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New Year's Eve 2013

Congratulations to Diss ringer Betty Baines on receiving an MBE in the New Year's Honours, appropriately and entirely deservedly for her services to ringing in Norfolk and North Suffolk! She has been stalwart of ringing in the region, teaching many ringers and of course in her work with the Ladies Guild, and it's hard to think of many more deserving of such a prestigious honour.

It is a fantastic bit of news at the end of another packed year, nationally, personally and in bellringing. There has been the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, which whilst not as memorable as last year's Diamond Jubilee of her coming to the throne still saw ringers doing their bit, with quarters and peals, as they also did for the birth of our future monarch, Prince George.

Nelson Mandela finally passed on, and for all that his peaceful and entirely expected death was ghoulishly overblown by the news channels, his was a life worth celebrating, which ringing again did. But more immediately to those of us who ring in Suffolk was the passing of those we knew, such as Mike Daniels, Audrey Scase, and Roger Bailey, who was a superstar of the exercise, and was not only well-known to many within our borders, but a regular visitor to the county. And in the ninetieth anniversary year of the Guild, two giants of the SGR's history Howard Egglestone and Alan Smith were lost.

That big anniversary was one which was well celebrated by our members, most particularly with the Anniversary Dinner in Woolpit in March. As we look back, I'm sure we would like to repeat our gratitude to the Guild's officers, and particularly Secretary Mandy Shedden for arranging such a spectacularly successful event, especially with that last-minute lock-out! And Mason milking the applause when Philip Gorrod asked to take wine with anyone under seven is something that will live as long as my memory lasts!

Talking of Philip, this year saw his five years of service as Guild Chairman finish at the AGM at Stradbroke, handing over the reigns to Alan Stanley. Thank you for all you have done Philip, and well done to Alan on a good start to his time in the role. The AGM was another superb Guild event, as were the Striking Competitions so brilliantly hosted by the North-West District at Thornham Magna and Gislingham. And from a PR prospective I am glad to report that myself and others have managed to keep what we do in the public eye, most particularly Neal Dodge who has done so well in promoting the Young Ringers to the people of Suffolk, and hopefully changing their perception of ringers and ringing. These youngsters have perhaps been the biggest highlight for me in a year of highlights in ringing.

As ever, ringing has been a wonderful constant for Ruthie and me, even more so in a year of big changes. Our unexpected and rushed house-move was a rather unwelcome occurrence, but the news that God willing my wife will be giving birth to a son for us in April was most definitely welcome! Mason is particularly pleased to be getting a little brother, something he deserves after being so good this year, as his foot problems reared their head again. He has been a real treasure as he continues to grow.

So all-in-all, I would say it has been a good year, and I hope in the main it has for all of you too. It ended positively today as well, even if not entirely to plan, as I partook in the New Year's Eve peal at Grundisburgh. Most of you will be aware that this is typically Grandsire Cinques, but when we met eleven - once Tom Scase had woken Robert Beavis from his slumber to ring - Stephen Pettman was understandably miffed. Except he couldn't remember who the missing twelfth member was. Several aborted calls (phone signal isn't the best in this pretty village) to his wife Liz soon told us why - he had counted me twice! Those of you who have seen me trying to double-hand will realise that that wasn't an option, and so Mary Garner very graciously (and quickly!) stepped down. However, even SDP couldn't be expected to learn a composition for Caters, and so he still impressively learnt a composition for Yorkshire Surprise Royal, and we set off confidently... only for the rope to break on Mr Scase after a course. It seemed it wasn't to be, but with a replacement rope put on, we set off again to score the 152nd peal of 2013 for the Suffolk Guild, and - by my calculations - the 9,187th in the Guild's ninety-year history. It is interesting to note, that if we keep up this rate, we will reach the Guild's 10,000th peal sometime in 2019. Maybe we could up the rate and appropriately reach this figure in the Guild's ninety-fifth anniversary year of 2018?

Well done to Clare Veal on completing the Yorkshire family from Major to Maximus in our eventual success today, and to Andrea Alderton and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first Morning Exercise Delight Minor in the quarter at Buxhall, as this active quarter-peal band saw out 2013. Indeed, ringing saw out the old year and the new one in at many towers across Suffolk, I'm sure, including at Pettistree where the photographic evidence suggests they were having a good time!

Ringing in The New Year.Ringing in The New Year.Ringing in The New Year.

Piper at The Mariner seeing 2014 in.For my wife and me though, our ringing for this year was done, as we headed to The Mariner pub just a few hundred yards from home with Kate and Ron to mark the moment that 2013 became 2014, with a disco, buffet, glass of bubbly, the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne and even a little 'dance' to The Proclaimers!

It was a great way to see out a great year - Happy New Year to you all!


Monday 30th December 2013

The last practice of the year at St Mary-le-Tower was a lowly attended one, but nonetheless highlighted the progress made, with some good striking, and wide method range. It was of course topped off with one final drink in The Cricketers before we hope to return to Ipswich in 2014, and came at the end of a quiet day compared to some of the previous few.

That's not to say nothing was done. Mason and I constructed a police station, one of the many, many Christmas presents the li'l chap has received, and took in a visit from the still expecting Toby and Amy, before I dropped the boy off at his mother's for the final time in 2013 at the end of a lovely festive period with him. With Ruthie back from work for the last time until December passes and January arrives, we then paid a quick return visit to Mason's Godfather and his fiancée, before we headed onto that SMLT session.

Exning.Meanwhile, there was much quarter-peal ringing done across Suffolk today, and well done to the band who rang their first blows of Hall Road Bob Minor in the 1260 of the method at Woolpit. Also well done to Josehine Beever on ringing her first of Advent Sunday Surprise Minor in the success at Pakenham, and to Alison Daniels, Janet Garnett and Daniel Denton on ringing their first of Bacup Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Exning. Congratulations to Alison as well on ringing her 150th quarter of 2013.

Young Ringers.Young Ringers.Young Ringers.Young Ringers.

Meanwhile, I was delighted to see a big crowd turned out at Sproughton for the latest Young Ringers Practice. Our busy day today precluded us from popping along, and although we missed it yesterday due to being out of the county, I listened to Neal Dodge's brilliant interview about the YR's with Rob Dunger on Radio Suffolk.

As at Ipswich's heaviest twelve, I believe that this has also been a year of progress for the county's Young Ringers.


Sunday 29th December 2013

Mason on the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway.Mason with his new Thomas the Tank Engine flag on the bridge over the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway.Mason watching the model trains at Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway.

It was a day of planes, trains and automobiles, as our weekend of fun with Ruthie's and Kate's Scottish-based family continued. Today saw us take little Katelynn on her first train journey as we visited the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway for a day of diesel engines. This was a lovely venue with more stunning scenery, and of course she and Mason loved it all.

Too soon, it was time to bade our farewells to Clare and her daughter, make our way to Edinburgh airport, drop our hire car off and grab a spot of tea at The Turnhouse in the terminal. Another flight back in the dark, and we were back in Southend and then home, the li'l chap out like a light and us not far behind him as the clock ticked over to midnight. Thank you Kate and Ron for a lovely weekend, and our day of many forms of transport!


Saturday 28th December 2013

With daylight eventually making an appearance, we awoke to an expected but very pleasant arrival. We are in Scotland to see Ruthie's sister and Kate's daughter Clare, her husband Kev, and their delightful eighteen-month old daughter Katelynn, and with both her parents working this morning, the latter's gran and Ron had risen early to fetch her from Perth, and bring her back to our hotel for breakfast and her first ever experience of swimming. It was something she eventually enjoyed, and of course Mason was in his element!

With her Mummy and Daddy finished work for the day, we later all returned to Perth via stunning scenery, snow-topped mountains in the distance glistening in the sunshine, for a catch-up and then a meal at The Maltings, familiar to us as the location for Clare and Kev's wedding reception over four years ago. It made for a long, but enjoyable day, the star definitely being our visitor first thing this morning!


