Master Amanda reminded me how well she runs a practice with lots of mixing things up in David's absence, building upon the good work that Mr Potts has done for what was also a useful experience for Richard Walters who has only recently returned to ringing (in a theme running over from last weekend!) at The Norman Tower and looks like he could be a useful addition to the Guild's numbers.

Mason, Ruthie and I popped round to Ashcroft Road afterwards to drop cards off to Dad at the end of a Father's Day that began at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge as 11th August looms ever closer. For the first time for almost a year I was able to ring before the service and I was impressed by how well struck the ringing was this morning as the local band have obviously got back on the wagon well! Best wishes to Peter here though who is out of action after injuring himself and whilst on the subject, best wishes too to Roger Coley who has hurt himself very badly. Hopefully we'll see both of these jolly nice chaps on the end of a rope sooner rather than later.

Mason takes advantage of the toys in the 'Toy Library' at St Mary's Church Hall.From here there was the usual trip to the Church Hall for tea, biscuits and toys before a quiet yet busy afternoon of doing lots of nothing in particular, topped by a trip to the playground on Beresford Drive, all prior to this evening's entertainment.

Whilst we were doing lots of nothing, congratulations to Cherril and Jeremy Spiller on their respective landmarks in the peal at Stowmarket. Though it wasn't rung for the Guild and whilst not wanting to rake up any issues, the Spillers have contributed to Suffolk ringing considerably over the years, not least by guiding members through handbell ringing but also helping out on numerous occasions with peals, quarters, practices, etc. And their peal of one of the longest rung methods at a historic Guild tower did have a very old skool feel about it!


Saturday 16th June 2012

Two of my favourite elements of ringing made up our day today - peal-ringing in the morning, striking competition in the afternoon. Both - along with quarter-peal ringing - are in my humble opinion the most effective ways of putting into place all that practice, getting good ringing and progressing one's ringing.

St Botolph.Mary's Peal Band.For Mary S Garner, the former element began twenty-five years ago today at Burgh, hence why we were at St Botolph this morning to mark the anniversary. Ruthie and I were delighted to take part for Mary as she has always helped out whenever she can - most recently for the marking of the anniversary of my own first-peal - and I shall always be grateful to her help and guidance as Guild Secretary when I first started as Ringing Master. Above all else though, she is a very good friend - congratulations Mary!

We couldn't hang around for the very kind offer of a cuppa at Thong Hall though as we were off to Kempston in Bedfordshire - via Mum and Dad's to pick Mason up after they very kindly looked after him for the duration of our 5040 - for this year's Ridgman Trophy. This is a ten-bell striking competition set up by Bill Ridgman (who sadly passed away last year) in 1988 for all the guilds, associations and societies who bordered on to his own Ely Diocesan Association, including ourselves of course, making this the twenty-fifth competition.

We arrived with the knowledge that the draw which had been done a couple of weeks back had placed us as the last team of eight to ring, with our slot booked at 4.15pm. As we arrived though, we bumped into Philip Wilding who informed us that the tenor clapper had dropped out on the practice piece for the Ely DA that he had been ringing for. They got it fixed with impressive speed, but it had the unfortunate affect that as the only team to have rung their test piece before the clapper went, the Peterborough Diocesan Guild had struggled with the oddstruckness this had unwittingly given the tenth and thus they had withdrawn. From our point of view it meant our already late start was to be even later.

This could've have made for a long afternoon at this relatively isolated church. In 2008, the competition was held by the Norwich Diocesan Association at Gressenhall, a similarly isolated location in the respect that there were no pubs, no places to eat, no shops or any entertainment within walking distance, meaning ringers arrived, rung and left. With only five teams entering that year anyway, it saw just a handful of people hanging around for the results on a subdued occasion.

Maplestead Mini-Ring at Kempston.Whether the Bedfordshire Association had learnt specifically from that day I don't know, but there were no such problems this time round as we were entertained by the Maplestead Mini-Ring in the porch and plentiful food and drink in the nearby Church Hall. It meant the majority of participants hung around, giving us a chance to catch up with many ringing friends including Stephen Croxall who rang for the Cambridge University Guild and who comes on Ramblers, Alan Marks from the Peterborough DG, Faith Pearce, Jon Spreadbury and Simon Rudd (it's well worth asking Ralphy about Simon's wallet!) from the NDA, David Rothera, Brian Meads and the Chapman's from the Essex Association, Les Townsend from the Lincoln Diocesan Guild and many more. It's on occasions like this that you realise just how many good ringers there are in the East of England as we were blessed with the presence of superstars like John Loveless, Martin Whiteley and Andrew Keech ringing and Philip and Jennie Earis from Cambridge judging.

The latter almost certainly got the result right from everything I heard personally and from others, especially our fifth place finish. We rang well - indeed the good ten-bell ringing we had justified turning up in my opinion - but our piece suffered from too many clips, gaps and dragged out little bells at the back meaning there was much ploughing into the back of the change. At least the clock didn't drop off the wall and smash as it did for the Lincoln DG immediately before us!

Many thanks to Jed for arranging our entry today and for those who turned out for us. I think it is so important that we participate in this as a focus on higher bell striking and to help this very worthwhile competition continue to succeed. The 2013 competition is to be held on the back-ten of the twelve at Surfleet in Lincolnshire (where I won the National Twelve-Bell with Birmingham in 2003 which may be a good omen!) on Saturday 15th June so do keep it free - either to ring in or support at!

Whilst we were out of the county, well done to Bryan Mills who rang his first quarter at Great Thurlow in another of my favourite elements of ringing!


Friday 15th June 2012

I've rung peals like it before. Prior to starting you look around and contemplate what is ahead and your expectations are low. You have a good start though and get your hopes up for the rest before it goes pear-shaped in the middle. You resign yourself to a loss and then out of nowhere everything picks up and you have a great - if nervy - finish and come away feeling elated yet slightly bemused.

I had such an evening tonight. Except I wasn't ringing a peal. Rather Ruthie and I were watching England's 3-2 victory over Sweden in Euro2012 on the tele at home, accompanied by Pete Faircloth, which pretty much followed the above description.

Well done to the men wearing Three Lions and well done Philip Moyse on ringing his most methods in a peal as conductor in yesterday's 5040 at Blythburgh, which I'm sure was more Spain than England!


Thursday 14th June 2012

It could've been worse.

On a day when we'd been so organized and productive, it seems like only us who could've ended it as we did.

We'd done so well, having seen a financial planning chap as we plan ahead, got the car serviced and confirmed the details of our wedding ceremony with Kev the Rev with enough time spare to get to the Surprise Major practice at Ufford. Except when it came to leaving the rectory a horrible thought crossed my mind. And key incident no.45381 was about to unravel.

Earlier that day I'd separated the house and car keys to give the latter to Bob Champkin so he could sort our main mode of transport. Had I put them back together again before we'd left the house this evening, slamming the only door into our house shut locked behind us? A quick check of my pockets revealed the answer was no. What was worse, Ruthie - understandably thinking I had the house keys as I had the car keys - hadn't thought to grab the only other key to our abode. We were locked out, our landlady in Vietnam, our letting agents of course closed at nearly eight in the evening.

Kevan was superb, offering us another cuppa and unlimited use of his phone with little mobile signal available down Church Street, as I called the police and a less than helpful locksmith for whom it sounded liked getting round our complicated lock was sounding like an expensive business, possibly up to £200. At this point fortune smiled upon us again as the engineer they had in the area was having van trouble meaning they would probably be sometime coming out if at all. The rector found the number for P&R Locksmiths who I cannot praise enough. They couldn't do it themselves but found a man who could and who came out promptly and - despite seeing our lock and uttering a word ending in ugger - set about using some fancy contraptions to try and get us in. It took some time - again our fault as we hadn't realized he was trying to turn the knob the wrong way - Kate had arrived and we were beginning to seriously contemplate breaking and entering but all of a sudden there was a click and the door opened! We were extremely sorry to miss the practice at Ufford (thanks for calling to check we were in Mike!), but we had got in with no damage to the house and miraculously the cost had dropped from over �200 to just �66! So it could have been worse.

Meanwhile, well done to two youngsters, Joanna Sharples and George Salter who rang and conducted their first quarter of Major respectively in the success at St Mary-le-Tower today. Glad to see they could get in!


Wednesday 13th June 2012

Before we even learnt how to handle a bell, Mum had Chris and me writing out methods using place notation. It may sound like a punishment, but I actually quite enjoyed it and it gave both of us an invaluable insight into method structure that has held us in good stead ever since.

For those unsure what place notation is, it is basically the frame of the method - it lays out in what position in a method a bell stays in the same place. So for example the place notation for Plain Hunt on Five is All the dot does is separate each row and the dash marks where the treble reaches it's highest point and the place notation is reversed exactly (in theory saving you from writing it all out!) and the 1 at the end is what happens at the lead-end when the treble leads again. In practice it writes as below;


So the very first change sees the bell in fifth place stay in the same position. Then in the next row the bell in first place stays in the same position for that row and so on.

Plain Hunt on Six works on the same basis except you need two bells or none staying in the same position. So the place notation for this is x16x16x16-16. The crosses represent rows where all three pairs swap over in that row, 16 signifies that in that row the bells in first and sixth place stay in that position. So it starts;

426153, etc.

From here the magic of change-ringing and method-ringing opens up. Simply by changing the 1 at the end of Plain Hunt on Five to 125 (so bells in first, second and fifth place stay in the same position at the lead-end) you get Plain Bob Doubles. By changing 16 at the end of Plain Hunt on Six to 12 you get Plain Bob Minor. I really would urge anybody learning methods to write out the line beforehand using the place notation, even if you have the blue line already in front of you, as it gives you more chance of understanding why things happen in a method - why you need to dodge at the lead-end in some methods, why you go to thirds and back in St Clements and why sixth-place Bristol starts with two blows in fifths. It has helped me learn everything from Plain Bob to Cambridge to Surprise Sixteen and has played a vital part in me being able to ring 41-Spliced Surprise Minor.

It may sound like I'm teaching granny how to suck eggs (though I never recall seeing either of my grandmothers sucking eggs) but as we tried to ring Double Bob Minor (place notation x16x16x56-12 - try and write it out or at least put it into Visual Methods) at Pettistree this evening some very good and experienced ringers found it quite a brain-strain and struggled with the structure of the method - something place notation could've greatly helped with.

Of course, like bad handling, not having a clue about place notation and method structure doesn't have to hold you back in ringing, it just makes life a lot harder. When plunged, this evening, into a deceptively simple method I hadn't rung for years, it made my life easier at the end of a busy day at work that saw a large proportion of the office trying to jump-start the company vehicle.

And knowledge or no knowledge of method structure (I know not which ringers have it and which don't), there was still ringing achievements today with Andrea Alderton scoring her first of Norwich Minor in the quarter at Preston St Mary. Well done Andrea. For everyone's information, Norwich Surprise Minor is x34x14x�


Tuesday 12th June 2012

All the talk in the office today was of England's valiant efforts yesterday, but from a bellringing perspective well done to Alex Rolph on ringing her first quarter of Triples in the 1260 of Grandsire at Halesworth this evening.

Meanwhile, keep looking at What's On to see what is happening around the Guild - if you can help, please do.


Monday 11th June 2012

For me there's nothing quite like watching England in a major football tournament. Whilst it may suffer in comparison to the physical toughness of rugby or sportsmanship of cricket, football is still the nation's most popular sport and when its players come together to represent the country it is a nice thought that fans of different clubs normally at each other's throats the rest of the year come together for a summer. As England played out their first match of Euro2012 against old rivals France, in the pubs and living rooms between Land's End and Berwick, Dover and Carlisle and no doubt anywhere else English folk are gathered (my brother and his friends in Las Vegas for example), fans of Chelsea and Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City, Newcastle and Sunderland and yes, even Ipswich and Naaaaridge metaphorically stand shoulder to shoulder in support of the men in white.

Ruthie.After a mad dash from work for the 5 o'clock kick-off, Ruthie and I watched it in the Red Lion in Woodbridge with Toby and Pete, fresh from his impressive climbing of the Three Peaks this weekend. Well done Pete and well done England's footballers who have already done better than many predicted from this injury and suspension-hit squad by getting a 1-1 draw against one of the tournament's favourites in a decent game.

It was a shame it clashed with St Mary-le-Tower practice but these are wonderful social occasions and England in major football tournaments only comes round every two years at best.

Bruisyard Jubilee Fete.Chances to man The Vestey Ring come round a little more frequently, even if The Suffolk Show didn't work out this year and there is another opportunity to help out with this at The Weston Country Fair on Sunday 29th July. If you don't have anything else on and you fancy a trip over to what sounds a lovely event then please let know.

Orford.Just over a month later on Saturday 1st September and two-weeks before The Guild Social at Sproughton, there is an Open Day at and around the new twelve at The Norman Tower so if you're not attending the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Orford (though that's not until 3pm so there's every chance you could fit some of both in!) then it's well worth keeping the date clear.

Before that there is the opportunity to cheer our youngsters on at The Ringing World National Youth Contest on the lovely bells of St Paul's in Birmingham on Saturday 30th June, where our very own Louis Suggett is one of the judges. Unfortunately Ruthie and I can't make it as we'll be on the Pettistree outing but if you able to travel over I'm sure our boys and girls would appreciate it - hopefully the whole county can get behind them as the whole country has got behind their football team.


Sunday 10th June 2012

Maybe, just maybe there is some hope for Thursday nights at Grundisburgh. Hot on the heels of Joanna's return after twenty years out, a chap called John gingerly climbed the short staircase at St Mary-the-Virgin for this morning's ringing. Like Joanna he once rang as well and much more recently too, telling us he'd rung regularly here as little as six or seven years ago before a viral infection affected his balance and halted his ringing at the time. He was extremely modest about his abilities to the extent that he didn't feel confident enough to have a go at first, but by the end of ringing he'd joined in with Rounds on six very capably and taken Stephen's phone number in Mr P's absence. He has rung a couple of quarters before and was taught by Alan Frost at Wingrave in Buckinghamshire so he comes from decent stock, but as he himself admitted he is seventy-nine, not as nimble as he once was and quite deaf. However, along with Joanna his presence may be enough to get practices going again at Suffolk's lightest twelve which was again well short of ringing all the bells today.

We were a little short at the county's heaviest twelve at St Mary-le-Tower beforehand too, with Mum and Dad away, but we still had enough to ring all twelve and a half-course each of Cambridge and Yorkshire Royal prior to dropping father's birthday present off and popping to Edwin Avenue to find a surprisingly alert Ruthie and Fergie, full of tales about the Adnams brewery tour they went on yesterday and murder mystery party they held last night!

Rather marvellously she had a rare Sunday off, so whilst the Aldeburgh band were marking the start of the 2012 festival with a 5088 of Mortlake Surprise Major for which congratulations are due to Tom Scase on completing the Surprise Major alphabet and Robert Crocker on grabbing his fiftieth Suffolk tower to a peal, my son, my fiancé and I were travelling around Ipswich's supermarkets in search of glass-hire for the big day in two months time, with success!

Miss Eagle was understandably flagging a little come the evening though following a long but enjoyable day yesterday, so we instead sat down to tea and more football, this time taking in the Republic of Ireland's introduction to Euro2012. Tomorrow sees England's first game and then their second on Friday, by which time we may have seen Grundisburgh's first practice of the year. You never know�


Saturday 9th June 2012

Ruthie was on her hen do - or her girly party as Mason referred to it - today, so once we'd helped her and her best friend and chief bridesmaid Fergie to take stuff over to Edwin Avenue where the latter part of the event would be taking place, the li'l chap and I left her to it.

Grundisburgh.I had thought about travelling over to the Peterborough Diocesan Guild for their AGM to catch up with friends not seen for a while, but then a request to ring for a wedding at Grundisburgh came through. And it was a particularly urgent request too as with Stephen and a number of others away he needed those who could make it to ring. There is a danger that when one is scratching around for a band that the result is a mish-mash of learners and others not used to the bells, far from ideal on any occasion but especially one where people are paying us to ring.

No such worries today thankfully as with Mason on bride-watching duty we had a band consisting of myself, Phil and Sandy Jones, Gill Waterson, Chris Barker and a welcome addition to our numbers Joanna Crowe, a returning ringer resident in the village. She should be a reminder not to give up on people when their circumstances change and they're unable to ring as there is always the chance that they will return with skills already acquired as is the case with the very capable Joanna.

When the boy is in attendance, no visit to Grundisburgh is complete without a visit to the park here, so following on from carrying out our duties at St Mary the Virgin we headed up there where we were accompanied an interesting family in which the mother is starting work at Mason's school soon and the father was born with the same problems as the li'l chap was with his feet, so lots to chat about there!

We topped our day off by being blokey and watching football - well we can't let the girls have all the fun!


Friday 8th June 2012

Perhaps it was best that we didn't taken The Vestey Ring to the Suffolk Show after all as the second day was called off this morning due to extremely high winds which was flinging marquees, poles, flags and goodness knows what else across Trinity Park and obviously made it a dangerous place for thousands of people to stand around in and probably wasn't the best place for our most (financially) valuable PR tool!

Whilst winds were causing problems in Eastern Suffolk there were no such problems in Eastern Europe as Euro2012 kicked-off. Not that I saw much of the 5pm start as the usual delightful Friday evening routine with Mason wasn't entirely conducive to such viewing but there are plenty of games to catch over the next three weeks or so!


Thursday 7th June 2012

Due to the timing and length of the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday weekend, this year's Suffolk Show is being held on a later week than usual and later in the week than it normally is which meant today was the first day of the 2012 show. I had booked the day off with the intention of Ruthie and me helping out with The Vestey Ring on the St Edmundsbury & Ipswich Diocesan tent but following the mix-up with measurements that meant we couldn't take our best PR tool this year, the costs of going full-rate (we would've got in half-price if helping with the mini-ring) and the weather forecast looking like it may make the occasion a fairly miserable one today, we instead decided to journey around part of the county and countryside this annual event at Trinity Park celebrates.

Ruthie watches Jenny ring on the simulator at Hollesley.For we were taking out invites to various friends and relatives within reasonable driving distance as we travelled via Wickham Market, home-of-champions Otley, Grundisburgh, Kesgrave, Ipswich and Offton, taking in visits to all three of my fiancée's grandparents and Laurie her Godfather, my Aunty Marian and a quick drink in the dry at the superb Limeburners before we ended up at Hollesley for Ruthie and Alan to use their ITTS skills on the simulator again, this time on local ringer Jenny. It was another extremely useful session which also took in Plain Hunt and again all without upsetting the neighbours who were none the wiser to anything we were doing up the tower.

Maybe some of those learning at the moment such as Jenny will be in a position to take part in the Open Day planned for Saturday 1st September at and around the Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds as hopefully some better weather will help us enjoy another part of our wonderful county. And at least we know we have room for all the bells at the Cathedral!


Wednesday 6th June 2012

The Diamond Jubilee weekend may have finished and many of us who have had the last four days off work returned to the office, but I'm glad to report there is still ringing going on to celebrate the occasion as a 5060 of Yorkshire Major was rung in honour of Her Majesty at Grundisburgh and well done to George Salter on ringing his first peal of Surprise Major in the success.

Ruthie and I saw George in person to hear all about it as we came round his family's abode to do some peal-ringing of our own at The Wolery. Except there's some who would say our 5022 of Kings Cliffe Surprise Major on a mini-ring isn't really a worthwhile a peal as they aren't 'proper tower-bells' or that they should be put in a separate section as handbell peals are.

I've always found that a strange distinction as they ARE tower-bells. They are hung in the same theory as church bells with wheels, pulley, handstrokes and backstrokes, unlike handbells which are an entirely different skill. On 'mini-rings' you can handle with two hands on both strokes but the speed which most go at it makes sense to ring one hand on each stroke just as when ringing a peal on a four-ton bell most use a strapper. But someone ringing two bells at Mindinho-le-Tower in Newmarket would ring them in the same way as Andrew Mills would have rung 2-3 in a peal at Withycombe Raleigh in Exmouth back in February. The most noticeable difference is the lack of a stay but that should become obsolete until you set your bell.

Yes, a peal at The Wolery in 1hr 35mins wouldn't be as physically testing as a peal at Henley at 2hrs 38mins, but then in turn that isn't as testing as a peal at The Norman Tower in 3hrs 23mins which in turn isn't as testing as a peal at St Paul's Cathedral at 3hrs57mins, all of which I've done and all of which have counted as one peal each, the same as a peal of Bob Minor counts the same as a peal of 5-Spliced Surprise Sixteen, at least in my records.

So how would people differentiate between a 'mini-ring' and 'proper' bells. Is it the weight? Where do you draw the line? The 2cwt Plantagenet Ring in the Dew's garage in Church Lawford? That would make a lot of smaller church tower rings a mini-ring.

Is it the speed of ringing? As far as I know the fastest tower-bell peal ever rung was on 'proper' bells in a tower - 1hr13mins at Hadstock in Essex back in 1991. So it's not that then.

Maybe it is the fact they aren't in a church tower. So that makes the 38cwt ten at Queen Anne's Tower at Imperial College a mini-ring? Or the 42cwt twelve at Manchester Town Hall?

Many complain that they sound awful but some of the best ringing I've done has been on mini-rings. Rung badly they sound abysmal but then so do many tower-bells. And I would argue that if you really struggle to get to grips handling a mini-ring you possibly haven't got the basics of handling a 'proper' bell right yet.

So well done Ruthie for ringing your 250th peal this evening on proper bells in a proper peal and let the celebrations continue wherever you're ringing!


Tuesday 5th June 2012

Just as you don't need to be religious to enjoy Christmas, it has struck me that you don't have to have had any particular allegiance to the Queen or even to like her to appreciate the festivities on this long weekend. In fact, in all the events I've been to since starting my weekend at Henley way back on Saturday morning, I don't recall any real mention of Her Majesty apart from the church service at Melton on Sunday where it was obviously expected some deference be paid to their Head.

Personally I don't have any great feeling either way. My life wouldn't change if the Royal Family were abolished tomorrow and so it wouldn't bother me. But likewise I am a softy and having relatives who have worked with them and heard first hand about their personality and lives outside of the limelight that they have to be so careful in, I do have a slight fondness for them. While they may be privileged and I feel it's over-egged how hard the Queen works when compared to those in the armed forces, emergency services and even factory workers and labourers, this weekend has shown how much the world and this country appreciates our monarchy and they do seem good value.

Either way, I've had fun this weekend as ultimately it's been a wonderful chance for people to get together and celebrate their community, regardless of the Queen and I was delighted to top it all off with a very good peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at St Mary-le-Tower this afternoon. It was particularly satisfactory after the unfortunate loss at The Norman Tower three days ago and indeed our own loss at SMLT for the Royal Wedding last year, but even putting that aside, well done to David Potts on calling his first of Maximus, carried out with composure and with geeing up inserted in the right places as well as the calls! It was a good way to finish off not only the weekend but Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2012.

And in keeping with ringing this weekend he wasn't the only one achieving today with particular congratulations to Ambrin Williams on ringing her first quarter in the 1260 Bob Doubles at Reydon and Linda Ashford on ringing her first inside in the success at Rumburgh. Well done both of you and indeed to anyone who has rung for this memorable occasion over these last four days and in the months leading up to it, including those who rang quarters at Campsea Ashe, Offton and Wickham Market today. It has in the main been a huge success for ringing on a local level - with two first peals, a first quarter and so much more - and on a national level. Following up the tremendous exposure (perhaps more than they cared for in the conditions!) with the ringing in the Thames Pageant, it was great to hear some superb ringing at St Paul's Cathedral for the Jubilee service there this morning, both beforehand and with a peal afterwards. We'll forgive them for not setting the tenor when the Queen arrived as the overall effect was fantastic! Well done to all concerned.

So I hope you enjoyed your Diamond Jubilee, regardless of what you thoughts on the monarchy are!


Monday 4th June 2012

The celebrations continue of course, but there was a note of normality in amongst everything this evening as St Mary-le-Tower had a practice as usual. I'm glad too as it seemed to be Sonia's best so far as she strives to master the essential handling skills that will be the basis of her future ringing career.

There was still a huge amount of ringing done over the course of the day showing that today is certainly no normal Monday as quarters were rung at Debenham, Helmingham, Hintlesham, Palgrave, Rushmere and Chediston where Alex Rolph is to be congratulated on her first of Grandsire, all topped off by Ian Wright's first peal in the success at Sweffling which was also Jason Busby's twenty-fifth. Well done Ian and congratulations Jason.

Mason at Village Jubilee Picnic, Melton Recreation Ground.At Melton Recreation Ground trying to get a ball in the clown's mouth!Whilst others were doing their bit on the end of a rope Mason and I - Ruthie was again at work - were down Melton Recreation Ground for the Village Jubilee Picnic. We didn't take a picnic ourselves, but there were hotdogs and ice-cream available as well as lots of games and the opportunity to meet up with familiar faces as Toby and Amy joined us again and we bumped into Ruthie's Uncle Moog, Aunty Ange and cousin Lucy as well as Mr and Mrs Roger on an afternoon which was still a coats on occasion but not as unpleasant as yesterday's conditions.

Fireworks on the River Deben.Jubilee Beacon lit on the banks of the River Deben.With the li'l chap dropped off to enjoy the rest of the Queen's celebrations, Ruthie and I headed to Ipswich for that useful practice before returning to Woodbridge and the banks of the River Deben where we watched fireworks from the far side of the river and the lighting of Woodbridge's Jubilee Beacon with Nick and Kala and then have a quick drink in a very crowded Mariners with Toby and Amy. As much as I enjoyed SMLT practice, I am very glad that the weekend is continuing and throwing up so much to see and do.


Sunday 3rd June 2012

It's been done to death by the media so I'm reluctant to say it myself, but what the heck! Today has been a very British day. Some have suggested that the weather was that of a typical summer's day on these shores but frankly it was an appalling set of conditions that would be considered unfortunate in autumn let alone at the height of the 'hottest' season of the year.

Pettistree Jubilee Lunch.Yet the country continued its Diamond Jubilee celebrations, though many outdoor events were moved indoors, including the event that Kate, Mason and I went to this afternoon as the Jubilee lunch that was to be held in Roger and Mary Chilvers' garden was moved to Roger's magnificently decorated carport. And although it was chilly and damp, the food, company and entertainment was top notch with games played and the results announced of the fancy-dress and scarecrow competitions where our James Bond entry in the latter failed to make the top three. Mason in particular was just happy to take part though.

Kate returned to the village to ring in a quarter for the occasion, one of three quarters recorded on Campanophile in Suffolk, with the others at Kersey and Ufford, accompanied by Richard Brewster's first peal for twenty-one years as he trebled to the successful 5040 at Buxhall. Well done Richard.

But my ringing was limited to St Mary-le-Tower and with it being the first Sunday of the month St Lawrence, where at both towers the ringing family showed off its USP as Jacky from Handsworth in Sheffield joined us despite the fact that none of us had ever met her.

And whilst the next appointment that the boy and I had was quite sober in comparison to what was to come it was still a joyful celebration of the Diamond Jubilee if even a little surreal as a musical montage from the last sixty years from Bill Haley and His Comets to Boy George to Oasis and Take That sang out in the special Jubilee service at St Andrew's in Melton. Enjoyable as that was, our main reason for being there was that the first banns of marriage for Ruthie and me were being read in the parish of our residence though sadly of course my fiancée had to be at work today as the community's ailments fail to be allayed by the celebrations. As with our occasional attendance at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where we shall be getting married, it wasn't obligatory for us to have any representation but I thought it might be nice and the later than usual service made it possible to attend after morning ringing in Ipswich, even if sadly we had to sacrifice going to Grundisburgh.

Once back from the dampened party in Pettistree we thought that the parties were over with Nick and Kala's BBQ in honour of his birthday in Wickham Market postponed due to the appalling conditions and no sign of the planned street party outside our house, so Mason, Ruthie and I popped over to Toby and Amy's for our own little 'street' party of pizza and beer before a knock on the door revealed that in the true British spirit alluded to earlier, the party was on but under cover in the spacious grounds of Grange House at the bottom of our road. Pizza devoured we wandered over to join in the fun and meet the neighbours we'd seen but not spoken to in the six months since we moved into this secluded and friendly community.

Barge Ursula Katherine.It was in keeping with the defiance shown on the River Thames as the thousand-strong pageant this afternoon, started by and featuring heavily The Royal Jubilee Bells on the Ursula Katherine ringing a superb quarter of Cambridge Major as billions watched on, rung by ringers many of us know in this wonderful ringing family. It was a brilliant advert for ringing on a weekend where ringers around the world and here in Suffolk have embraced this very British occasion.


Saturday 2nd June 2012

I'm an avid reader of the Suffolk Churches website written so splendidly by Simon Knott as it features many of the marvellous buildings I am fortunate to carry my ringing out in across the county on a regular basis. He spots so much more than I normally do but then he does often have the churches to himself, a position I don't usually find myself in.

So it was slightly ironic on the longest and busiest weekend for years I found myself in Gislingham's parish church in quiet solitude for over half-an-hour once I'd arrived very early for a peal attempt this afternoon. Apart from the sound of the occasional passing car and the intermittent whirr of a nearby lawnmower in this otherwise peaceful and - in keeping with just about every village and town I've passed through over theSuffolk Guild of Ringers last few days - heavily decorated community, I had the sense that I could have been stood in St Mary's at any point over the last few centuries as this is a structure seemingly untouched since it was built, though I'm sure that's not the case. Soon there will be a new addition which I'm sure will relieve churchgoers and bellringers alike as there will be a toilet installed next to the belfry entrance to be done by October so to avoid the VAT that will be newly implemented by that date to any projects on listed buildings and which would apparently flush another �6k away with this particular job.

Gislingham Peal Band.With all this peaceful reflection it was almost a pity that we had to start ringing but I'm glad we did! There was a point when I was fearful that there might not be any peal-ringing here, but I'm delighted that it is now happening and not only marking significant events in the village such as this weekend's Diamond Jubilee and last year's Royal Wedding, but is benefiting local ringers. On this occasion it was Alan Stanley and Kay Lucas who were achieving, with Alan ringing his first peal and Kay ringing her first inside in a fine effort. Well done Alan and Kay and many thanks for allowing me to contribute to the local celebrations on a fine eight. Hopefully it's an experience that many more will be able to have as they really are a joy to ring for such a length of time.

Henley church decorated for the occasion of the South-East District Practice.Mason and his Nana at Henley.As significant as this particular peal was, it was just the middle third of a busy but enjoyable day that started for Mason, Ruthie and me at the South-East District Practice at Henley which I had been worried might suffer from everything else going on. I needn't have been though as it seems the committee got it spot on with the 10-12 morning slot as a decent crowd crammed into the belfry and onto the balcony at this eight just north of Ipswich, including the large and youthful crowd from Sproughton and the young Scase boys as well as a healthy dose of us oldies.

And a blast from the past too as a combination of the Guild facebook page and the sound of bells in her village of residence brought the ringer formally known as Michelle Chapman into a belfry for the first time in a decade. She was a common feature in the Suffolk Guild peal columns back in the 1990's and an extremely good ringer who rang peals of Surprise Maximus amongst much else before she went to uni and sadly disappeared from the ringing scene. We didn't get her on the end of a rope today and having just become a mother and married to a non-ringer it's perhaps unlikely she'll return to peal-ringing but she may become useful to Podge at St Peter as he teaches a band that I'm glad to say were also present on this most useful of mornings before my trip to Gislingham.

Scarecrow.Out of the other end of my peal-ringing antics I joined my fiancée and son at her grandparents for a family get-together and a spot of scarecrow-making as our James Bond-themed entry for tomorrow's scarecrow competition at Pettistree was put together.

It was a fine end to a lovely day that saw ringing step up to the mantle with a peal at Southwold this morning to complement our efforts this afternoon at Gislingham as well as quarters at Stowmarket, Great Finborough and Old Newton where congratulations are due to Colin Salter on ringing his first quarter inside. The only blip on the ringing front today was the loss of the first peal attempt on the twelve at The Norman Tower, three courses into Yorkshire Maximus. It was a big shame as it would have been a fitting occasion on which to score the peal, something the local ringers deserved for all their efforts in bringing the project to completion and putting together a twelve-bell band. However, they will be going for it again and it shouldn't detract from what has been a lovely day in and around many of those churches featured so excellently on Simon's Suffolk Churches website.


Friday 1st June 2012

There were many signs that the long and much anticipated Diamond Jubilee Weekend is finally upon us. The bunting is up practically everywhere, the news is devoted to it and the weather has turned pretty rotten. The irony is if we'd had it all on the normal end of May bank holiday we would've had cracking weather for it.

More personally the signs were there too as we were released an hour early from work with most of the schools long gone in readiness for the break which started last week for some and will continue for another week for most of them in the independent sector.

And I found myself on Radio Suffolk just before 6pm today telling whoever would listen that ringing will be playing its part on this historic weekend.

Therefore I was delighted that much activity was announced through the Guild facebook page which is starting to come into its own. Indeed, peals and quarters are already in full flow with the notable ones including the 5065 of Bristol Surprise Major which marked Arnie's significant birthday and also Brian Whiting's 750th peal and the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham which saw Robert Scase ring his 300th quarter.

Congratulations Brian and Robert - I hope it sets the tone for a busy looking weekend.


Thursday 31st May 2012

Grundisburgh.Kate obviously knew Ruthie would be trouble when she was born as she made two police officers and a vicar her Godparents. Just a couple of years previously, one of them - the Reverend Clare Sanders - was ordained a deacon amongst the first women to be ordained in the diocese.

Twenty-five years on she is now the long-serving and popular rector at Grundisburgh and we were delighted to ring a quarter there prior to a service at St Mary the Virgin to celebrate the landmark this evening. Well done Clare!


Wednesday 30th May 2012

We Brits are notorious for not liking change. Indeed folk from Suffolk and bellringers are perhaps the most notorious for it. I love bellringing. It's probably what I'm best at in life (it's a shame I can't do it for a living!) and it has given me so much joy and many happy memories going back the near quarter of a century I've been doing it. So even I have to admit to being reluctant at anything that would change the nature of something I do enjoy so much.

In fact on the face of it our craft hasn't changed much at all in hundreds of years. We still carry it out in the same buildings, with the same mechanisms and in the same way as it was when full-circle change-ringing took off in the 1600's. Except much has changed. The rise of mini-rings has taken full-circle ringing beyond just the ancient towers of the land, to people's homes, to exhibitions, shows and fetes, making ringing more accessible than it ever has been. The mechanics of it has vastly improved, making the go of bells a lot better than our predecessors could've imagined, again making ringing a lot more accessible. And the limits of ringing have been lifted immensely, in reality making what is possible in our art to most ringers practically limitless. I imagine those first change-ringers would've been staggered by the notion of spliced-Surprise Sixteen or even indeed something like Bristol Major. Ringing has evolved as circumstances have allowed it to and it needs to continue to do so if it is to survive.

Henley.But the biggest change is the knowledge and technology now available to us. That technology is already being harnessed as you read this as communication between Guild members and the ringing community worldwide is so incredibly quick and easy compared even to when I first started ringing. Back then communication was either face-to-face, via the phone or through the Guild newsletter, but in theory we could these days arrange a ringing event for tomorrow and let every Guild member know straight away. It doesn't work exactly like that in reality of course, but you get the gist. On that note it is worth mentioning that in amongst all the celebrations this weekend there is a South-East District practice at Henley on Saturday morning from 10-12. If you can make it they'll need your support!

And whilst the using the media to promote ourselves isn't a new idea there is so much more of it about and more easily accessed by the general public, so it was good to see the article on Jubilee ringing and more particularly featuring the Rose brothers in today's EADT and on their website, even if some of those typical inaccuracies found their way to the surface!

Perhaps the most important way that we can use technology and knowledge though is in training recruits. One of the things we have learnt in recent years and is a part of the new ITTS is that learners and improvers need more than the odd ten or fifteen minutes a week, especially in the initial, crucial handling stage and as they learn to ring rounds. Indeed the closer to the beginning of this wonderful journey they are, the less practical it is to fit them in with a normal practice night so they really need a dedicated session.

This is where problems arise. First up is finding the time, but this is where good old fashioned dedication largely comes into play. The second is finding a tower to do it in. Sadly in these times of twitchy neighbours intolerant of everything except that which they like, not everywhere is able to host more than service ringing and a single evening's practice in a week on a regular basis so that means either using another tower or using the old-fashioned system of tying the clapper silent. If you can find another tower that is all well and good but it is increasingly difficult as more and more towers become reluctant to inflame the opinions of local residents even if there is no known problem there. And ringing a bell with no sound is an odd experience and not one that is entirely useful to the learner as they then don't learn the link between pulling, timing and sound.

Enter the simulator! The one at The Norman Tower will watch over the visit to this county of ITTS on 9th June and whilst many mistrust and even dislike both these aspects that have changed the way we can teach ringers, I was reminded this evening of the benefits of both as I accompanied Ruthie to Hollesley. At times there have been training sessions on every night of the week at this fine eight overlooking the North Sea, with the simulator enabling the full-ringing experience without the need to bring in lots of ringers every time or disturb the villagers and it's hard to argue that it hasn't worked as despite being in a geographical outpost miles from large numbers of ringers even in their own benefice, they still run a very successful practice bringing through learners of all ages on a regular basis.

Hollesley.And on this occasion, unbeknown even to the people whose cottage backs onto the churchyard the Reverend Ruth Hatchett (a useful person to have on board!) and Sue Bowerman were used as guinea pigs as my fiancée and Alan McBurnie put into practice what they had learnt on Saturday in Kineton on the ITTS. It is a change from the way we have done things and many are skeptical and even mocking, especially those who have seen similar schemes come and go. But what has killed those schemes by and large is the attitude of the ringing fraternity. Even those running the ITTS - though rightly being upbeat about it - openly admit they can't be sure if it will work, but it DEFINITELY won't work if the majority of the ringing community doesn't give it a chance.

Wilby.Of course the traditional way still has success, as shown by the likes of Bill Lloyd who celebrated two years of ringing this evening with a 1260 of Doubles in the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree, an effort Miss Eagle and I caught whilst sat outside The Greyhound having arrived from Hollesley. And well done to Sarah Plummer on ringing her first quarter of Bristol in the 1280 at Wilby, achieved without the help of ITTS. It won't be the answer to all the problems facing ringing in the modern age and certainly for the foreseeable future it won't completely replace the more traditional methods of teaching that have kept ringing going. We're doing alright in places. But how many towers lay silent? How many potentially good ringers are lost through bad teaching that COULD have been saved by something like ITTS?

This evening ringing was as I like it, done well with friends and topped off with a return to the local afterwards. ITTS shouldn't change that but rather - if we embrace it - it may enhance it. Let's not be afraid of change and evolution.


Tuesday 29th May 2012

I remember well the feelings of relief and joy when I found out I had secured a permanent new job and would've been even more delighted if I had known that four years on not only was I still in that same employment at a time when others aren't as fortunate but it has been a pleasure and at times very enjoyable! Suddenly that sense of wondering how you are going to afford everyday stuff, pay the bills, get about, etc and never having a day off as you search for every opportunity are replaced with more positive emotions and you feel a part of normal society again.

Offton.So Ruthie and I were therefore delighted to join Toby and Amy to celebrate Amy's news that she has got a new job and she contemplates what doors might open over the next few months and years. It was done with a tipple down The Mariners on an evening when congratulations are also due to Caroline Bass who rang her first quarter in the 1260 of Bob Doubles before practice at Offton, where incidentally there is no practice next week. Well done Caroline and well done Amy!


Monday 28th May 2012

I could've very nearly stepped back in time tonight. In fact, Bill Pye's presence at St Mary-le-Tower takes me back further than I can remember (pre-blog) and put a face to a name that I heard much about in my youth. Some of you will perhaps remember Bill and his father Ernest and will be aware that his grandfather William rang in that famous first peal of Cambridge Maximus at SMLT on 15th August 1908 which we less famously recreated a century on.

However, I remember him more for one of the funniest ringing-related stories I've heard. He was once sharing a room with my father on the infamous Pipe's Pilgrims, the ringing tours of the 1970's and before arranged by the late Cecil 'Jim' Pipe and responsible for my parents meeting and mine, Chris' and Mason's existence. On this occasion he got up in the middle of the night to use the facilities, only in the dark to mistake the wardrobe door for the toilet door. Thankfully he realized his error before the next stage, but my youthful father was apparently woken by the sound of mild cursing and rattling coat-hangers as they fought back against their intruder.

This evening he rang for the first time for some time as he rang in a decent touch of Stedman Caters with me on the second, Amanda stood behind me dropping occasional hints and making sure I was going in the right direction, a scene that could've come out of a practice night here twenty years ago.

And Bill wasn't the only blast from the Tower's past as David Culham accompanied his son Ian as part of large crowd on a productive evening that of course ended in The Cricketers where Ruthie had a useful debrief with Jed about Saturday's ITTS training and she began her role of spreading the word. Only time will tell if this scheme will work to any great extent but we have to give it a chance and get as many people behind it as possible.

Having discussed the future, it was back to the blasts from the past as Toby and Amy invited us over to his mother Debs' house in Ipswich for a drink, chat and spot of fire-bating. As the owner of The Green Man at the time, Debs was the very first person I met on arrival in Tunstall all those years ago and a jolly good purveyor of drink as well as a really nice lady so it was nice to catch up. It was just like the old days!


Sunday 27th May 2012

Following the bike accident I mentioned yesterday, it's good to see that David Pipe was well enough to take part in another impressive effort involving his and Cecilia's youngsters Henry and Alfie. This time it was with another young prodigy with a familiar name, Ewan Hull as the three of them along with Daddy Hull, Daddy Pipe and Mummy Pipe partook in a quarter of Bob Doubles at The Millcroft Campanile in Willingham as the rise of the next generation looms large already.

It seemed apt therefore to add Mason's own efforts at Grundisburgh this morning onto BellBoard and Campanophile as he called his first bit of ringing calling round some impressive Rounds on the front five with Daddy doing the handstrokes and Mike Whitby hovering behind as Mason stood nonetheless firmly on his three boxes. It may not be quite the achievements of the young Pipe and Hull boys, but it's a start and he was well chuffed!

Kingston Field.Whilst our day then continued onto another park in the shape of Kingston Field - where sadly yobs have burnt down part of the climbing frame so enjoyed by Mason and his contemporaries - his wasn't the only achievement on the end of a rope in Suffolk today though and as Guild Peal Week begins it was still good to hear of Gudrun Warren's first quarter on eight in the 1280 of Bob Major at Bardwell and whilst the 1440 of Grandsire Minor at Great Barton was only rung after a lost peal attempt for SGPW2012, well done nonetheless to the whole band for ringing their first in the method and in particular to Simon Veal on ringing his first of Minor.

Unfortunately we didn't even get that far with our attempt at a quarter of London Royal (No3) this evening at St Mary-le-Tower. We entered the belfry listening to St Margaret's restarting a quarter attempt and left having lost our own as the heat seemed to get to us.

As it seemed to do with me on the first leg of our historic Sunday morning ringing as whilst I was in the hunt to Grandsire Caters I tried to dodge, seemingly putting in my own call in my head! Perhaps I need to take some lessons off the youngsters!


Saturday 26th May 2012

Best wishes to David Pipe as he recovers from a pretty horrific sounding accident on his bike that left his face in a bad way and apparently led to substantial but thankfully temporary memory loss.

Though by all accounts he has no memory of what happened, it goes to show how dangerous cycling can be so it was appropriate that as Mason and I sat in a park in Kineton a boy was learning how to ride a bike without stabilizers as his father/grandfather/guardian watched over him and gave helpful hints and tips. Whether he was qualified or not I don't know, but of course most kids are taught by their parents whose only qualification is that they've ridden a bike before and they're related to the pupil. However, there is now of course Bikeability which picked up where the Cycle Proficiency Test left off, carried out by trained instructors.

Which brings me neatly to why the li'l chap and I were in a park on the outskirts of this nice but unspectacular village in the middle of Warwickshire. For Ruthie is one of those pioneering the ITTS in Suffolk, bellringing's equivalent to Bikeability which will hopefully raise the standard of teaching without prohibiting teachers not yet accredited. This is the scheme much needed in many corners of our Guild and others that brings a degree of professionalism to teaching people our art but it does require dedication, certainly amongst those in the first wave like my fiancée. So much so that having learnt that she couldn't attend the course when it comes to The Norman Tower on 9th June, she accepted the invitation to come to The Harry Windsor Ringing Centre at St Peter along with her mentor Alan McBurnie and his wife Micky.

It was apparently an eye-opener from starting a learner off with ringing a bell partially up to the idea of muscle memory and the kind of approach more closely associated with athletes than bellringers, as a whole entire day of training was lapped up by those present, including Ruthie. As Miss Eagle said, 'why haven't we been doing it like this all along?' I really would encourage as many of you as possible to get behind this scheme so that it makes a real difference to the standard of other people's ringing and therefore what you get out of ringing.

Mason.Neither I nor the boy were involved with it other than to get the student to her course and back so we were left to occupy ourselves on a mercifully hot and sunny day as most of what we did involved being outside. I had wondered if the li'l chap might like to visit nearby Warwick Castle or appreciate a day at Stratford-Upon-Avon, but once we'd had the good fortune to stumble across a fun day at Kineton Village Hall complete with bouncy castle, it turned into a park crawl as visits to the parks in the delightful village of Ratley and the community of Moreton Morrell (where there is a road named after John Taylor who knows this area better than most of us!) were sandwiched in between trips to the aforementioned training ground for cyclists and interspersed with a bite to eat outside The Swan Hotel in Kineton and a quick visit to the church to see how my better half was getting on before eventually the day was finished and Ruthie needed picking up.

It was good hearing about the course and catching up with some familiar faces that were also there, such as Graham Nabb who was running it, Sue Marshall and Jennie Higson, all of whom I know from Ramblers and my time ringing in Birmingham.

Well at The Antelope.Ruthie.Sun still shining brightly and the li'l chap hungry, we popped into The Antelope at Lighthorne where the well and food kept Mason happy before the long journey back.

Back in Suffolk, well done to Nathan Colman on ringing his first peal of Superlative Major in the 5021 at Offton. Hopefully what Ruthie has been doing today will be part of a future in ringing which will produce more of this and the David Pipe of ringing then the David Pipe of cycling. Get well soon David!


Friday 25th May 2012

Mason now does cricket club after school on a Friday so it was from there I picked him up for the second week running on an otherwise quiet but gorgeously sunny and warm evening.

Hopefully it is weather which will hold for next weekend's much anticipated Diamond Jubilee weekend but if not I expect there's a huge amount of ringing going on across the county. Except the Diamond Jubilee page on this website doesn't reflect this. It would be nice to relay to the media what we're up to for this much publicised occasion and I'd love a bit more than a couple of peals and the odd general bit of ringing.

Rendham.Meanwhile, there is much to report from today's ringing with Ian Wright ringing his first touch of Bob Minor inside in the success at Rendham and George Salter conducting his first quarter in 1260 of Bob Triples at Gislingham. Well done guys and Happy Birthday Nathan!


Thursday 24th May 2012

At last we seem to be enjoying a lasting heatwave and briefly the shorts came out for the first time this year before I realised I seemed to have misplaced the appropriate footwear to go with them for heading out to Tesco with Grundisburgh practice once again cancelled. Nearly half-way through the year and there still hasn't been a practice in 2012, very sad.

The Guild facebook is going from strength to strength though, even if facebook itself isn't with all the stock exchange shenanigans it's got itself into! The number of members has grown by nearly a third in the last week or so which is a good sign as the more we can get on there the more effective way it will be of communicating with the membership in a way we just couldn't have dreamt possible a few years ago.

Meanwhile I'm going to enjoy the sunshine I couldn't have dreamt was possible a few days ago!


Wednesday 23rd May 2012

I still don't like ringing quarters after lost peal attempts. It depends on the circumstances to an extent, such as how long you had been ringing before you lost the peal, what the occasion is, if it'll help someone, etc. But generally, when you're going for a peal, the adrenalin is running and you're working towards a fixed goal some way down the line. That can take its strain mentally and physically relatively speaking and when you stop you relax. Or at least I do. You're out the zone. Normally any extra ringing that follows isn't great as the band members struggle to lift themselves and focus on a different goal.

So after we lost this evening's peal attempt of 8-Spliced Surprise Major at St Mary-le-Tower at the end of a long hot day at work, I can't say I was particularly enamoured with the suggestion of going for a false quarter of somewhere in the region of 1600+ changes based on the composition we'd just lost, though it was still better than the suggestion on this occasion that we go for the peal again!

However, if there is willing I don't like to stand in the way and to be fair it was once more led by David Rothera who had again travelled some distance, we'd only been ringing for about half-an-hour when we lost the peal and it was useful practice for some and at least there was success elsewhere in the county as quarters were rung at Pettistree and Stowmarket and congratulations to Tom Scase on ringing his 350th peal in the success at The Wolery.

Still, Ruthie and I were delighted to finally get to The Cricketers for a beer and burger at the end of a day that saw our wedding invitations arrive, making our wedding feel very real all of a sudden. It is a moment of truth as who to invite has given us more grief than any other aspect of organizing the big day. We are extremely fortunate to have so many friends that we'd love to share the occasion but if we were to invite them all then it would cost so much we'd be living in a cardboard box surviving on bread and water for the rest of our lives! Therefore narrowing down a substantial list to a more manageable number has been an extremely difficult task and one that I think subconsciously we've been putting off a little.

But it's coming soon as peal arranging after our loss this evening saw us arrange what will be - God willing - our first peal as Mr and Mrs Munnings. Hopefully it won't be our first quarter as a married couple!


Tuesday 22nd May 2012

Friendships can be forged through ringing even after ringing has ceased to be the focus of that friendship. That is the case of ours with James and Sarah Whitby who many of you will know/have worked out are the son and daughter of Mike and used to be ringers themselves. Though Jimmy occasionally dabbles and has even rung peals in the past, Sarah hasn't rung for some time and neither have been regular ringers for a few years. Of course like many others they may feel later in life it is something they want to pursue again having learnt the basics which is why I always feel it is worth persevering with young ringers despite the feeling they'll only give it up when they go to uni or when they discover what teenagers discover - one day when with more time on their hands and fewer distractions they could be back.

Whether Jimmy or Sarah come back or not, that friendship has continued beyond ringing, especially as they both work in Woodbridge and we know their father well and so we were delighted to dine with them this evening as we went to Zunaki an Indian restaurant in the centre of town which we hadn't actually been to until tonight.

And until tonight we'd also not met Jimmy's new girlfriend Emma who was delightful and seems already to be used to the Whitby sense of humour which bodes well!

It was a lovely evening in a really nice location (can definitely recommend it) sandwiched in between a drink or two at The Red Lion where the topic of conversation ranged from speedway to bellringing and friendships forged within a pub came to the fore!


Monday 21st May 2012

Yesterday I mentioned about silver linings and after the disappointment of the Saturday evening blow-out at Leiston and events conspiring to ensure Sunday's special practice met short, the silver lining here seems to be that everyone at St Mary-le-Tower have upped their game in the aftermath. There was of course Sean's quarter last night and he was in form this evening as he rang the tricky flighty treble to Little Bob Maximus brilliantly, but he wasn't the only one achieving on a practice night which climaxed not only with that Little Bob but also a superb half-course of Yorkshire Royal and an extremely good few leads of London Royal (No.3) even though I tried to finish the Little Bob rung to bring it round a little too early!

It was topped off by a pint in The Cricketers (note of warning - worth checking whether your glass is clean!) and our collecting of tickets for the Guild Social which this year is in the form of a barn dance at Sproughton Tithe Barn on Saturday 15th September. This date has been brought up for months now, on here, at various ringing events and on What's On so there's no excuse for double-booking yourselves - unless it is with something that can't be avoided - and so there ought to be a great turnout to this fun occasion in one of the most accessible locations to the rest of Suffolk in the county. Please do support it.

Having had a drink in Ipswich we went to another accessible location for now as we were invited over to neighbours Toby and Amy for a drink and mulled over how to get a silver lining out of the fact that The Vestey Ring will now no longer be at The Suffolk Show this year due to an administrative error by the church over space. It's a big shame, but I suppose we could all now spend more time looking around the show!


Sunday 20th May 2012

Even when things don't go right there can be a silver lining.

St Mary-le-Tower.This evening was set aside for a special practice at St Mary-le-Tower, held every third Sunday evening of the month and thus far extremely useful focus sessions on particular methods which has seen the repertoire of the band increase and with it generally the standard of the ringing at the county's first twelve.

However, things conspired against us and David a little this time round. Mason, Ruthie and I were keen to drop in on her grandparents after she'd finished work so we could meet up Moog, Ange and more importantly li'l Lucy my fiancée's cousin who was celebrating her second birthday today. It was a little tight for time but the plan was for a quick stop for pleasantries and present delivery and then into Ipswich for the practice. Unfortunately it appears Mason has become poorly in a fashion a little delicate to go into detail on here which held us up considerably back in Woodbridge.

Despite this we dashed on into the county town and as we did so Mr Potts called us to say numbers were a little short and the plan was to try a quarter for Sean. Having initially said yes, by the time we arrived the li'l chap looked even more unwell and it became apparent that there was a strong risk that any quarter would be interrupted by a poorly five-year old if we rang with Mason sat in the corner. Simon Griffiths and Jed Flatters very kindly turned back as I arrived to deliver the news and subsequently a 1264 of Plain Bob Major was rung with Sean scoring his first on eight. Well done Mr Antonioli!

And well done to Clare Veal who rang her first of Major at Stowmarket in another 1264 of Bob Major and Happy Birthday too.

In fact there were a lot of people's birthday's being celebrated today apart from Lucy and Clare's as Diana Pipe's was noted in the footnote to the quarter at SMLT and Mike Whitaker's 75th was marked with a quarter of an appropriate length at Pettistree.

On a day of landmarks I was delighted to see the first quarter of Maximus rung on Suffolk's newest twelve at The Norman Tower and even more so to see Sue Bowerman had rung her first quarter with the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Hollesley. Congratulations to the band in Bury St Edmunds and Sue!

The Vestey Ring.Crash!Crows's Hall Country Fayre.Apart from keeping out of the way for Sean's success I can claim no credit for any of the above as I was elsewhere this afternoon. More specifically at the Crow's Hall Country Fayre near Debenham. Many, many times I've waxed lyrical about our county and how lucky we are to have such beauty on our doorsteps, but Crow's Hall is one of the prettiest settings I've ever been to and the fayre was rural Suffolk at its best with craft tents, tractors, animals, a Punch and Judy show and The Vestey Ring which stood slightly out of things but still attracted a decent amount of punters to keep the Debenham ringers manning it busy. It has to be said it looked great with its canopy and the new banners out in front but despite occasionally popping back there was no keeping the li'l chap by the Guild's mini-ring, so there was much exploring of a wonderful location, including Mason entering an egg and spoon race where he was the smallest by some way and witnessing a van trying to take out a food van with a large crunch!

It all followed on from a decent morning's ringing at SMLT and Grundisburgh. Despite not having enough to ring all twelve at the latter, it did mean we had the silver-lining of ringing some eight-spliced Surprise Major. Sometimes ringing is at its best when trying to make the most out of a bad situation.


Saturday 19th May 2012

Apart from the obvious of Ruthie, Mason, family and friends, football and ringing are my two great loves and it's funny how sometimes the fortunes of both can sometimes coincide. In 2008 for example, an English club won the Champion's League on penalties at the beginning of a summer that saw a European Championships (that England failed to qualify for) an Olympics, Pettistree win the Mitson Shield for the first time and first time winners of the Lester Brett Trophy, though Debenham were winning the first ever time it was contested for, all held in the North-East District.

Victorious Otley collect The Lester Brett Trophy. Fast forward four years and an English team were tonight winning the Champion's League on penalties (ironically Chelsea who had been beaten by Manchester United the last time) at the start of a summer of more football at the European Championships (which thankfully our nation shall be competing at this time round, even if expectations are low), and of course the Olympics down the road. And today Pettistree won the Mitson Shield for the first time since that afternoon at Sweffling, plus there was a new name on the Lester Brett Trophy as Otley triumphed, as again the North-East welcomed the Guild, this time to Blythburgh.

Just the mere presence of Otley at the competition and more new ringers to the occasion was a victory in my book, exactly what I've been trying to encourage more bands in their position to do. So I think I was almost as delighted as champion ringer Jimmy Wightman that they came out on top of the call-change contest. Please let that be an encouragement to other bands out there, especially those from the South-West District from where we had no entries at all in any of today's competitions which was a big shame.

However, there was otherwise a good spread of teams from around the Guild and as I have mentioned this week good competition too, so Pettistree and Otley were certainly worthy winners and not only in the eyes of our judges Andrew Higson and Iain Mitchell, both of whom it was great to see today.

Mike Whitby & George Pipe listening to the ringing at Blythburgh. I'd also expressed a desire for the day to take on more of the feel of the National Twelve Bell Contest and there was a sense of that as this picturesque village was taken over by ringers listening outside the church, taking walks, having tea in the quaint village hall and having a pint in The White Hart. But you don't get a spread as fantastic as we got today at the Twelve-Bell which is to the national competition's detriment in this case! Not only was it varied and extremely tasty but there were vast amounts of it.

The North-East District Team with The Rose Trophy at Leiston.So much in fact that an equivalent almost of another ringer's tea was taken to the second part of this hugely enjoyable occasion as we converged upon Leiston for the Guild Eight-Bell, The Rose Trophy. Though most were stuffed the remaining tea was just too nice to resist as the competition got going upstairs with a great turnout of six teams to work through. There was some good ringing too, though a stray-bell and miss-call saw St Mary-le-Tower's entry sadly collapse, leaving the competition wide-open. It was the North-East District who took full advantage with the best ringing of the evening and meant the trophy wouldn't be leaving these surroundings until they head to the North-West District to defend their title next year.

It was a truly wonderful day and well done to Jed for getting everything sorted, thank you to our judges for what is a long day for them and congratulations to all who took part. Away from the competition, congratulations too to Ian Culham, a regular help up SMLT on conducting his first peal in the success for the Guild of St Agatha at Higham. Nice work Ian!

As with any good ringing event, back in Leiston we ended up in the pub and a large crowd descended upon the Engineers Arms round the corner before Mason, Ruthie and I returned home to put a huge number of photos onto the Guild's facebook page and watch the end of the footballing drama. God willing, it'll be interesting to see what the summer of 2016 holds in store.


Friday 18th May 2012

The Olympic Torch has arrived with much fanfare. There is much travelling for the flame to do from Cornwall before it arrives within our borders on Thursday 5th July but there is still much to arrange if we as bellringers are to take advantage of this fantastic PR opportunity. There are numerous towers along the route and normally of course I would just approach the tower correspondent and liaise with them which I shall also do of course, but with this there are so many elements to take into account. Firstly there are all sorts of events going on everywhere the torch goes and we want to make sure we are part of those and not seen to be disrupting them. Therefore I have been in contact with various people from the authorities involved and whilst they're keen on our involvement it's a slow process.

There are also the practicalities of it all. Roads that would normally be used to get to a tower may be closed and the kind of restrictions and security that we simply don't have to contend with normally may make getting to the bells a lot harder in some places. And of course being a work day it will be harder to get ringers together, especially at peak holiday time too. So I would really appreciate the help of as many ringers as possible to help not only on the Thursday as it comes down the east side of the county but also two days later when it meanders through the west of Suffolk. Please do let me know if you can help in any way and let's make its journey and our contribution along the streets and lanes of this part of the world as memorable round here as the torch's arrival on a gold-painted plane this evening was.


Thursday 17th May 2012

Ringing has so much to offer, a prime example of which will be on show at Blythburgh and Leiston this Saturday. It doesn't have to be just turning up for practice night and Sunday morning at your local tower which seems to have turned an art with a wide range of possibilities into a routine and even a chore for too many of our members and others ringing in Suffolk and of course across the country.

Bardwell.Hopton.The bands and ringers who enjoy ringing the most and tend to thrive at it are the ones who do more than just this, who go out and about to other practices, to ringing events and socialise together. In my time as a ringer I have enjoyed ten-pin bowling and cricket matches through ringing socialising as well numerous meals, BBQ's and other get-togethers, as well as enjoying huge numbers of friendships I would never have had if it wasn't for ringing and more importantly if wasn't for getting out and about in ringing, taking advantage of all it offers. On the end of a rope there is much variety to be had. Ringing on a lumpy five is very different to ringing on an easy going twelve and what you do on the bells can vary too, from striking competitions to quarters, training days to ringing outings. And tower outings can be as extreme as a week's ringing trip on a canal boat on the other side of the UK to a couple of towers on a Thursday evening up the road as the St Mary-le-Tower band and their friends did this evening as we popped over to Bardwell and Hopton for a mini-outing.

With all due respect, I can't think of any other reason why I would've gone to these places if it wasn't for the hobby that has taken me to all sorts of locations off the beaten track and yet these are delightful corners of a beautiful county that ringing has allowed me to discover. They are also evidence that ringing is far from a stale, mothballed tradition which is dying out. Where there are now two lovely eights, just three years ago there were two sixes, the former a unique but shabby old six out of condition and the ropes falling in a strange order in what could only be described as a rope spiral rather than circle.

Market Weston.This evening we were able to ring three leads of Bristol Major at SS Peter & Paul in the presence of Louis Suggett who is back revising away from the bright lights of Birmingham and 8-Spliced Surprise Major at All Saints on a lovely evening of variety and socialising preceded for Ruthie and me with a trip to get a birthday present from Toys R Us for my fiancée's cousin Lucy and topped off by a pint and some free grub (for those of us that hadn't been to Burger King earlier!) in The Mill Inn at Market Weston.

Many thanks to George Pipe for arranging yet another opportunity to enjoy what ringing offers and to those who joined Ruthie and me in taking advantage of it! I hope other bands will do the same.


Wednesday 16th May 2012

On top of the PRO job and being a part of the committee to discuss deanery and district boundaries/roles you may be aware that I am now a cheerleader for the Parish Affiliation Scheme though the admin side is still being run by Sal Burrows. Shortly I hope to seriously get into contacting towers that aren't currently members of the scheme but if your tower isn't then I would implore you to consider it. We usually only suggest a donation the equivalent of the 65-74 years old rate which is currently ten pounds a year and therefore not that much at all and whilst we'd love towers to give more than that if they can, I'd rather have all towers giving a tenor (Would a tenor be �10,000? Ed.) than a handful giving a sizeable chunk. Not only would this give the Bell Restoration Fund a much needed boost as it looks to help bell projects across the county - it could be yours that needs it one day - but it would be nice to have a more inclusive feel about this extremely worthwhile scheme. Do get in touch.

There was no contacting towers this evening though as Ruthie and I had a more urgent task. There are some benefits to renting rather than owning your property but being inspected periodically isn't one of them. To be fair there is nothing wrong with our place at the moment as we approach the six-month anniversary of moving in, other than a bit of general untidiness but with our first inspection coming up first thing tomorrow we felt we ought to put in a big effort to make the place look not just respectable but shiny and spotless, so most of our evening was dedicated to cleaning and tidying.

Blythburgh.We did take a break by popping out to Pettistree practice where we welcomed Nancy from Wickham Market who had attended a wedding at SS Peter and Paul on Saturday and having seen the bells in action fancied having a go and so came along tonight. It was good to see as was the friendly predictions as to who might win Saturday's Guild Striking Competitions. In regards the six-bell the usual suspects of St Mary-le-Tower come up, but it is the most open looking competition for a while with The Norman Tower likely to challenge, following the closeness of the North-East District Competition showing that Sweffling and Halesworth could be strong contenders and of course Pettistree themselves in with a shout. But the beauty of a competition is that any band which puts everything together has a good chance of winning. One of the call-change teams at Chediston at the weekend suffered a bad two-thirds in their test piece which was unfortunate as their final third was quite possibly the best ringing of the day in our opinion. If they or any similar team taking part at Blythburgh in three days time pulls off ringing like that all the way through then they will most likely win. So even if you're not ringing, it may well be worth attending on Saturday and seeing what happens!

For now though, my fiancée and I had a quick lemonade - yes, an actual lemonade after a very boozy night yesterday - in The Greyhound as we grabbed a quick word with Kate about all things wedding before returning home to finish off the house. Another job done. Now onto public relations, boundaries and parish affiliation!


Tuesday 15th May 2012

Continuing a theme of keeping ringers interested and enjoying themselves, there is an event marked on Campanophile that is aimed at the toughest group to keep enthralled in our art - youngsters. The event is called Kids in Competition and is being held at Kineton in Warwickshire so it's a fair distance from here. However, I know from being a ringing youngster myself (way back when we rang in black and white) that nothing encourages young ringers more than ringing with other young ringers and even more so competing with other young ringers! So the various challenges that go together to create the day out on Saturday 7th July would certainly be worth it for many of the keen youngsters from our part of the world.

Ruthie and I are sadly far above the sixteen-year-old age limit on that particular day out, but we are still able to enjoy ourselves both in and out of ringing and this evening it was the latter as we joined our neighbours Toby and Amy in heading up to the wilds of Wickham Market and in particular Nick and Kala's pad for our latest Come Dine With Me experience. And what an experience it was! With work commitments and the like, it isn't always easy to get all six of us together so it was nice that we could tonight as we enjoyed a three course meal topped by Ruthie's superb Eton Mess and of course washed down with much drink. Well, we can't let the kids have ALL the fun!


Monday 14th May 2012

There is still time to get entries in for this Saturday's Guild Striking Competitions at Blythburgh and Leiston. This is one of those occasions I mentioned yesterday that provide the interest and enjoyment that help improve ringers. Ultimately it really doesn't matter who wins, but it is fun trying to see how far up you can finish and with the Call-Change Competition there is no excuse for thinking silverware is unattainable if that's what you desperately want!

At St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening there were final touches being made to our arrangements for Saturday but it is done in the knowledge that there is stiff competition. The Norman Tower are showing willing and when they do enter are normally right up there. Pettistree won it just a few years ago for the first time but as usual are likely to put up a good showing as are Halesworth amongst many other contenders. Indeed, judging from the ringing that Ruthie and I listened to at Chediston on Saturday it will be an interesting day before we even get to the Rose Trophy which looks like being the best attended eight-bell in Suffolk for years. Anyone could have one of those days when everything falls into place and if that happens then that team stands as good a chance as anyone - it could be you!

The main reason I look forward to this event though is that there are normally such a wide range of members present and often many that you don't get at other ringing events. After all, each team needs six ringers for the afternoon and eight for the evening and with a healthy turnout of teams and real emphasis on avoiding ringers ringing for more than one team where it can be helped in recent years, it has meant there has been a huge number of ringers of all abilities attending.

What I'd love the occasion to be based on a bit more is the National Twelve-Bell Competition. Not in it's intensity, that would be a bit much for a simple Guild Striking Competition but in the way it brings ringers together from around the country (or the county in our case) to listen to good ringing however they like, whether it is in the churchyard, a teashop or in the pub. In fact, last year's competition at Nayland is the kind of thing I'm talking about, a real sense of occasion about it and everyone seeming to enjoy it. Let's make this year's just as successful.

Whether we'd win any striking competitions at SMLT on the basis of this evening's ringing I'm not sure but it was still a useful night from Sonya's handling practice to Sean ringing the treble to Little Bob Maximus for the first time (well done Sean!) to Mandy keeping her head whilst others lost theirs in a half-course of Cambridge Royal. And it was a very enjoyable social occasion which of course continued on into The Cricketers before Ruthie and I returned to Woodbridge and popped round to Toby and Amy's next door as we prepare for another fun social occasion tomorrow night!


Sunday 13th May 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.As I sat at the top of the stairs to the ringing chamber of St Mary-le-Tower this morning, I looked out of the tiny window alongside me over the sunlit rooftops of Ipswich as some decent Royal boomed out across the otherwise quiet town and considered what a privilege it is to be able to ring church bells. It is a privilege that some wish we didn't have but many more besides enjoy listening to, but either way it is vital that we don't abuse this privilege or take it for granted and that we do all that we can to ensure we carry it out as well as we possibly can. It is why I push people to attend ringing events, whether they be practices, meeting days, outings and striking competitions, all of which not only offer opportunities to improve one's own ringing or that of others with your guidance and presence, but helps provide a platform for ringers to gain the interest and enjoyment of this fine art they need if that improvement is going to happen. No one will progress in anything meaningfully if they aren't interested in what they're doing and aren't enjoying it and in ringing those most likely to be doing that are those taking part in as much of what ringing offers as they can.