Friday 27th December 2013

100 Years 100 Treasures.Many of you may have seen or heard about 100 Years 100 Treasures, a book published as part of the centenary next year of the formation of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich in 1914. As the title suggests, it features one hundred treasures of Suffolk's churches, as well as many points of interest alongside. Bells, towers and ringers appear in number, as should be the case. Among the many things to look out for, is the rebuilt tower at Orford, the heightened tower at Rushmere St Andrew, and the 'eccentric' Victorian belfry at Swilland, as well as the towers of Lavenham, Bardwell, Stoke-by-Nayland, Felixstowe, Ramsholt, Woodbridge, Chillesford, Playford, St Mary-at-the-Elms in Ipswich, Friston, Theberton, Covehithe and the unique detached round tower of Bramfield. Of course The Norman Tower gets a mention, and its use as a bell tower since the Middle Ages, as does the window in Woolpit's impressive tower. And at Mildenhall, not only does the tower get a good word, but so does a window dedicated to local ringer of twenty-two years Mary Louisa Fordham, who died in 1949. Who knows what might have gone in the tower at Alderton, had it not fallen in 1821, as detailed in this superb publication? The pre-reformation bells of Little Saxham, which were cast by the Brasyer family of Norwich back in the fifteenth century are mentioned, as is the 1638 brick tower of Gislingham and the peal board there that is surrounded by images of tools of the ringers' trades. Wenhaston's six bells are also noted, especially their attribution to the local Leman family.

But bells, ringers and towers also feature heavily in the actual treasures themselves. The towers of Santon Downham, Eye and Debenham for example. The fifteenth century sacring bell at Hawstead is one. As is a fossil in the flintwork of Wilby's tower. But perhaps the most notable ringing-related treasures are the ringer's gotch given to Clare's ringers in 1729 by the Reverend Matthew Bell of The Six Bells, the bell-cage at East Bergholt, and the room in Wissett's tower used as living quarters by the priest, the write-up of which gives over more than a few words on the project to replace the frame and rehang the bells a few years ago.

It is a marvelous read, and if you haven't been as fortunate as me to have a kind wife get this as a Christmas present, I would certainly recommend you get a copy, as - believe it or not - what I have mentioned above merely skims the surface of a publication packed with interesting points of interest - and the tales behind them - in the churches that we ring in. My brand new copy helped get me through three hours sat at Southend Airport this afternoon, as myself, Ruthie, Mason, Kate and Ron awaited our flight to Edinburgh. With this being a grab for all five of us, we had rather overestimated how much time it would take us to get there and through security, and as preferable as that was to the other extreme, it did mean we had a lot of time on our hands in a small airport with few things to do. It could've been worse, and at least we weren't flying to Dublin, where the high winds had led to cancellations and huge delays, and the li'l chap was fantastically patient.

Eventually we were in the air, high above the pretty lights of East Anglia's small towns, villages and communities, interspersed of course at this time of year with multi-coloured festive decorations twinkling back at us, before we made a bumpy descent and landing in Scotland's capital an hour later. We made it in time for a drink in the bar at our home for the weekend, the Balgeddie House Hotel in Glenrothes, near the Fife coast, whilst back in Suffolk, well done to Colin Salter, Clare Veal and George Salter on ringing their first peal of Norwich Surprise Minor in the success at The Wolery, which was also George's 200th peal. Congratulations young Mr Salter, and congratulations to the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, who with either this peal or the other rung today in Old Stoke reached 150 peals in a year for the first time since 1995.

The Wolery.Whilst many of those peals have been rung in the little blue shed in Rectory Road, I'm glad to say this total has still been achieved through the ringing of bells in the county's fine churches and in among their treasures!


Boxing Day 2013

Boxing Day usually feels a little subdued. For all the excitement and freedom from the hustle, bustle and stress of everyday life yesterday, 26th December sees society fling itself back into making and spending money in a way that becomes increasingly desperate and depressing with each passing feast of St Stephen. Whenever someone points out how 'sad' they think bell ringing is, I am more than willing to point them in the direction of those bonkers enough to camp out in freezing weather almost as soon as they've pulled their last cracker on Christmas Day, just to pick up a slightly cheaper pair of shoes or top that will no doubt be out of fashion before they've even left the shop.

Sadly this means people like Ruthie have to go to work as her family continues to celebrate this once-a-year yuletide period, with even the reserved folk of Woodbridge queuing up outside Boots this morning, lest the shelves be stripped of cough medicine or nappies in the rush. With a still excited Mason picked up by his mother for more present opening, it meant I returned to my wife's grandparents unaccompanied for more turkey dinner and superb hospitality, in the company of her uncles, aunt and two youngest cousins Lucy and Thomas. Many thanks to them again for looking after me!

Mrs Munnings was at least able to join us for tea, once work had finished, before we returned home for a slightly quieter, but nonetheless enjoyable, evening watching, drinking and eating some of the presents we received yesterday.


Christmas Day 2013

Apparently, a few days ago a newspaper article appeared, which explored what would happen if 1970's glam rock band Wizzard had got their wish, and it was Christmas every day. It raised a few not insignificant issues. Hardly anyone would work for a start, and with no shops open, it would be impossible to get the provisions in for the next Christmas Day. But even if you could get your turkey and all the trimmings, it would require 3.6 billion of the traditional festive birds to be reared each year, and an end to summer vegetables. Where would everyone get the money for the presents each day? Or indeed, how would they find the time and places to purchase them?

Even putting those issues aside, and as much as I love Christmas, I wouldn't want it to be an everyday occurrence, purely because it is special precisely because it comes just once every twelve months. This is the one day when by and large a busy and stressed society shuts down, relaxes, and does what is really important - relaxing with loved ones. Yes it has become commercialised to within an inch of its life. It is a shame that the spirit that arises at this time doesn't continue throughout other months. If only we could be as generous, and cheerful on the 3rd February, or 10th May, or 28th September as we are every 25th December. And yes, I'm aware that those who enjoy it will sometimes be dragging reluctant participants along, who for some reason find the joy it generates for others so abhorrent, but they have 364 days during the rest of the year to indulge in everyday, more mundane life.

No for many of us, today is a break from money, shopping, deadlines, bills and everything else, and to mark the birth of Christ (regardless of when that actually was), and to thank God for the blessings he gives us.

For Ruthie and me, those blessings are abundantly highlighted on this date. We are extremely fortunate to be able to spend quality time with friends and both our family, and this year with Mason too. His reaction when he came down to our tree to find that Father Christmas had been, and that he had drunk the milk and beer, and eaten the cake, whilst Rudolph and co had munched on the carrots he had so carefully and thoughtfully selected yesterday, and that the big man had left a note thanking him for the treats, summed up why this time, and this day in particular are so special.

Our Christmas Tree after Santa had been!Mason reading Father Christmas' thank you note.Mia tucking into her presents.Mason opens his Thomas the Tank Engine 2014 calendar.Mason plucking presents from his Nanna and Granddad's Christmas tree.

Presents excitedly (and I mean excitedly!) unwrapped, and paper strewn across the living room, we made our way to Pettistree, where greetings were exchanged, and the ringing good. Well done in particular to Mike Whitaker on ringing in a near faultless course of Norfolk Surprise Minor.

Numbers were low at our next destination, St Mary-le-Tower, but the ringing again was very good, with the highlight being probably one of the best courses of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung anywhere today, made all the more impressive by the fact it was done on the back six! We were glad of the sherry that Mike Burn had provided though!

And it was superb to see the youngsters of Sproughton out in force on this bright, sunny Christmas morn, before we returned to Woodbridge for the family bit to begin. As has become traditional now, this involved a huge turkey dinner wonderfully prepared by my wife's grandparents, for a typically large crowd, with many generations of the family taking a rare opportunity to gather together and enjoy each other's company.