One example close to home for me is Sean Antonioli who has been learning at SMLT over the last couple of years and progressed significantly. He has benefited greatly from partaking in striking competitions (even winning one!) outings and other events and this morning was doing well on the tricky and flighty second at the heaviest twelve in Suffolk as we rang rounds on all twelve, though this was all I got to ring as I got there late from dropping Mason off for a party this morning.

Grundisburgh.Without the li'l chap I went on to Grundisburgh where the setting was different but the principals I alluded to above were the same, as they are everywhere bells are ringing. As we rang out over the picturesque village green inhabited by people dressed as crocodiles for some reason, we were grateful for the presence of Ann from Wadhurst in East Sussex who was visiting the area and enabled us to ring Bob Major and Stedman Triples.

From there the tower captain, Stephen Pettman, continued on to make the most of the privileges that ringing offers us by calling Ruth Suggett's first peal of Bristol in the success at Bardwell. Well done Ruth!

Aldeburgh.Meanwhile, I'm hoping prospective buyers of the house next door to SS Peter & Paul in Aldeburgh were being shown round as the peal of Tutbury Surprise Major was being rung so they knew what they were letting themselves in for whilst it was also good to see the Spiller's trying to further the art of handbell ringing at Bacton with the Guild Chairman and North-East District Ringing Master.

For Ruthie and me though, our day was a lot quieter bar the excitement of watching the very end of the Premier League season (now THAT is why I love football so!) as we popped round Edwin Avenue briefly to pick up some bits and pieces and make the workers some coffee before finishing the lawn back at ours. Can't say it was a huge privilege, but it needed to be done!


Saturday 12th May 2012

Ruthie.Judging striking competitions is difficult enough at the best of times. For all that they are fun social occasions and the competition element is not hugely serious, you are aware that tower captains have spent weeks and sometimes even months putting a band together, teams have practiced, words of advice have been imparted and some will have worried themselves silly over it all.

Sweffling Band.Rendham Band.However, when there is barely anything between the top two teams then the job becomes immensely harder. In fact such was the closeness between the teams who rang best in this evening's North-East District Striking Competition at Chediston that Ruthie and I were judging that we disagreed on which one edged it. In the end I went along with Ruthie which meant that Sweffling pipped Halesworth to the Pat Bailey Shield but the winners of the Harry Archer Trophy can feel very satisfied with their efforts, as can Rendham for winning the Call-Change Trophy. Indeed, all the teams can feel confident enough to go onto the Guild Striking Competitions in this district a week today as I hope they all will. It was particularly nice for John Massey to be involved with a winning entry at his last NE District Striking Competition before he leaves the country to work in Panama. Well done John!

My fiancée, son and I enjoyed ourselves in this part of the world as the sun came out again, enjoying a fine tea beforehand and a pint in The Plough in neighbouring Wissett afterwards without getting smoked out this time!

And it all came at the end of a useful and enjoyable day that saw us meet Chris and Becky as they travelled to Woodbridge on the North-West District Ringing Outing, a good opportunity for my best man to get measured up at Alexanders for his suit for 11th August.

Whilst they then went on to The Turk's Head for lunch, Mason, Ruthie and I went to The Mariners for food before we prepared ourselves for the difficult job ahead of us.


Friday 11th May 2012

It's been a strange two or three months weather-wise. Having enjoyed a March where we had temperatures we'd have been happy with in July and August, we've endured an April - and all of May so far - of conditions we wouldn't tolerate in November.

So it felt wonderful to walk to work this morning, jacket off, the sound of lawnmowers whirring into action across the estate, residents basking in the warm sunshine on their balcony out the front of the old Melton Grange and the bright green treetops looking startlingly sharp set against the clear blue sky.

Rendham.And there were bright spots in Suffolk ringing as well today with particular congratulations to Mike Whitby who rang his 1500th quarter in the 1280 of Yorkshire Major at Rendham this evening, a deserving landmark for someone whose extensive quarter-peal ringing has benefited so many ringers so often.


Thursday 10th May 2012

Ufford.Key incidents are usually caused by Ruthie and me - well mainly me actually - but today one was sorted out by us. At last night's practice at Pettistree, Mike Whitby asked my fiancée and me about keys for the Surprise Major practice at Ufford this evening, aware that Kate was on holiday and not returning until late tonight. It's not something we'd thought about, but assuming they'd been left for us to take for the occasion, Miss Eagle texted Mrs Eagle to find out where they had been put. Except in a rare oversight by her mother, the keys had been left in her car - which was parked at Stansted Airport!

So today we were charged with phoning round various contacts at the church to find some keys and whilst Michael Hatchett the incumbent was happy to come out and open up, step forward churchwarden David Gedge who very kindly came up to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on another damp evening to let a smaller than usual band of ringers in. Thank you to both Michael and David for their help.

Despite the lower than normal attendance - due to people being on holiday, illness and it would appear forgetfulness - we still had enough for a very useful evening, especially for Micky, Jane and Pippa as Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire were rung. Thanks again Mike for another worthwhile session.

There was still opportunity to pop in to see the returning traveller as we picked up some stuff from Edwin Avenue as she regaled us of stories about kilts, cacti, sunshine and camels and we in turn told her of tales of dresses, flowers, rain and dogs.

Meanwhile, the reins to the Guild facebook page have been handed over to me so I'd be delighted to get a bit more happening on there and to have a few more than the thirty-one currently who are members. This should be a very useful medium in which to communicate with members as the NDA seem to do quite well with theirs, but we need more linked up to us. Any ideas on what should be included on there would also be very useful - maybe links to key holders when the main one goes on holiday and leaves the keys in their car at the airport?


Wednesday 9th May 2012

With just three months until the big day, it is perhaps unsurprising that it seems every day has involved something to do with the wedding and today was no exception as we had our second meeting with Debs who is doing our flowers and having told us what she can do with our choice of table decorations we immediately headed into Ipswich and The Range to purchase six teapots.

Pettistree.Blythburgh.Once that was done and a bite to eat grabbed from McDonalds we made our way to Pettistree for a practice that included what Mike terms as 'messing about' but is actually useful practice at honing reflex ringing as well as being immense fun, involving splicing Doubles and Minor and then throwing variable treble into the mix. However, by its nature it can often be difficult to get right. This evening though, I feel we rang it the best I can ever remember, so well worth all the practicing. Maybe something to try in the forthcoming Mitson Shield at Blythburgh.

Woodbridge.At the practice, Ruthie and I caught our first glance of an article about the return to ringing at Woodbridge which appears on page seventeen of yesterday's East Anglian Daily Times as well as on the website and features pictures taken at last week's first practice back. Sadly one of the pictures shows us ringing up rather than ringing full-circle but the main thing I guess is that the message is clear - the bells of St Mary the Virgin are back!

And we were back in The Greyhound after a couple of week's absence on another wet, chilly and windy evening. Hopefully it's getting it all out its system for 11th August.


Tuesday 8th May 2012

Ashbocking.Twenty years ago today I was a bundle of nerves as Ralph Earey drove me across the countryside immediately north of Ipswich to Ashbocking. For once it wasn't because of Ralphy's driving (though I'm one to talk!) but rather because I was about to attempt my first ever peal. It was only the treble to some Minor but the amount of time it would take was daunting. Would I be able to concentrate that long? Would my legs give way? What if I made a complete hash of it?

As it happened I was fine, though with no clock in the ground-floor belfry of All Saints and as a young learner with no real understanding then of extents I had no idea how far in we were at any given time. I began thinking I'd been standing there a long time and we must be nearly finished only for Simon Rudd the conductor to say �well done Richard, we're half-way now!�

That incident was a bit of a running joke during this evening's repeat performance to mark the anniversary of the above 5040 at the same tower, with the same methods in the same order and I'm glad to say four of the original band including myself and I was grateful to Ralphy and Amanda for agreeing to come along, Simon for calling it again and to Mary and Ruthie for replacing the remainder of the original band, Louise Whitehead who I sadly couldn't get hold off and Steven Edson who I'm not aware rings at all now.

Much has changed in those twenty years. Back on the 8th May 1992, I was only in my second year at Thurleston High School, Amanda was Guild Ringing Master, K.W.S. (who? Exactly) were number one in the hit parade with 'Please Don't Go', Ipswich Town had just a few weeks earlier been promoted to the new Premier League (when football began according to Sky) and John Major was Prime Minister at a time when David Cameron was probably his tea boy or similar. Yet the years rolled back and I found myself feeling quite nostalgic, helped by the fact that much in Ashbocking has remained exactly the same, at least round the church which sits some way out of the village, in glorious isolation and for once after weeks of truly miserable weather in wonderful evening sunshine.

Once we'd moved the Christmas decorations and other bits and pieces we set off on 2hrs38mins of really nice ringing as a band capable of ringing much more rang some simple stuff very well. It was nice of everyone to take time out of their busy schedules, especially Simon who seems to have done a fair bit of dashing about, most notably in ringing in a peal on Saturday at Edinburgh Cathedral which saw son of Suffolk John Loveless complete the incredible feat of ringing peals on all bells over 40cwt. Well done Jake from us here in Suffolk!

Offton.And well done too to Nathan Colman who rang his first touch of Superlative Major in the pre-practice quarter at Offton. No doubt it was an evening that ended at The Limeburners, but ours ended at The Cross Keys in Henley just a couple of miles from our exertions at Ashbocking. The nerves have just about settled now.


Monday 7th May 2012

Following two hectic days of socializing, work, striking competitions and suit-measuring, today's very welcome Bank Holiday Monday was an altogether quieter affair. It was lovely actually to sit back and just enjoy some time with my two favourite people Ruthie and Mason, though on a subdued day mentally and weather-wise we didn't do an awful lot. That said, a bright light from the sky I recall from a previous life appeared long enough for me to mow the lawn or at least as far as I could stretch the mower!

Blythburgh.Things will get busy again come the next two weekends though as first the North-West District Outing comes to our area - I'm sure Abby would be delighted if people could come along to help but please let her know. As that tails off, up the road (admittedly a fair way up the road) at Chediston, the North-East District Striking Competition (being judged by Ruthie and me so you know where to send your bribes) continues striking competition season before the big ones as the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy roll into picturesque Blythburgh and the Rose Trophy pitches up at Leiston, both 19th May. Please do consider entering a team, especially if you don't normally. It gives fantastic experience to learners - for example, Sean Antonioli and Bill Lloyd who only started learning in the last two or three years participated at Pettistree on Saturday and apparently benefited greatly from it. And it gives ringers an opportunity to make new friends, catch-up with familiar faces and to get striking tips that you might not have considered but will help make ringing all the more enjoyable for you.

A look at the pictures from last year's successful and enjoyable Guild Competitions also puts to bed the perception that the teams are just made up of the same handful of people ringing for several teams. Even if that were ever the case in the past, it certainly isn't now so don't let that be an excuse!

And I know that there won't be any scathing remarks or sarcastic put-downs from any of the judges - generally frowned upon greatly in ringing so rarely happens - over the next couple of Saturdays, but rather helpful insights into the ringing that we have heard. We don't know who is ringing so we will have no preconceptions or grudges and will be fair to all. Like everyone else we just want people to enjoy themselves. It doesn't necessarily need to be to the extent that we have this weekend!

Go on, give it a go!


Sunday 6th May 2012

I awoke to a sore head and the sound of Aldeburgh bells this morning after a very late night for me and my fellow drinkers. They seemed to be producing some decent ringing (the local ringers, not my fellow drinkers), certainly better than if I had gate crashed their Sunday best with my woolly head and aching limbs so I stayed put in bed for a while. Even in my delicate state there was no question of complaining about the bells as others have famously done so in the past here, but it is interesting to note a house directly next door to SS Peter & Paul appears to be up for sale. Hopefully the estate agents and any potential buyers will have done their homework (if they had missed all the hoo-ha of nearly four years ago that is) and will be fully aware that on every second Sunday afternoon of every month bar some of the summer months, three hours worth of bellringing is attempted at the large church-shaped building opposite. Maybe viewings should be arranged for next Sunday afternoon?

More immediately for those of us who had stayed - Dav, Wellz, Pete, Chris and myself - we eventually found some breakfast and sobered up enough to leave in a car as I returned to Woodbridge to reacquaint myself with champion bellringer Ruthie. As much as I had enjoyed myself on the coast, I was delighted to see her and also then to meet up with Mason again as I picked him up from his grandparents.

Grundisburgh.Unbelievably perhaps, my weekend's drinking hadn't finished as I joined my son and fiancée in heading up to Philip and Maggie's in Halesworth to catch up on the aftermath of Maggie's 2012 treasure hunt which this afternoon had taken place in Westleton. It was of course a much more restrained evening's drinking for me, but still a very enjoyable occasion as we caught up with those we hadn't seen since last year's event with another fine spread a highlight of a night topped off by a memorable game that involved pulling names out of hats and then giving clues to their identity to your team-mates before then doing it all again with just one-word clues and then finally again with acting out clues. Quite how Tom Britten got Henry VIII from my Harry Potter miming I'm not entirely sure, but it was immense fun. Congratulations to the winners (the only clue from me you'll get to their identity is that it wasn't my team!) and congratulations indeed to Molly Waterson who in the week I hope to mark the twentieth anniversary of my first peal with a celebratory peal, did exactly that for the twenty-fifth anniversary of her first peal in the 5041 of Yorkshire Max at Grundisburgh today.

We meanwhile retired with much gratitude to Mr and Mrs Busby who again put the three of us up for the night once I'd had what was definitely my last drink of the weekend. Let the detox begin.


Saturday 5th May 2012

Following our reassuring but serious appointment last night, today saw the other extreme of the whole wedding experience and the first actual participation of the occasion - my stag do in Aldeburgh.

Two thoughts have probably popped into your head if reactions so far have been anything to go by. One is that three months before the wedding is a relatively early point to have such an event. This was mainly because my brother and best man Chris will be in Las Vegas for a sizeable chunk of next month for his mate's wedding and obviously I wanted him to come along. But with people travelling from distance to this and the wedding I didn't want the two events falling too closely together - the East coast of Suffolk is a long trip to make from Birmingham at the best of times, let alone twice in a very short period of time. Also, it was FA Cup Final day today and it seemed like a fine idea to build the trip around it.

You may also think that genteel Aldeburgh is an odd place to have what is traditionally a very raucous affair. But I love the part of the coast up round by here and Southwold and it is also home to Grandpa's house from Grandpa in My Pocket on CBeeBies, something that father of two young children Dav was keen to see. Mainly though, I had hoped that we might have reached some semblance of summer or even spring by now and fish 'n' chips on the beach in glorious sunshine was too tempting.

The weather wasn't the only thing that hadn't materialized from the original plans. We had intended to be go-karting in the morning, strangely enough at Anglia Karting in one of those little coincidences that life throws up every now and again. Sadly however, a combination of finances, work and leaky roofs meant numbers dropped to such a level that this idea was scuppered so rather than using yesterday's trip as preparation for more racing today it represented an opportunity to cancel the trip in person.

Then the FA decided to move the football at Wembley from its traditional 3pm slot to the bizarre time of 5.15pm, a decision no doubt motivated by TV schedules and money - as is nearly always the motivation behind any decision by footballing authorities these days - rather than with any thought for the average fan who were once the whole point of this game. It meant a change to our original arrangements and along with everything else led to me feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation as Pete Faircloth took my brother and me to the coast via Toby's and then Nick's to collect them.

I needn't of worried as even the free morning had given me time to drop Mason off at Mum and Dad's who were kindly looking after the li'l chap and Toby and me the chance to get measured up for suits at Alexander's in anticipation of our roles as groom and usher respectively on 11th August. And the afternoon and evening were fantastic. Our stuff dropped off at Susanne's parent's second home - many thanks to Mr and Mrs Eddis for use of the house for the weekend - and Dav and Wellz from the West Midlands greeted and introduced we headed off, first in anticipation of those fish 'n' chips. It wasn't quite the meal on the beach in roasting sunlight, but it was much needed in anticipation of what lay ahead.

That started at the White Hart and took us around the town via DP's - where Pete from work joined us for a couple of bars and drinks - the obligatory trip to my favourite pub in the county, The Cross Keys and then up to The Railway in a very roundabout way - Mr Faircloth seemed to want to take us via Thorpeness - for the big match which Chelsea won 2-1 and for once lived up to the anticipation of an occasion that in recent years has been a very damp squib. How ironic that today's was a bit of a sizzler.

From here it was back down to the seafront and to The Mill Inn and then a place called Red Ziggy's for more much needed food before returning to DP's and then finding ourselves at a private drum 'n' bass party that delighted DnB DJ Wellz. We'll feel it in the morning I'm sure, but it was a great occasion as I hope it was at Pettistree this afternoon where I was given updates by Ruthie where the South-East District Striking Competition was being held as competition season got underway. Well done to all concerned but especially St Mary-le-Tower 'A' who came in first, delighting Ruthie who was ringing for them.

Preston St Mary.And well done too to Mary Allum and Alison Evans on ringing their first quarter of Single Canterbury Pleasure Bob Minor in the success at Preston St Mary and Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of Plain Bob Triples in the 1260 at Kersey. Congratulations to you all, especially if your celebrations were as prolonged as ours in Aldeburgh�


Friday 4th May 2012

Buxhall.Some things bring out the competitive streaks in the most unexpected of people. Ringers sometimes compete with each other in reaching landmarks and if Richard Brewster and David Howe are competing then they are neck and neck in the race to ring the most of Bourne Surprise Minor following today's 1320 at Buxhall as they both rung their first in the method. Well done guys. However, it's striking competitions that often create this phenomenon in ringing most of all, turning normally mild-mannered people into focused ringers with the will of a professional athlete before returning to normal and having a jolly good laugh about it all, recognizing it's all just a bit of fun. Most of the time.

Other things can have the same effect as I saw first hand and indeed experienced within myself as I found myself at Anglia Karting near Sproughton with my work colleagues for the latest day out generously provided to us by John Catt Educational. Suddenly those who sit in the office quietly every day, conscientiously working away appeared possessed by the spirit of Michael Schumacher, Roy Keane and the Williams' sisters all rolled into one as they raced around the compact track at this indoor racing venue.

It is easy to see why too as the adrenalin takes over, but still we all enjoyed it. With thirteen of us present, there were thirteen heats of four racers in each, allowing everyone a go in each grid position. The higher you came, the more points you got and the eight who accumulated the most points over their four races went through to the grand final. I was delighted to make it to the final. Not because of any expectation of winning as I found myself at the back in seventh on the grid, but because it meant I got a few more minutes of this exhilarating fun. It was lucky I wasn't holding out for a win as the boss took me out on the first lap and by the time the marshals rescued us we'd been lapped a couple of times.

These sorts of jollies are sometimes looked down on, often associated with such cringe-worthy modern-day terms as 'team-bonding' when people should be working. But actually, these occasional trips out work perfectly for this little company where everyone knows everyone well. And whilst I've never given anything less than 100% in my working life, it is certainly easier and quicker to motivate one's self for employers that so obviously value us and it means that the company ultimately does very well out of us too.

As with pretty much every JC trip out, it was topped off by a meal in a pub, this time the carvery at The Cock in Bramford, where we sat in the same conservatory that hosted Uncle Eric and Aunty Marion's ruby wedding party a few years back bringing back happy memories. It is a nice place and one that seems the centre of the community if all the huge number of events lined up over the summer is anything to go by, even by this busy year's standards.

Tempting as it always is to take up the company's kind offer of free drink, I stuck to a pint of Gunhill, mainly because I was picking Mason up but also because we had a vital appointment this evening at the vicarage with Kev the Rev, the vicar at St Mary-the-Virgin, Woodbridge where we will be getting married in ninety-nine days. Don't worry, I shan't keep that up everyday until 11th August.

This was perhaps the most daunting meeting for our big day so far as we got down to the nitty-gritty of the ceremony itself, of course the most important part of the day. However, we know Kev well, especially Ruthie and so it took on more of a social element which put us at ease and much was sorted before we returned home where Nick and Kala were very kindly looking after her Godson. It would've been rude not to share some of the drinks filling our fridge and so we wiled away the rest of the evening chatting and drinking and having a good laugh, this time without the competitiveness!


Thursday 3rd May 2012

It is exactly one hundred days until our wedding and whilst there were no big clocks to mark this occasion, it was to have been marked with a visit from Debs our flower lady. Sadly circumstances conspired to prevent her arrival so with her visit rearranged for next week we enjoyed a night in ahead of a busy weekend of socializing.


Wednesday 2nd May 2012

Wickham Market.It was nice to see quarters rung for Phil Willis' funeral yesterday at towers close to his heart and who held him close to theirs as a 1260 of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles was rung at his home tower Wickham Market and the same length of Grandsire was rung at nearby Pettistree. Rest in Peace Phil.

Sadly I couldn't make it due to work but apart from his almost constantly cheery persona, when I think of Phil I remember the time he asked some of us over to All Saints to help surprise tower captain Ray Lewis by getting them up to speed on Bob Doubles whilst Ray was away on holiday. By coincidence it coincided with the wedding of our friends Rusty and Jack at the same church and it became apparent that due to a breakdown in communication somewhere, bells had been asked for but no mention had been made to the ringers. In the days leading up to the wedding, Phil went out of his way to find ringers for the big day and they had bells as they had wished for. It was a happy ending that endeared us to the new Mr and Mrs Rusling and bellringing got a big tick from the day.

Therefore I was saddened to hear from some other non-ringing friends recently of a wedding they went to at a Suffolk church in the last few weeks. One of them told me that the bride was made to wait outside whilst the money for the ringers was scraped together as the ringers apparently refused to ring her in as they hadn't been paid. Now, it's important to note that I'm not sure just how accurate this report is as the other friend who had attended said it didn't happen like that, but it is a timely reminder that we need to be careful of how we act when we are representing ringing. This especially goes for weddings. Yes it is a pain when brides turn up late and particularly when they're very late and you have somewhere else to get to afterwards. And I've rung for a number of weddings where the whereabouts of the money for the bells has had to be thoroughly investigated and it can be irritating. But this is a special day for the bride and groom, hopefully a one-off and they quite rightly want to enjoy it and deserve to. As Ruthie and I know - and I'm sure a good number of you too - there is so much to be organized and arranged and it can be quite stressful. The last thing they and us as ringers want to be remembered from their big occasion is that the bellringers were unhelpful and demanding as is the impression that has been created here. What is particularly unfortunate on this occasion is that it wasn't even the happy couple's fault - the vicar had failed to mention to them that they would need to give the ringers their cash on the day and so they hadn't got it. But whilst I think this may just have been a story that has been exaggerated a bit, please be wary of ringing's reputation - such events are everyday PR that ALL of us are a part of.

Thankfully there was no danger of us damaging ringing's reputation amongst the non-ringing public this evening as Ruthie and I took part in a peal of Oxenwood Surprise Major in the relative isolation of The Wolery. It was a notable peal for George Thoday who rang his 100th peal on the bells - the first time he's reached that landmark anywhere - and his 900th of Major but it was also a useful 5184 for me as it edges me closer to the five hundred mark - 'just' twenty-six to go - and gave me an 'O' as I close in on the Surprise Major alphabet.

Tea, cake and biscuits followed as usual and whilst we hadn't done anything to enhance the Guild's reputation in the public eyes, I'm glad to say we haven't done anything to harm the image people have of the hobby Phil enjoyed so much.


Tuesday 1st May 2012

Woodbridge.It is just 102 days until 11th August when we will be getting married at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, so Ruthie and I were delighted to attend the first ringing on the bells that will provide the soundtrack to our afternoon since work was finished on the tower. In fact it was the first time since the beginning of July last year that this fine eight had been rung and so it was wonderful to hear them ringing out on practice night tonight, an occasion marked by the visit of a photographer from the East Anglian Daily Times, so look out for that!

They will need help though. If it wasn't for the presence of us two, Susanne, Pete and his father Maurice, they would've had just five so do pop along if you get the opportunity.

The latter two aforementioned ringers joined us and Toby and Amy in the Red Lion and then The Mariners before my fiancée and I retired for a nightcap at our neighbours, all within sight - just - of the now ringable eight down the hill. An enjoyable evening indeed.


Monday 30th April 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.It was over four years ago that Owen and I headed over to Bacton to the most well known handbell location in Suffolk where a small number of St Mary-le-Tower ringers pushed for the tower to have an AGM, citing a lack of discussion and communication as being a unsavoury trait of ringing at the county's biggest twelve. We weren't reluctant to have an AGM, we just hadn't really thought it necessary up to that point and were perhaps we were a little oblivious to the feelings and views of all our ringers, though never intentionally to my mind. So we keenly set about our task and even began planning a constitution to ensure that we could have a framework to welcome and encourage ringers and ensure those travelling long distances had worthwhile journeys. The result has been that every year since, we have held an AGM and enjoyed the kind of frank and open communication that I hope that original group envisaged, even holding an Extraordinary General Meeting towards the end of 2011 to try and bash out the finer details of the new constitution.

So it was noticeable to me at least that none of those original three who had pushed so understandably and forcefully for all of this were actually present at the fifth SMLT AGM since that January evening at the Spillers. Or indeed at the fourth AGM last year. What they missed was the new St Mary-le-Tower Society Constitution being approved after years of hard-work by Owen and David for whom our gratitude is immense. Good things come to those who wait!

And this evening's meeting also served its purpose by allowing Mr Claxton to announce his intent to step down as tower captain at the end of 2012, though he will be continuing as steeple-keeper. He wouldn't have minded stepping down tonight but a bit more thought needs giving to who his successor is in this important role.

But despite much amusement that the Ringing Master's positive report actually appeared to be Sean's school report, not everything went to plan. For a start, Charles Jenkin the vicar and chair for our meetings never showed, meaning we had to get on with things ourselves. And Ruthie and I had arranged to meet some friends back in Woodbridge later. Except the delay as we sat expecting Charles to appear flustered and apologetic meant a late start and with the meeting taking much longer than we anticipated it meant we were later leaving Ipswich than we had planned. Only to find out that due to various reasons including our friend's mother being burgled, this evening drinks were off so instead we sat and watched across Woodbridge, the Deben and Felixstowe Docks as a spectacular thunderstorm entertained us before letting highlights of the footballing equivalent do the same as the two Manchester clubs battled it out.

It all came at the end of an evening that started at The Range where a busy week of wedding-related activities began. On Thursday we shall be speaking with Debs about flowers and on Friday Kevan the rector at St Mary-the-Virgin about the service but this evening it was the purchase of a single purple teapot as we investigate table decorations before a trip to McDonalds and then the ringing practice before that vital AGM.


Sunday 29th April 2012

Yet another miserable, wet day was this time sandwiched by a trip to church at the soon to be ringable again Woodbridge and roast chicken at Kate's. We were treated to singing from the Ahrensburg Youth Choir from near Hamburg on an exchange with Woodbridge School Choir in the morning and many thanks to the mother-in-law for a yummy tea!

Stutton.Elsewhere it was good weather for peal-ringing and I'm glad to report members were taking advantage with Derek Rose ringing his first inside in the success at Hartest and Paul Bray rang his fiftieth for the Guild in the 5040 at Stutton as we close in on Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2012. Do help out where you can please.

For now, very well done to Derek and congratulations Paul, obviously both well favoured as come the evening, even the sun had come out!


Saturday 28th April 2012

The Blyth Valley Ringers and surrounding bands are something to draw inspiration from. Ringers work together to train ringers and ring for services and events, with regular tales of new recruits, many of them young, all helped by nice, easy going rings that no doubt help them.

It was some of those towers that we experienced as I joined the mini-outing of another tower which should offer clues to those looking to improve their recruitment, retention and enjoyment of ringers and ringing, Pettistree.

Rumburgh.Chediston ringing.Ruthie, Mason and I just about made it to the lovely little six in the corner of the quaint tower of Rumburgh after an early morning call to see my fiancée's nan and wave Clare and Kev off back to Scotland, but we had the full benefit of the fantastic 11cwt ring at Chediston, the first time I have been to this childhood home of the great Harold Rogers since his passing. A picture of him clutching a pair of handbells with a beaming smile adorns the wall just below the pealboard that marks the first peal on the rehung bells, which also has his name on. There's no forgetting him here and quite rightly so.

Ruthie in The Wissett Plough.The usual format for the Pettistree mini-outing is a couple of towers in the morning, a lengthy but reasonable walk to or from lunch in a pub and then a tower in the afternoon before people make their way back to their cars, either by walking back or grabbing a lift from those who passed up on a stroll. Last year around Stoke Ash and Thornham Magna and the year before between Fressingfield and Wingfield we were incredibly lucky with the weather, with roasting sunshine and the feeling that as we walked the fields and passed the streams of the Suffolk countryside that we were right at the heart of spring. As most of you will have noticed this year though, spring and summer have been and gone and we are currently living in the wettest drought I can ever recall. Whilst the near three weeks of solid chilly, wet weather has meant very few will have missed their hosepipes, it did make a walk from Chediston to Halesworth with a slightly off-colour five-year old (I shan't give you a running commentary on his current, ahem, condition) today quite unappealing so whilst many others struggled through the rain, puddles and substantial amounts of mud, we three wiled the time away at the marvellous The Wissett Plough where a warming fire took a little better than the landlord expected, smoking the bar out but providing much amusement for the li'l chap.

A little smoked we took the car onto The Angel in Halesworth to join the walkers and others for lunch before heading onto St Mary round the corner for a varied agenda from Call-Changes to Superlative Major prior to the wet and difficult journey home. Many thanks to Mike Whitby for all the arrangements for the type of thing that really ought to be on the calendar of every band of ringers, or at least similar. Whether it is an outing, social, ten-pin bowling or whatever, turning ringing into something other than the chore of practice night-Sunday morning that it seems to have become for too many of our membership is vital to helping Suffolk (indeed any) ringers progress.

And on that note it is good to see someone progressing in the county as Nathan Colman rang his first peal after considerable bad luck, including the clapper breaking on the seventh two courses from the end of a previous attempt at the location he was successful at today, Stowmarket. Well done Nathan!


Friday 27th April 2012

Our week of socialising continued this evening as having picked Mason up, we three went for dinner out at The Cherry Tree with Clare, Kev and Ruthie's best friend and other bridesmaid Fergie for what was a wonderful evening.


Thursday 26th April 2012

St Matthew's, Ipswich.Exactly ten months after many of us stepped out of our comfort zone and performed for the Ipswich Symphony of Bells, I finally received a copy of the DVD of it from Simon Desorgher in the post yesterday and today Ruthie and I had our first opportunity to watch it or at least the first twenty minutes or so. And it's quite good actually. In fact in my opinion it is spectacular when all the bells are going and it is interesting to see what was happening on the streets at the time with the school procession, which of course we missed up in the belfry, especially us lot stuck out at St Matthew's! I do have the desire to shoot some seagulls though�

I'm in the process of trying to get copies into the Guild Library with Abby and with Chris about maybe doing something on the website, but you can see edited highlightshere in the meantime:

We didn't have time to view it all as we were off out again in a busy week. This time it was for a trip out to sample the superb food at The Greyhound in Pettistree with Kate, Ron and our two visitors from Scotland which was very enjoyable, thank you Kate!

Meanwhile, John Catt Educational are taking us staff out somewhere next week which has a height restriction and is about forty minutes west of Peasenhall but apparently not as far as Bury St Edmunds. As the day at work wound down the office was abuzz with theories of where we might be going from Go-Ape at Thetford to Go-Karting to spending the day in a car-park. Any ideas?

I'm pretty sure it'll see us stepping outside our comfort zone.


Wednesday 25th April 2012

Some of you will be aware that I'm not a big fan of ringing quarters after lost peal attempts. In fact I really don't like them, though some after our attempts of multi-Surprise Minor have been useful. But generally the band is psyched up for ringing a peal and often relaxes and starts thinking about the pub or going home when the peal is lost and usually the quarter that follows is quite rough as band members struggle to get back into the groove.

So I wasn't particularly overjoyed when after a lost peal attempt of Bristol Major at St Mary-le-Tower David Rothera was insistent that we tried for a quarter, especially as we'd been ringing for about an hour already. However, if there is a will I don't like to be a rebel and David had of course come a long way via public transport in appalling conditions so it was fair enough that he wanted something to show for it. The 1280 that followed did show signs of the condition mentioned above, though that could've been as much about the many trips and lapses of concentration that had been carried over from the peal attempt as it was people struggling to motivate themselves for more ringing after a long day at work - not that that'll be a problem soon for former Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Amanda who this week announced that she will be retiring at the end of this term!

It was a decent enough effort mind and we were in The Cricketers early enough to have a beer, grab some food and catch the start of the enthralling Real Madrid-Bayern Munich Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg (as much a mouthful as mine and Ruthie's chilli con carne!) that by the time my fiancée and I had got home had gone to the footballing equivalent of a quarter after a lost peal attempt as penalties put the Germans through to meet Chelsea in the final next month. And at least Bayern too had something to show for their long trip.


Tuesday 24th April 2012

We played host to Clare, Kev and their Staffies Sasha and Milo this evening before we popped down to The Red Lion to meet up with another Staffy, Busta, and his owner Sam who runs the pub - cue much hysteria amongst the three dogs.

Pettistree.A convivial evening was had by all as I'm sure there will be for the South-East Striking Competition at Pettistree a week on Saturday, so SE towers get your entries in to quickly, especially those who haven't before. I really think it benefits bands as it is more a glorified striking session where you can focus on this most important elements of ringing whilst picking up tips and hearing how others ring, all in an extremely social environment.


Monday 23rd April 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.It was nice of the Scots to come down and celebrate St George's Day with us as Clare (Ruthie's heavily pregnant sister) and her husband Kev came down from Perth, which meant lunch and takeaway pizza at Edwin Avenue today before my fiancée and I headed to St Mary-le-Tower in the rain which has become familiar over the last couple of weeks and is apparently the norm for the foreseeable future.

Not that it stopped a very decent practice with almost every piece extremely well-struck. Sadly, silly method mistakes and lack of concentration marred some very good ringing, with a bob course of Grandsire Cinques of all things (double dodge when a call is made, keep between your course bells apart from when the treble and hunt bell get in your way, what could be simpler?) being brought to a premature end after some nice ringing. At the other end of the spectrum though, the highlight was a wonderful half-course of Yorkshire Royal for Melvyn Potts where only a couple of mistakes (still a couple too many but it is a practice night!) meant the ringing flowed, the rhythm was uninterrupted and as a result the striking came a lot easier.