Peal Board for The Norman Tower.We just had time to welcome the arrival of Thomas, the latest addition to the clan - the first time Mason and I had met him - before heading to the final stage of our day. For pretty much my whole life, opening presents from under Mum and Dad's Christmas tree, and the superb buffet they put out, has been a real highlight of this wonderful day, and it has been a joy to introduce my wife and son to it. In the company of Aunty Marian, Chris and Becky (who brought a beautiful peal board made by Becky's father Stephen for our peal of Bristol Max at The Norman Tower at the beginning of the year - thank you Stephen), we weren't to be let down on this occasion either, and as with Ruthie's grandparents, we were extremely grateful for their hospitality. But we couldn't do it every day...


Christmas Eve 2013

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there; Mason was nestled all snug in his bed, While visions of Lego Star Wars danc'd in his head.'

With apologies to the very late Clement Clarke Moore, this was - eventually - the scene in mine and Ruthie's small terraced cottage tonight, on our quietest Christmas Eve for many years, once we'd got an incredibly excited six-year-old to bed.

The anticipation makes this such a special day for me. Once work had released us at 12.30pm as they traditionally and generously do, it is all ahead of us. For the next few days for me at least, there are no deadlines, no targets, no customers to deal with, bills to worry about. God willing, we can just relax with family and friends, and take in the true meaning of the season, one which offers hope and new beginnings.

We three begun it all as we usually like to, with a visit to my wife's Nan. As usual she was a nice break from the hustle and bustle, recounting times past, like The Boat Inn in Woodbridge (closed for many years now) getting flooded, when she used to travel across the Deben on a ferry, and having a Christmas tree in the corner of the room which touched the ceiling. At a time when we perhaps reflect more than during any other part of the year, it was nice and interesting to listen to her reminiscing of times a lot gentler than now.

Long Stratton.It was then on to St Mary-le-Tower to ring - as we typically do every 24th December - for their carol service, where it was good to hear that for the fifty-ninth year running, a peal was rung successfully on this date at Long Stratton in Norfolk this morning, as usual featuring a number of Suffolk ringers. Well done to all concerned, in what must be an increasingly high-pressured attempt each year! And congratulations as well to Alex Rolph on ringing her fiftieth quarter-peal in the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Halesworth.

For us though, it was home in anticipation of Santa's arrival!


Monday 23rd December 2013

It was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. If your idea of Christmas is high winds, heavy rain, flooding, falling trees and worries about getting home. Indeed, a loud crack and crash in the darkness of the woodlands opposite suggested a tree had been felled nearby, and public transport was in understandable disarray just at a time that more people than usual were relying on them.

We had similar conditions on a Monday a couple of months ago, but on that occasion they had died away by the time we headed to St Mary-le-Tower practice. Sadly on this occasion, it all seemed to be at its peak just when we were planning to head out to the session at SMLT this evening, so reluctantly, Kate, Ruthie and I decided to stay safe indoors away from flying branches and tumbling fences. It should hopefully be alright for going out to ring for the Carol Service on Christmas Eve from 6-7pm though, do join us if you can!

As ever, this is the last blog entry I will manage to get up before the big day on Wednesday, so now is a good point to wish all who get to read this before festivities begin a very Merry Christmas, and hope the next few days bring joyous memories, and much happiness, whatever the weather!


Sunday 22nd December 2013

When I was about Mason's age, I remember being in plays at the seat of my early learning, Dale Hall Primary School, tucked alongside a railway line in the corner of Ipswich suburbia that Mum and Dad still reside. Concentration wasn't my strong point (many will claim that is still the case with good reason!), so I never got a lead role, and yet all the waiting around for my small part (like playing one of the bankers in the school production of Mary Poppins) was often too much for me to stay focused. I remember once missing my cue in a play, because I was too busy running around with a friend backstage.

Mason as a wise man at the church nativity.So I was very proud of the li'l chap's patience in his recent school nativity play, and then again this morning as he starred as a wise man in the church nativity play at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. He shouted his line of 'gold' loudly as he handed over his gift and then promptly fell over, but he followed his directions and enjoyed it immensely!

Hasketon.Of course it meant missing ringing at St Mary-le-Tower again, but I did at least grab a quick ring upstairs on the 25cwt eight in the town of our residence, where we were joined by Richard Clement, and all eight were rung, as they were later in the day for their carol service. I couldn't quite make that ringing, as having been to Hasketon to ring a well-rung quarter for their carol service, exited via a delightfully packed church, picked the boy up from his grandparents who had kindly looked after him whilst I was partaking in my 1260 of Plain Bob Minor, and entered another absolutely heaving church, there wasn't time for me to climb the many stairs to our nearest ringing chamber.

Great Finborough.They made it into the ringing chamber at Great Finborough, where a seasonal offering of 1320 changes of Advent Sunday Surprise Minor was successfully negotiated, with the entire band ringing their first in the method, and Lucy Dawson ringing her first blows in it altogether, whilst also ringing her 100th quarter. Well done to all the band, and congratulations Lucy!

Meanwhile, we enjoyed a buffet and mulled wine in St Mary's Church Centre after a long carol service in which Mason was impeccably behaved. I'm not sure I was that well behaved in a church service when I was his age!


Saturday 21st December 2013

It was an early start for Ruthie and me, as I rose with my wife to speak with Rob Dunger on Radio Suffolk, whilst she went to work. As previously alluded to, this appearance was to further promote the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich today, and like yesterday's chat with Lesley Dolphin on the same station, it was a useful way of imparting to many people across the county - and these days beyond - what we do and why. It was different in some respects though. With Rob more focused on issues of religion and faith, I tried to tie it in with those aspects, and it was a briefer chat, though that was no bad thing at that time, allowing me to get back to my nice warm bed!

Still, it set me up nicely for the big event itself, so once Mrs Munnings returned from her gainful employment, Mason and we headed into town to park up at St Margaret's School and wander to our location for ringing today, St Mary-le-Tower. We were joined there by a good crowd, including Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters, with the highlight being the five Sproughton youngsters getting some invaluable experience ringing on twelve. Very well they did too, and I hope they are encouraged to return.

St Clement.St Lawrence.St Margaret.St Mary at the Quay.St Mary-le-Tower.St Matthew.St Nicholas.

We were but a small part of proceedings today of course. As we three left SMLT, the final piece just starting, we were also accompanied by the historic five at St Lawrence a few hundred yards away, and once at St Margaret for refreshments, we were able to catch up with and hear about David and Lynda Lee's experiences upstairs on this 14cwt eight on their first ever participation in this occasion, Mike Burn and Paul and Anne Bray's tales of the uncomfortable at St Nicholas, and the Pettistree band's half-hour at St Matthew. Sadly, for some reason the key to the ringing chamber of St Mary-at-Quay wouldn't work, meaning ringing didn't take place there, but otherwise it was another resounding success. Apart from when circumstances beyond his control conspired against him with snow and a shooting a few years ago, Brian Redgers has somehow not only managed to get enough to ring all the ringable full-circle bells of the town, but got a huge amount of people involved, seemingly increasing in number each year, from across the county and other counties. Thank you, and well done again Brian.

Crowds enjoying refreshments after Christmas ringing in Ipswich.Crowds enjoying refreshments after Christmas ringing in Ipswich.New South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey thanked everyone for coming out in his first official engagement in the role, and there was of course still time for John Girt's annual "get orf my land" speech, though as usual we were incredibly grateful to John and his wife Shirley, and Angela Cable for serving refreshments, and of course for the oasis of free-parking in amongst a wilderness of extortionately high parking charges in any bit of land a willing shopper may be able to leave their car to spend valuable pounds in the local shops.