All very satisfactory as we set off for an evening in The Cricketers discussing weddings, call-centres and how to get Alex Tatlow home after he missed his train. I'm sure the spirit of St George got him home. Or at least the spirit of St George Pipe and a lift to Stowmarket from the Potts!


Sunday 22nd April 2012

Before I carry on I need to make a correction from my blog last week.

Mason at Grundisburgh Park.On the information I was given I was under the impression that ringing had started at Woodbridge again last Sunday, but apparently I had misunderstood and first ringing will in fact be at practice on Tuesday 1st May, something I discovered when I saw Bruce and Gill Wakefield at Grundisburgh this morning where we also had the pleasure of Tim Stanford's presence.

I was definitely right about the other place I mentioned five days ago though, The Norman Tower, and this afternoon history was made as the first quarter on what some are already dubbing the best twelve in Suffolk was rung and with it a number of achievements too as Alex Tatlow called his first on twelve and Richard Walters and Nathan Colman broke their duck on that number. Well done to them and indeed all involved in the project there as another landmark is reached.

However, it wasn't all that was achieved on the end of a rope in the county today and indeed Alex was at it again as he joined us at St Mary-le-Tower later on where ironically on the day the first quarter on the world's newest twelve was rung we rang a quarter on the back ten of the longest established twelve in these parts. Mr Tatlow did well ringing his first blows of Superlative Surprise Royal (No.2) as we rang a 1440 of it for evensong.

But even then there was much else achieved elsewhere as Michelle Williams and Big Philip Moyse rang their most methods and variations in the success at Reydon whilst Bold Philip Gorrod called his most methods and variations in the same quarter. Well done all three of you and well done on the other side of the Guild to Kevin Ward who rang his first of Major in the 1344 of Plain Bob at Kersey.

For Ruthie and me back in Ipswich it was straight back to Edwin Avenue after our quarter where Kate and Ron had very kindly been looking after Mason at the end of a day that had begun at SMLT and the end of a weekend that saw two of our rarest towers pealed as yesterday Kevin Price's annual peal-tour of the area took in the first peal at Copdock since 2001 and the first at Peasenhall since 1989. The former is particularly interesting as according to the website they are in such a bad condition that they are 'not to be rung'. Either they shouldn't have been rung - and I'm sure they wouldn't have been allowed access if they shouldn't have - or the upgrade in condition needs to be related to the Report Editor and Webmaster soon.

None of that was as interesting as seeing that Robert Beavis seems to have an elaborately named relative ringing peal's in Bristol. At least I hope that's the case and I'm not going to have to correct my blog again!


Saturday 21st April 2012

Just twenty-seven to go following the peal of Cambridge Maximus at St Mary-le-Tower this afternoon.

With Millwall and their fans in town for the final ITFC home game played as we rang, police advice had been to stay out of Ipswich but we braved it anyway, even if we were worried for a while that James Smith had perhaps come up on the MFC coaches and not been let off by the authorities! Gladly he did arrive for our first peal together since that historic 5096 at Winchester Cathedral nearly four years ago.

That said, I was slightly disappointed that the peal wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be with the fantastic band we had, even taking into account the differing geographical locations band members had been plucked from, with ringers from London, Essex, Norfolk, Staffordshire/Worcestershire and David Potts' native Bedfordshire.

Still, it got better, there was some very decent periods of ringing, it was nice to ring with some familiar but lesser seen faces and it was lovely to mark the fifteenth anniversary of David's election to the superior society.

And whilst it was a shame not to have the opportunity to go to the pub afterwards and catch up with some of them, it was with good reason as I returned to Edwin Avenue where Ruthie and Mason had spent the day - bar ringing for a wedding at Pettistree - for a roast dinner and crumble. Many thanks Kate and many thanks David for inviting me into an ultimately worthwhile peal.


Friday 20th April 2012

Many of you will be aware that a committee has been set up to look into the internal boundaries of the Guild, especially the deaneries and what purpose they serve or at least should serve. It all stemmed from a couple of years ago when the Hartismere Deanery was moved from the North-East to the North-West District when the ringers at towers such as Gislingham and Eye within that deanery intimated that they did most of their ringing with the NW and so perhaps ought to be included in that district rather than the NE where places like Southwold and Blaxhall felt an awfully long way away.

My initial reaction to this move and indeed the investigation into deanery boundaries was 'what is the point?' If ringers in the Hartismere Deanery did most of their ringing in the NW District then officially being in the NE District didn't stop them doing that, just as being a member of the South-East District doesn't stop me attending South-West events every month if I was able, being a member of the Suffolk Guild didn't stop me, Chris, Mum and Dad from attending Peterborough Diocesan Association events almost as regularly as SE District events when my grandparents were still alive or even being a member of the Cumberland Youths doesn't stop Ruthie from attending College Youths practices or me vice versa.

However, the more I've looked at it the more I could understand why people feel the need to be officially affiliated to the correct district, especially when it comes to voting rights at meetings, striking competitions and perhaps most importantly who to turn to when they need help, whether it's practical, financial or just in the form of advice. And this is where getting the district boundaries sorted out is so vital.

The Guild is a big place with nearly eight-hundred members before you even count those ringing in the county who aren't members and so a structure is needed where any individual or band has someone they can turn to about ringing issues who in turn can then take it further if needed. In many respects I see the deaneries a little like parliamentary constituencies and deanery reps as MP's, only honest and actually concerned with what their constituents want. For example, if a member of the Clare Deanery has a ringing issue they want discussed they can get in touch with Richard Knight who can take it to the GMC if he feels it is appropriate and in turn they can take it to the AGM. It is true democracy but we have to make sure the structure is right.

But also towers ought to be getting together to help each other with numbers, training and ideas - does the current set-up help that as much as it can?

Each district is represented on the committee with myself the point of reference for the SE District, Richard and Christine Knight for the SW, Richard Rapior for the NE and Gordon Slack the NW, the latter also convening the committee. Personally I'm still of the opinion we don't want to get tied up in knots with legislation and the like, but my views ultimately aren't the most important as indeed the views of the other representatives on the committee aren't. Rather we all want to hear from those we are representing - you!

To that end I have been delighted to hear from some SE members already, putting it all into an historical context and suggesting ideas about ways to take things forward. For example, some correspondence I received today pointed out that this could work perfectly in hand with the Guild rolling out the ITTS as a big part of that is groups of towers working together to train their ringers. So let's have more feedback please. This isn't something that is going to be rushed so there will be plenty of time to put your thoughts across.

For today though it was a typically quiet Friday night in, bar Mason excitedly showing off his new blue casts covered in pictures of helicopters and cars. I'm sure he'll be bringing it up with our deanery rep Kate!


Thursday 19th April 2012

If you can find a copy of yesterday's East Anglian Daily Times, take a look at the flashback picture which on this occasion features a picture taken of a band of female ringers in Grundisburgh belfry in 1971, when a band of ringers at Grundisburgh existed. I can recognise the features of the late, great Sylvia Pipe and those of Muriel Page who looks exactly the same now as she did forty years ago it seems. But apart from a couple of them who I think I know I'm not entirely sure about the others. Maybe you can enlighten me and the EADT!

Looking in the other direction to the future, we are of course only a matter of weeks away from the Guild Striking Competitions at beautiful Blythburgh and lovely Leiston and I hope that we will have a good turnout from all the districts. It often seems to be that when we hold a striking competition in the east of the county the west disappears so I hope there will be a good turnout from both the North-West and the South-West Districts on 19th May. I know it's a long way but so was Boxford and Edwardstone for many of those who came to the AGM on Saturday and it is entirely worth it in my opinion. Winning is nice of course but that isn't the primary focus at this level. Rather it is an opportunity to focus on striking, listen to others and pick up tips and - like the AGM day that so many missed out on - a superb social occasion. Last year was marvellous with Nayland taken over by ringers enjoying the hot sunny day and wonderful village, including many by the river at the pub, showing that this isn't a day taken too seriously! Anyway, with the Lester Brett Call-Change Competition there is a real chance for any team to compete for silverware so please get your entries in to Jed as soon as possible and make it worthwhile the judges - Andrew Higson and former Suffolk resident Iain 'Mitch' Mitchell - coming over from the deepest Midlands.

It will be a lively day, but for today it was a quiet one. Practice at Grundisburgh which was once so newsworthy was cancelled again, so it was a night in this evening as - for some reason - a couple of police helicopters hovered menacingly overhead. Perhaps they're onto me�


Wednesday 18th April 2012

Today Ruthie made cake and we played Jenga.

Well, we did a bit more than that obviously. For a start it's worth mentioning that my fiancée's cake is a banoffee fudge cake and is very tasty, but our late night game with Pete, Toby and Amy came via a busy evening at Pettistree where with a number away including Mike and Mary, I was responsible not only for running the ringing but organizing this week's pre-practice quarter.

Having only had my name and that of my better half for it as recently as Monday, I was delighted with the way the quarter of Cambridge Minor went (despite the first bob apparently being a bit too loud!) and especially as we were able to dedicate it to Phil and Pat. And the practice that followed went well too.

Running this practice can be a lot more daunting than running the ringing at St Mary-le-Tower as I used to. At the twelve I had an hour and a half to squeeze in longer touches and I generally knew what we would be ringing at the start of the evening as it was difficult to accommodate off-the-cuff requests when you need another nine to eleven ringers to be prepared for that too.

At SS Peter & Paul though, there are two hours to fill with much shorter pieces and if those attending don't have anything they particularly want to ring it can be difficult to do and the evening drags. Thankfully there was no such problem this evening and pretty much every touch was a request from Bob Doubles for Daphne, Bob Minor for Bill and Derek to Norwich for Hilary and Beverley for Jane.

We popped into The Greyhound afterwards of course before returning Pete and Susanne to Woodbridge once they'd finished having a meal there and whilst Miss Eddis returned home, Miss Eagle and Mr Faircloth started walking to The Cherrytree and I returned the car home, the plan being that I would walk down to meet up with them at the public house on Cumberland Street and they would have got the jugs of beer in that are such a draw.

Imagine their surprise then when I was already there having got home at the same time as our neighbours who were just about to get in touch with us to see if we fancied a drink. With Amy happy to drive us over we were there to meet Pete and Ruthie with a jug of beer ready for them to consume. With so many games dotted around the place it was inevitable then that Jenga would come out and so it did before our friends very kindly dropped us off at a home smelling of cake. Very nice!


Tuesday 17th April 2012

Following on from Pat Bailey's death last week, I was further saddened to hear of the passing today of another member of the Guild. Phil Willis may not have rung the vast numbers of peals that Pat did - though he did proudly ring his one and only peal at his home tower of Wickham Market back in 2005 - or be as well known across the ringing community as Mrs Bailey but he too will be much missed by those who knew him. He was enthusiastic, highlighted by the fact that it was him who contacted Mary Garner to ask for help at All Saints eighteen months ago and not only saw a group of us descend upon this 12cwt six for three weeks but also saw a number of them coming to neighbouring Pettistree, something which continues to this day and has enhanced both belfries. In the end it was a small mercy that the illness that brought about his passing was relatively short but it is still very sad news.

Woodbridge from our house.On a more positive note, tonight was a special night for two of the Guild's towers who practice on a Tuesday evening though we were unable to take in either. One was close to home. In fact almost as close to home as you can get as you can actually see the newly refurbished tower of St Mary-the-Virgin, Woodbridge from our house. Following months of silence to accommodate the aforementioned work I believe the bells were rung for the first time on Sunday since it finished with tonight being the first practice back on home turf (A misunderstanding. The first ringing will in fact be at practice on Tuesday 1st May. Ed) after much travelling by the locals to towers like Parham and Hacheston.

Meanwhile in the west of the county, Suffolk's newest twelve were rung at The Norman Tower for the first time on Sunday morning, with Jed Flatters and Alex Tatlow even aiming to be the first to ring on three twelves in the county in one day with morning ringing at their local tower, our doomed peal attempt at Grundisburgh and the special Surprise Royal practice at St Mary-le-Tower. They kind of made it too, though I believe they didn't ring all twelve at SMLT in the evening so judge for yourselves if that counts!

Either way, both towers could do with your support over the coming months and we certainly intend to ourselves even if tonight it wasn't practical. For following a day that saw almost every weather condition bar snow pass through Woodbridge - even creating a triple rainbow at one point which had the office ooing and ahhring - and nothing in the cupboard we unfortunately needed to go to Tesco, a lengthy process delayed by Ruthie having to work until 6.30.

But hopefully over the coming weeks we can help out as we were delighted to for Phil all those months ago.


Monday 16th April 2012

There was some sad news revealed (to me at least) at Saturday's AGM when the death of Pat Bailey was announced. She was the surviving half of a phenomenal Suffolk ringing couple with her late husband Trevor but was a ringing legend in her own right, the first Suffolk woman to ring a thousand peals and still in the top ten of the most prolific peal ringers for the Suffolk Guild that I mentioned on Friday you can see on Pealbase. I see that the funeral is being held at Beccles Cemetery Chapel on Friday 27th April at 10.30am with donations to be made to the Beccles Bell Restoration Fund. Hopefully there will be a big turnout to see off a lady still remembered with much fondness across the country, not just here.

The news about Pat was the saddest news to have come out of the meeting at Boxford, but as I mentioned before it was a generally positive day with lots of information imparted, particularly in regards two of our most powerful PR tools, The Vestey Ring and the Guild magazine, Awl a'huld.

The Guild's mini-ring is - as you can see from the bookings page - going to be busy this year and four particular events were highlighted as needing ringers to help. I've already mentioned The Halesworth Lions Wings and Wheels Rally at Henham Park on Sunday 13th May, but exactly a week later it will be at Crow's Hall Country Fayre at Crow's Hall near Debenham and also at the Weston Country Fayre at Ringsfield on 29th July. In between the two latter events, it's the biggie at The Suffolk Show on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th June. Our experience at previous events like these has taught us that we really need twelve people so that we can work in shifts, allowing people to take a break from what can be a very busy occasion and also for those manning the ring to have a look around themselves, so all the help we can get would be much appreciated for what is a tremendous PR tool for the Guild and our art.

As is Awl a'huld, the latest edition of which was unveiled and distributed at the weekend's meeting. It is another brilliant publication, brimming with interesting articles, especially the good news stories from Eye and Mildenhall. As usual, may I remind you though that this isn't just for ringer's eyes. Even in this day and age, I believe non-ringers are more likely to find out about us by casually coming across this magazine when waiting for the dentist, having a quiet pint in the local or when searching for something to read during the vicar's sermon than they are the website, as good as it is when visitors do get to it. We may not get any recruits from distributing the magazine into the community but we definitely won't if we don't.

Still, it was serving its purpose of interesting ringers at a hit-and-miss practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Whether it was the three week break or something else, David was let down by a severe lack of concentration and some poor striking. Three leads of Kent Max for example should really not represent any problems to our band but got worse as we went on, precisely the opposite effect it normally has. There were highlights though as Peter Davies rang superbly inside to Cambridge Royal, Sean's trebling to Little Bob Royal continued to progress and after much perseverance we squeezed in two very decent leads of London Royal at the end, with even the Little Bob to bring it round proving faultless!

It was a nice note on which to head over to The Cricketers for a pint and hopefully more like the kind of ringing great ringers of our past like Pat and Trevor Bailey would appreciate.


Sunday 15th April 2012

You may not have noticed as I haven't seen any mention made of it, but one hundred years ago today, the Titanic sank. A century on and a peal attempt of Titanic Cinques at Grundisburgh also sank.

To be fair the fifty minutes we lasted until a particularly tricky part of the composition brought a decent effort to a halt was a lot longer than many expected, not least most of us in the band. With no treble to latch onto, a line that was probably too simple and no one bar a couple of band members entirely confident of how the calls worked our belief was far from helped by two aborted attempts this afternoon with the ringing poor. So it surprised us as much as anyone that at the third and final attempt - with one of the band on a tight schedule - that we suddenly produced some very reasonable ringing until the fire-out.

It did at least mean I had time to join the majority of the others for a pint in The Turk's Head before picking Mason up from his grandparents who had very kindly looked after their grandson after ringing at St Mary-le-Tower boosted by the addition of Alan McBurnie with no ringing at Hollesley this morning.

I had gone onto Grundisburgh for morning ringing which itself was helped by the visit of George Salter before I returned only an hour later to help the band play as the ship went down�

It was Ruthie's turn to go out to play this evening though as she partook in a quarter attempt of Bristol Major at Halesworth and with Philip Moyse and Maggie Ross in this afternoon's doomed peal attempt they popped in for a demonstration of the li'l chap's Cars 2 computer game before taking my fiancée up the A12 and A144. Sadly this attempt was lost too but with Mr Gorrod passing our way afterwards he very kindly dropped my better half off for tea and finally an opportunity to put her feet up after a hard day at work.

Old Newton.At least there was some success on the end of a rope in Suffolk today, especially at Old Newton where Peter Godden rang his first Reverse Canterbury and his most methods in the 1260 of Doubles. Well done Peter, glad to see not every attempt sunk today!


Saturday 14th April 2012

Mason on The Vestey Ring.It might be hard to believe for those who find the Suffolk Guild AGM such a turn-off and even more so to those who laugh at me for suggesting they might like to attend the most important date in the calendar of the Guild that they pay towards being a member every year and which is there - and in most cases at some point has already - to offer help either financially, physically, technically and/or timewise, but this event is one of the highlights of my year, ringing or otherwise.

For me it is a wonderful social occasion, a chance to meet up with friends from across the county and make new ones, surely ringing at its best. But it is also a vital occasion for making sure the Guild is doing everything right for its members. It may be easier to keep in touch these days with emails, mobiles, the website, etc but nothing quite beats the face-to-face communication, knowing that a message is being imparted either from Guild to member or vice versa.

So it was incredibly disappointing that there was such a relatively low turnout of members today at Boxford. There are understandable reasons for members not being able to attend as with any ringing event. Family get-togethers, weddings, work, illness, etc. Some were unlucky. Sean from St Mary-le-Tower for example was on his way over on his bike before a puncture stopped him in his tracks at Sproughton. But it was a shame that a ringing trip that took a number of active members away was arranged at the same time as this once-a-year showcase for their Guild. Particularly disappointing though was that there will have been vast swathes of members who it seems simply could not be bothered or even purposefully stayed away. They will mainly include people who despair that they get no opportunities or bemoan the standard of ringing.

Well today there was a chance to debate, comment and shape how we recruit and train in the form of ITTS and 90% of the membership weren't there to ask how it would affect them, to voice any concerns and to speak with the very people responsible for setting it up and encouraging it.

Guild AGM 2012.It was ITTS that was the main focus of today from John Harrison and Roger Booth's highly interesting talks and Q&A session and then - following ringing in a crowded belfry and service at St Mary-the-Virgin and a superb tea which had been laid on at the expense of much time and effort - in the actual meeting itself which was just an hour-and-half. Some would have you believe this is a two-to-three hour slog but that is rare, especially these days. Instead today's AGM was brisk and full of determination and positivity with the sunlit church and Vestey Ring across the road providing a lovely backdrop. Determination not only to get the message of ITTS across but also from Chris Davies of Redgrave to garner support for the planning permission they have to apply for now that the church is redundant. But positivity abounded too with new members elected - and present - especially from Eye where a new band is thriving, including youngsters.

Future dates were brought up such as the Guild Striking Competitions at Blythburgh and Leiston on Saturday 19th May, the Guild Social at Sproughton on Saturday 15th September and rather excitingly confirmation that next year's five-yearly Guild Dinner will be held on Saturday 16th March at Woolpit Community Centre where the excellent 2008 dinner was held.

But perhaps most importantly it was confirmed that the 2013 Suffolk Guild AGM will be held on Saturday 6th April - as ALWAYS the Saturday after Easter - at Stradbroke in the North-East District. Especially put this date in this diary and all the others mentioned above if you can. It will be an even more important meeting next year as it will be Philip Gorrod's last as Chairman. He has been excellent and it will be difficult to follow in his footsteps so it is vital that we start thinking about his replacement NOW and make sure as many of us as possible are at Stradbroke next year to make sure we get the right person in and show them our wholehearted support.

And it was still an immensely enjoyable day in a lovely venue. There was that healthy geographical spread of ringers from Aldeburgh to Polstead, Felixstowe to Ixworth and much catching up done and new acquaintances made.

For this year though, with Max on his own at home we couldn't really hang around for the evening ringing that followed at the 21cwt eight and then the lovely six at Edwardstone so we took Susanne Eddis - who we'd brought - back home and settled in satisfied that we'd enjoyed all the best elements of ringing today. Many thanks to the South-West District and in particular the Boxford and Edwardstome ringers for their hospitality and to the star of TV Richard Gates for making the extensive arrangements. It was a very pleasant and worthwhile day - it's just a shame more weren't there to appreciate it.


Friday 13th April 2012

In exactly one month The Vestey Ring will be at Henham Park for the Halesworth Lions Wings and Wheels Rally. That's Sunday 13th May for those who haven't worked it out yet.

However, it will need ringers to man it and help the Guild mini-ring to achieve another PR success. It's outings to The Henham Steam Rally on the same site and The Suffolk Show last year turned out superbly and generated a lot of interest so please do get hold of the North-East District Chairman to offer your help if you can.

Meanwhile back to the now and the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week is continuing to produce some impressive achievements, notably yesterday when Alan Stanley rang his first on eight in the 1260 of Bob Triples at Gislingham and Steve Munford rang his first as conductor in the Grandsire Doubles at Great Barton. Well done and congratulations to them both and to Michelle Williams on ringing her first of Yorkshire Major at Helmingham, showing that it isn't just the NW District achieving this week!

No such excitement for me today as another 4am start saw me fast asleep in the afternoon but did at least allow me to pick Mason up for lunch and hopefully an interesting and enjoyable weekend as well as pick Ruthie up from work before promptly taking her back for the annual stock take at Boots!

And it also gave me time to check out Pealbase again with more changes on there. The latest addition is the ability to see who have rung peals for each and every ringing guild, society and association, how many they have rung and a league table of peal-ringers for each organisation. At the moment Andrew Craddock has got as far back as 1951 in recording all peals rung so the tables aren't entirely up to date, but having a look at The Suffolk Guild's list makes interesting reading.

Personally I couldn't resist looking at where Ruthie and I sat in the 'league', with our positions 58th and 41st respectively but most interesting is the top of the leader board. Perhaps predictably David Salter and Stephen Pettman lead the way but even some time after their death the likes of Lester Brett, Ernie Pearce and Jim Pipe still feature in the top twenty of a list that totals well over two thousand and that's even before their peals from pre-1951 are added!

It is well worth a look to see where you feature and as with the rest of the site, it should be of interest even to non-peal ringers to see such an extensive and growing analysis of bellringing history that we could only have dreamed of just a few years ago.

It all further highlights that we are carrying on the legacy of thousands of previous Suffolk Guild members from decades before us and how vital the Guild AGM is for making sure we carry it on in a way that the majority of members feel is right. And also why getting out to events like the Halesworth Lions Wings and Wheels Rally is so important. Who knows, maybe in ten years we may be viewing the peal-ringing stats of a recruit from such an event.


Thursday 12th April 2012

Ruthie and I took another big step towards our wedding as we took advantage of my afternoon energy burst by going to see Becky and Chloe who are providing the catering for our evening event on August 11th. Like so many people involved with our big day, they are a tip-off from Kate (though they usually get their business from her for funerals!) and are lovely people and it is reassuring having them on the case.

Blythburgh.We visited them round Chloe's house in Hasketon opposite St Andrew church where of course the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Trophy were held in 2010, a tenuous but timely link to today's announcement that this year's six bell-striking competitions on Saturday 19th May will now be held at Blythburgh rather than Theberton as originally announced. Whilst it is a shame not to be able to go to the lovely little ring at St Peter, the new location's bells are also very nice and along with Iken, Holy Trinity has to be the church in the most spectacular setting in Suffolk.

It should be a nice day out - like this Saturday's AGM - with ample parking, a wonderful area to go exploring in and the White Hart Inn opposite the church. There is also a very nice pub in the village which hosted the 2010 competitions and having spent over an hour discussing food in Becky and Chloe's lovely company it seemed a shame not to wash those thoughts down with a pint in the Turk's Head before returning home for a sleep and some tea.

That wasn't the end of another long day just yet though as we then went onto Ufford for the special Surprise Major practice. Despite my tired and successful efforts to bring a course of Bristol Major to its knees, this evening was further proof of how useful these controlled and focused practices are becoming with people visibly learning and some decent striking emerging. There was a very well-struck course of Pudsey, some four-spliced (Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire) and an all-ladies band for some decently rung Cambridge before the day and week again caught up with me and we returned to Pytches Road for another early night ahead of another early morning tomorrow.

Before I doze off though, there are a couple of links that I feel I ought to point you in the direction of. One is the e-petition to bring back zero rate VAT to alterations to CofE churches. The current plan to add VAT to such work could have a hugely detrimental effect on ringing projects so is well worth signing so as to stand any chance of this being stopped. (More details).

Redgrave.A little more specifically local, many of you will be aware of the project to restore and augment the six bells that currently hang at Redgrave, home for so many decades of Albert Driver whose bequest is fuelling this very worthy project. The plan is currently before Mid Suffolk Planning Services and there is until 23rd April to put our views forward to them (Reference is 0777/12). The site is admittedly cumbersome and slow and you need to register which is a time-consuming process so set aside some time to do it, but please do leave some positive comments. This will hopefully leave a training centre that will benefit Suffolk ringing immensely and we need to let the powers-that-be know that.


Wednesday 11th April 2012

St Lawrence.I don't know about anyone else, but when I'm on a much earlier shift at work than usual I spend the first few hours wishing I was still tucked up in bed and then when I get home and have an opportunity to catch up on lost zeds I am bursting with energy. And so it was today, as despite getting in for another start in the darkness of four in the morning and sensing at any point in the following few hours that if I were to rest my head on the desk I would be comatose in seconds, I was so awake that I found myself at the weekly Wednesday lunchtime ringing at St Lawrence in Ipswich after the day's work.

If I'm perfectly honest, I thought once the novelty value of this brand new old five in the centre of town had worn off these weekly exhibitions of ringing would die off so I'm impressed that nearly three years on they are not only happening every week (bar Holy Week) but seem to be going strong. Even with a number of the people I understand to be regulars of this ringing away, there were eight present with a good sprinkling of youth in the final week of the Easter holidays as the two ringing Salter boys and Joanne Sharples accompanied us oldies in performing to the busy restaurant and streets below with George ably leading his elders.

I was struggling a little later though and did actually nod off before I was awoken to go to Pettistree for this evening's pre-practice quarter which this week was another tricky treble-dodging Minor method with 5-6 places, this one named Jenny Wren Delight for twelve-bell finalist Molly Waterson's significant birthday.

Oakley.It wasn't the only quarter in Suffolk today though, not by a long way as the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week really got going as I battled between consciousness and under-used energy. There were EIGHT rung for this most worthy of ventures today with the prize for most being achieved going to Clare Veal who not only rang her first of Stedman in the 1260 at Wetherden but her first on eight in the Bob Triples at Palgrave. Well done Clare and well done Becky Munford on ringing her first blows in the method in the latter. Well done as well to Chris Davies who rang his first of Grandsire Doubles in the success at Oakley.

Hopefully by now you will have booked your teas for Saturday's AGM but if you haven't I'm sure they won't mind some last minute bookings, so long as there aren't too many! There will be an opportunity to see stars of the big screen, most notably Richard Gates who was on BBC2 on Friday night, I believe on Brick By Brick: Rebuilding Our Past. If you didn't see it, it will of course be on iPlayer until this Friday so there is still a chance to catch his lengthy appearance before you come to the big day of fun in his part of the world at the weekend.

I'm hoping be fully conscious for it all, but for now it was another early night as Ruthie and I left Pettistree practice before the end in anticipation of another morning of trying to stay awake!


Tuesday 10th April 2012

When the weather is as cold, damp and windy as it is now and it is just two weeks since the clocks were moved forward, 3.30 in the morning seems a very inhospitable place. It does mean a very early finish though and with a chance meeting with Toby and Amy who are in the process of moving back in opposite us it allowed for an impromptu cup of tea round ours.

The only downside to this was that we ran out of time to join the Midweek Ringers at Wingfield which was a shame as of course I don't always get the opportunity to partake in this wonderful monthly day out. Instead we ended up shopping in a busy Ipswich town centre, though I definitely know where I preferred to be!

It will be early shifts for the rest of the week now, so please excuse me if I'm a little blurry eyed at the Guild AGM on Saturday, especially as I don't expect Mason will allow me a substantial lay-in in the morning! And if you want the amusement of seeing the PR Officer being woken for his turn at the meeting and you haven't booked your tea then you're running out of time. I know a meeting doesn't sound awfully appealing but as I've mentioned before, there is so much more to it than just the meeting and so much effort has gone into it so your support would be immensely appreciated. Besides, anything has got to be better than 3.30am in the dark!


Easter Monday 9th April 2012

The Easter period doesn't do St Mary-le-Tower practice any favours though that is mainly our fault for practicing on a Monday! But having missed a practice over Holy Week we are then faced with the Easter Monday bank holiday. Like any bank holiday practice this can work one of two ways. Either we get huge numbers of visitors whose own Monday night practices have been cancelled or we fall victim to our ringers being away.

BarrowToday we had the latter. Despite the possibility of an influx of ringers from Chelmsford Cathedral - to the point we were primed to be prepared to ring Bristol Royal and/or Maximus - there were no ringers from Essex tonight. What we did have was enough to have a very useful practice for Sean, Mike, Mandy and Adrienne, the latter of whom was one of a number of ringers who took part in the successful peal of Erin Cinques at Grundisburgh today. Well done to her on ringing her first on twelve and to Paul Bray on his first of Cinques but also to Kate Herd on ringing her first of Kent Minor in the 1320 at Barrow.

Ruthie and I had a slightly slower day than them as ours mirrored tonight's SMLT practice - slightly subdued but productive. With the weather as cold, wet, windy and miserable as it was today it was difficult to find anything to do with Mason before I took him back to his mother's after an otherwise exciting weekend for the li'l chap. Instead we set about a bit of a spring clean and once the boy was dropped off we made ourselves useful by heading out to Hollesley to drop off annual reports to the Harpers for which we were rewarded with a cup of tea and biscuits, so many thanks to Peter and Jane! May I remind deanery reps and tower correspondents and anyone else who has a bundle of reports to please get them out to as many members as possible before this Saturday's Suffolk Guild AGM?

Talking of AGM's, those who may be thinking of popping along to a SMLT practice over the next few weeks may like to be made aware that the tower's own Annual General Meeting is being held at 8.30pm on Monday 30th April after practice which means an early finish but also an early start.

Which is what I am faced with tomorrow so it was straight home after our productive evening in Ipswich.


Easter Sunday 8th April 2012

All being well, by Saturday's Guild AGM there will be three rings of twelve in Suffolk for the first time in its centuries old ringing history. Although it may seem that twelves are two to the penny these days, The Norman Tower will still only be the 138th tower with this many bells hung for change-ringing in the world out of something between 5-6,000 rings of bells so many people just don't get the opportunity to progress to this level. So a new twelve in the county, especially since the sad demise of Grundisburgh practices and particularly in the west of the county is something to celebrate.

New Treble.New Second.It was particularly appropriate then that on the day Christians celebrate more than most others a packed Cathedral saw Bishop Nigel Stock dedicate the two sparkling trebles that will make this already fine ten into the globe's latest twelve in what doubled up as the last opportunity to see the bells before they are taken up tomorrow into the historic tower that stands astride to St James' Cathedral.

After the excitement of the last couple days it was a bit of a comedown for Mason as Ruthie and I grabbed one last ring on the ten before they become a back ten (though there are already twelve ropes hanging there) and then sat through a long service that whilst enjoyable for us adults was probably very dull for him compared to dashing around London or playing for hours on end with Henry Salter! Still, he was extremely good and his reward was to take part in an Easter egg hunt afterwards as we caught up with the local ringers including his Unky Chris, Becky, Alex, Craig and the Colmans in the refectory. And the Bishop was very complimentary of the ringers and ringing that featured on How God Made the English last week!

Mason selecting Easter eggs.The li'l chap (and us!) was further rewarded for good behaviour when we got home with our very own Easter egg hunt, ultimately giving him a selection dilemma when it came to lunchtime!

Whilst the rest of our day was consumed with preparing a rare roast dinner with Ruthie actually off on a Sunday (though admittedly only because Boots are closed today of course!), there was much ringing going on within our borders today, including a quarter of Plain and Little Bob Royal spliced in Bury to celebrate today's events. Well done though to Joseph Pettitt on ringing his first on eight in the 1344 of Bob Triples at Bardwell as the North-West District Quartet-Peal Week gets underway in what should be an interesting and exciting week for the district in more ways than one.


Easter Saturday 7th April 2012

Having extolled in depth the virtues of the various elements of ringing yesterday, Mason, Ruthie and me experienced one I didn't mention - the ringer's outing that doesn't involve any ringing at all.

Having rung and socialised with some of Philip and Maggie's Hampshire ringing buddies on the South and East coasts a few times over the last couple of years we have got to be quite good friends with a number of them, including Graham Wright, a very good ringer from Bishopstoke, Southampton fan and general all-round nice guy and good laugh whose birthday it was yesterday and who had invited us on his annual London pub crawl.

With a five-year old in tow we couldn't rightly match the birthday boy's aim to have a pint at fourteen pubs, but with the li'l chap wanting to go to the capital ever since he learnt about it at school a few months ago it was a good opportunity to take him down and show him the sights.

So having got down to the big smoke on the train and had early drinks at The Hole-in-the-Wall opposite Waterloo station and then The Fire Station round the corner we left the drinkers to it for a while whilst we grabbed something to eat and then took the boy to the places he'd been dying to see. And apart from Tower Bridge we pretty much met his wish list, taking in the Millennium Eye (the 'big eye'), Big Ben, Westminster Abbey (the place where the prince and princess got married and Jesus died) and then Downing Street, the guards on horses outside Horse Guards Parade and Trafalgar Square before getting to Buckingham Palace and an ice cream in St James' Park.

Mason & Ruthie outside the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.Mason & Me outside Buckingham Palace.Mason in The Two Chairmen.How many ringers can you fit into a sentry box?

After a couple of hours of being tourists we headed over to The Grenadier Arms in Belgrave Square where we found the others on their fifth pub since we left them and in a merry mood. Whilst we all had to drink outside as under-eighteens aren't allowed in unless their eating food, the weather was mild and the sentry box out the front of this delightful pub irresistible to a group of drinkers and a five-year old as you can see!

From here things didn't go entirely to plan as after a trip from Hyde Park Corner to Green Park on the tube we found The Red Lion in Crown Passage closed and most of its neighbours also shut before we came across The Three Crowns nearby. We continued with them onto The Two Chairmen and The Chandos both near Trafalgar Square before we left the hardened drinkers to it and headed back to Ipswich on the train where Kate very kindly picked us up having earlier dropped us off - thanks Kate!

It was a marvellous day out meeting and making friends but most of all it was a joy to see Mason's face as he saw first-hand all the sights he'd seen in pictures and on the tele.

Meanwhile, whilst we were down south, back in Suffolk it was another busy day of peal-ringing at The Wolery as two more were rung, including a 5024 of Bob Major which was Colin Salter's first of Major. Well done Colin!


Good Friday 6th April 2012

There are many elements to ringing which can make it so enjoyable, satisfying and worthwhile. Most important of course is ringing when called upon by the church to ring, but there's practices, quarters, peals, open days, outings, ringing weekends, ringing holidays and the USP (unique selling-point for those fortunate enough not to be engulfed in management-speak all week!) that you can go just about anywhere and join in ringing with people you've never met. And even within those basic elements there are different aspects which at least hold my interest and I imagine that of many others.

The church normally asks us to ring for Sunday morning service, but there is Evensong, Midnight Mass, weddings, funerals and any number of one-off special services.

Practice can just mean turning up to your local tower the same night every week, but it can also mean going to other towers, to district and Guild practices and for those of either society (and to be fair even those not) College Youth or Cumberland practices.

Quarters and peals can be rung for special occasions, rung before practice, as part of a day/week/month or even just off the cuff, though only generally quarters with the latter!

Open days can be approached in so many different ways. There will be some who go for selected towers they need to grab, some who meander along meeting old friends and making new ones (my favourite approach) and there are many who race around trying to ring at as many towers as they possibly can.

Ringing outings, weekends and holidays can take in so many places you would never have visited from the backstreets of industrial cities to pretty churches in isolated villages well and truly off the tourist trail, either with people you ring with regularly or with friends you see only once or twice a year.

And there is still no hobby I can think of where you can find yourself hundreds of miles away or even in another country, hear the bells and go and join in with complete strangers who after a couple of touches of Minor can be new friends. Even those towers that might be considered elite will let you ring after a simple phone call expressing a desire to join the locals as Mary Garner found at York Minster when on holiday in the area recently.

But all those aspects are best enjoyed with a social element and that doesn't necessarily involve alcohol. Whilst this is a good point to remind people of The Guild Social at Sproughton on Saturday 15th September, one such event that enhances the peal-ringing experience and which I look forward to every year is Good Friday at The Wolery where David and Katharine very kindly invite Ruthie and me to come peal-ringing on their lovely eight at the top of their garden. My fiancée can't always make it if she is working, but thankfully she had today off and so she was able to join me for a day that also offers little Mason and Henry the chance to get together to exchange swear-words and play for hours on end.

In the past we have rung as many as three peals on these occasions, but typically the relaxed timetable is as it was today - peal in the morning, a fine spread for lunch generously prepared by our hosts and a peal in the afternoon.

This year it was a well-rung peal of Vale Surprise Major before food which was also Alan Mayle's 900th for the Guild for which he was once Peal Secretary of. Congratulations Alan, well deserved!

The afternoon then saw us ring another good peal of Surprise Major, this time of Fordcombe, one of the variations of Lincolnshire which kept us interested and completed 20,400 changes of ringing over 7hrs35mins for myself, Ruthie, Tom and Mary since we started our successful peal on The Vestey Ring on Tuesday.

I can't speak for the others, but I've enjoyed every moment of it!


Maundy Thursday 5th April 2012

I had my first read of the new Suffolk Guild Annual Report today having seen piles of the green things at Hill House and at the Salter's earlier this week. As usual, Ruth and all her helpers have done superbly in putting together a great looking publication and vitally in time for the Guild AGM, though with Easter being quite early this year it is now a race against time to get copies out to all the members before the big day at a time when there may be people away of course. Therefore we need all deanery reps, tower correspondents and whoever else can to help to get them out quickly.

It's not an exciting read but then it's not meant to be. However, it is typically interesting with the officer's and districts reports all worth a read. For example, I didn't realise how many extra members the Guild had gained since Philip became Chairman as revealed in his foreword and Jed's report brings back memories! And despite the brilliant roles that Pealbase, Campanophile and now BellBoard play in keeping us updated on peals and quarters at the touch of a button, I still find myself engrossed in the peal and quarter sections of the report, an interesting snapshot of the Guild's activities over the previous year.

Apart from anything else it will be useful to have to hand at next week's main event. Talking of which, in an effort to keep the meeting on the fourteenth moving, Mr Gorrod needs people to propose and/or second officers. It doesn't matter whether it is those currently in positions or someone to replace or challenge them, the main thing is that we don't sit there for hours waiting for the whole process to be played out.

If you don't get your report before a week on Saturday then it's even more reason to come along and see a report and have your say/find out what's going on, but this evening Ruthie and I did our bit by collecting a couple of boxes and bags of the AR when we picked Mason up from his Nana and Granddad's after work and took some onto Kate's before settling down for an evening in to read my copy.


Wednesday 4th April 2012

Mini-rings are perhaps the most maligned aspect of ringing. Apart from peals on mini-rings. Many consider they shouldn't count the same as 'normal' tower-bell peals, seemingly forgetting that a peal of Spliced Surprise Maximus at St Paul's Cathedral counts as one the same as a 5040 of Bob Minor at Tostock. Besides, ringing a peal on a mini-ring can be every bit as challenging if not more so than many 'normal' tower-bell peals, certainly mentally and sometimes physically (you can't take the weight off your feet as you can when leaning into a rope attached to several hundredweight!) as we found out on The Vestey Ring last night.

The Wolery.And when the ringing goes well it can sound magical as we found out this evening as we rang a peal of Jersey Surprise Major at The Wolery, with some really smashing ringing at times in amongst a very good peal every bit enjoyable as any of the 470 I've rung.

During Holy Week mini-rings come in very handy as many church towers fall silent, allowing us to continue honing our skills without offending anyone and The Millbeck Ring that were once hung in The Folly at Claydon have joined The Vestey Ring and The Wolery in doing their bit this week. Having enabled Offton ringers to continue practicing last night, today saw them quartered in their new location at Shelland for the first time. Particularly well done to Ruth Young on her maiden mini-ring quarter, another ringer to find that this aspect of our art is every bit as useful and worthwhile as the rest.


Tuesday 3rd April 2012

It was an evening of celebration at High Hill House in Halesworth, even if things didn't go entirely to plan.

Today is Mary Garner's birthday and by happy coincidence she was one of the band who rang the first peal on The Vestey Ring at the above address tonight. We had turned up with every intention of ringing 41-Spliced Surprise Minor, but for a number of reasons it became apparent that this wasn't going to happen.

Having had the Guild's mini-ring there for several days, Philip and Maggie had done a fair bit of experimenting with the sound as it was obvious that in an enclosed space they would be far too shrill for two hours worth of ringing and they'd done well to dampen the sound down. A little too well in fact as when we initially pulled off in rounds, we could barely hear one and two at handstroke. A bit more adjusting improved the situation but left us with a slightly disjointed muffled sound but good enough for us to proceed. However, The Vestey Ring's main purpose is as a PR tool to be taken to shows, fetes and the like and crucially accessible to children, meaning - and we didn't really think about this until we got going tonight - that the ropes are set very low and meant it felt very unnatural ringing them at a certain speed.

These two factors combined with the fact they are in effect unfamiliar bells to the band, the speed is faster than most are used to and the usual issues associated with this attempt meant that after a handful of failed shots at the forty-one lasting just a few leads we readjusted our sights (though not as far as Plain Bob as was suggested!) and plucked seven from the forty-one as we aimed to make history.

And I'm glad we did as what was produced was a very good peal in still very challenging circumstances and meant I finally got to put a peal up on BellBoard for everyone to 'like'! It was lovely to put a footnote to Mrs Garner's birthday and that of Brian Whiting who of course normally rings with us in these attempts.

Vestey Ring Peal Band.With Philip, Chris and Bertie present we retired to the adjoining Phil's Bar and raised a glass to Mary, had some cake, took some photos and showed the birthday girl the wonders of Pealbase before we all wended our way home. Many thanks to Philip and Maggie for their hospitality, Chris for making the birthday cake and my fellow band-members for their patience this evening! It truly was an evening to celebrate.


Monday 2nd April 2012

Sproughton.As most of you will (hopefully!) know it is Holy Week and so normal ringing arrangements are altered. Whilst some places will still practice like Pettistree and Sproughton on Wednesday, others will be marking the tradition of keeping silent during the week. There was no ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, replaced by the annual spring-clean that happens every year on this occasion, whilst Offton are taking their Tuesday night practice to Gordon and Janet's mini-ring, now in their and its new home in Shelland. Debenham will be silent tomorrow night instead of practicing, there will be no Wednesday lunchtime ringing at St Lawrence in Ipswich and even if there were practices at Grundisburgh normally, there would be no practice on Maundy Thursday.

They will be having a band meal instead of practicing at The Norman Tower as they approach their last Easter with a ring of ten. And they are marking it with a dedication of the two new trebles as they are sat on the cathedral floor - indeed the last chance to see the bells before they are installed. We shall be there as will Radio Suffolk who are broadcasting the event live but if you do want to go along then please let Jed know beforehand.

Boxford.Edwardstone. Being Holy Week that means of course that the end of next week will be the Suffolk Guild AGM which you should by now know is being held at Boxford and Edwardstone on Saturday 14th April. It is fair to say amongst some this has got a bad name, perhaps harking back to big controversies of the 1980's and 1990's but maybe just simply because people think of meetings and turn off. But there is nothing controversial planned as far as I know and Philip is extremely good at moving things along and cutting short waffle and unnecessary stuff. And besides, there is so much more to the day than the hour or two you spend hearing about and contributing to matters of the Guild you generously pay a subscription to every year. There is the seminar beforehand, ringing at two towers in beautiful surroundings and lots of time to catch up with many other members and friends at tea, in the churches, outside and at the pub. Please take advantage and book your name for tea.

The Vestey Ring.Hopefully by then we may have rung the first peal on The Vestey Ring which is currently in situ at Philip and Maggie's in Halesworth and they warmed up the bells for the attempt with a quarter on the bells which was the first on a mini-ring for Philip Moyse, Michelle Williams, Jason Busby and Nicole Rolph, the latter of whom was ringing her first as cover. Well done guys, especially for finding a way of ringing bells in this week of silence!


Sunday 1st April 2012

It was supposed to be colder and greyer this weekend and there has even been talk of snow later this week and yet today was every bit as warm, sunny and nice as our early summer last week from Palm Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower to Ruthie and me having a mini-pub crawl around Woodbridge.

St Lawrence.In between I returned to the scene of my television appearance in last night's How God Made the English, St Lawrence. Having watched the programme on BBC iPlayer today it has turned out better than I thought it might, though the normal TV editing has assured that what we were doing doesn't entirely make sense! Still, a respectful if glancing look at our art and one that will have been successful if it entices people into a belfry or - in these times when everyone seems entitled to complain against anything that they wouldn't do - leads to a little more understanding of what we do. This morning we rang Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles at said venue, as I found myself running the ringing at this ancient five, as I found myself doing at Grundisburgh afterwards in Stephen's absence. Of course we had a few more bells to play with here and nearly succeeded in ringing them all as we met eleven. Still, we enjoyed some reasonable Grandsire Triples, a decent three leads of Bristol Major and well struck call-changes on ten.

Mason.With it being Mason's other granddad's birthday today, I took him back to his mother's this afternoon but not before the boy and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather with some golf in the garden. As much as I missed the boy it did give me a chance to get some bits and pieces sorted that I normally wouldn't be able to with an energetic five-year old by my side. And whilst we have been known to take the li'l chap to pubs (often at his request!) our mini-pub crawl was an unusual opportunity to go out on a Sunday evening. There was no particular reason for our jolly, just after a day at work Ruthie likes to unwind, it was a lovely late evening and we are extremely lucky to have a number of very nice public houses in the town with friends and acquaintances in many of them so we took advantage of the circumstances starting at the Red Lion, wandering up to The Mariners and finishing at The Angel on the way home (in a round about way), all in warming sunshine.

Tostock.After yesterday's disappointments for Nathan Colman at Stowmarket and Philip Moyse at Grundisburgh, it was good to see these young lads succeeding today with Nathan ringing his first of Stedman in the quarter of the Doubles version of the principal at Tostock and Philip ringing his first on eight in hand in the 1296 of Bob Major rung in Stradbroke. Well done both of towers/tostock1picture.htmlyou and congratulations to Alex Tatlow in the former who managed to succeed in two typically AWT landmarks, ringing his 50th of Doubles and 75th on six bells.

Meanwhile, Philip Gorrod (or Big Old Philip as he's been harshly dubbed now that little Philip is no longer so little - I think he may prefer the amalgamation to BOld Philip!) and Maggie Ross continued on from helping Mr Moyse in the latter of the aforementioned performances by helping Alex Rolph ring her first on eight and Jonathan Iles ring his first of Major in another quarter of Plain Bob, this time at Halesworth. Well done Alex and Jonathan, great to see.

A bright and sunny day in more ways than one.


Saturday 31st March 2012

Theberton.Having struggled to fill our day last Saturday, this week we had a busy but not rushed opener to the weekend, really getting going at Theberton as Ruthie helped Michelle Williams to her first quarter of spliced and Philip Moyse's first of spliced as conductor as I listened outside with a sleeping Mason to the good ringing and radio commentary on Ipswich Town's game against Barnsley.

Well done Michelle and Philip and well done ITFC as they won 1-0, courtesy of a goal scored as we passed through Tunstall on the way to the Garner's newly extended abode in Wickham Market where they very kindly treated us all to tea and hot-cross buns, at least for those not as fussy as I am about dried fruit!

We three couldn't hang around too long though as our next task was to pick Maggie Ross up from Woodbridge Library where she had been working today and then take her and ourselves onto an attempt of Stedman Cinques at Grundisburgh in what would've been a first for young Mr Moyse.

Mason.However, it wasn't to be this afternoon sadly as whilst the li'l chap and I wandered the village looking out for ducks a miscall brought some quite decent ringing to an abrupt end, though not as abrupt an end as the poor souls who lost a peal attempt of Cambridge Major at Stowmarket two courses from the end today as the seventh clapper broke on them. Bad luck chaps.

I'm not sure what our counterparts in mid-Suffolk did to commiserate but it was probably similar to us as me and other hangers-on joined those who took part in having a pint in Hasketon at The Turk's Head before then moving onto Saffron back in Woodbridge for what was Mason, Ruthie and my second curry in as many evenings. Thankfully the li'l man stayed awake for this one and even made a new friend in Sonny from his school, but it did mean we missed the final programme of How God Made the English and of course the one that features ourselves ringing at St Lawrence. We'll have to wait until it appears on iPlayer, but any feedback would be greatly appreciated!


Friday 30th March 2012

One day we shall remind Mason of the night he fell asleep in a curry house!

Bless him, it must have been a tiring last day at school before the Easter holidays, but he was enjoying himself immensely up to that point (despite him locking himself in the toilets for a few minutes) as we three took the opportunity to have a curry out at Shapla with James Whitby without Budgens' customers getting in the way!

Whilst we were doing that, well done to Josephine Beever, David Howe and Alex Tatlow on ringing their first quarter of Single Oxford Bob Triples in the 1260 at Ixworth.

We have quarters and another curry tomorrow, but we shall have to make sure we're back in to watch the final episode of How God Made the English on BBC2 at 8pm. I'm not sure how it will turn out but if the li'l chap one day points it out as one of my major embarrassments (though he will have a fine range to choose from) I may just remind him of the Shapla on Friday 30th March 2012...


Thursday 29th March 2012

With birthdays and announcements of pregnancy it was a day of celebration at John Catt on another hot sunny March day more akin to summer and there was much cake to mark the occasions but with Grundisburgh practice cancelled again (nothing next week due to Holy Week) it was a quieter affair at home this evening.

The Wolery.So thank you to David Salter for posting the three leads of Bristol Major we rang at The Wolery a few months ago on You Tube this week to occupy us. And at the same time I stumbled across a recording done of some ringing featuring myself partaking in a touch of Rutland and Water Surprise Major spliced at Oakham in Rutland on last year's Rambling Ringers, also a very enjoyable piece of ringing. For those interested (and maybe even looking back at this in years to come), the ringers in the two clips are:

At The Wolery:
  1. Mick Edwards
  2. Me
  3. Ruthie
  4. Mary Dunbavin
  5. Tom Scase
  6. George Thoday
  7. Katharine Salter
  8. David Salter
And at Oakham:
  1. Janet Dew
  2. Chris Woodcock
  3. James Ramsbottom
  4. Philip Ramsbottom
  5. Mike Dew
  6. Tony Crabtree
  7. Me
  8. Stephen Croxall

In fact, it's dangerous to look up ringing on You Tube as you find an incredible amount of footage, the kind of library our ringing ancestors could only have dreamed of, but for now it is biting into valuable cake-eating time!


Wednesday 28th March 2012

St Mary-le-Tower.When word came through that a man had been shot whilst working on the tower at St Mary-le-Tower this afternoon and the church was cordoned off just a couple of hours before we were due to attempt a peal of London Major on the front eight at said location, I have to admit I feared perhaps we were fated not to succeed in our aim this evening.

Luckily everything had been cleared by the time we arrived and the victim - who Christine and Joan saw led away bandaged up - is apparently OK or at least as OK as you can be in the circumstances, but that feeling of doom returned as David Rothera was locked in Church House after a pre-peal trip to the facilities there, as amusing as that had been.

Nonetheless, after exactly three hours a very decent 5184 was scored with some really good ringing achieved and well done to David Potts on calling his first peal in the method. And Christine and I were particularly pleased as it brings us each one closer to our mutual aim of ringing five hundred peals - there's thirty-two left for me and just nine for Mrs Knight according to Pealbase.

And talking about Pealbase, there seems to be something new on there every time I go on. Not only can you now see the stages you have rung peals to (Doubles, Minor, Triples, etc), but the towers you have rung them at, the methods you have rung and even what dates of the year you have and haven't rung on. Andrew Craddock deserves immense gratitude from us peal-ringers for all he has done and continues to do with this website. And I've now discovered I'm only seven short of completing the Surprise Major alphabet, giving me another project to get my teeth stuck into!

There was no time to look at this incredibly interesting site tonight though as following our success we of course rewarded ourselves with a pint in The Cricketers before Ruthie and I took up an invitation from Pete Faircloth of a couple of drinks in the Red Lion back in Woodbridge. Now that evening turned out better than I had expected this afternoon!


Tuesday 27th March 2012

Training and recruitment in anything is vital. Without it, something will die off when its participants die off and I'm afraid us ringers aren't immune to that.

You may a ringer who only rings out of a sense of duty or even with reluctance (though you're missing out on an extremely enjoyable and interesting world!) at one tower. R&T can take the burden of responsibility from you by providing ringers that mean you don't have to ring every piece.

Maybe you are keen and enthusiastic within your local group of ringers - you will need new ringers to renew and continue that enjoyment.

Are you a regular peal-ringer, mad on Surprise and getting your name in lights alongside the superstars of the art? You'll need new ringers coming through to help you in that aim.

Or perhaps you have been there and done it all and are almost in semi-retirement - you surely owe it to the art that has given you so much to keep it healthy for future generations?

Boxford.Edwardstone. So R&T is important and therefore I was delighted by the email that many of you should've hopefully received from our Chairman Philip Gorrod highlighting the seminar on the issue of training and training the trainers which will be held at the start of Guild AGM Day on Saturday 14th April and features two very interesting characters in the shape of John Harrison and Roger Booth. It doesn't matter if you think you know it all already (always a dangerous assumption), there is always something new to learn so I would suggest that this is another very good reason to get down to Boxford and Edwardstone for the biggest and most important date in the Guild calendar.

On a similar note it is worth reading the article on the front of Campanophile and getting familiar with the excitingly named but important Integrated Teacher Training Scheme (ITTS) which we need volunteers for in the Suffolk Guild.

There was nothing quite so interesting as all that for Ruthie and me today, rather a trip to Tesco and listening to Ipswich Town's respectable 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough that nonetheless probably finishes any remote chances we had of getting to the play-offs this season. But with a bit of R&T, I'm confident next season could be a good one.


Monday 26th March 2012

It was a slightly topsy-turvy but satisfactory practice at St Mary-le-Tower as it took three attempts to bring Bob Major round and yet we finished with a very good touch of Stedman Cinques after some good ten and twelve-bell ringing and before we adjourned to The Cricketers where arrangements were made for peals to be fitted around a busy couple of months.

Theberton.Leiston.In the not distant future it will be striking competition season, most notably with the Mitson Shield, Lester Brett Trophy and Rose Trophy being held at Theberton and Leiston on Saturday 19th May. Hopefully there will be another good turnout and I would certainly encourage teams to enter a band for the experience. There have been big strides made to ensure there isn't too much cross-over of team members and where there is helps others to be involved that wouldn't otherwise have been involved.

St Paul, Jewellery Quarter.But there is another notable striking competition being held at St Paul's in Birmingham on Saturday 30th June, The Ringing World National Youth Contest and I'm glad to say it looks like we have a band from Suffolk for the event. It was a big shame we didn't get an entry sorted for the inaugural competition that was part of last year's RW Centenary Celebrations, especially when reading the report and photos from what was a very well supported event in said publication, but Alex Tatlow says he has a band and quite a good one at that so all support would be much appreciated!

There is much going on before that on a Guild level, including of course the Guild AGM which I really hope people support and make the arrangements all worthwhile. It is what you make of it. I can't sex the meeting up as something thrilling but is useful and we have a Chairman good at moving things along and cutting out the normal rambling and tat that often drags these things out. And there is much to take in over the rest of the day as the meeting takes up a very small amount of the actual event with the ringing, tea, service, seminar and of course pub taking up the vast majority of the day and offering much more than just an hour or so of sitting in a meeting.

But back at the topsy-turvy world of SMLT there is much to take note of, most notably that next week is Holy Week and therefore there is no practice (though any help with the annual spring-clean would be appreciated) and the practice on Monday 30th April will start at 7 and finish at 8.30 as the tower AGM will take place immediately afterwards. So you are more than welcome, but you might want to turn up early that week if you want to help us with Bob Major or ring in some well-rung Stedman Cinques!


Sunday 25th March 2012

Moving the clocks forward is often uplifting, taking daylight until nearly 7.30 seemingly not that long after regularly experiencing darkness when leaving work, but it helped contribute to Mason and me being late to St Mary-le-Tower as the boy and I struggled to adapt to an hours less sleep. However, with the back four still down following this week's inspection (which thankfully revealed nothing much more than the frame needing a repaint) and a large attendance it's fair to say they didn't need us too much this morning.

They did need me at Grundisburgh though if only to run the ringing with Stephen absent and everyone else typically reluctant to take the reins but at least the Wakefield's presence revealed two good bits of news. First that Bruce seems to have largely recovered from his recent fall and was able to ring today and second that they have pencilled in April 15th as the date when Woodbridge bells will start ringing again after the work to the tower.

Meanwhile, Ruthie was needed on this light sunny evening at Ufford, another tower relatively recently reopened to ringing after work to its structure and for a very worthwhile cause too as she and six others helped Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend to ring her first quarter of Cambridge Surprise Major. Well done gal!

And there are still further opportunities in the county to be useful and/or achieve something as Abby Antrobus is quite rightly at pains to highlight with the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week coming shortly from 7th - 15th April. Whilst there will no doubt be a bit of number-crunching going on (and there's nothing wrong with that if it encourages involvement and good ringing) that's not really what the week is about. This is a chance to focus on giving people the chance to do something they haven't done yet or something different, whether it's the culmination of weeks or months of practice or just to do something they don't normally get the opportunity to ring for a concerted period. So if you are someone who wants to try something or know someone who would benefit from ringing a quarter as part of this excellent initiative or if you can help (I'm sure 'outside' assistance would be welcomed!) then please get in touch with Abby.

Mason.For today, my usefulness ended at eleven when we finished morning ringing at Suffolk's current second twelve, but Mason and I still had a lovely afternoon as we travelled out to beautiful rustic Blaxhall in the spring sunshine to see the li'l chap's Godfather Toby and his fiancée Amy at The Ship Inn that he manages. It was nice catching up and as usual I bumped into many familiar faces from my time in neighbouring Tunstall whilst my son busied himself showing off the huge range of toys that he insisted on bringing, but eventually it was time to be reunited with my fiancée and return home for the first of hopefully many longer sunny evenings this year.


Saturday 24th March 2012

Ruthie brewing.Despite not having anything lined up for today we managed to occupy ourselves with mundane but different tasks, feeding Kate's pets whilst she is away, nipping to Tesco in Copdock to purchase (at last!) a frame for Ruthie's graduation picture and eventually making our latest batch of homebrew whilst listening to Ipswich Town return to normal service as they lost at Watford as my brother let me know the score from Germany where he was watching Bayern Munich as part of a friends stag do.

We were also able to keep up with the National Twelve-Bell eliminators at Aston, Kidderminster and Stourbridge where there one or two shocks, most notably the College Youths at the first tower, knocked out by Exeter, Leeds and Bristol who featured 'our very own' (if going back a few years!) Molly Waterson. Well done Molly and well done to Cambridge, Oxford, St Paul's Cathedral, Cumberland's, York and my chums from Birmingham (of course!) who all won through to the final at Melbourne (Derbyshire, not Australia I'm afraid!) on Saturday 23rd June.

And although there were no ringing events or even (successful) quarters or peals in the Guild's name it leaves me space to follow up yesterdays ramblings by urging you again to get your names in for tea for the Guild AGM at Boxford and Edwardstone on Saturday 14th April. There's a lot of effort gone into arranging this, please support it.


Friday 23rd March 2012

Mason was dropped off to us after work at the start of a beautifully sunny evening - in a couple of days the evenings will be a lot later and a little longer of course.

But as I write this we have nothing lined up for the weekend despite the sunshine. No family visits, no trips and no ringing.

In just three weeks it'll be a totally different scenario as we'll have the Guild AGM to look forward to, one of the busiest ringing afternoons in the Guild calendar, but the most important and I think one of the most enjoyable.

Without The Suffolk Guild, ringing in the county would no doubt continue but probably not in its current form and we would be all the poorer without it - no jokes about subscriptions and peal fees please! The Guild offers a superb network for financial help, advice and above all friendship which is why it is vital that as many of us from as many different towers as possible attend the meeting on Saturday 14th April.

Boxford.Edwardstone.But it's not just about the meeting and so much has been done to make sure it is an entertaining and interesting afternoon and evening with something for everyone and providing a framework for people to catch up with friends familiar and new and take something useful from the day, whether it's a tip previously unknown to you on how to negotiate the treble to Bob Doubles or what is happening in the life of a ringing chum you haven't seen for ages and all set in the wonderful locations of Boxford and Edwardstone. Kids will love it, as I hope too will the adults of all ages and ultimately - as I have said many times - we are so extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to travel to pretty places to do something that is a skill with friends and usually with a pint of ale at the end of it so please either email or phone him on 01787 210432 to book your tea for - for all the negative opinion people seem to have got of the day from bad experiences back in the 1980's and 90's - what I believe will be a lovely and enjoyable day out.

After all, weekends like this one where there is nothing lined up at all - and let's face it for most of you retirees I'm sure a few weekdays too - come along frequently, let's make the most of it when there is something worthwhile to do with our Saturday.


Thursday 22nd March 2012

God willing and all being well, Saturday 11th August will be a memorable day for Ruthie and me but there'll be a lot to take in and no chance for us to take photos, as much as we'd like to catch it all for posterity. Of course in this day and age there will be people with all sorts of cameras probably catching everything from me crawling out of bed blurry-eyed in the morning to some uni mate stumbling out of the Abbey and straight into a tree at midnight and shots of an elderly relative snoozing in the sunshine in between, which will all be on Facebook by the time we go to bed. But it would be nice to make sure we get some special shots done professionally too.

So thank God that Kate knows someone and lovely people to boot. As a result, this evening my fiancée and I made the journey down to Trimley St Mary to see Dean and Hilary, aka D&H Wedding & Social Photography over a couple of cups of tea and half a packet of biscuits so they could introduce themselves and what they can do for us. Their approach was wonderful, insisting that we didn't just automatically plump for them because of their connections, to shop around whilst also showing a genuine delight that they could be covering our big day. But their portfolio was impressive and I'm pretty certain we'll go with them. They were a very nice couple that go back years with the future mother-in-law (to be honest there doesn't seem many in East Suffolk that don't!) and as we pored over other people's wedding photos it was very exciting to think that it is all just a few months away - hopefully captured through many hundreds of wonderful images!


Wednesday 21st March 2012

Gill Waterson is one of those ringers that many rural towers need. Regular, reliable and rarely wrong on the end of a rope, she has helped bands at Grundisburgh, Bredfield and Pettistree for years, even over the tough year and a bit that she and Dick have had. So just a small selection of her ringing friends were delighted to mark her recent birthday at the latter tower with a quarter of Gillian's Delight Minor, even if the general consensus was that there could've been a better method named after her!

It proceeded a practice night that was slightly low on numbers but still useful, though with Ruthie in need of a cuppa we nipped over to The Greyhound briefly before returning. We were back at the neighbouring public house after practice of course where Ruthie was able to use her shiny new phone to reveal that Ipswich Town's miraculous transformation from aging old peoples home to some form of football team had continued with a 1-0 win over Burnley at Portman Road, the reverse of the fixture that had so depressed me about the future of my beloved Tractor Boys a few months ago.

Harkstead.And just round the corner at The Wolery there was more good news as Colin Salter rang his first peal on a working bell and his father called his 1000th peal for the Guild as Bob Triples was scored in 1hr53mins. Well done Colin, hopefully following in his brother George's footsteps and who knows even David's. And they wouldn't be bad footsteps to follow either. Whether you think he's nuts to spend every weekend travelling the country to ring peals of Doubles and Minor, sometimes at some truly atrocious rings of bells or it is something to be admired you can't dispute that this former Guild Ringing Master twice over and long-serving Central Council Rep. amongst much else has done a lot for the Suffolk Guild. In between travelling the country peal-ringing and occasionally working he somehow finds time to work on the Annual Report and the BAC as well as helping out bands at Harkstead and Gislingham so he certainly deserves congratulations for reaching this landmark.

It is people like Gill and David who help keep the Guild going so I hope others will join me in sending best wishes to both of them for these individual occasions to be celebrated.


Tuesday 20th March 2012

It's ages since I've been through a carwash. Or rather in a car going through a carwash I guess I should clarify. But following a bird doing its - ahem - business on poor old Emily whilst we were ringing at St Mary-le-Tower last night we felt it was time the old dear had a clean.

Preston St Mary.Halesworth.Something that many ringers may not have had the chance to do for some time is have a concerted go at Surprise Minor, but there is an opportunity next week as on Thursday 29th March there will be a Surprise Minor practice at Preston St Mary. The best way to learn multi-Surprise Minor methods is by learning where you pass the treble and where the half-leads and lead-ends are but you also need practice of course so hopefully this will be well attended and well-received. It could be a good warm-up for the Surprise Major practice at Halesworth the following day!


Monday 19th March 2012

It was a newsworthy - and indeed some considered an historic - day in Ipswich today as The Duchess of Cambridge came to officially open EACH's Treehouse and in the process make her first ever public speech in her recently acquired role, but it was another bit of today's news that was more relevant to me as Suffolk Guild PR Officer and to many of you too I'm sure that caught my eye.

For today the exact route that the Olympic Torch takes around the country and more specifically down our streets, through our villages and past our rings of bells on Thursday 5th July and Saturday 7th July and the timings was revealed today. I have long been in contact with those organizing the celebrations that will line the route, both to make sure that anything we do doesn't disrupt what they have lined up (we don't want bad publicity from this!) but more specifically to get bells involved on an official basis. Our potential involvement has been received enthusiastically but I'm wary that like most non-ringers they won't appreciate how long it takes to mobilize enough ringers to ring, especially for the midweek meander through the east of the county so I'm putting a plea out now for people to keep the dates clear. Exactly how we arrange this is something I need to discuss with District Officers and correspondents at the various towers along the routes but at least if we have people available that will make our task so much easier. I'm aware that the Games aren't everybody's cup-of-tea but they're coming and it represents a marvelous PR opportunity for us so let's make the most of it.

For now, well done to Colin Salter who rang his first quarter of Major yesterday in the 1264 of Bob Major at Kersey and for us today it was a return to St Mary-le-Tower practice for Ruthie and me this evening. It's a month since we last came though it of course hasn't been a snub as work, trips away and peals have prevented our appearance at this worthwhile practice. And indeed it was worthwhile, something highlighted by Andrew Ogden from Taylors who was visiting as part of a trip that saw him inspect Bardwell and Rougham today and will bring him back to SMLT and also Rushmere tomorrow. In The Cricketers afterwards we bemoaned a practice that hadn't always been to the high standard we set ourselves and it is fair to say we more often that not achieve. But Oggy quite rightly added the caveat that he'd love a practice like ours in his part of the world in Staffordshire. In his extensive travels he had very rarely come across a practice where they were ringing London and Bristol Royal and in past visits Surprise Maximus too and indeed he noted that there had been tremendous progress since he last came to our practice a couple of years ago. Similar comments have been made by other visiting ringers in the past. And do you know what? They're absolutely right.

SMLT has had its fair amount of criticism down the years, mostly that it is snobbish, unwelcoming and that it considers itself better than it actually is. Maybe that was once the case, though I haven't seen any real evidence of that in my memory but it certainly isn't now. There is a standard we have to strive for as people travel long distances to ring at one of the few venues in the region you can practice on higher numbers and we don't always reach it, but like any tower should be, all are welcome if they are prepared to put the effort in and there's no perception that we are somehow better than we actually are. We are like anyone else in ringing - trying to improve ourselves however we can and we welcome anyone who wants to join us in that aim. And hopefully we'll be ringing the Olympic Torch into Ipswich on 5th July.