Palgrave.That wasn't the end of the day's activities for many of us though. As some hung around to ring an ultimately unsuccessful quarter on the county's heaviest twelve, the li'l chap and I walked Jude and Mia whilst their owners were otherwise occupied, and my better half went to St Mary's in Woodbridge to practice with the choir for tomorrow evening's Carol Service there. I eventually dropped the boy off with her on the way to my final engagement of the day, as I headed north and almost into Norfolk for a quarter-peal attempt at Palgrave. This was another go at getting Horton's Four of Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow and London Surprise Major ingrained into our minds, but it was lost in odd circumstances really, for these days at least. It seems that the composition - which had been used by another member of the band before - didn't work, or had perhaps been passed on incorrectly somewhere along the line. When the first part of seven was completed, the bells were nowhere near where they should've been, despite no major mistakes or fire-ups that may have led to swaps. We tried it again, but the result was the same. With not enough time before some of the others were booked in for a curry at Diss, it may have seemed a wasted journey, but in reality, it served its ultimate purpose. With our success in this at Stowmarket a couple of weeks ago, and another one at Kenninghall north of the border last night, we feel we are ready to go for a peal of this, which was mainly the point of these many attempts in a short timescale. We got some very good ringing on bells that aren't easiest to strike, and despite the loss, confidence is high.

Winston.Besides, it was good to see young Louis Suggett on a visit home for the festive period from his final year at uni, and there was a positive atmosphere with news that organiser Maggie Ross got a new job yesterday. In fact, it seems to have been a day of celebrations, with a quarter at Winston to celebrate the marriage of Richard Bufton and Tracey Dickinson, and another at Great Barton to mark tomorrow's eighteenth birthday of Neal Dodge. Congratulations to Richard and Tracey, and Happy Birthday Neal, with the latter also ringing his first of Treble Bob inside, and of St Clement's, whilst also circling the tower, and ringing his thirtieth QP with Clare Veal, in the success in his home belfry. Well done young Mr Dodge, keep it up!

For me though, I returned home to my wife and son at the end of a busy, but highly enjoyable day.


Friday 20th December 2013

For many ringers, the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich on the final Saturday before the festive period, has become as traditional as turkey, crackers and presents. And since becoming the Guild's PR Officer, it has become just as traditional to find myself on Radio Suffolk the day before talking to Lesley Dolphin about it. This year is no different, so at just after 1.10pm today, I had a good chinwag with the presenter who once of course had a go at our art a few years ago, and still seems to hold much fondness for it. She has been superb at keeping the county's ringers in the limelight, and so it was today that she was keen not only to find out as much as possible about what we shall be doing tomorrow between 11.45am and 12.15pm, but also to give out the SGR's website address without prompt afterwards. Thanks Lesley, and thanks to our local BBC radio station for their support this year, which continues tomorrow morning with me chatting to Rob Dunger at 6.50am.

It was a highlight of a day that was quiet for me at work, and us at home, as is to be expected at this time of year and on a Friday, though the main highlight was picking up an excited Mason following his final day at school before the holidays, something that is now firmly a tradition of the season that he looks forward to!


Thursday 19th December 2013

Grundisburgh.Why ringing on seven sounds so wrong, I don't know. I'm sure there is a musical reason as to why it should be any worse than ringing on five or three, but it isn't a noise I'm keen on. Still, that's what we were reduced to this evening, as a band gathered to ring a quarter of Grandsire Triples on the back eight at Grundisburgh met one short. It meant instead that we rang 1296 changes of Cambridge Surprise Minor, with Adrian Craddock bonging behind on the five-year old 9cwt tenor. This was an effort that got better and better though, and served its purpose of getting a band gathered for a practice, the final one here of the most productive year at Suffolk's lightest twelve for some time. The twelve present were treated to mince pies and mulled wine in amongst some decent ringing that ranged from Plain Bob Doubles to Bristol Surprise Major, and even took in the seventh rope slipping wheel!

Having spent the previous couple of hours with Mike Whitby, mine and Ruthie's next port of call was The Cherry Tree back in Woodbridge to meet his son Jimmy, and his girlfriend Emma for the pub's immensely popular quiz night. So popular in fact, that it was standing room only by the time we got there, which was a fabulous sight, and no doubt one that the 'landlords' of The Hasketon Turk's Head would struggle to comprehend. After coming third a few weeks ago, For Whom the Bell Tolls had high hopes of winning tonight, but sadly it wasn't to be, though a very good time was still had by all!

It was held in one of many pubs in a town which are the subject of an interesting looking DVD currently available in St Mary the Virgin's Church Shop (amongst other places), and may be a good last minute Christmas present for anyone keen on the picturesque community by the River Deben. It is presented by John McCarthy, the journalist, broadcaster and author perhaps most famous for being held hostage in Lebanon for over five years in the late-eighties/early-nineties, but has strong connections to the area, and apparently features the church and the 25cwt eight heavily. The trailer looks amazing, with sweeping aerial views of the river and ancient streets that my wife and I are blessed to live and work amongst, and if you look closely at the choir shots you may see a certain South-East District Secretary... Aside from being personally interested in the content, it is good in my PR role to see bells featuring so prominently in such a production.

Bacton.Meanwhile, I was sorry to hear that the Franks' are leaving Bacton for Ardleigh just south of the Essex border, a departure marked by a peal at their home tower yesrerday. Ruthie and I remember well judging the 2007 North-West District Striking Competition at St Mary-the-Virgin with a very young Mason from the comfort of Peter and Sheila's caravan, and it shall be a shame not to see them when going up to that part of the world. The locals will obviously miss them very much, and it was good to see that at least the entire band turned up for them!


Wednesday 18th December 2013

I finally used up all my holiday allocation from work for 2013 today, bar that which I have to take whilst the office is closed over the festive period. It allowed me to pretty much finish my Christmas shopping, but the main reason for taking it off today was that we had a midwife's appointment this morning. Thank God, all seems to be well at the moment, with his heartbeat sounding lively, and the tests carried out all clear, putting Ruthie in a very happy mood for joining Kate and Ron in visiting her two-week old cousin Thomas.

Pettistree.Whilst she was doing that, I was partaking in a 1292 of spliced Plain Minor at Pettistree. What I find good about the sheer numbers of quarters rung here, is that it allows a wide range to be rung, from that specifically for someone to progress, to some outside-the-box stuff, which doesn't necessarily have to be complicated. This evening saw one of the latter, with St Clement's, Plain, Little and the rarely rung Double thrown in together, rung by a band capable of ringing more complex stuff. The result was a decent effort, though a little more tedious than Mike had been hoping for, and it kickstarted the final practice of the year for SS Peter & Paul. As with the majority of the previous fifty or so, it was useful mix of learning, progress and quality, helped by a good turnout which included the later arrival of my wife, her mother and Mia, before another jovial pint in The Greyhound. All being well, we shall pick things up again on New Year's Day when there will be a session at this ground-floor six, which may appeal to those chomping to get out of the house by that point!

Ipswich, St Matthew.Though it is the last practice of 2013 here, in keeping with many other places, there is still further ringing to be done by the band before 2014 is seen in, with a quarter attempt and then service ringing on Sunday morning, ringing for services at midnight on Tuesday and next Wednesday on the 25th, and plans to ring the New Year in. They are also manning the bells of St Matthew in Ipswich from 11.45am-12.15pm on Saturday, for the Christmas Ringing on all the ringable, full-circle bells of the town. No doubt organiser Brian Redgers will have attracted enough to ring, but he never turns anyone away, so if you fancy helping out and haven't already agreed to, then let him know and he'll accommodate you somewhere!

Hopefully the shoppers around us will be aware of what's going on, as I shall be on Radio Suffolk not once, but twice about it in the lead-up talking about it. Lesley Dolphin shall be speaking with me on her show at 1.10pm on Friday, whilst Rob Dunger will be in touch at the slightly less appealing 6.50am!

There are two other events on What's On before December disappears for another eleven months, and both worth supporting. Helmingham's Monthly Practice will be taking place on Friday evening, whilst the Young Ringers round off an extremely encouraging year with a practice at Sproughton on Monday 30th between 2.30pm and 4pm. It is well worth reading their page on this website, as it grows, and even better encouraging any youngsters in your tower or district to go along to the events. Hopefully I can help out at some on my days off next year!