Sunday 18th March 2012

Quite rightly mothers were the focus today and I hope all you matres had a good one.

Mason and I did our bit, going to church at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where the li'l chap picked up some flowers for Ruthie and spoke with his mummy on the phone before we visited mine in Ipswich and finished our day with my fiancée and Ron at Kate's for a roast which she very kindly cooked up for us after a day of putting fences up - thanks Kate!


Saturday 17th March 2012

There seemed to be two general themes to our day today - Ruthie's family and brushes with television stardom without actually appearing on the box.

On the latter we happened across an episode of Four in a Bed - where B&B owners 'battle' it out to win yet another meaningless TV prize - which featured The Farmer's Boy Inn at Longhope in Gloucestershire as one of the contesting venues. This is possibly my favourite ever pub following our visit there on the 2010 Rambling Ringers Tour and we remember the owner very well!

However, our main brush with fame and of more interest to most of you I imagine was the start of the three-part series on BBC2, How God Made the English. Our ringing at St Lawrence didn't feature this week and judging by the trailer I don't think it'll feature next week either, but I am assured we will appear at some point and tonight's episode was extremely interesting so well worth watching anyway.

With Mothering Sunday being tomorrow (Happy Mother's Day all you mums!) we did the grandparent rounds for Ruthie today, first at her Nan's and then for tea round at her Gran and Grandad's where of course we were given far too much food and wonderful hospitality!

Debenham.And whilst it is Mothering Sunday tomorrow, today is St Patrick's Day of course meaning an Irish theme ran through the day on tele and in ringing too and well done to the band who rang their first peal of Double Dublin Surprise Major at Debenham today! Top o' the mornin' to ya!


Friday 16th March 2012

We are so lucky to have places like Aldeburgh on our doorstep and even on a dreary evening like today we were delighted to take up an invitation of fish 'n' chips on the beach to celebrate the birthday of Mark, Ruthie's old school friend.

Outside Grandpa's House.Of course no visit with a five-year-old to this part of the world is complete without a trip to the house known to many parents and their children as Grandpa's house, which features in the CBeebies series Grandpa in my Pocket and as you can see from the photo we didn't pass this opportunity up.

But there was also a chance either side of our supper - where I bumped into my long-time but lesser seen friend Kiwi - for a drink in my favourite Suffolk pub The Cross Keys before we travelled home satisfied and full.

Helmingham.So Happy Birthday Mark and get well soon Muriel Page who missed a quarter at another one of the beautiful spots in our area, Helmingham. Well done however to Elizabeth Christian on ringing her first of Triples and congratulations to Tom Scase on scoring his 500th in total. We're lucky to have ringers like Tom as much as we are to ring in this fine part of the country, so keep it up Mr Scase!


Thursday 15th March 2012

A late start was useful for taking the old TV to the dump but combined with another cancelled Grundisburgh practice it meant another evening of no ringing.

I'm conscious that for a ringing blog there's not all that much ringing going on at the moment but there is much happening this year of course, most notably the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics which are of course great PR opportunities, which of course is my area now. There is a useful page on this website for Diamond Jubilee ringing but it is still looking a little sparse for such a big occasion and it would be nice that when we get closer to the long June Bank Holiday weekend I could give our local media a huge list of ringing happening to mark the event, whether it's a short touch, general ringing, quarter, peal or an open day. Likewise, it would be good to hear from people to know what they are doing for the greatest sporting event in the world coming to our doorstep. I am in contact with the various authorities about ringing being involved with the Torch Relay coming through Suffolk on Thursday 5th July and Saturday 7th July. The hope - certainly from my end and there has so far been a favourable reaction from their end - is to have the bells ringing at all the towers along the route on those days so any help would be much appreciated!

St Paul, Jewellery Quarter.In the meantime, have a chuckle at some of my old chums from Birmingham who today rang what is believed to be the first quarter rung with every ringer blindfolded!


Wednesday 14th March 2012

The Wolery.This evening's 5040 of Kelso Minor at The Wolery leaves me with thirty-three peals to ring if I am to get to my 500th but it also saw me reach a landmark I had been looking to reach before the end of last year - my 300th for the Suffolk Guild. I am very proud of my membership of our organization, honoured to have been the Ringing Master and delighted to have reached this number of peals for the family I grew up with, although as someone rightly pointed out I have a few to ring to catch others up! God willing I shall get the opportunity to ring many more.

St Lawrence, Ipswich.Meanwhile, word has reached me that the TV series featuring our evening's ringing with Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch at St Lawrence last July - How God Made the English - is to finally make its appearance on BBC2 at 8pm this Saturday. It is a three-part series and I don't know at what point we will be on but it sounds like it will be a highly entertaining programme so well worth watching all three!


Tuesday 13th March 2012

Picture of St Mary the Virgin, GrundisburghHappy 70th Birthday Aunty Marian and thank you to those who came out and rang with me in a peal specially arranged for the occasion at Grundisburgh. The 5070 of Bristol Major was very enjoyable despite - or perhaps because of - the tenor starting out as the treble and me being stuck on the front for a huge amount of time and it was nice to do for my Aunt especially after her tough start to 2012, but I was very grateful to others for ringing, especially those who had already rung in two quarters at St Mary-at-Quay earlier today!

Our TV Our TV It came at the end of a day that saw conference calls and more importantly the arrival of our new tele! Midsomer Murders looks even more gruesome at that size but I managed to drag Ruthie away from the TV to join me for a post-peal pint in The Turk's Head at Hasketon - well it was Aunty Marian's birthday after all!


Monday 12th March 2012

Brandeston.Normal order is restored! Following yesterday's success I returned to losing peals this evening. It has to be said that losing an attempt of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor at Brandeston is not unusual or even necessarily unexpected but tonight was strange in that the ringing wasn't as good as we normally get on these occasions.

None of that was down to Jonathan Stevens who was the latest in a lengthy list of treble ringers to very kindly step into the breech. Getting all six of us together is logistically difficult. Avoiding practice nights during the week, district and Guild events, other peals, holidays, etc makes it quite tricky, especially as we are six very active members of the Suffolk Guild. Occasionally therefore it is easier to find a treble ringer or at least easier than finding someone who can ring inside but we still need someone good - having the treble in the right place is absolutely vital in this and if they are able to impart some words of wisdom like where they are or if they know that someone should be dodging with/passing them at a certain point then all the better. Brian Whiting is a very reassuring presence having done it all before and having an ability to work out where people should be very quickly and we wouldn't have been able to get as far as we have without his guidance so his are not easy shoes to fill, but Jonathan was faultless this evening and able to put in those useful pointers every now and again. Sadly we couldn't ring as well around him and so it was another early finish.

By the time I got back to Woodbridge there wasn't time to go to St Mary-le-Tower practice and with no TV there was obviously no option but to go to the pub so we wandered down to the Red Lion where we ironically helped Sam the landlady there with her tele before finishing off at The Mariners. Every cloud has a silver lining!


Sunday 11th March 2012

In Treehouse of Horror V, the fifth of many, many brilliant Halloween specials from The Simpsons there is a parody of The Shining where Homer is deprived of television and alcohol and which features the famous line from the family's father, 'no TV and no beer make Homer go something, something' to which Marge replies 'crazy?' With a mad look in his eyes he says 'don't mind if I do' before going completely crazy and trying to kill his wife and family.

I'd like to think that I'd be slightly more restrained in such circumstances but nonetheless when our faithful television packed up this evening we were all glad that there was a good supply of beer in the house. And despite the fact that Sunday night when all the shops are closed is not the ideal time to lose your only tele, it could have been worse. It was bed time for Mason anyway and it gave us a good excuse to get out the QI Board Game that I got Ruthie for Christmas and while away the quiet hours.

It was ironic in many respects that the TV packed up at the only opportunity today that we had the chance to sit down and watch it as it had been a busy day for different reasons. My fiancée was of course occupied at Boots all day whilst the li'l chap and I started our day at St Mary-le-Tower. From there he went onto Sproughton with his Nana and Grandad and then to their house whilst I went onto ringing at Grundisburgh where we had a good turnout (usually second and fourth Sundays don't usually see great attendances as a large chunk who come up other Sundays go to Ufford) including Janice who used to ring at Woodbridge but now lives in Northumberland.

Grundisburgh.I was back at Suffolk's lightest twelve not long after for my first peal attempt of four in four days as I aim to beef up the scores on the doors with a view to getting to the five-hundred mark by the end of the year, especially as it has been a poor start to 2012 peal-ringing for one reason and another. And I'm glad to report we were successful in ringing a 5040 of Yorkshire Maximus, with Alex Tatlow following up his first of Royal yesterday with his first of Maximus today. Well done Alex!

After just shy of three hours ringing I then headed to Ipswich to pick the li'l chap up and returned to Woodbridge for no TV and some beer. Hopefully we won't be going crazy (or any more so than normal) anytime soon.


Saturday 10th March 2012

We were involved with no ringing today and there was no rushing about but it felt quite busy as we rewarded Mason for getting to such a stage in his reading at school that he received a special reading book (not as daft or obvious as it sounds!) by getting him a couple of books from the Young Browsers Bookshop in Woodbridge, kick-starting a very pleasant and relaxed Saturday.

LNER B12.From there we visited Aunty Marian to see how she was and give her a birthday card in anticipation of her 70th birthday on Tuesday, then onto Pete and Susanne's (minus Susanne) for a drink before we were rewarded ourselves by Ron for looking after Jude and Max today whilst he and Kate visited the choo-choos in Sheringham.

Whilst we were doing lots of non-ringing, there was some significant ringing being done in the Guild's name by Guild members for one of the up and coming stars of the Guild as Alex Tatlow rang his first peal of Royal over the border in Essex at Coggeshall. Well done Alex!

Long Melford. Hartest.That said there is much happening on the ringing front in Suffolk itself as ever in the coming weeks. The Midweek Ringers are at Long Melford and Hartest in the South-West on Tuesday, there is the Monthly Bacton Practice on Wednesday, Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham a week on Tuesday and also in the North-East the Fifth Friday Surprise Major Practice on the 30th before we get into April when amongst many more useful and worthwhile ringing events there will be two major occasions.

First up on Easter Sunday will be the dedication of the two new trebles for The Norman Tower in the adjacent Cathedral. Less than a week later is the Guild AGM at Edwardstone and Boxford for which I'm sure more details will be available soon so watch this space!

Both are important and exciting events so please keep the dates clear if you can. As fun as today has been, it wouldn't really be enough to miss events like this!


Friday 9th March 2012

Rendham.Ruthie was a busy little ringer this evening, partaking in a quarter of Cambridge Minor at Pettistree and one of Lincolnshire Major at Rendham, the latter of which was Pete Faircloth's first in the method, so well done him!

For me it was a 4am start at work, a difficult one following on so closely from a long day on Wednesday so I'm glad I wasn't ringing tonight, as much as it would have been nice to join in the fun. Instead I helped Mason play his Cars 2 computer game and just about stayed awake to watch some tele.


Thursday 8th March 2012

Ufford.Another useful Surprise Major practice at Ufford tonight and as Mike pointed out at the end we're really starting to ring together well and there was some good stuff this evening. Susanne Eddis and Mrs Roger got plenty of Cambridge and Suzanne Stevens and Pete got plenty of Lincolnshire and it was all topped off by a well-struck touch of 8-Spliced. Well done all concerned.


Wednesday 7th March 2012

I have every admiration for the dedication and motivation of those who work in London and commute in, but I don't envy them, particularly on the basis of what I had to go through today. Just thirty hours after enjoying the company of good friends in The Bridge Inn just yards away, the platform of Shawford Railway Station at 5.30 on a cold, dark morning after a boozy day before seemed a very lonely and depressing place, especially when I considered the journey ahead of me. I have to admit that with my tired mind still snuggled up in bed in the warm and another four or five hours sleep to enjoy that the thought of travelling into the capital via Basingstoke and Reading for a sales course was far from an appealing one.

But I made it and as usual the vast metropolis didn't disappoint in providing many sights to stimulate the wary senses as I passed Wembley Stadium, Madame Tussauds, the BT Tower and even the Coast presenter Nicholas Crane before arriving at the Royal Institute of British Architects where - once Maddie, Peter and Rocio had arrived by taxi - we headed up to the sixth floor for our day's course with Gavin Ingham. Like most others I'm not overly keen on sales courses. Usually they're full off completely unrealistic advice and led by someone unfeasibly optimistic, but we've been on one of Gavin's courses before and he struck us then and today as someone in touch with the real world and interesting and entertaining to listen to. Nonetheless, it was already a long day before we even crawled into our taxi back to Woodbridge at just after five so we weren't looking forward to the return journey. The Suffolk based cabbie was understandably relying on his satnav to get us out but after a while it became apparent he hadn't necessarily keyed in the correct Woodbridge as it aggressively instructed us to cross south of the River Thames.

At this point Maddie - who used to live in London and knows it well - took over directions and once we'd passed many more of those sights including Broadcasting House, Oxford Street (which was looking a little chaotic after a shop hoarding had fallen on shoppers), the Millennium Wheel, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Magnus-the-Martyr and finally the Olympic Stadium, we eventually made it beyond the M25 and we thought onto the home straight.

Except the A12 had other ideas. Three accidents including a very big one involving a lorry saw the road closed and us reach Chelmsford only to sit and go nowhere for an hour. As we looked on enviously at the trains rushing past on the parallel railway line at high speed it could have been worse. Reports suggested that it could be two hours before the road was even reopened, but we made it back in the end, Ruthie waiting for me with a very welcome curry - some sixteen hours after standing on the platform at Shawford. I'm glad I can walk to work�


Tuesday 6th March 2012

Watching Ipswich Town play has taken me across the country. When I was at uni I saw them at all the grounds in the West Midlands, though I haven't been to the one Coventry City have moved into since. However I also took in the new and impressive arenas where Derby County and Leicester City ply their trade in the East Midlands and taken in the Reebok Stadium and JW Arena, the North-West homes of Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic respectively as well as seeing them down at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace's ground but at the time Charlton Athletic's temporary base. And of course my brother and I were at Wembley to watch the Tractor Boys win promotion to the Premier League twelve long years ago.

The Joshua Tree, Southampton.Today it took me to St Mary's Stadium in Southampton for Ruthie's first experience as an away supporter and the main reason for our break down south. It is another ground only built in the last few years and an impressive sight and from when we met up with Bishopstoke ringers Graham Wright and Alan and his wife Cheryl we had a very enjoyable evening. Before and afterwards they took us to a bit of a gem in a rough area, The Joshua Tree near the ground, a neutral pub serving good food and predictably heaving and from the off we were treated graciously and politely by every Saints fan we spoke with, not something that happens at every ground.

With that in mind, a diplomatic 1-1 draw that was quite entertaining in the end was probably the best result all round, with our hosts remaining top of the table and which continues the Town's apparent revival, though as I've said before I've seen far too many of those in recent years to get very excited about it.

And whilst watching the Mighty Blues has taken me around the country, so has ringing of course. From St Paul's Cathedral to York Minster, Wrentham to Cefn-Coed-y-cymmer, Newcastle Cathedral to Exeter Cathedral, St Mary-le-Tower to The Bullring and even over to Dublin I have travelled the country in the name of the hobby I so love and it has been delightful to have Ruthie accompany me in recent years. Today it took us to Upham, a nice little eight in a beautiful setting overlooking the South Hampshire countryside. It's a ground-floor ring, an obvious statement when you look at the church, the tower barely rising above the rest of the building and whilst it was a grab for my fiancée and me that wasn't our focus here today.

Rather we were there to attempt a quarter of Horton's Four - Bristol, Belfast, Glasgow and London Surprise Major. It's not an easy undertaking and indeed our initial attempt fired out after a handful of leads but once we got into the zone it was a tremendous success and one that we were all very proud off - make sure you register on BellBoard and 'like' it!

Winchester Cathedral.We felt we'd earned a drink and indeed with it being a 1.30pm QP a bite to eat too so we headed to The Alma nearby. I have to admit that when Philip and Maggie told us that we could get a carvery for just �3.89 I wasn't convinced that we were going to get anything very good but I'm very happy to report I was wrong. In fact, it was quite nice and actually better than some meals I've eaten for four times the amount! And after worrying over breakfast and a sunny walk around Winchester this morning, we were all relieved to relax with a drink and look ahead to the evening's entertainment!


Monday 5th March 2012

Did you know that Victor Meldrew died underneath Shawford Railway Station opposite The Bridge Inn just outside Winchester? Whilst you thank me for that bit of information which may one day win you a pub quiz let me explain why we were having a drink in the aforementioned pub on a Monday night.

Tomorrow evening sees Ipswich Town play at Southampton, team of choice for Maggie Ross and so along with Philip we decided to make a weekend of it if such a thing is possible in mid-week with a quarter of Horton's Four lined up before the game itself. For today though, it was about getting down there and we were grateful to the North-East District Ringing Master and Guild Chairman for picking us up and taking us first to their flat in the village that hosted the final moments of the lead in One Foot in the Grave and then onto the pub, a recently refurbished and pleasant local where we had a pint or three with their friend Sonia - affectionately known as Sonic - who also lives in the village and who we met on Philip and Maggie's treasure hunt back in September.

It was a very, very pleasant evening, but we were extremely careful as we left�


Sunday 4th March 2012

For all that ringing is primarily to call people to worship there is a strong social element which is vital if we are to keep ringers interested and usually it is the bands that do much outside of their own belfry that often do the best and generally have the highest attendances. So this afternoon's St Mary-le-Tower was eagerly awaited, certainly by me. After last years ridiculously long service at Fynn Valley Golf Club I was glad that we were at a different venue albeit another golf club, this time Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club. It is in a stunning location though on a miserably wet and windy day like today it is stunningly bleak and so Mason and I were glad to get inside to the restaurant for the main event.

And what an event it was too with a large crowd there to enjoy it, predominantly the majority of regulars who have helped to progress ringing at 'The Tower' but also friends of our band such as Brian and Peta Whiting who invite many of us to their superb BBQ every year (as well as Mr Whiting regularly ringing in David Pott's monthly eight-bell peals at SMLT), Hedley and Hazel Basford who ring with us on their frequent visits to their family in Ipswich and the recently retired Frank and Gwen Bloomfield who only had a short walk to take up their invite. But by far the most welcome site was that of George Pipe back after having a pacemaker fitted this week. He was looking remarkably well on it too.

The boy and I were sat with the Earey family, Ralph, Tess, Matthew (aka Bob) and Ellie (aka Geoff) and their patience was gratefully received as the li'l chap unusually played up something rotten. Still, we made it through and thanks to Owen and Di for organizing the whole thing which was very enjoyable and followed on from the very reason we were gathering together at the tip of the Felixstowe peninsula - Sunday morning ringing.

St Lawrence.There was a big turnout at St Mary-le-Tower itself with not only George's presence boosting us (though of course he didn't ring) but also the visit of Stephen and Janet Clarke. They continued on with us to St Lawrence before Mason and I went on to Grundisburgh where another decent turnout included Laura and Rosie, who the li'l chap watched over, enabling us to ring Caters of the Grandsire and Stedman variety. So all in all a good day of ringing AND socializing, just as it should be.


Saturday 3rd March 2012

For me, the ideal order of things at a ringing meeting event is ringing in some rural outpost on a sunny day with a large and varied number of fellow ringers, familiar and those that I don't see regularly, Ruthie and Mason alongside me. In this context it doesn't even matter about the quality of ringing. After all, these are practices and should be an opportunity for people to do ringing that they wouldn't usually get to do within the confines of their local belfry. That said, there should be good ringing too.

Following ringing, there is a church service, long enough to remind us of why we are allowed to enjoy our hobby so noisily but not so long that people are checking their watches and trying to calm down their rumbling tummies. We come out, learn Ipswich Town have won and then head to a quaint village hall, the more rustic the better. There is a huge spread of food and it is followed by a relatively brief and informal meeting where we find out things we didn't know at the start before going on to somewhere else for evening ringing and a village pub full of character and - especially in the summer - in a nice location.

Badingham. Dennington.At today's South-East District Quarterly Meeting there were a large number of those boxes ticked. We had the sunny weather to bask in and the rural idylls of Badingham and Dennington to ring at, the former with its considerable slope and set in beautiful Suffolk countryside and the latter sat in the quintessential English village setting, the village hall sat on one side, the green on another, pub to the north and fields beyond the east end.

Edwardstone. Boxford.Ruthie and Mason were by my side, the li'l chap enjoying elements of both churches that so excite a five-year old and there was a large (though still small proportion of the district with the biggest membership in the Guild) and varied crowd with ringers from Framlingham, Bredfield and Wickham Market amongst others complimenting the usual dedicated faces. ITFC won (and handsomely), the tea was great and the meeting was brief enough not to drag but long enough to impart some vital snippets of information. There is a band booked for The Guild Social on Saturday 15th September at Sproughton Tithe Barn. Provisional plans were put in place to quarter - or at least ring at - all the district towers for the Diamond Jubilee. Jed Flatter's vital pyramid training scheme was outlined by the Guild Ringing Master himself as was Guild Peal Week but there was also a report on the GMC. In the past I would've been there so didn't take much notice when details were given out to the assembled membership but now I don't sit on it I was keen to take it in. There was much discussed, but most notable was the sad news that Jonathan Stevens is to step down as BAC Chairman with effect from the Guild AGM. I think it is fair to say that no other officer has dedicated as much time to the Guild as Jonathan so both his efforts and expertise will be much missed at that level. There will be a chance to offer deserved gratitude and to find out who takes over in this vital role at the AGM at Edwardstone and Boxford on Saturday 14th April. Put it in your diary. And there was the no small matter of eight new members being elected today, though it was a shame only two could come along this afternoon.

But for all the familiar aspects of this afternoon it had quite a different feel about it, especially once we'd arrived at the 19cwt six of St Mary-the-Virgin where the 2010 peal-board is worth a gander to spot what is different about it - I'm sure Ole wouldn't mind you coming along to help out at the same time! The local ringers had made a real occasion of it with a lengthy service that a lot of effort had obviously gone into and we were joined for this and the tea by non-ringing villagers, a nice touch I thought. Sadly the food and meeting was held in the church rather than the village hall but this is a familiar scenario these days and understandable as everyone looks to save money, but all in all it was a very enjoyable day and has me looking forward to future district meetings.

And although we didn't stick around for the evening ringing in the end, Kate (who very kindly gave us a lift this afternoon - thanks Kate!) and ourselves did end up in a pub, albeit back in Woodbridge at Mason's request as we stopped off at The Cherry Tree along with the world and his wife, or so it seemed! Although we couldn't get a seat or to any of the games that the li'l chap wanted, it was an almost ideal way to end an almost ideal day!


Friday 2nd March 2012

For all the pros and cons of early and late shifts it's always nice to have a 'normal' shift at work as we had today after a couple of weeks of coming in at four in the morning and leaving at eight at night.

Picture of St Andrew, Tostock Of course it makes picking Mason up easier but sadly doesn't give me any extra ringing opportunities though others across the county have been doing something today. Congratulations to North-West District Ringing Master Ruth Suggett on ringing her fiftieth peal and well done to Alex Tatlow on scoring his first of Surprise Minor, both in the 5040 of Cambridge Minor at Tostock. Good work guys!


Thursday 1st March 2012

I recall from previous Recruitment and Training meetings the notion of the cavalry helping pockets of isolated learners around the county and on the night of the latest R&T meeting it was perhaps apt that Ruthie and I found ourselves in Brandeston helping young Matthew as he looks to break out from the one-on-one stage. It has to be said he was impressive as he rang his first rounds on six and even though he had the odd moment that all learners do and we have all had ourselves, he was rightly chuffed with his efforts and talking about going to other places to further his progress.

We were even able to do our bit for his tutor Chris McArthur afterwards as we rang a quarter of Cambridge Minor, though it can't be said we helped him overly with our first attempt as we had a false start, but after that we rang a fairly decent 1392 before being treated to a pint by Chris in The Queen's Head nearby. It's ages since I've been here, despite all those peal attempts of spliced Surprise Minor at All Saints. Usually it's been closed but tonight it was open, welcoming us in with a roaring fire even though today has actually been quite mild. And whilst the welcome was professional and I hope they do well, I didn't like it that much. Not enough of the character has been left for my liking and it doesn't fully feel like a village pub. The beer was nice though and the food looks lovely.

And it was a pleasant end to a long day that saw us bury Uncle Eric's ashes at the 'old' cemetery in Ipswich. Mum, Dad, Chris, Ruthie and I joined Aunty Marion in a short but moving ceremony by his new resting place alongside his sister Sheila with Brian Redgers again carrying out the honours wonderfully with Julie from the council and my fiancée's Uncle Wob present, the latter having brought my Godfather to this pleasant spot. We left sombre but upbeat, happy that Uncle Eric was completely at rest now.

Whilst we marked the past with hope for the future it is nice to come full circle back to the next generation of ringers like Matthew. George Salter is on the look-out for young ringers to represent the Suffolk Guild in the National Young Ringers Striking Competition in Birmingham on Saturday 30th June. If you know anyone then please do get in touch with him or if you haven't got his details then me. It is open to all youngsters, even if call-change ringers. We have lots of keen and talented ringing youngsters in this county so we should be able to put out a good team!


Wednesday 29th February 2012

Every four years, strange, rare things happen. Grown men expect the unexpected. That's right, they expect England to win the European Championships and on the date when grown men also expect the unexpected of being proposed to, the build-up began with a friendly against Holland. Although a relatively exciting finish saw the Three Lions come from 2-0 down to draw level in injury-time only to lose it a minute later it was a fairly dull match up to that point and some watching with Pete Faircloth and us in The Red Lion seemed more concerned with their bet on the number of corners during the game than the actual result! Still, it whetted the appetite.

It all came at the end of a day that saw me on another late shift that sadly meant I was unable to attend the funeral of the great Harold Rogers, though I was delighted to see a quarter rung beforehand at Chediston where it was held. And the late finish also meant I was unable to join Ruthie in ringing in the quarter at Pettistree in a very appropriately named method! Otherwise it seemed a surprisingly quiet day in a ringing sense. I would've thought lots of ringers would be looking to grab this rare date, unless the men are too busy hiding from the ladies and the ladies too busy searching for them�


Tuesday 28th February 2012

Another late start and finish at work to speak with schools in the Americas. In fact we were there so late I ended up catching a school in New Zealand on the way back through as they began Wednesday!


Monday 27th February 2012

A late start allowed me to drop Mason off to school but the finish at eight meant I couldn't get to St Mary-le-Tower practice, though there was time for a quick chat with my brother on the phone.


Sunday 26th February 2012

Today was the day I stalked David Stanford. Or David Stanford stalked me.

In morning ringing, a peal attempt and then a successful quarter, David was there and very enjoyable was his company throughout a busy day.

Ironically after that build up it started without DIS' presence as Mason and I attended ringing at St Mary-le-Tower where it was lovely to see George Pipe for the first time for sometime on the eve of a big week for him as he prepares to have a pacemaker fitted. We wished him all the best and hope that this will be the beginning of better times for him and Di.

From here my day of fun with David then began as he made up eight at Grundisburgh where we were also helped by Mike Burn once Mr Pettman had woken him from his car-bound slumbers with a sharp 'bob'!

Picture of St Andrew, Kettleburgh And Mr Stanford was very kindly present as Brian Whiting's replacement as we attempted again to prove our success in scoring our peal of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor methods was no fluke, this time at Kettleburgh, a truly beautiful rural location on a bright sunny day like today with the geese cackling loudly in adjoining field. Sadly we lost the peal though thankfully relatively early on, leaving us time to lose an attempt at a quarter and still get to The Chequers for a pint before I returned to Woodbridge to collect Ruthie from work and head back to St Mary-le-Tower for my next meeting with David, a quarter of Yorkshire Royal in memory of Tinker Lockwood who recently passed away. I can't say I knew Tinker well - he was more a vague memory from my youth - but I do know from others that he was not only a good old proper country boy much loved, but an invaluable help to ringing in Hadleigh, Hintlesham and perhaps most notably at SMLT where he was integral to George getting the band up and running when he returned from Australia to find things at what was then Suffolk's only twelve at an all-time low.

The 1282 successfully completed, my fiancée and I headed to Ashcroft Road to wish my mother a Happy Birthday and collect the li'l chap who had very kindly been looked after by my folks whilst I spent my day stalking. Happy Birthday Mum and thank you for putting up with me all day David!


Saturday 25th February 2012

A few of the more elderly people I have acquainted mention to me that all they seem to go to at their time of life is funerals whilst lamenting that at my age they used to go to engagement parties and weddings.

Sadly, Ruthie and I have already been to a funeral this year, but of course on a happier note we have our own wedding to look forward to in less than six months. And today we went to TWO engagement parties.

The first one was for Ruthie's school friend Beth and her husband-to-be Roderick and murder was the name of the game! Thankfully they haven't got up to the point of wanting to kill each other yet, but rather the focus of their party was a murder mystery round her parent's house.

The setting was an engagement party and whilst my fiancée was Stacey Sultry the cousin of the bride-to-be, I was the uncle of said bride-to-be, a terrible drunkard. No acting required there then...

From champagne at one until leaving at seven we had a superb time before we walked home to change out of costume and catch a taxi to our next engagement party, that of Toby and Amy's at Blaxhall Village Hall. This was a more standard but no less enjoyable party with a disco, cheap bar and loads of food. Mason danced like his life depended on it and loved the lights and bubbles but eventually our day of fun had to come to an end and the li'l chap and very nearly Ruthie and I were asleep by the time our return taxi had reached Pytches Road.

Picture of St Andrew, Wingfield Of course all this partying meant no time for ringing, but it was fantastic to see so much going on and being achieved today. Well done to Jenny Scase and Richard Bufton on ringing their first spliced Surprise Minor in the success at Wingfield and to David Howe on not only ringing his first of Yorkshire in at Palgrave but his first of Oxford Treble Bob Major in the 1280 at Gislingham whilst congratulations are due to Julian Colman on ringing his first peal in hand at the familiar handbell location of Pretyman Avenue in Bacton. Well done all of you.

Whilst today was busy, it is of course likely to be a hectic year of ringing and especially around the first weekend of June as the country celebrates the Diamond Jubilee. To this end, a page has been set-up on this website to mark the ringing going on around Suffolk to celebrate this rare occasion. Please do get involved, this is a superb PR opportunity and a great chance to give learners a go at something new, especially with Guild Peal Week leading up to and including the big weekend itself.

More immediately though, don't forget it is the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Badingham and Dennington this Saturday, a chance to ring at a different couple of towers in a central location. We should have time to attend it this week!


Friday 24th February 2012

Another early start but of course another early finish which allowed me to pick Mason up in the daylight after an afternoon of pottering around town, collecting photos and gathering wedding magazines with Ruthie in particular inspired by Debs' visit last night.

Talking of last night, well done to Richard Treloar who rang his first quarter inside in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Campsea Ashe, in the process successfully completing his 2011/12 Campsea Ashe Bells Challenge. It's great to hear of such challenges which it would be great to see more of.

Ashbocking.There were further ringing achievements today too and well done to David and Lesley Steed and Ann and David Webb on ringing their first blows and Adrian Malton on ringing his first quarter of Grantham Surprise Minor in the success at Somerleyton and to the entire band who rang their first of Pinehurst Bob Minor in the result at Ashbocking.

With the li'l chap put to bed and Ruthie and I fairly drained after both having early starts this morning, our evening consisted of nothing more than watching the final two Harry Potter films from the DVD set I got Ruthie for Valentine's Day, thus completing the viewing of all eight in ten days. I need fewer early finishes.


Thursday 23rd February 2012

Flowers. Another job for 11th August where we have now made great strides towards sorting out thanks to the visit of Debs, who is not only a fantastic florist but is a good and long-time friend of Kate, Ruthie and Clare and Godmother to the latter. We had a lovely evening, though after another early start I was flagging again by the end.

Mendham.Once again, the bellringers of Suffolk put me to shame as I dozed and well done to Michelle Clutten who rang her first quarter of spliced Minor in the success at Mendham. However, not just today but last night too as having missed Pettistree practice I missed Derek Martin's first inside in the 1260 of Bob Doubles. Congratulations Derek and Michelle! The flowers will be with you soon!


Wednesday 22nd February 2012

I should've been on a late shift at work today, meaning I had to pull out of a peal this evening. In a last minute change though, we were in at 4am again this morning, not easy after last night! It meant I could've rung after all - in theory. In reality I'm glad I wasn't ringing a peal as I was nodding off at six and was in bed by nine!

Reydon. At least others were awake enough to ring peals, most notably at Reydon where they marked the 15th anniversary of the first peal on the bells with an extremely impressive and worthy 5040 of Doubles. Well done to all at this lovely little six on the coast, including Helen Price who was ringing her first of Doubles, but most of all to Michelle Williams who was conducting her first peal and Susan Densham who was ringing her first peal. Hopefully an inspiration to other bands across the county.

Talking of inspirations, the funeral and burial of Harold Rogers will take place at 2pm on Wednesday 29th February, appropriately at Chediston with a service of thanksgiving being held on Thursday 15th March at 2.30pm down at All Saints, Isleworth, also appropriate. Sadly, my work shifts don't fall kindly and I shall be unable to attend either, but I am sure there will be a huge turnout in Suffolk and Middlesex for another celebrated son of Suffolk who will be much missed.


Tuesday 21st February 2012

At 3.30 this morning it was very dark and cold.

By 11.30am when I left work following a morning of calling schools as far afield as New Zealand, it was a bright, sunny and even vaguely warm day.

By 7.30pm it was of course dark again, but by this point Ruthie and I were hosting the latest edition of our 'Come Dine With Me' series with Kala and Toby. Sadly their respective partners Nick and Amy couldn't make it due to work commitments but we still had a superb evening with myself and my fiancée (well, almost entirely my better half to be fair) providing the starter of vegetable soup and the main course of beef goulash whilst Mason's Godmother made chocolate pancakes (we had to get them in somewhere on Pancake Day of course!) served with ice cream, hundreds and thousands, strawberries and syrup whilst the li'l chap's Godfather the bar manager brought beer!

It was great to catch up with these good, good friends and it was too soon time for them to leave into the dark and cold, but hopefully it'll not be too soon before we repeat the occasion.


Monday 20th February 2012

It was one of those useful but dull days you get occasionally in most jobs but especially office-based ones as the whole company was put through a training day. Though punctuated by a trip to The Wilford Bridge for lunch it made for a very long day and with an early start tomorrow and feeling a little tired we passed on going to The Cricketers tonight, especially after I brought a very decent few leads of Bristol Royal to a abrupt finish by going the wrong way when it was changed into Little Bob!

Worlingham.Stratford St Mary.Meanwhile if you can, please do support a couple of district events coming up this week, most immediately the North-East District Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham on Tuesday evening but also the South-West District Practice at Stratford St Mary on Saturday. Both useful occasions and if used to their full potential shan't be dull!


Sunday 19th February 2012

Sore heads or no sore heads - and believe me, Ruthie and I had sore heads - it was an early start for breakfast at The Grange and then off to help the locals on the ten at Newark, along with Paul and Anne Bray and the Ramsbottom boys from the Ramblers. Again, in what other hobby can you do that?

We headed over to Lincoln on the off-chance we might make it to the Cathedral to ring as they close the door after 10.15. As it was we were just too late but we were able to listen to some decent ringing as we first had a cuppa at Grayz Tea Rooms at the top of Steep Hill in the heart of this magnificent city, before descending said hill to explore and shop.

Our morning's ringing and touristy bit done, it was then over to nearby Brampton for Sunday dinner at my Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick's with Mum, Dad and Chris who were also all up for the Ramblers dinner last night. It was a lovely few hours of catching up and we even got past the planned A14 closures with little trouble to cap what has been a wonderful weekend.


Saturday 18th February 2012

Apart from taking advantage of half-term, the main reason for collecting Mason on Wednesday was that Ruthie and I were going away for the weekend to the Rambling Ringers Reunion Dinner. Although not vaguely formal, it does involve a meeting and we thought at this stage he was perhaps a bit too young to appreciate the occasion.

So after an immensely fun game of hide-and-seek and some lunch, we dropped him off at his mother's and made our way to Southwell Cathedral. It was the fourth and last tower of this afternoon's ringing, but with wanting to squeeze as much time with the boy as possible, this unique anti-clockwise twelve was our only ringing of the day.

After some Century Little Bob Cinques on this lovely ring, my fiancée and I needed to leave as our arrangements had become slightly more complicated than we'd planned. We had booked ourselves into The Deincourt Hotel in Newark where this evening's festivities were taking place. However, last night we received a call from the hotel to inform us that in an extraordinary case of bad luck the boiler had packed up on the annex section that we had been booked into. Thankfully they had booked us into a nearby hotel, The Grange with The Deincourt providing us with a taxi. However, it meant parking up and booking into at our original place of accommodation and then being taken to our back-up bed for the night, before being brought back for the dinner. Keeping up?

Richy & Ruthy.Ruthie, Richy & Chris.The dinner itself was a typically jovial occasion and as usual the meeting was extremely relaxed, with deserved recognition and gifts being given to the outgoing President, Geoff Pick, and of course the outgoing Secretary, my mother, before the assembled membership voted for Bury St Edmunds as next year's dinner venue. The rest of the evening saw more drinking and catching up with friends not seen as regularly as we'd like with much laughter. Maybe Mason would've enjoyed it after all!


Friday 17th February 2012

Huntingfield.Last year we lost Rod Pipe, a ringing son of Suffolk who became a ringing star known across the world. Today, we lost another one, Harold W Rogers. At the age of ninety-five and peal-ringing until last year with ringing friends across the world who respected him immensely, this was a life to be celebrated, sad as his passing is. He achieved much of course, but two peals in particular highlighted his longevity. One was a peal of Doubles at Huntingfield in 2008 that was rung exactly seventy years after his first peal on the same bell. Another was at the end of 2010 at his home tower of Isleworth when he rang a peal with Thomas Keech who was eighty-one years and fifty days his junior, probably the biggest age-difference between two peal-ringers in the same band.

Chediston.But my own happiest personal memory of him was the look of joy on his face at the Chediston dedication in 2009, a look apparently replicated with the first peal on the restored and rehung six the following day. Chediston of course was a place very close to his heart.

It was nice that in amongst the many footnotes already recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile there was one in Suffolk at another place I'm sure he would've appreciated the rehang, Helmingham. Well done to Tig Sweet, Richard Bufton and Stephen Christian on ringing their first of Stedman, Robert Scase on ringing his first of Stedman Triples and his son Tom on his first of Stedman as conductor. Harold would've approved I'm sure as no doubt he would've done of 'possibly' the first quarter of spliced Triples rung in the Eastern Counties at Ixworth and definitely a first for David Steed, David Howe, Maurice Rose and the conductor Alex Tatlow. Well done everyone!

There was no ringing for Ruthie or me today, though I did have a day-off work to share some of Mason's half-term holiday. We made the most of it by visiting his Nanna and Grandad and then popping in to see Aunty Kate and Aunty Ruthie at their respective workplaces. In between a little walk and watching Cars DVD's bought by his Unky Chris I even managed to get on Lesley Dolphin's show on Radio Suffolk talking about John Catt as she was on the lookout for local companies beginning with the letter J. It was a pleasant day with my son on a sad day for ringing.


Thursday 16th February 2012

There is apparently another cold snap coming, complete with more snow, but this time of year is the first time of the year that I can believe that spring is not that far away. Everything just seems a little brighter and - no doubt aided by the comparison with last week's sub-zero temperatures - it all feels quite mild and pleasant. What is more, even on the dullest day it is daylight as I leave work, lifting any flagging spirits and revitalising the senses, especially when I return to Ruthie and Mason after their day at home watching Cars and train DVDs.

The new homepage of this website is meant to revitalise the appearance of our art to non-ringers who may stumble across our site, whether it is by accident, searching for more information or finding out more, having had a go on The Vestey Ring. Whilst the old historical info from the front page has served us well and is useful, it was felt that perhaps this isn't the first thing we want people to find out about ringing. Rather we want to impart what we already know but most members of the public don't seem aware of - that ringing can be a consuming, life-changing, satisfying and enjoyable hobby for all ages. However not everyone likes it and it might be a bit worrying if they did. Any suggestions for amendments or even rewrites would be much welcomed!

After all, as yet another Grundisburgh practice was cancelled we need to be appealing to as many people as possible as we look to make the metaphorical transition into spring with hopefully many new beginnings for people coming across ringing for the first time.


Wednesday 15th February 2012

Mason and Peter Harper at Pettistree Practice. Ruthie and I are unable to have Mason this weekend and as it's half-term this week I collected the li'l chap after work today. Much to his excitement, we were off to Pettistree this evening and whilst he was giving everybody a go on the alphabet jigsaw puzzle from the church toy-box, there was a very decent practice night going on with a variety of ringing including Ipswich, Bourne and Norfolk, with all of those incorporated into some spliced at the end of the night just prior to Hilary leading us down.

There can't be many five-year-olds that are so easily bribed into good behaviour by the promise of a visit to the pub, but as the boy had behaved we felt we ought to pop to The Greyhound after the practice. The sacrifices to be made in the name of parenthood.

Rickinghall Superior.Up until last year we used to have Guild Peal Week during this week. Of course we don't now that I have passed the honours onto Jed and whilst this year's Guild Peal Week is running from Saturday 26th May to Tuesday 5th June to coincide with the Golden Jubilee celebrations there were still signs that this week can be one of ringing achievement. Following on from the weekend which most notably saw Simon Veal ring his first peal, it was Clare's turn to grab the limelight with her first inside in this morning's success at Rickinghall Superior (one of the finest named villages in Suffolk!) to mark what would've been the 97th birthday of the wonderful Albert Driver. Well done Clare. And well done too to Nathan Colman on ringing his first quarter of Surprise Major inside in the 1250 of Cambridge Major at Stowmarket.

It appears February half-term is still a good week for ringing.


Tuesday 14th February 2012

Having your mouth ravaged by a hygienist isn't everyone's way of spending Valentine's Day, but it's something I had to endure today.

Ruthie.However - once we'd actually got some food from Tesco first - we were able to enjoy our first Happy Tacky Love Day in our new house and our last one before becoming 'usband and wife with nachos, cheese, biscuits and wine whilst we watched two-eighths of Ruthie's present from me - the Complete Harry Potter Box Set. To her credit, my fiancée got me a very nice new wallet and was able to arrange for the Tractor Boys to win their third game in a row as Portsmouth were dispatched 1-0 in their own back yard - thank you darling!

Now that's more fun than going to the dentist!


Monday 13th February 2012

It's a small world. Today Jon Barnes started work for us, now sat next to me in the office. Who? He was the guy who wrote the article on Bailey Day in the East Anglian Daily Times back in October and a very good job he did of it too. Now he enters the world of independent and international education!

His arrival was part of a very different Monday that saw Ruthie and me picking her mother, Uncle Moog and Ron up straight after work and heading into Ipswich for a curry at Zaika, a fine Indian restaurant on St Nicholas Street which I can recommend following this evening's large but tasty portions!

It wasn't the main reason for our visit into Suffolk's county town tonight however and whilst we could hear the beginning of the St Mary-le-Tower practice as we walked the damp and slushy streets of the town centre, ringing wasn't our purpose either. No, our main destination was The Regent where the comedian Billy Connolly was performing. His blue language means he's not everybody's cup of tea, but we had a hilarious night. He is someone who has been on the telly for decades and is famous across the world and it felt very odd - as it often does with other famous people - that we were sharing a room, however vast it was. Sometimes the world feels very small.


Sunday 12th February 2012

They both took exactly the same time but were very different peals. Well done all round to the band who rang the 5040 of thirty-one methods, variations and principles at Great Barton but especially to David Howe for whom it was his first peal of Doubles and most of all to Simon Veal for whom it was his first ever peal. Congratulations Simon, welcome aboard!

At the other end of the spectrum but also coming in at 2hrs44mins, congratulations to Mick Edwards on ringing his 900th peal in the success at Aldeburgh. I've rung a lot of peals with Mick now and his solid and reliable treble-ringing has always been a reassurance, especially when negotiating the multi-Minor peals at a rate of knots at The Wolery!

St Mary's, Woodbridge.There was no ringing for us today though as we took advantage of Ruthie's day off by attending church at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. Sadly there's still no ringing at this fine eight, but it shouldn't be long now as the scaffolding is nearly removed. And we did bump into a ringer in the shape of Richard Clement, formerly of Framlingham but now an RAF chaplain in Scotland who was down visiting this week, so it was nice to catch-up with him.

As much as we would've liked to, we couldn't hang around chatting too long as the three of us had been invited to belatedly celebrate Susanne Eddis' birthday, along with Mrs Eagle, Ron, Mike Whitby and a couple of the 'birthday girl's' friends Belinda and Katharine. All bar Mike gathered at Pete and Susanne's first for a glass of fizzy before heading down to The Golden Panda, the first time I'd been there. As with last night's meal, we weren't to be disappointed, with the eat-all-you-can mantra as always being a good one!

Some of us finished the afternoon in The Mariners, inadvertently gate-crashing viewing of the Wales-Scotland Six Nations match before Ruthie and I put Mason to bed and then painstakingly directing a pizza delivery round to ours. It didn't quite take 2hrs44mins, but it didn't seem far off!


Saturday 11th February 2012

Pettistree.There are lots of towers across Suffolk doing good things that should inspire and guide those that feel they are struggling. I've heard lots of good things about Great Barton and their young band. There seems to be an upturn in fortunes at Sproughton. Debenham has a lively and enthusiastic band. The Blyth Valley Ringers collectively continue to push themselves and others. But it is Pettistree I know best at the moment. I always feel that if more bands did what they did we would have more ringers across the county. Never is it about just turning up on a Wednesday night out of duty. Apart from the varied ringing and high standards all achieved with a smile on the face and in good humour, there are regular quarter-peals that push those that attend, a good crowd always goes to The Greyhound afterwards as well as to Guild and District events and outings take us to different places, usually serving as useful and social occasions.

Mason.Wickham Market.But it is the annual meal that I enjoy most of all and this year's held this evening in The Coach and Horses in Melton didn't disappoint. A crowd of thirty of us tucked into typically large and good grub, with Mason experiencing this event for the first time and by-and-large behaving himself! The result of all the good things that the Pettistree band do is that we attract lots of ringers of all levels and as if to underline this, the winner of this year's Mary's 'Monthly' Plate for achievement in the belfry went to Derek Martin from Wickham Market who has done what all learners should do if they can by complimenting his Monday night attendance at All Saints with weekly trips to SS Peter & Paul. Well done Derek.

And in conditions so cold that Ipswich Town's match against Middlebrough was abandoned after 35 minutes due to a frozen pitch this afternoon, well done Mike and Mary on organizing a superb night out to warm the cockles and thank you Kate for taking us there and back. It's these sorts of things that make bands.


Friday 10th February 2012

Rendham.Well done to Pete Faircloth on ringing his first of Superlative in the quarter at Rendham which Ruthie also rang in, rushing out with a burger in hand as things got a bit rushed with the ice and snow making the weekly pick-up of Mason a longer process than usual. Those special Surprise Major practices at Ufford are definitely making a difference.


Thursday 9th February 2012

Another term, another parents' evening and more good progress made by Mason with his phonics, numbers and writing all coming along nicely whilst he continues to be popular throughout the school for his caring and thoughtful manner.

Ufford.Talking of caring and thoughtful manners, it was a pleasure to help Don Price celebrate his 82nd birthday as he and Helen were present at Mike and Kate's special Surprise Major practice at Ufford that I joined late this evening following my chat with the li'l chap's teacher. With them having made it down from Reydon in the snow, ice and slush I'm glad we were not only able to share birthday cake but some Bristol Major and 8-Spliced Surprise Major before some of us retired to The White Lion round the corner where we appeared to have caught the end of a rather good wine-tasting evening!


Wednesday 8th February 2012

What a day! I'm not referring to the amazing footballing merry-go-round that saw Fabio Capello sensationally resign as England manager and everyone's favourite to succeed him Harry Redknapp walk out of court having been cleared of tax evasion.

Rumburgh.Rather I'm talking about a busy day of ringing in Suffolk with three peals and two quarters and significant achievements. Most newsworthy of all is soon-to-be-sixteen-year old Alex Rolph who today rang her first peal in the 5040 of Bob Minor at Rumburgh. Congratulations Alex and Happy Birthday for Saturday! There may well be an opportunity to congratulate her in person at the North-East District Quarterley Meeting at Hopton and Stradbroke on the big day itself if she isn't too busy partying! Either way, I hope members from that part of the world help their officers by attending as I hope any budding conductors will do in the morning at Pakenham for the Basic Conducting Course. These events are meant to help those who are the future of our art primarily as well as offering a brilliant social opportunity. Please help make them a success on both levels.

Back on the subject of peal-ringing achievements, well done today also to Richard Bufton for ringing his first peal of Surprise in the aptly composed length of 5060 of Yorkshire Major at Grundisburgh rung in honour of the 60th anniversary of the accession of the Queen to the throne.

Whilst on the subject of our varied membership, their achievements and what is on offer to them, there are changes afoot to the Guild homepage in an attempt to make it seem a little less historical and more to do with our members and hopefully enticing more into ringing. There has been a rewrite of the blurb which is the first thing visitors will see but we could really do with some photos of ringers of all ages and sizes partaking in our wonderful pastime to accompany it. If anyone has a photo of young and old alike ringing together that would be superb and would be very helpful if you emailed a copy to .

Meanwhile, Ruthie and I were at The Wolery this evening where conditions were so cold that David had to de-ice the treble clapper first! It didn't stop us ringing a very decent peal of five-spliced Surprise Major which made it even more appropriate to belatedly mark Mason's recent fifth birthday, making up for our loss of a week and a half ago.

It means I have thirty-six peals to ring in eleven months to get to my 500th by the end of the year as my 2012 peal total builds at a much slower rate than I had hoped. At least I'm not working at the Football Association as they search for a new manager with just four months until Euro 2012.


Tuesday 7th February 2012

Charles Dickens.It was Charles Dickens' 200th birthday today, celebrated with great gusto including a 5200 of Stedman Cinques at Southwark Cathedral. But I had no Great Expectations of my visit to The Old Dentistry Shop in today's chapter of The Life and Adventures of Richard Munnings. Whilst my visit first thing this morning to Our Mutual Friend was fairly painless, it is to be A Tale of Two Dentists as I need to see the hygienist next week. Hard Times.


Monday 6th February 2012

With the snow that had melted today about to freeze up and create icy conditions at rush hour, Jonathan released us early from work though of course it didn't make an awful lot of difference to me. It was a different story for those with trips back to Kettleburgh, Sudbourne, Alderton and the like though so a very sensible move.

St Mary-le-Tower.And the conditions led to a slightly reduced attendance at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening. That said full marks to Mandy, Craig and Alex for coming over from Bury St Edmunds and Stephen and Ian from Essex. Indeed, well done to us all because Chelmsford Cathedral didn't practice at all tonight, though that did mean we had the benefit of Brian Meads presence with a decent turnout in The Cricketers afterwards.

One thing it is worth noting at SMLT is a recently instated policy in regards entrance to the belfry. For years many a piece of ringing has been derailed by people entering through our rather noisy door partway through. It shouldn't distract ringers really. But when people are learning things it's only right that we try and minimize the distractions for them so David has requested that people just hold off from entering the belfry until ringing has stopped or at least come into rounds. At this time of year and depending on at what point in a piece of ringing you get there you may be in the cold for a few minutes but we just ask for a bit of patience in an attempt to improve the ringing, even if it is just minimally. Hopefully it'll be more bearable when we get to the spring and summer!

Meanwhile, congratulations to Pippa Moss on ringing her 500th quarter in the success at Pettistree yesterday. Another fine example of life going on in the winter conditions.


Sunday 5th February 2012

Unsurprisingly the county that was panicked by a light dusting of the white stuff twenty-fours earlier was today in some kind of state of emergency with proper snowfall overnight. There were alarming reports of people sliding off roads and anxious warnings that people must not go out unless it's absolutely essential whilst belittling those who had just got on with things and gone out on 'non-essential' travel. No doubt they will have considered going ringing as non-essential despite the fact that Mason and I were able to get to St Mary-le-Tower with no trouble at all. I just drove slowly and cautiously and let's face it if I can manage that I'm sure most of Suffolk's drivers can manage it! In the end the only hold-ups we experienced were due to infuriating traffic lights which were still wasting electricity, fuel, time and money by stopping us to let through non-existent traffic, despite the fact there was barely a vehicle on the road!

St Lawrence.It was worth it too as others came in from Witnesham, Felixstowe and most impressively of all Don still made it in from Reydon to give us a decent turnout of eleven in all. We therefore had enough to man St Lawrence for the first Sunday ringing there too with George Salter running the ringing. Maybe a future Guild Ringing Master in the family?

Grundisburgh.And although there were only four of us at Grundisburgh (plus the li'l chap) we still made a noise and quite an adventurous one at that as Stephen put Kate, Don and myself through our paces with Kent, Oxford, Stedman and St Clement's/Double Bob Minimus and as the sound of the bells travelled over the white-topped village roofs and blanketed fields surrounding us, it felt like a defiant message that life can carry on despite the prophets of doom.

Mason, Richy & Snowman.Besides, all this snow is immense fun as the boy and I rediscovered this afternoon! With a much bigger garden than we had last time we had this much of the stuff and therefore a greater supply of materials, we set about constructing as big a snowman as we could and we managed it before picking Ruthie up from a very quiet Boots! Mr Beavis compared our creation to a prominent Ipswich ringer (see if you can guess before you check) on Facebook, though any likeness was entirely coincidental! We were proud of our efforts though and guess what? No crashes, no injuries, but a lot of fun!


Saturday 4th February 2012

In different ways it was a productive day today.

Whether it was absurd panic buying because of the snow or that people were at a loose end due to various events being postponed or cancelled for the same reason (as I heard someone ask today, how did this country cope in the war?), Tesco was heaving to an extent I've never seen before. Every till was open, but even then each had a queue at least three or four trolleys long. However, everyone seemed to be waiting patiently with Mason and even Ruthie (for whom usually a stray trolley is all it takes to push her over the edge in this place) taking it in their stride.

Wickham Market.The sensation of being shoulder to shoulder with our fellow man continued for us three as we joined over thirty members at the six of Wickham Market for the first half of this afternoon's South-East District practice.

It didn't feel quite so crowded at the second tower of the day Campsea Ashe, partly because a handful had disappeared but mainly because we could congregate in the church as Tom the district Ringing Master could still communicate with us easily at this gallery ring of six.

It has to be said that this event fulfilled its purpose in the main. Mr Scase made sure that there was something for everyone, from call-changes to Surprise Minor and whilst standing in a freezing church may not be everyone's idea of an afternoon out, I enjoyed myself immensely socialising, catching up with how things are at Hollesley, to hearing from Glenys Fear about the successful Saturday morning practices at the latter of today's sixes (though encouragingly and sensibly they are looking to add to their numbers from within the village) to chatting with the delightful Jimmy Wightman on the Otley ringing scene to seeing the progress that the hugely youthful Sproughton band are making with five youngsters present from there today.

Sadly the Ipswich contingent was small today though it was understandable in George and Di's case, but most disappointing was the continued absence of any members from the Shotley peninsula. The enthusiastic bands at places like Harkstead (where there are more youngsters), Holbrook (whose band are keen enough to organise outings around the country for themselves), Tattingstone and Stutton would really have benefited from today's practice, meeting others doing the same thing and taking advantage of the considerable expertise on hand. It's a big shame that we can't get them to district events where we could help them and they could help us even when we take the district to them. It is one of the things that I'm sure the district is focused on improving, especially as there is much more that we could do to go to them to help.

The other slightly disappointing aspect of today's event was the lack of a gathering for a drink afterwards. Whilst we three had a convivial drink with Mike and Pippa in The Cherry Tree back in Woodbridge, most people had dispersed by the end of ringing. It is perhaps a disadvantage of the events that finish in the afternoon as people do tend to drift off to do other things in the evening, whereas when people attend the evening ringing events they are there for the evening and therefore often the pub afterwards. It may not seem important, but it's the kind of thing that might help entice members out, especially on a cold February day.

Still, I hope none of that detracts from an otherwise very successful afternoon's ringing with a good turnout from the two host towers.

Rendham.Once we'd had our drink, we finished off our day productively by making our own pizzas but we weren't the other ones being productive today, Philip Moyse particularly. Not content with ringing his 25th peal in the success at Rendham (Happy Birthday Martin!), he also rang his first quarter in hand at Philip and Maggie's.

And hundreds of miles away at The Ricoh Arena in Coventry, even the Tractor Boys were getting in on the act against one of the few teams below them, beating the home team 3-2. Another productive ninety minutes from the Superblues.


Friday 3rd February 2012

Campsea Ashe.We've been lucky this winter, but it was inevitable that the snow would come at some point and so it started this evening. No doubt tomorrow will see a host of events cancelled and postponed due to the 'treacherous' conditions but I hope South-East District members will be slightly hardier and still come out in force to support the district practice at Wickham Market and Campsea Ash tomorrow afternoon.

As Ruthie arrived back from a meal out at The Coach and Horses in Melton to bid farewell to a work colleague this evening snow had settled but not very deeply so hopefully it'll have little effect when it comes to the ringing. With a bit of luck!


Thursday 2nd February 2012

I had an interesting conversation on the phone this evening with Brian Aldous the tower correspondent at Falkenham and Felixstowe. With Frank and Gwen Bloomfield's recent retirements from ringing, the situation on the peninsula in regards members is precarious with just ten ringers between the two towers. So Brian is doing what more bands should be looking to do with not only the backing but the encouragement of the vicar - getting their name out there. There is a church fete in July that he is looking to give the ringers a big presence at, though sadly it appears The Vestey Ring is booked up so they won't be able to use that. However, The Felixstowe Star has been in touch so he is on the right tracks. Although I am happy to do publicity for towers and individuals who'd rather not do it themselves, it is wonderful to see members like Brian taking the bull-by-the-horns.

St Ethelbert and St John-the-Baptist's geography - like so many similar towers along the coast - doesn't help them. Most members have to go considerably out of their way to get there, but hopefully people can help out every now and again or if not they might have some ideas to help Brian get new recruits. Answers on a postcard or even better an email!


Wednesday 1st February 2012

It depends on circumstance of course, but in my experience funerals and wakes are very reassuring occasions. Following on from the initial shock of someone's death and - depending on your relationship with them - the inevitable sorting out of their affairs, these occasions offer an opportunity for communal reflection on someone's life and then a chance to share memories with other acquaintances of the deceased, usually happy ones. It helps put things in perspective, that life goes on and that we shall all be together again at some point. It is also always very comforting when it is someone close to you as Uncle Eric was to us of course, to see so many people come out to pay their respects. At his funeral at Seven Hills Crematorium today, it was comforting too to see familiar faces present.

Diana Pipe was there (though sadly of course George couldn't be), as were relatives not seen for some years and many old boys that I remember from the days when Chris and I went to the football with my Godfather. But also Brian Redgers took the service wonderfully with his own unique blend of humour and respect relayed so eloquently (in contrast with my hoarse reading following too much shouting at the footy last night) as he recalled Uncle Eric's active and interesting life. And we were treated brilliantly by E. B. Button & Sons as Ron along with Ruthie's Uncle's Moog and Wob went about their duties with professionalism and the occasional appropriately-placed reassuring nod, smile and quip.

The wake could only be held at Greshams Sports & Social Club of course, where the sporty Uncle Eric spent much time (though sadly not anywhere near as much as he would've liked as he became increasingly immobile) and where indeed Chris and I have many warm recollections of playing tennis with him during school summer holidays.

Eventually the crowds dispersed and we were left with our own memories again but strengthened by the whole experience. But of course it was Aunty Marian who was our main concern today and although she appeared to have taken it all in her stride we didn't want to leave her on her own this evening so the six of us took her out to The Sorrel Horse at Barham. It was a nice meal and with huge portions (and I mean huge!) good value for it, but once we'd finished, there was still room for a pint for Ruthie and me at The Greyhound in Pettistree as we got there in time to join Kate, Ron and the retiring ringers. It was a reassuring end to the day.


Tuesday 31st January 2012

Tomorrow is Uncle Eric's funeral so it seemed appropriate that Ruthie and I found ourselves at Portman Road to watch Ipswich Town's game with West Ham United. My Godfather was an ardent Town fan and season-ticket holder having watched his first match in the 1930's when the future league champions, FA Cup and UEFA Cup winners were just an unremarkable amateur team. He had watched regularly and at close quarters as they grew into one of the best sides in Europe who provided the national team with their two finest managers. They may now be a pale shadow of the boys in blue at their finest, but one of his legacies was my love of the Tractor Boys and despite severe misgivings about how this evening would pan out we were glad to be at one of the most famous football stadiums in the country.

The glory of the sport is its incredible unpredictability and the atmosphere it generates as a result. But nobody was prepared for what happened tonight.

We had beaten our opponents at their home in East London back in September, but as they visited Suffolk today they were top of the table and had conceded fewer goals than anyone else in our division. The best we fans were expecting was maybe a lucky draw. So the place was jumping in exaltation and shock as we hammered The Hammers 5-1, playing the best most had seen us play for years. It was like watching Barcelona at times, so quite why we've been playing like Barnet most of the season is perhaps the only frustrating element of a memorable night.

It was made all the better that the hapless keeper trying to keep Chopra, JET and co out was Robert Green, former Naaaaridge goalie and the England GK who let in THAT goal against the Americans at the very beginning of the 2010 World Cup. There were a few chants of 'USA, USA' floating around on the freezing air...

Even once my fiancée and I had made it back to Woodbridge for some celebratory beers in The Mariners we were still slightly disbelieving, but for once, the current ITFC team did Uncle Eric proud.


Monday 30th January 2012

As a follow-up to Friday's peal at Felixstowe, may I say how sorry I am to hear that the birthday boy has decided to retire from ringing? Frank has been a superb asset to the relatively new (in the scheme of things) ringing scene on the peninsula with Falkenham also benefiting from his and Gwen's expertise. Indeed, he was the first tower captain of the 2003 ring of eight at St John the Baptist. So enjoy your retirement Frank but don't stay away!

No sign of retirement at St Mary-le-Tower this evening at a bustling and energetic practice, helped no end by five from Bury St Edmunds, including Dr Abby sporting the latest bright yellow Suffolk Guild clothing! Sean excelled at ringing the treble to Little Bob Royal again, Peter Davies rang Kent Maximus for the first time, George Salter rang inside to Yorkshire Royal with confidence and we welcomed Sonia who was having her first handling lesson this evening under the expert eye of David Potts. As if to highlight the variety of tonight's ringing we topped it all off with a decent half-course of Yorkshire Max which all preceded a visit to The Cricketers for a pint.

There was mixed news in regards to George Pipe though. He was today taken into hospital again, though Di was out this evening and reassured he was in the best possible hands and he has been given the good news that he will be taken to Papworth at the end of next month to be fitted with a new pacemaker. Hopefully 2012 will eventually be an improvement on 2011 for Mr and Mrs Pipe.

Our journey home was enlivened somewhat by coming across four police cars parked outside the Millennium Cemetery on the outskirts of town. There were lots of torches being waved about in the grounds and I don't know what was actually going on, but it looked like they could've been aided by Abby's Guild top to brighten up the darkness!


Sunday 29th January 2012

Today, five was the magic number, with Ipswich Town's defence nowhere in sight. Much the same as usual I suppose.

At St Mary-le-Tower - where Chris, Mason and I arrived at five past nine - we had the great pleasure of Roger Bailey's presence, exactly five weeks after Christmas Day when we would normally expect him.

Hasketon.With it being Sunday number five of the month, there was a change to the norm from Grundisburgh, with the benefice service at Hasketon this time meaning ringing was there too. With the help of my brother Chris we had enough to ring the back five here on a drizzly, cold day.

And Chris was also with me as we looked to celebrate Mason turning five, by ringing a peal of five-spliced Surprise Major at Grundisburgh which included many five-pulls in Lincolnshire and Superlative. Sadly, after much five-star ringing the peal was miss-called two and a half courses from the end, which - to take this theme to its tenuous limit - is of course half of five courses. It was very disappointing as although the li'l chap won't be able to appreciate it at the moment, I would like him to look back and see all the peals we've rung for his birthday over the years.

However, it wasn't all bad on the peal-ringing front with massive congratulations to Colin Salter on ringing his first peal as he bonged behind to 5040 changes on five at The Wolery as another birthday was celebrated. It is wonderful to see family efforts like this, the only problem is I've run out of references to the number five.


Saturday 28th January 2012

The award for most spectacular arrival at our new home goes to� Aunty Kala!

It was the first time Mason's Godmother had been to this address and so as she arrived in her car to give her Godson his birthday present she was unaware we had a driveway to park on. Instead, she went down the track that leads to our neighbours and somehow got stuck on our lawn before nearly driving into the front of our house trying to get out!

Once that drama was over though, we were able to enjoy a wonderful couple of hours and some lunch with each other as we all helped the li'l chap construct his latest gift of Lego.

She wasn't our last visitor of the day however, though we did move back to Kate's to continue our brief house-sitting mission. Next up was the five-year old's Godfather Toby who of course came armed with a present and despite calls from Amy as she struggled with Guinness and gas back at The Ship, we had a great time again.

As he left, Unky Chris arrived with another present and with him spending the night we were able to chat lots about everything from ringing to Uncle Eric to football and most in between as well as trying to solve murders as we tuned into the Poirot weekend on TV!

Stowmarket.Hopefully no mystery surrounded today's peal at Stowmarket as more birthdays were marked, this time to George Colman and David McLean. There were more achievements too, most notably it being Alan Mayle's 500th as conductor. No awards for that I'm afraid Alan, but congratulations anyway!


Friday 27th January 2012

Mason.Five years ago today, a very significant and special thing occurred - Mason A J Crane was born into the world. The impact he has had on those he's met over those five years has been wonderful, normally smiling, mainly polite, helpful, incredibly caring and very easy-going. I hope he retains these wonderful aspects of his personality as they'll hold him in very good stead. The biggest effect has been on those closest to him, including Ruthie and me and so we were delighted to help hold his well-deserved birthday party after school today at the now familiar Fred Reynolds Centre. And judging by the huge gathering of excited school-friends in fancy dress, he has had a huge effect on his contemporaries too.

The birthday boy himself was dressed as a policeman and was in his element as he greeted people and enjoyed the various party games we'd setup from pass-the-parcel to musical bumps.

Eventually it all had to finish and we had to get him back to Edwin Avenue where we were doing a bit of house and dog-sitting, but the whole experience highlighted what we already knew - we are very fortunate to have Mason in our lives.

Ashbocking.His isn't the only birthday this weekend though with many happy returns due to Frank Bloomfield and for Sunday to Robert Beavis, occasions marked by the peal of Double Norwich at Felixstowe and the quarter at Ashbocking respectively. Well done Jenny Scase, Robert Scase, Stephen Christian and Richard Bufton on ringing their first of Duke of Norfolk in the latter. What a very special and significant weekend.


Thursday 26th January 2012

I love pub quizzes so I was in my element this evening as we came to visit Toby and Amy in their new home at The Ship in Blaxhall. There were old faces a plenty from my days frequenting The Green Man in neighbouring Tunstall as the crowd there seems to have migrated to this much nicer venue, including Graham the quizmaster. It has to be said his approach was a bit scattergun and some of the questions quite difficult for a simple pub quiz, but it wasn't an event to be taken too seriously, complimented by a decent spread of food and our team 'By Hatch' (guess where we were sat) thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and even managed to come second, though there cries of 'fix' as 'Toby's Tigers' (just) came in first!

Pettistree.Following a tour upstairs of our hosts new abode, we dropped our teammates Ron and Kate off at their respective homes at the end of an evening that saw me negotiating the obscene amount of traffic lights around Kesgrave as I collected Mason's birthday cake for tomorrow. On which note, thank you very much to the Pettistree ringers for their footnote from Wednesday's quarter. Hopefully it'll be a day to remember - I love parties too!