Tuesday 17th December 2013

It is due to be a busy few days of ringing, as highlighted by the half-eight announcements at St Mary-le-Tower practice last night. There will be extra ringing for the Evening Star Carol Service on Wednesday night, and from 6-7pm on Christmas Eve for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, whilst ringing for the main Christmas Day service will be from 9.45am-10.30am, later than the usual 8.45am-9.30am Sunday ringing. And it is worth noting that there are planned to be Monday night practices on Suffolk's heaviest twelve on the 23rd and 30th. Whilst it would be nice to see people who usually can't make it to SMLT to ring, this will hopefully be a reminder to all to check with their local tower of extra ringing, normal times being changed, and/or to clarify if practices are going ahead or not.

Offton.Some started the week before the festive period with a quarter of Bristol Surprise Major at Offton, which was Tim Stanford's first in the method. Well done Tim!

Ruthie and I meanwhile chose to catch a breather before things get hectic, with a night in with Toby and Amy, who have a potentially huge few days ahead, with their first child due on the 25th. Lots of catching up was done, as we chatted babies and Christmas.


Monday 16th December 2013

Attendance was a little down at St Mary-le-Tower tonight, and so was the quality to an extent. But it would be harsh to say it is a return to the bad old days of a few weeks ago, as perception of tonight's practice is set against a context of some excellent ringing in recent sessions, especially last night. And it is important to note that whilst we may have twelve bells, the heaviest peal in Suffolk, and attendees from far and wide, our practice night is ultimately the same as any other practice night across the county - a practise. There are people attending who are delving into ten and twelve-bell ringing for the first time, many who have only just reached the stage in their ringing careers of Surprise Royal and Maximus, or don't get to ring it unless they come here. It won't be perfect, but what David - and indeed any of us - expects is that we do our best and keep pushing to make our best better, and there was a lot of that tonight I thought.

Indeed, the climax of the evening, Yorkshire Max, was a metaphor for the night as whole, getting better and at times producing some really very good ringing that most twelve bell towers across the world would be proud of. Though Ian Culham - fresh from partaking in the Rambling Ringers' first peal outside of Great Britain yesterday - didn't enjoy the eleventh, not an easy bell at the best of times, but which tonight had a rope so stiff it would have been more useful for fending off a tiger attack than controlling a bell with. But overall, it was a successful night.

As it was for young Philip Moyse, who this evening rang his first blows of Bristol Surprise Royal in the peal at Bishopstoke in Hampshire where he is currently studying. He is one of several youngsters from within our borders taking what they have learnt here, and supplementing and expanding it in the wider ringing world, and who we can quite rightly feel proud of. It would be easy to discredit ringing in Suffolk and say these talented young ringers have had to go elsewhere to fulfil their full ringing potential. Of course they are getting opportunities in centres of ringing blessed by geography and the right circumstances, although I am of the belief that there is more we could be doing here as a collective to be more like those centres of ringing. But as much as their considerable ringing skills are a major factor in their progress, there have been towers and ringers here in our own county who have honed and encouraged those skills, fostered the right attitude in them to go on and do more, and given them their first opportunities. The likes of Ruth Suggett, Maurice Rose, Trevor Hughes, Maggie Ross, Jenny Scase, Helen Price and many, many more who are deserving of mention. So for all the improvements we should always be striving to make, let's not knock what we have here in Suffolk too much, whether it be method range, quality of bells or practice nights. It all goes towards a greater picture, and that picture reveals that we're not doing too badly.


Sunday 15th December 2013

It was a busy day, but with much time for reflection too. Such as reflection from Kev the Rev during his sermon at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, as he spoke superbly about how he would try to get the true meaning of Christmas across to the 1500+ crowds they are expecting through the doors over the seasonal period. Reflection as Mason, Ruthie and I stood in Ipswich Cemetery on a dark, windy, cold and wet late afternoon, as we brought flowers and a card  to Uncle Eric's grave, on what would've been his 86th birthday, a sweet idea of the li'l chap's actually. With ten days until many of us will hopefully be spending a joyful day with family, it brought up happy memories of previous December 25th's. Reflection too after an immensely successful special practice at St Mary-le-Tower.

As mentioned, amongst all this reflection, we had been quite busy too, starting with going to the main parish church of our town of residence, where I partook in ringing on all eight bells here thanks to Pete and Susanne's presence, Ruthie sang in the choir, and the boy went to Sunday school and returned with a place as a wise man in next week's nativity play!

Having stayed back to proudly watch him rehearse, we enjoyed a roast, before a trip to a heaving Tesco, and once we'd been to see Uncle Eric, it seemed appropriate to drop in on Aunty Marian to see how she was, prior to that positive trip to SMLT.

St Mary-le-Tower.There have been times for various reasons that David Potts has struggled to get the numbers for this extremely useful monthly focus, and sometimes when he has had enough in attendance, he has been let down by people not learning lines, or not fully concentrating. This evening though, with the ringers' Christmas tree now in its new spot where the desk once was, we had the numbers AND the quality, starting with an almost spotless half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal that set the tone for a session which saw Bristol, Cambridge and London (No.3) Surprise Royal, Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus all rung - apart from a restart of the new method of focus Bristol - absolutely superbly. It was a great way to end these events for 2013, and a great way to end a busy day we reflected on at home with a cuppa!


Saturday 14th December 2013

Pettistree.There was a lot of ringing going on across the Guild with various festive events and the annual peal to celebrate the anniversary of the rededication of Pettistree's bells, but unusually we weren't involved in any of it, as we welcomed Mason's Godmother Kala and her husband Nick for a present and card exchange and a lively catch-up.

Trumpington.Meanwhile, outside the county but not far away, ten-year old Henry J W Pipe was ringing a peal of sixteen Surprise Major methods at Trumpington in neighbouring Cambridgeshire, a phenomenal achievement, and confirming what many of us have suspected that - as hard as it is to believe - this generation of Pipe's is set to usurp the previous generation in achievements. Well done to Philip Wilding - who regularly rings at The Norman Tower, and comes over to St Mary-le-Tower occasionally - too on ringing his most methods to a peal.

Such mind-boggling achievements should not frighten nor discourage learners, or indeed any ringers, but rather inspire them. Relatively few will reach the standards of method complexity on show in places like Birmingham, Cambridge and London (and until the generation that follows Henry and his also talented brother Alfie, I don't suspect any will reach it this early in their life), but with a similar attitude, and a willingness to learn in the right way, good striking can be achieved by us all, and people will often get further than they ever imagined!

So keep busy ringing, as many were today across the county, and push yourself to achieve more, lest you get bored with an art that offers so much.


Friday 13th December 2013

It's been a funny old week at work for me. Having had Tuesday off, and then just gone in for the morning on Wednesday, I had another half-day in the office today. On this occasion though, I was joined by the rest of my colleagues at John Catt Educational Limited, as we headed down to The Coach & Horses yards down the road from us, for the company Christmas meal, all as usual very generously provided for by JCEL.

We were already in the festive mood having viewed a video of James printing our Christmas cards, but after a few more drinks and some excellent food we were also very merry too! Usually Ruthie would join in the fun afterwards too, but in her current alcohol-free state that wasn't possible this year, so though she met us after our three courses for a booze-less beer, once Kara had dropped Mason off, my wife very kindly drove me home for a quiet evening at the end of a different kind of week!


Thursday 12th December 2013

Ufford.Thursday night ringing in the Woodbridge area has changed a lot in the last three or four years. It was once home to one of the best - if not the best - practices in Suffolk, in the shape of Grundisburgh's weekly sessions. The range of ringing on all numbers was hugely beneficial to a large number of ringers of all abilities. For various reasons, that has sadly died away since, until there were no practices at all. So a couple of years ago Mike Whitby and Kate Eagle decided to fill the void with a monthly Surprise Major practice at Ufford for a selected bunch. Selected not for elite purposes, but quite the opposite - to help a handful of those learning the ropes at Surprise Major level to progress. It could only be a handful, as too many and it loses its point, as the idea is to offer them the chance to focus on a particular method or methods and have a concerted go at it.

Grundisburgh.Encouragingly, 2013 has seen the return of the practices on the county's lightest twelve, though only on first and third Thursdays, and still nowhere near the level they once were. It may have offered a dilemma to our Cosy Nostrils practices as they have been dubbed. Originally set up because there was nothing happening at the little wobbly red brick tower, we might have stopped them now the practices were back. But such has been their success that it is a shame to halt them. Tonight - despite the distractions of the choir practice downstairs - highlighted how well they are serving a group that wouldn't have progressed to the same level relying just on a normal practice. Susanne Eddis rang a faultless course of Cambridge. Pete Faircloth had a good couple of blasts at Superlative. Anne Buswell has progressed well. These have indeed been useful sessions.

Ixworth.It's no more selective than quarter-peal ringing, which has also undeniably helped Guild members, especially members like David Howe and Stephen Dawson. Today the former rang his first blows of Pudsey and the latter conducted his first of Surprise Major in the quarter at Ixworth, a stage they have reached following many, many achievements in the medium over the last few years. Well done guys, keep it up!

A positive year at Grundisburgh is to be completed next Thursday with a definite practice, and mince pies and mulled wine, so I hope as many as possible can see regular Thursday nights in 2013 (the one after is Boxing Day) with a bang!


Wednesday 11th December 2013

Today's date is another of those notable ones that we get lots of in the first few years of the century and then shan't get until the 22nd century. 11/12/13 for those who hadn't noticed.

It is also two weeks until Christmas, and it is very much beginning to feel like it. Our festive shopping yesterday was accompanied by brass bands belting out seasonal favourites, whilst our journeying from place to place was to a soundtrack only dusted off on the radio at this time of year. I got my once-a-year copy of the Radio Times, and began mentally circling programmes and films like The Snowman and Santa Claus: The Movie, and noting that Mason will be pleased to note that The Muppet Christmas Carol is due to be on as we get meant to be arriving at Mum and Dad's in exactly a fortnight, all being well.

And today, the li'l chap partook in his school nativity play, The Bossy King. As is usually the case, this was a twist on the traditional format, about a bossy king who changed his ways when he met the baby Jesus. The boy was superb as one of the narrators, remembering his lines and shouting them out with a smile, as myself and his grandparents watched on proudly.

The Wolery.Evesham Bell Tower.There was no sign of him or his contemporaries suffering from kakorrhaphiophobia, which - as you will all know of course - is a fear of failure. It is also a musical Uxbridge-above Surprise Major method which I successfully pealed - with seven others - at The Wolery this evening. There was a bit of discussion on Facebook a few days ago in regards to quick peals, with some wondering why you would bother ringing a peal in the first place if you just want to get it over with as soon as possible. I'm sure there are elements of that in some fast peals, and I can't deny that at times I have been in peals where I've thought I'd like to get it done with at the earliest opportunity, whilst also wanting to score. But most of my peals that have been what people would consider to be fast have been a consequence of really good ringing, rather than just for the sake of ringing quickly. That's not to say that slow ringing is the result of bad ringing. A peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was rung last Saturday at Evesham, a twelve that at the same weight as St Mary-le-Tower are normally pealed between 3hrs30mins-3hrs40mins, but on this occasion saw 5088 changes rung in 4hrs2mins. Looking at the band though, you can pretty much guarantee it was a brilliantly struck peal from beginning to end, with good rhythm and few - if any - mistakes. But that was an experienced and extremely talented band, used to ringing well-struck peals on heavy twelves. However, naturally the more mistakes that are made, the more uneven the ringing, the longer any piece of ringing will take. The band that rings regular peals in Old Stoke are very good, used to ringing peals together, and common factors in the vast majority of my peals here been superb ringing and then as a result, quick ringing, rather than setting out to ring as quickly as we can. So it was this evening, with an excellent 5088 rung in 1hr45mins, despite actually setting off slower and more cautiously than we usually do.

There followed tea, cake and biscuits afterwards, as well as ample opportunity to quiz young George on his exploits in London on Sunday, which involved ringing Southwark Cathedral tenor, meeting Paul Tiebout, losing a peal and quarter of Bristol Max at St Mary-le-Bow, drinking, currying and then decorating a bus. All good experience that will hopefully hold him in good stead. As much fun as that was though, I booked my first planned peal date of 2014, and headed through heavy fog (proper heavy fog, not the wispy mist that reduces visibility to a few miles, and has righteous drivers huffing and puffing that others are not joining them in blinding road-users with their fog-lights) and ice to join Ruthie at The Greyhound after a Pettistree practice that had begun with Derek Martin ringing his first of Minor inside in the pre-practice quarter. Well done Derek!

It wasn't an evening for staying too long in the pub though, so after a brief stay, I took the wife home on a cold and frosty night that felt remarkably Christmassy...


Tuesday 10th December 2013

Having kept back a couple of days of holiday in case Mason was called into Great Ormond Street Hospital for his operations before the end of the year, and with that now not looking likely, I decided I ought to use one today for some Christmas shopping! Hence, with Ruthie off today as well, all the usual places got a visit, though we had to return to our local branch of WH Smith as the tills went down whilst we there!

We finished a productive day with a productive evening, as we joined Kate and Ron for a couple of pints in The Mariner to book our tickets for their New Year's Eve bash!

Sadly somewhere that doesn't sound like it will be open to see 2014 in is The Turk's Head in Hasketon. This will be a pub familiar to many ringers, frequently visited after ringing at nearby Grundisburgh, but the current owners have got what it appears they desired by running it down, with reports of the entrance being gated up, and the locals banned. The villagers are fighting back thankfully, as it would be a scandal in an age when valuable community hubs are being lost due to under-use, if this still popular and wanted village inn is lost in this way after centuries. Maybe a day off to save it is in order!


Monday 9th December 2013

In all the Hortons ringing and moving stuff upstairs on Thursday, we missed that there was a programme hosted from Taylor's Bell Foundry in Loughborough. It was the East Midlands version of Restoring England's Heritage, and as well as highlighting other restoration issues such as the fact that the spire above the once regularly-pealed ten at St Mary-de-Castro in Leicester looks set to be taken down, they explored the history and work of the foundry, and the fact that they need £3m to restore the Victorian buildings at this famous ringing site. Hopefully they can raise it. There was some ringing on the foundry's bells (that I well remember ringing a peal on for a story I shan't go into here!), featuring some familiar faces, including Taylor's employee Andrew 'Oggy' Ogden, someone I have done much ringing with, and who makes occasional visits to Suffolk on work. The programme is well worth a watch on iPlayer before it disappears.

Table in its new position at St Mary-le-Tower.One place that Taylor's has done much work with, is St Mary-le-Tower, and being Monday, it was practice night of course. And following last week's plea from David Potts to improve things, I was pleased to see that those present continued their efforts tonight, all climaxed with a very decent half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, before a historic change was made. My earliest memories of the SMLT ringing chamber were of a highly competent band ringing complicated methods, led by George who was normally on one of the back bells, sometimes with a young Chris and me sat at the table in the middle of the room, the magic happening all around us. Much has changed since those days, but the standard of ringing is now heading back in that direction, and after practice, the table which for a couple of decades has been sat in the corner behind the ninth rope, was moved back to its original place. It all brings back memories.

Upon the desk this evening, was the latest edition of Awl a'huld. Hopefully towers will have received their copies, or are about to. If you haven't, then get in touch with your Area Rep or District Officers, because these are not just a great way of members catching up with what's going on across the Guild, but also a vital PR tool. Make sure a copy is put in the church, in the local pub, dentist or doctor's waiting room, or anywhere else you can think of, so that non-ringers can see it. If just one member of the public reads it and is inspired to have a go, then this edition will have been a success from that perspective.