Wednesday 25th January 2012

Henley.Now there are just thirty-seven to go before my 500th peal as Ruthie and I finally got our first peal of the year. And what a good one it was too as we scored David Potts' first of 8-Spliced Surprise Major at Henley. Well done David! Apart from the other David and me trying to swap ropes and the occasional memory fuzz in the main either instantly and/or self-corrected, it was 2hrs 38mins of very enjoyable decent ringing with all the music remaining intact with knowing smiles from various band members. It was lovely to ring with all the band of course, but especially Ruthie who is gently easing herself back into more regular peal-ringing and having reached her 240th this evening has now got her sights set on 250! And it was Amanda's first peal for years, so well done her on seeing it through - she seemed to enjoy herself! And it was nice to put a footnote to Uncle Eric.

It's the kind of thing which will hopefully be replicated in Suffolk Guild Peal Week, this year in Guild Ringing Master Jed's hands and running from Saturday 26th May-Sunday 3rd June in the lead-up to the long Diamond Jubilee weekend. I know how hard it is to organise these but was also extremely grateful to the help, flexibility, kindness and patience of so many so I hope Jed will be afforded the same for a period where we ought to be looking to do much ringing to celebrate and make sure that ringing is associated with the main celebrations in as many places in Suffolk as possible.

Bildeston. Beccles.It's not the only ringing event coming up of course with something happening in each district in the next two weeks. Saturday sees the South-West's Practice at Bildeston (a beautiful spot to go ringing), the North-East's Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles next Wednesday, the South-East's practice at Wickham Market and Campsea Ashe (which if it is as good as the recent one at Debenham should be well worth the visit) and finally (but certainly not least) the Bacton Monthly Practice in two weeks to bring the North-West to the party. Please do support these events. They are put on due to the great efforts of people who give up more than just the couple of hours it'll take out of your life as they spend time booking towers, preparing and so forth to enable people to learn, progress and socialize so do make it worth their while. Thank you.

For now, we had worked up a thirst so we headed to another one of those pubs with nowt but those dark empty fields surrounding them, The Cross Keys down the road. Hopefully the first of at least thirty-seven post-peal success visits to the pub before the year is out.


Tuesday 24th January 2012

I've been to a few weddings and seen a few receptions. Ralph and Tessa Earey's was a wonderful barn dance at the lovely Sproughton Tithe Barn, a timely reminder to keep free Saturday 15th September where the Guild Social will be a wonderful barn dance at the lovely Sproughton Tithe Barn. Laura Stoppard's transition to Mrs Lindley was also celebrated with a stonking barn dance, this time at the same venue as our post-wedding party is planned to be held just over a month before the aforementioned Guild Social. Others have had bands and I have heard of people having karaoke and some a jukebox. It isn't a party without music, but it isn't easy deciding what type of musical entertainment to have.

We are plumping for a good old fashioned disco and this evening we took another step along the plans for 11th August as we booked and paid for the DJ, a lovely chap called Glenn from Wickham Market who we popped round to see after Ruthie had finished work. As we arrived we noticed he only lived a couple of doors down from Nick and Kala, so we thought it rude not to pop in and see them afterwards. Though Nick was at rugby practice we were able to accompany Mason's Godmother as she prepared tea and could've spent days there nattering. As always a jolly good laugh.

However, an empty food cupboard and Tesco were calling out to us so we forced ourselves to Martlesham before finally settling down to tea, the goodwill from our visits to Glenn and Kala carrying us through another hectic trip to the famous supermarket.

Meanwhile, whilst there were no quarters or peals to report in Suffolk (at least that are recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile as I write this), just over the border in Willingham, Alfie Pipe was making history by (probably) becoming the youngest person to ring a quarter-peal with a brilliant footnote. Rod would've been proud and it is another achievement for the Pipe family to celebrate. Cue the music. But what type of music?


Monday 23rd January 2012

Following yesterday's disappointing ringing, there was much, much better at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Not everything went. After all, that's the nature of a practice. Not even at Bullring practices did everything go. They're there for people to practice what they don't fully know yet and that opens the door for potential error. They're also there to polish what ringers do know and there was a fair bit of that going on too, with Yorkshire all the way through from Major to Maximus and some decent London Royal (No.3) that collapsed in the Little Bob that was meant to bring it round. Some Little Bob Royal that did go very well was Sean's first (at least first time I've seen him do it) go at ringing the treble to the method which he did superbly at for a first go. What I like about him is that when he puts his bell in the wrong place you can see him trying to adjust, something I wish more learners would do. Indeed, something I wish many ringers far more experienced than him would do!

Edwardstone.Other members I wish more would copy are the regular quarter-pealers from the west of the county. Well done to Judith Kaufhold, Richard Brewster and David Howe on ringing their first of Surfleet Minor in the success at Edwardstone today.

I don't know what they did after that, but we topped off our efforts with a pint in The Cricketers before returning home to watch Late Kick-Off and a special report on another Ipswich institution going the other way to its ringing counterparts - down.


Sunday 22nd January 2012

When we scored our peal of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor methods back in November, we as a band were faced with three options. One was to simply say we'd reached the climax of a very enjoyable project, the second was to go for the fifty-two methods which in the context of our efforts would be very attainable and the final choice was showing that the forty-one was no fluke.

We went for the last and so with Mum and Dad very kindly looking after Mason - thanks guys - we found ourselves at Brandeston again, the scene of that triumph. With it being over two months since we last attempted this, I thought there might be a bit of rust in our efforts and to an extent I was right. However, there seemed a more relaxed and confident attitude in the ringing, perhaps to be expected having already shown we can do it. Sadly, the lack of practice due to a busy December showed and after about the equivalent length of an extent a trip developed into a collapse. Maybe it was going a little too well!

A subsequent attempt of Kelso and Warkworth floundered before we'd even tried our hand at the latter so cut our losses and joined the Guild Chairman in The Chequers in neighbouring Kettleburgh ahead of him and Maggie heading off to an ultimately successful 1280 of thirty-eight Doubles methods, variations and principles at Reydon. Well done to Philip Moyse and Michelle Williams on it being the most methods they'd ever rung and to Chairman Gorrod on it being the most he'd ever called. They were achievements not only recorded on the new and impressive BellBoard but I'm glad to say on the now recovered Campanophile. It'll be interesting to see how these two sit side-by-side. Whilst only the old favourite records the achievements the Salter boys at Kersey today (well done to Colin on ringing his first on eight and George on ringing his first Grandsire Triples), both record Philippa Weyers and Steve Munford's first quarter on ten in the Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower this afternoon and the impressive quarter of London Royal (No.3) at St Mary-le-Tower yesterday where congratulations are in order to Anne and Paul Bray on ringing their first in the method and David Potts for calling his first in the method.

It was a good run-out for the new eleventh clapper which was still working well this morning as I joined the ringing. It has to be said it wasn't the best this morning with even rounds on ten being a struggle at one point but it is a rare blip in a belfry where things are going in the right direction, as yesterday's effort highlights.

It's a shame the same can't be said for Grundisburgh where following last week's big turnout for the Bishop we were just seven, with Stephen away this weekend. His absence meant that I was responsible for the key, running the ringing and bringing the heater, sadly the highlight of this morning's session. With no practices for months and regularly poor turnouts at Suffolk's only other twelve (for now!) on Sundays, it makes you wonder what the options are here.


Saturday 21st January 2012

On the face of it, it's been a tough start to 2012 personally but not as much so as for Aunty Marian. She's been well looked after this week and we've been busy arranging and carrying out last night's demonstration to the cub scouts so Ruthie and I were glad to finally be able to pop round and see her.

She's never been the most energetic or emotional of people but she appeared understandably dazed as you would expect for someone who had just lost her husband of forty-five years. However, I hope our visit with Mason (who we'd briefed beforehand) helped cheer her up and made a difference.

It was the main focus of an otherwise quiet Saturday, accompanied only by a trip to Halfords to buy a booster seat for the li'l chap in another sign that he is fast growing up as we approach the fifth anniversary of his birth.

The less said about a trip to a heaving Tesco the better and likewise about the staggeringly comedic defending of Ipswich Town as they literally gave their opponents Leeds United three goals. Giving Uncle Eric another ITFC team to be proud of though, seems a long, long way away.


Friday 20th January 2012

There were five of them. No ten. No, no! There were twenty. All big burly guys covered in tattoos. But I fought them off. I got my head cut open, but you should've seen them.

As I sat in the Emergency Department at Ipswich Hospital for the fourth time in less than two weeks (my season ticket is in the post) that would've been an easier way to explain the blood oozing from the top of my face than telling a Spanish doctor that a ring of six had dropped on me from above.

We'd done the hard bit. The Vestey Ring had been set up in under half an hour and given a talk and demonstration on ringing to an interested but lively twenty Cub Scouts at St Bartholomew's Church Hall in Suffolk's county town before giving them all a go.

Now we just had to take it down...

It should've been easy enough. There were seven of us in total so Kate and I stood underneath the bells taking their weight whilst the others took the first of the three legs off and took the rest of the weight. Then we'd gently and slowly lower that side before repeating the process for the other two legs. Except it didn't quite happen that way.

As the first leg was taken off the whole structure starting coming down very quickly and my future mother-in-law and I couldn't get out of the way in time. She got a bump on the noggin whilst I felt an agonising blow, fell to the ground and felt my head to find the red stuff anywhere.

I was instantly looked after very well and once I'd been initially patched up Mum and Dad kindly took me to Heath Road at the end of an otherwise successful evening.

Many thanks to Kate, Ruthie, Mum, Dad and the Garners for coming out to help demonstrate, give the kids a go and hand leaflets out as well as sorting me out after my little accident of course!

'Harry Potter' Munnings.Thankfully I don't seemed to have suffered any side effects and the doctors only needed to glue me up, leaving me with a Harry Potter scar - or the mark of the Vesteys - as my folks generously drove me back in time to put Mason to bed. And to make sure those twenty burly men were OK.


Thursday 19th January 2012

I'm used to going to Brian and Peta Whiting's delightfully isolated dwelling for long hot sunny afternoons in the heat of the summer for their fantastic annual BBQ, so this evening's trip on a dark and cold January night felt very strange.

Vestey Ring.The reason that Kate and I were amongst the type of empty black fields (no danger of light pollution here Aunty Beeb!) that could be twinned with those I referred to in Blaxhall earlier in the week, was that we needed to collect The Vestey Ring for a talk to the 2nd Ipswich Cub Scouts tomorrow evening. There won't be enough time after work before the event to collect the Guild's most noticeable PR machine, so we needed to get it now and I needed Kate's car as there was no way it was going to fit in Emily. As it was, it only just squeezed in with both of us in there and after much cursing!

Hopefully it'll all be worth it as Friday's visit will be an opportunity to sell ringing to youngsters and if you are reading this and think you can help out then let me know - we'll be at St Bartholomew's Church Hall from about 5.45ish until 8ish.

Talking of youngsters in ringing, I hope that it has been noted that following the success of the National Youth Striking Competition for The Ringing World Centenary celebrations last year, there is going to be another one on Saturday 30th June in Birmingham. It was a crying shame that we didn't a band together last year as we have a lot of very talented young ringers within our Guild and I think we would've done very well. So any youngsters out there, get together and sort something out - and parents, start nagging now!


Wednesday 18th January 2012

Wickham Market.Campanophile being down and the consequent period of online darkness that ensued (presumably it wasn't an elaborate protest to top that of Wikipedia's today!) until BellBoard was set up has meant that performances may have gone unnoticed. One such performance was Monday night's quarter at Wickham Market of Wickham Market, the first in the method for Pippa Moss, Mike Whitaker and Ray Lewis. Well done all three!

Rendham.One performance that hasn't gone unnoticed as I was actually in it, was Bill Lloyd's first away from cover in this evening's pre-practice quarter at Pettistree. In the eighteen months since he started to ring, he has done marvellously well here and at Rendham where he has also been going, despite becoming a father again in that time, moving house and having a busy job that often takes him abroad. And this evening's effort was in keeping with that progress. Many thanks to the band for the footnote too.

It all preceded another productive if chilly practice night that was finished with some spliced but also saw a ladies band ring Beverley with her pointy bits on the front and man-of-the-moment Bill getting to grips with the treble to Bob Minor before most of us made our way over to The Greyhound. It can't all be recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile, but it was all very satisfactory.


Tuesday 17th January 2012

RIP Eric Saker, aka Uncle Eric.

He died in the late hours of yesterday we believe, peacefully as is best. He was frail and had been for some time and at eighty-four he had - as he himself would say - 'a good innings' but when Mum called me this morning to tell me it was still a shock and we shall miss him immensely. I have spent all bar a handful of Christmas Days with him, the most recent of course less than a month ago where despite being extremely immobile and nodding off regularly due to the various drugs he had to take he still had a smile on his face and seemed to enjoy himself, especially with the energetic Mason giving him much joy.

It was him who first took Chris and me to watch Ipswich Town and when we got hooked even paid for our season tickets until we left for uni, refusing any offers of payment from our parents or us. Despite the misery that the Tractor Boys cause me now I will be forever grateful to him for that. If ITFC never do anything again, they have given me many happy memories, a lot of them alongside Uncle Eric.

When Chris and I were kids we played football on a Friday night at Whitton Sports Centre and without fail he would limp from home to watch us and cheer us on which made us feel great. In fact he was a very sporty person and despite a limp he acquired from surgery some years ago we spent many days during summer holidays playing tennis with him at the GRE (where he worked) Sports Club, now Greshams. I can well imagine him up in the great sports club in the sky now, playing his first games of tennis and badminton for years and talking football with Alf Ramsey and Bobby Robson.

Old Stoke.And even though he never rang bells, he took a great interest in ringing, often commenting with a knowing smile that there was a lot of ringing going on at a mysterious address in Old Stoke�

So we have many very happy memories of him - rest in peace Uncle Eric.

Having spoken with Mum, Dad and Aunty Marian it was apparent that there was nothing practical that could be done today and I've never been one to mope around the house so I was glad that today we were visited by Ruthie's best mate and bridesmaid Fergie, up from Brighton for the week. We followed it up with a pre-arranged trip to Saffron for a lovely evening of curry and conversation (and a bizarre and lengthy marketing consultation), just what I needed to take my mind off things.

Whilst we were doing that, many thanks to the quarter-peal band at Offton for their footnote.


Monday 16th January 2012

As my health improves, it seems the situation in regards recording ringing performance online is improving too. According to Ringing Chat, efforts are still ongoing to salvage Campanophile, but in the meantime The Ringing World and more specifically Richard Smith have stepped into the breach and set up BellBoard. Its introduction has been triggered to help cover Campanophile's hopefully temporary absence and has indeed transferred all (some quarter peals are missing because the last Campanophile backup was in August) the info that was on the downed website, but it seems it is meant as a permanent site. Either way, at least I can get my fix of seeing what others are getting up to on the ringing scene!

It was clear to see what others were getting up to on the ringing scene at St Mary-le-Tower this evening - more eight-bell ringing. Hopefully this clapper problem won't drag out as it did a few years back, but for tonight there was some decent ringing on the front eight, though also some not so decent ringing as you would expect at any practice. In particular there was some nice Pudsey, though I'm sure many will find that a contradiction in terms!

Blaxhall.Whilst others headed to the usual haunt of The Cricketers, Ruthie and I headed into the sticks to see Toby and Amy at The Ship in Blaxhall for a catch-up. This pub is perfect for any season. In the summer you sit looking over golden fields to St Peter's church which houses the difficult anti-clockwise six that so many know of. At Christmas its low ceilings, ancient beams and interior that has probably changed little over the centuries is enhanced beautifully by colourful decorations. And on a freezing night like tonight, with only the cold and dark countryside empty of any sensible human occupation for miles on three sides, there seems nothing better in life than to be sat in front of a roaring fire with a pint of beer in my hand. Especially now I feel well enough to drink again.


Sunday 15th January 2012

For the first time in a week, I felt fine. There are still little grumbles from within where my guest still inhabits but I was able to get on with normal life without it feeling like an out of body experience.

It was great to get on the end of a rope again and I think that helped, although we are still without a clapper in the eleventh at St Mary-le-Tower, meaning ringing this morning was again restricted to the front eight. On the plus side, whilst the main disadvantage is that we can't ring the eleventh, the main advantage is that we don't have to ring the eleventh. And we got some decent eight-bell ringing too.

Grundisburgh.Ironically - given the usual order of things on a Sunday morning - we were able to ring all twelve at Grundisburgh as we welcomed Bishop Nigel Stock to service. Grandsire Cinques was attempted without any half-lead singles but still ended in the same way as our New Years Eve peal attempt, but it was good to see such a large attendance here.

The afternoon saw Mason and me back at The Fred Reynolds Centre for his mate Issac's fifth birthday party with paper airplanes the order of the day and of course many, many party games. And having briefly left the festivities to pick Ruthie up from work and drop her off at home, return to the centre to grab the boy and home again to collect my fiancée, we were back off to SMLT for the monthly practice.

David had asked if there would be enough to make it worth moving the practice to Suffolk's current second twelve so we could continue the ten-bell theme that we generally have at these. When he only had nine come back to him positively he decided to run an eight-bell practice on home soil so it was a surprise to arrive and find fourteen in attendance, including Julian and Cathy Colman who it was good to see. It led to a dilemma for David. Should we run an eight-bell practice or should we make the most of the large crowd and ring the less aesthetically pleasing minor front ten to give people opportunities they wouldn't usually get. With some apprehension he went with the latter and whilst I can't say it was the prettiest sound I've ever heard we got used to it and there was some very good ringing before we returned home to get an excitable li'l chap to bed and I nipped out to get a Chinese. I may be feeling better, but cooking is still not on the agenda!


Saturday 14th January 2012

It's another weekend of parties, with two-thirds of them coming this afternoon.

First up was the annual celebration of Ruthie's grandfather's birthday, hosted by himself and his wife at theirs. Much like when we came round here on Christmas Day, we were the grateful recipients of fantastic hospitality. Unlike Christmas Day though, we had the pleasure of Clare and Kev's presence meaning we had the full family set. It again meant Mason and Freddie plotting together whilst Poppy got on with things and little Lucy seemed bemused and elated by it all in equal measure, a look I haven't seen since watching Robert Beavis ringing his first peal of Stedman Cinques a few weeks ago.

Whilst my fiancée stayed on at this huge family gathering, the li'l chap and I were off to the second party of the day, this time at The Fred Reynolds Centre in Woodbridge to celebrate the fifth birthday of my son's school chum Sam. It was the first time I'd been here but it is a place I'll no doubt be familiar with soon as tomorrow's party and Mason's own forthcoming fifth birthday party are both being held there. Today it was a sea of balloons shaped as octopuses, swords, aliens and mermaids and complete carnage. Suffice to say, the boy had a good time...

We met up with Ruthie again at her mother's for one final opportunity to see her brother-in-law and sister before they return to sunny Scotland early tomorrow. It's been good catching up with them this week, I'm only sorry that I haven't been in a better shape to enjoy it. Still, another party should help.


Friday 13th January 2012

This Friday the thirteenth passed me largely unnoticed, mainly because I considered I couldn't - without anything really disastrous happening - get much unluckier than I have over the last few days!

However, I made it to work and picked Mason up for the weekend and whilst Ruthie went off to ring a quarter-peal of 4-Spliced Surprise Major at Rendham, I slumped in discomfort again to watch DVDs of The Simpsons all evening.


Thursday 12th January 2012

The hospital called today to see how I was which was nice. However, they were quite surprised to hear that my guest had still not left so my scans are being forwarded onto another department. It was Ruthie, not me who spoke with them though as I went back into work for the first time this week. I still don't feel great, the feeling of a permanent and long-running tummy ache bugging me with every movement, my energy sapped and the anticipation that the next time will be VERY painful. But I need to get back into some sense of routine and activity, to return to eating at regulated times and getting up and doing something in the morning other than climbing onto the sofa to watch Jake and The Fatman. Besides, John Catt have been incredibly patient and understanding whilst a quarter of their sales team has disappeared for days at a time when everything has got very busy again with schools returning after Christmas (gosh, that REALLY feels a long time ago now) and a new campaign up and running. I can't say that I feel better for it physically, but I'm glad I did go back.

It also made me feel less guilty about accompanying my fiancée to her mother's house this evening where she was also hosting her parents for dinner as part of Clare and Kev's big week of fun down here. Lovely as it was, it was another evening that I couldn't fully enjoy as I would have and I can now say that I am officially fed up with it all. Hopefully those nice people at the hospital can do something.

Something else that hasn't been well this week is Campanophile. Through Ringing Chat it appears the server is completely bust and Tony Parry (who is not a well man and has done a remarkable job in running what has become an invaluable service to ringing) is seriously considering whether to carry it on. The general feeling seems to be that such is its popularity that it is now too big a job to be run as it has and perhaps now is the time for the 'online community' to step in. Quite in what way I'm not sure, but I hope all those out there who value Campanophile as much as I do will be willing to help in whatever becomes necessary. Either way, could be interesting times coming up.


Wednesday 11th January 2012

I hate taking days off sick and I hate dropping out of peals (or indeed anything I've committed to) so today was a bad day as I struggle to get over things.

At least when you are off work for holiday you can do stuff, whether it is ringing, visiting people, going to a nice little village pub for lunch, popping to the beach or even just shopping or getting stuff sorted around the house. When you are off ill though, the days drag. There is no energy to do anything (and besides, if there was I would've been at work) and you spend the day on the sofa, generally under a duvet trying to extract a modicum of entertainment from the feeble chat shows, badly made American cop productions and the millions of slight variations on the same housing programmes that daytime TV 'offers' up. On top of that, Campanophile has been down all day! (still down on Thursday morning. Ed.).

The Wolery.I also enjoy peal-ringing and especially the peals at The Wolery and tonight was to have been our first one at David and Katharine's this year. Indeed it was to have been our first peal attempt of 2012 altogether so not being able to go for it was a blow, especially as I'm thirty-eight peals short of reaching five hundred in total, a landmark I hope to reach by the time 2013 comes round. So this was not a good start. Apologies to the Salters and the rest of the band - I know what a pain it is when people drop out of peals.

To compound a bad day, Ipswich conspired to lose 2-1 at Birmingham with a last minute goal so no relief from the team that once gave me so much joy. Not that I was expecting any. It's a shame most of them didn't call in sick.


Tuesday 10th January 2012

Another day off work, another day of discomfort.

It was perked up though by the visit of my parents fresh from Midweek Ringing at Ufford and Campsea Ashe and then by a pre-planned meal in Edwin Avenue with Kate, Ron, Clare and Kev before we headed to the Seckford Theatre for the venue's annual Eastern Angles production. This year it is Round the Twist, a parody on Charles Dickens' many tales and as usual it was an amusing and entertaining evening.

As is also usual at this event, we bumped into many familiar faces in the lobby from Rob Rose - ringer at Pettistree and Wickham Market - to Ruthie's old music tutor and Clare's Godparents.

What wasn't usual on such an occasion was me being dry. It wasn't only that I thought it sensible not to drink any alcohol but also that I just didn't feel like it. I must be ill.


Monday 9th January 2012

I proudly went through the whole of 2011 without taking a single sick day. Ruthie hasn't had to call off work for two or three years. It hasn't taken us long to break the duck in 2012 but it was with good cause.

Regardless of whether I had gone to hospital again last night I was required to use the hour window from 9.30am on a working day to book a CT scan. And after practically no sleep over the last forty-eight hours, my fiancée was in no state to get to Boots for 7.30 this morning. Therefore - once I'd jumped on the phone bang on 9.30 to get booked in and she'd had some well deserved sleep - Ruthie was able to accompany me down to Outpatients at Ipswich Hospital, with us using Verity's driveway to avoid taking out a mortgage to park in the car-park.

The actual process of the scan was quite an interesting one as I've never had to have one. Once bedecked in those sexy gowns the hospital gives you for such occasions, I was led through to the huge machine that does the scan and then we were sent back to the now very familiar Emergency Department to await the results. We didn't have to wait long and what we received was good news. As suspected it was a kidney stone and not a very big one at that, hard as it is to believe following all the pain I have been put through. The best bit is that it has left the kidney and should work its - admittedly painful - way out over the next day or so with thankfully nothing as drastic as surgery needed.

However, whilst the pain had stopped, the discomfort took over and I felt quite poorly and whilst we managed a brief catch-up with Clare and Kev at Kate's we felt it best to forgo St Mary-le-Tower practice. With ringing restricted for this evening to the front eight due to the once-again clapper-less eleventh, we felt our presence might not be missed so much, but it is still frustrating to not be well enough to go ringing. Or indeed go to work.


Sunday 8th January 2012

Southwold.Well done to Geoffrey Moyse on ringing his first quarter on eight in the success at Southwold today and Happy 70th Birthday to Fred Assmann. At least they were having a better weekend than me.

The upshot of this morning's shenanigans was that I spent most of today in bed, not rising until nearly 3pm which I haven't managed since my student days!

Of course it meant I was unable to go ringing at St Mary-le-Tower or Grundisburgh, though my absence at the former was probably less noticed as - surprise, surprise - there is currently no clapper in the eleventh, meaning that ringing this morning and at tomorrow night's practice was and is restricted to the front eight.

However, again I was grateful to Ruthie and Kate, my fiancée somehow - after only an hour or two of sleep herself - getting Mason ready for her mother to take the li'l chap to Pettistree, Ufford and then hers until I returned to the land of the living, whilst my better half went to work - in body at least.

Once I had awoken, I felt absolutely fine. No pain or any discomfort and I was even well enough to wander round to Edwin Avenue to meet up with my son, Kate, Clare and Kev, before we took the visiting couple and their dogs Sasha and Milo round to ours for tea, once Ruthie had returned from Boots. It was the first time they had seen our new place and with me still feeling fine we had a lovely evening. Almost as soon as they left though, I began feeling the pain coming back. Keen not to drag things out like last night I drove myself to hospital to spend the late hours of the day in the same way as I spent the early hours - in severe discomfort, being looked after by the superb staff at Heath Road before being released home dosed up again. As weekends go, I've had better.


Saturday 7th January 2012

Today was a day of catching up with old acquaintances experiencing new beginnings though it ended in painful fashion.

Rendham.First up we were at Debenham for the first South-East District event of the year and Tom Scase's first full practice as District Ringing Master. I - like many of you - have known Tom since he was a very young lad and have seen him develop into an extremely good ringer and it is no surprise that he has deservedly landed this role. Fresh from ringing an impressive mothers and sons peal at Rendham this morning, I was delighted to see a large crowd of nearly forty (though still only about 10% of the district membership) supporting him, including a Norfolk deputation led by Paul Norris and although we had to leave early I was impressed with how young Mr Scase dealt with it.

The reason we had to leave early was the arrival from Scotland of Ruthie's sister Clare and her husband Kevin to Kate's house. You can't know anyone longer than your whole life as my fiancée has known her older sibling but these are exciting times for her and Kev as they are expecting Grandma Kate's first grandchild in June, so we were delighted to see them again and grateful to our host for sausage and mash.

Ruthie at Verity's Party.We were soon on our way again though as we'd been invited to a party by Ruthie's school friend Verity. The occasion was her housewarming as she has recently bought her first home and is now based next to Ipswich Hospital, complete with helipad at the bottom of the garden! It was a fun evening, with doorman Mason making sure everyone got in OK and as you can see, my better half was enjoying herself!

We left thinking that was the last we'd see of Heath Road today, but not long after going to bed and in the early hours of Sunday morning I woke up in excruciating pain like no other pain I have felt. My wife-to-be showed her credentials by looking after me and phoning NHS Direct as I used all sorts of language for what seemed an eternity, but eventually a doctor called back and told me I needed to get to A&E as soon as possible as he suspected I had a kidney stone. Not for the first time - even today - I was eternally grateful to Kate as she not only took me back past Verity's and to the hospital but awoke again to pick me up a couple of hours later once I'd had numerous tests and returned to Ruthie who had stayed at home looking after the li'l chap. By now though it was five in the morning and with me now dosed up we were in desperate need of some sleep. My new beginning will be in bed.


Friday 6th January 2012

Having picked Mason up after his first week back at school it was a quiet night in for us but not everyone, particularly the quarter-peal at Earl Stonham. Well done to Jenny Scase, Robert Scase, Stephen Christian and Richard Bufton on ringing their first of Bourne Surprise Minor and Happy Birthday to one of the Guild's true servants Muriel Page!


Thursday 5th January 2012

Thankfully there were no ripped up trees, lost roof tiles or power cuts awaiting us when we woke this morning, at least round by us. However, Mason's slide was on its side and our full and heavy bin was the first of many positioned horizontally as I made the short walk to work, so it had been fairly strong.

Still, bar a short trip to Tesco to get a casserole dish for our lamb shank experiment this evening we stopped in out of the miserable weather conditions and continued the sorting out. It was made easier by my fiancée having taken the decorations down, tree and all on this twelfth day of the season. It's sobering to think that God willing and all being well, by the time they go up again in eleven months, Ruthie and I will be preparing for our first Christmas as Mr and Mrs Munnings! So it was perhaps appropriate that with more than an eye on 11th August we popped down to Alexander's in The Thoroughfare over my lunch hour to make the initial arrangements for suits. We need to come back in April to measure up but it feels good to start getting another wedding task underway!


Wednesday 4th January 2012

Pettistree.No felled trees or power cuts today, but it was still quite gusty, wet and miserable so I was grateful to Kate for stopping to pick me up in the darkness of the walk home from work. We rewarded her with a cup of tea round ours and in turn she offered us a lift to Pettistree for the first practice of the year once we'd found Ron and Jude along the way. It was a lively one, culminating in Ruthie thinking she'd got away with things in the spliced variable hunt Doubles and Minor by ringing the tenor, before Mike called 'five to six, go Stedman'. Before the practice, a quarter of Double Oxford had been rung to celebrate yesterday's birthday of Iain 'Mitch' Mitchell, a ringer and personality much missed round these parts. Afterwards we marked the many forthcoming birthdays of those present, with cards handed out to Mike Whitby, Anne Buswell and Hazel Judge, with the latter even joining us in The Greyhound post-practice where the goings on of the recent New Year's Eve party provided much amusement!

As we were dropped off at home - thanks Kate - the wind was getting very strong again, so we wait in trepidation to see what awaits us in the morning. Just don't park your car near any trees.


Tuesday 3rd January 2012

Edwin Avenue made the news today meaning that Kate's house was seen nationwide as one of her near neighbours had their car crushed in the same high winds that plagued the country and saw our power go off at home as Ruthie and I sat eating our lunch, meaning I returned to work for the afternoon to a cacophony of burglar alarms.

John Catt luckily still had power, making the difficult return to the office after the lengthy Christmas and New Year holidays that bit easier. And as my fiancée and I returned to Tesco for our weekly shop it was like nothing had happened. Normality is well and truly back, unless your car is sat under a felled tree.


Monday 2nd January 2012

With yesterday being Sunday today was the New Year bank holiday, so I was able to delay the inevitable return to work by a day. Sadly not so for Ruthie who had to work, a common thread over the Christmas and New Year holiday. It has been a highly enjoyable week and a half with much to look back over and I was able to enjoy one last morning of it with Mason as he pottered around playing with toys.

Once I'd dropped him off at his mothers, ready for his return to school, I continued another theme of our time off, that of sorting our home out which today saw the disposing of the many empty bottles from our New Year's Eve party and taking a bit more stuff to the dump.

But there were signs that normality is returning as Ipswich Town lost 3-1 at home to Nottingham Forest. It is worth noting that Forest hadn't scored for seven matches since they beat - oh, us back in November. 2012 looks like being another grim footballing year.

But hopefully another return to normality offers up more hope as tonight saw the first St Mary-le-Tower practice of the year. With no practice at Chelmsford Cathedral we were delighted to welcome a huge Essex contingent on top of our usual crowd from down south. It was also good to see George Pipe return to ringing this evening after being very unwell recently. Not everything went to plan though and it didn't look good when the final piece of Yorkshire Max fired out twice in the first few changes and then the treble ringer started us all off before Brian Meads on the tenth had untied his rope. Best rounds on nine of the year. However, it proved to be third time lucky as we finished with a tremendous half-course and we completed the evening with the normality of a trip to The Cricketers. The first of many this year I hope.

St Martin in the Bullring.It is a year that promises much for many in Suffolk ringing, further highlighted by Stephen Rabong and Josephine Beever ringing their first quarter of Westminster Minor in the 1320 at Metfield and Stephen ringing his first of York Minor in the success at Rumburgh. Well done guys and well done Louis Suggett who popped back to Birmingham to partake in the longest length peal on more than twelve bells, the 10,560 changes of Bristol Sixteen rung at the Bullring today. I've rung peals on sixteen and the concentration required is immense. Take your mind off it for a second and you're suddenly trying to find point ninths in amongst a sea of bells. So to hats off to Louis and his band mates for keeping that concentration up for just four minutes shy of eight hours. What a way to start the year!


New Year's Day 2012

Exactly a week ago we were ripping into Christmas presents and there was much anticipation of a day of more presents, much food and drink and relaxing with family and friends. Seven days on and with Unky Chris waking in a household where all but Mason were devoid of any energy there was a contrasting subdued, morning-after-the-night-before sense in Pytches Road.

Elveden.It would be easy to get very depressed about the end of the festivities, but I'm a cheery chap and there is much to look forward to both immediately and over the next 366 days. On Wednesday, Elveden plays host to the North-West District Eight-Bell Method Practice before Saturday's South-East District Practice at Debenham, Tom Scase's first full district event as SE Ringing Master.

However, 2012 has been one of the most anticipated years for a long time, personally and nationally. Of course it will see the UK celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and London hosting the Olympics after seven years of build-up. On the latter it is worth listening to the first recorded performance of Five Rings Triples, rung at Kinston and premiered on Radio Three at midnight overnight and I hope more Suffolk towers embrace this project as we approach the Games. But for Ruthie and me our main focus is our wedding on 11th August and with Boots closed today we began the year by attending church at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge where of course the big ceremony will be held. The information I was given on my last visit just two weeks ago that the scaffolding was being brought down seems to have been false as even taking into account the amount of holiday since then there is very little evidence of the tower's ugly dressing coming off. Still, it was nice to be able to attend church with my fiancée.

Following a cuppa and biscuit at the church hall afterwards, the rest of the day was another day of sorting with the li'l chap's help as we began work on organising our music room.

Henley.But whilst the first day of the year involved no ringing for us, others got theirs underway straight away, most significantly at Henley where Robert Beavis called his first peal of Triples and Alex Tatlow and George Salter rang their first of Plain Bob Triples. Well done guys, a good start to what will hopefully be a spectacular year.