Monks Eleigh.As it is, it is another job well done by Sue Freeman and Richard Gates, who are to be congratulated and thanked for their efforts. It is particularly interesting what the other Districts are up to, such as reading about the Monks Eleigh ringers getting in quickly with ringing for the birth of Prince George. There's also an extremely useful article from David Salter on place notation that I would urge all learners to read, especially if you were confused by my clumsy attempts to explain it in my blog previously!

Hopefully, it will help Suffolk's ringers progress, keep the art going, and keep places like Taylor's going!


Sunday 8th December 2013

Our Christmas Tree!As you may expect at this time of year, there was a very festive feel about today, as Mason and I put the Christmas decorations up at a home thankfully - as you may have assumed - untouched by Thursday night/Friday morning's floods. Tinsel was flung over the tree and any surface that stayed still long enough, baubles now hang from almost every branch, and a star sits atop it all, the final act carried out by the l'il chap!

Ringers Christmas tree at bottom of stairs to ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower during Christmas Tree Festival.It followed on from a morning when we marvelled at the fantastically decorated trees at St Mary-le-Tower's Christmas Tree Festival, including the ringer's one with an oranges and lemons theme - well done to all who set that up, it looks fantastic!

To add to a positive feel about SMLT this morning, we also handed a card to new South-District Chairman Ralph Earey to celebrate his other new job, but we did also do some ringing, honest!

And we did some ringing at a busy Grundisburgh too, as indeed did the boy, who not only bonged behind for the first time to plain hunt on three and Plain Bob Minimus, but also rang on his highest number of bells yet, with a quick burst of rounds on ten, before I took over and we leapt into some Little Bob Royal.

Clare.Meanwhile, many I'm sure will like to know that Peter Mayle's funeral will take place at Clare this Friday at 2pm. Recent correspondence on facebook was critical of the lack of attendance from officers of an unnamed ringing organisation for the funeral of a long-serving stalwart member, but the Suffolk Guild is usually pretty good on this front, and I'm sure will continue that record for a man very much deserving of a good send-off. I've been heartened - and more importantly I'm certain his son Alan will have been - by the numbers of quarters and peals rung to his memory.

One of those was the 5024 at Rendham this afternoon, the 400th peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung for the Guild, a total which Peter himself contributed twenty-seven. Elsewhere, well done to George Reynolds on ringing his first on ten, and Wendie Summers on ringing her first Grandsire Caters in the quarter at The Norman Tower.

No quarters or peals for Mrs Munnings or me, though my busy wife returned home from work long enough to have some tea with us before then heading on to The Greyhound for the Pettistree Ringers AGM. Busy times, but at this time of year they're only going to get busier!


Saturday 7th December 2013

Bellringing - like life itself - is made up of many different characters, with different personalities, quirks, and opinions. One person who stands out more than most is Christopher J Cooper, a ringer from Kent, not to be confused - as has been the case - with Christopher K Cooper of Yorkshire. The southern Chris Cooper is a man you will remember if you have come across him, as he stands out by modern perceptions. Despite being my age, he dresses as if from the Victorian times, and has facial hair that many a Movember participant would be proud of, whilst doggedly maintaining that we all ought to be worshipping using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and seems to oppose anything that changes the character of church buildings. His determination that we had got our worship just right at that particular point in time always reminds of a scene from Family Guy, where the Amish say a prayer that includes the quote "We solemnly believe that although humans have been around for a million years, you feel strongly that they had just the right amount of technology between 1835 and 1850; not too little, not too much."

Personally, when I've been in conversation with him I've not had any problem with him and found him quite polite and inoffensive, though he is the only person I have witnessed calling ringers terrorists, at a College Youths meeting I once attended, when a footnote to a peal got him hot under the collar. Understandably his strong views - that many consider very extreme - means that some find him annoying and even don't like him, something he is very much aware of!

Wickham Market.Sally & Alan Munnings and Mike Whitby await ringing in the service touch at Wickham Market.But the main reason I thought of him today, was because he really wouldn't like what they have done at Wickham Market's parish church, scene this afternoon of the 2013 South-East District ADM. When Mason, Ruthie and I first saw the re-ordered All Saints back in August, when my wife and I rang a quarter for the extremely successful SE District Quarter-Peal Evening, we liked it, and returning today, that view was only enhanced. With the old pews taken out and replaced with moveable chairs, it gave us the flexibility to hold the service, tea and meeting all in the same comfortable space, and whilst I usually prefer being located in a hall for these events (the quainter the better!), I was impressed. For those used to previously entering the church through the bottom of the tower, it can be quite disconcerting that there is now a kitchen there - Ringing Master Tom Scase was heard to say, "last time I was here, I came in through the oven"! The bells however, are unchanged, though plans are afoot to do them up. And the ringing chamber remains one of the cosiest around, at least in height and atmosphere, as ringers rap their knuckles on the ceiling whilst ringing, surrounded by timber beams and the collection of sweetie tins stacked on the wall, mainly the responsibility of the lovely, late local here, Phil Willis.

The Top Table prepares for the 2013 SE District ADM.Copdock.Earl Soham.Easton.Tuddenham St Martin.Winston.Campsea Ashe.Clopton.Helmingham.

Once I had partaken in the service touch, enjoyed the service, and munched through a fantastic spread of sandwiches and cakes, we got down to business. ADM's are admittedly more protracted than other District meetings through the year, as we look back over the last twelve months, and ahead to the next, and officers are elected. And with the change from deaneries to areas that the committee has had to spend hours on, proceedings were slightly longer-winded than usual. However, it was all important for getting across to members what is going on, especially new ones - of which there were many present - and those who don't have internet access. Former District Chairman John Bonney, and Bredfield and Pettistree ringer Mike Daniels were remembered by John Girt and Mike Pilgrim respectively, and the programme for 2014 and beyond was put to members. It is all provisional of course, with towers to be contacted closer to the time, and circumstances like weddings and other events potentially seeing some of it change, but I think the committee has done superbly to put forward a programme that tries to reach out to as many areas as possible, with towers like Copdock, Earl Soham, Easton, Tuddenham and Winston making a return to proceedings for the first time for a few years in some cases. The brilliant six we now have at Campsea Ashe will - all being well - play host to the District's Striking Competition on Saturday 3rd May, and if all goes to plan, we as a District hope to invite you all to the recently rehung bells of Clopton and Helmingham for the Guild Striking Competitions two weeks later.

Arguably the biggest thing to come out of the meeting, was the election of Ralph Earey as District Chairman. Mary Garner has done a wonderful job in coming in and filling in following the failure of last year's meeting to find a replacement for the outgoing Peter Harper, and she truly deserves our thanks. I know she's certainly got the Secretary's gratitude! I'm looking forward to what Ralphy can do though, as his acceptance speech was encouraging as he set out his hopes to make sure that members - particularly youngsters - are engaged in meetings, not bored by them. Congratulations on your new role Mr Earey!

It was also great to see such a decent turnout, with over fifty attending over the course of the day, including many new members, and the Guild Chairman Alan Stanley.

 Ringing at Ufford at the SE District ADM.All this had followed on from District ringing at nearby Ufford, where the range went from call-changes to three-leads of Bristol Surprise Major in a packed ringing chamber, and in itself had followed on for my wife and I from ringing for a wedding at the very same venue just an hour earlier, our tight schedule helped enormously by the bride arriving five minutes early!

Ron putting the greenhouse up.Either end of the day we also enjoyed non-ringing related activities, as we popped in to see Ruthie's Nan and 'fixed' her TV in the morning, and then forsook further ringing on the six at WM to meet our bridesmaid Fergie and her friends Peter and Beth at The Mariner's back in Woodbridge in the evening, whilst we also offered Kate and Ron an audience as they put up my mother-in-law's greenhouse. Or at least as much as they could on a busy day for E.B.Button & Sons...

It all added up to a very enjoyable day with all sorts of characters!


Friday 6th December 2013

Now becoming a welcome tradition at this time of year, this evening was the 2013 St Mary-le-Tower Ringers Curry. Mason dropped off at the home of Mum and Dad who were very kindly putting him up for the night and are then taking him to Ipswich Transport Museum in the morning, we made our way to the meeting point for the night's frivolities, The Cricketers. A couple or three drinks enjoyed at our usual haunt, and the socialising well under way, it was onto a venue familiar to us as the location for last year's meal, A Passage to India. However, unlike last year, things didn't go entirely satisfactorily.

Firstly, we arrived to find that despite making a group booking in plenty of time, they didn't have a table for us all to sit round. Indeed, until a bit of shifting around, we faced the prospect of the twenty-plus crowd sitting on three or even four tables, until they'd at least managed to get the rest of us on a second table. But it set the tone for a disappointing night in contrast to the good company we enjoyed. Dishes came out randomly, meaning some food was going cold whilst their accompaniments were waited for.

To give them their dues, they cut the bill in an attempt to make amends, but it was a big shame for David Potts who had put so much effort into arranging an otherwise superb night out. And superb it was, as despite the less-than-satisfactory service at the curry-house, Ruthie and I had a great time, and hoping to be able to come to 2014's curry! Many thanks David!


Thursday 5th December 2013

Peal Band.The Wolery.Congratulations to Mick Edwards, who tonight rang his one thousandth peal in the first ever rung of Eynesbury Bob Triples. It was rung at The Wolery of course, a set of bells that have really shown their worth on this occasion in particular. After his recent health problems and without this mini-ring in Old Stoke, he probably wouldn't ever have reached this landmark after getting so close following years of working up to it, which would have been a big shame for a man who has been a steady and reliable treble-ringer to so many peals, particularly our peals of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor here, and the high-quality second-Sunday peals at Aldeburgh.

Oakley.It also doubled up as Oliver Thompson's 75th peal, on a night that Stephen Dawson called a quarter of Spliced Surprise for the first time - very well done Stephen - in the success at Oakley, and I partook in a very enjoyable quarter of spliced Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow and London Surprise Major - Horton's Four - at Stowmarket. My two previous successes at this at Lowestoft earlier in the year and at Upham down in Hampshire last year had been on lighter bells, and in some respects the 20cwt bells of SS Mary & Peter - hosts of the 2014 Suffolk Guild AGM on 26th April of course, if I may put in an extremely early plug - made this effort slightly easier, with the slower pace giving us more time to think. But in other respects it made it harder. If you find yourself going in the wrong direction - as can be easily done in the middle when with fourth, fifth and sixth place bells going off in all sorts of different ways depending on what gets called, though there very few problems in this respect this evening - then it is more difficult to get back into place, and the striking struggled a little on this occasion. Overall though, we were quite rightly chuffed with our efforts, especially after a false start.

Tonight though, these achievements were mostly lost amongst dire warnings about tidal surges and floods along our coast. Previously, Ruthie and I wouldn't have felt at risk, safely perched as we were, high up the hill behind Melton Grange. Now living down by the River Deben in a road called Brook Street, we were a little unsure whether we ought to be concerned or not. We hadn't received any information, or a visit from anyone suggesting that we evacuate or move things upstairs, and there seemed no sense of danger from our neighbours. But before we left the office this afternoon, servers and computers sat downstairs were moved upstairs, and as ever the twenty-four hour news channels were predicting Armageddon. Which in itself didn't help. We have all got so used to being warned to stay indoors or take preventative action if the weather conditions are anything but between ten and twenty degrees centigrade, dry and still, that it feels a little like The Boy Who Cried Wolf whenever they ratchet up the drama. And in the end, when millions of people really did genuinely need them for information, updates and phone numbers, they abandoned the entire east coast of England for three or four critical hours to offer blanket 'coverage' of the peaceful passing of a 95-year-old man who had been on his death-bed for the last two or three years. Nelson Mandela's passing today is newsworthy. He was a truly great man, an iconic figure who sacrificed much of his life for a greater cause, and millions are better off for him. But as with Margaret Thatcher's death earlier in the year, once it had been reported that he had died at home naturally, at the end of a long, long life, it ceased to be news. There was no need to know what Nick Clegg thought of it. Or hear from the family lawyer down a bad phone line. Or get reaction from every country across the world. Or repeat his extraordinary, but already well-known life-story on a loop. Especially when huge numbers in the UK were in desperate need of information for an ongoing situation that many - including us - weren't entirely sure of the exact gravity of.

So having moved a few bits and pieces upstairs (there's a limit to how much two people can move on a whim, especially when one of you can't lift anything heavy!), we went to bed slightly confused. Here's hoping our house will still be dry in the morning, RIP Nelson Mandela, and congratulations Mick!


Wednesday 4th December 2013

Nearly two weeks after he was due to enter the world, Ruthie's latest cousin Thomas was finally born, just before midnight last night. Congratulations to Moog and Ange, and to little Lucy who now has a younger brother!

It was a positive note on what has thus far been a very positive week, with work feeling very festive in anticipation of next week's Christmas meal, and their decorations now up, and even Ipswich Town getting in on the act with two wins in the last five days.

That positivity continued on to Pettistree this evening, with the pre-practice quarter of Bob Doubles seeing Sam Shannon ring his first away from cover. It is a deserved reward for dogged perseverance on his behalf, so very well done Sam! The session that followed was in keeping with a good few days of ringing too, with the last four pieces crowning a great night on the end of the ropes. A touch of London Surprise Minor was absolutely faultless until the fourth didn't make the bob right at the end, Anne Buswell rang Ipswich Surprise Minor brilliantly, there was some well-rung Stedman Doubles, before we finished with a course of Bourne Surprise Minor in which Elaine Townsend rang superbly.

Preston St Mary.And on another positive ringing note, well done to Andrea Alderton, Stephen Dawson and David Howe on ringing their first of Oswald Delight Minor in the successful 1320 at Preston St Mary, continuing a very nice theme of the day.

Our night was ended in The Greyhound, which was busy, lively and in a somewhat celebratory mood, with a lit tree outside the door to boot. It was all very... well, positive!


Tuesday 3rd December 2013

As ever, it has been a busy ADM season, as one-by-one, the districts have held what I consider to be a vital date in their calendars. Important decisions have been made, information and news imparted, towers and ringers reached out to, friendships renewed and made. One disappointing theme has been that the attendances haven't been as good as they should be. It has been good to see David Steed and Michelle Williams take up positions as North-West Chairman and North-East Ringing Master respectively, but in the main, it still seems the same core of dedicated members who have tirelessly organised, arranged, supported and run events for years and in some cases decades. Thank God for them, for I dread to think what state Suffolk ringing would be in without them, but they deserve a rest! I have always been aware that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to set these occasions up, but in the year since Ruthie became South-East District Secretary, I have gained a new appreciation of the work that district officers do. Towers need arranging, meetings attended, issues addressed, all so that the district's members can meet together to progress and enjoy their ringing. It's not expected that everyone drops everything to attend these events, but when we have district chairmen who actually pass up on paid work to chair a district meeting as was the case with Chris Moore at the South-West ADM ten days ago, I don't think it's too much of a stretch for those who have nothing on (or that at least can't be done/dealt with another time) to show their support to those who put so much time and effort into their district, Guild and these events.

Ufford.Wickham Market.With that in mind, I would urge SE members to get in touch with to book teas for this Saturday's SE District ADM at Wickham Market, with ringing at Ufford and service at All Saints beforehand, and ringing on the 12cwt six with a low ceiling afterwards. With Mary Garner having superbly filled in as Chairman, she is handing over the reins, and whilst a replacement has been lined up, that mustn't put off anyone who wants to have a go, or would like to put someone forward, providing that person is willing! Either way, there will be a new Chairman come this weekend, and it would be good for them to have a large crowd to welcome them into the role.

Beccles.Before that, Wednesday night will see the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles, for which the above sentiments also apply. This is a superb opportunity for many to progress their ringing and get more fulfilment out of an art that can offer so much joy and satisfaction, so please do go along, whether it is to be help or be helped.

Orford.Sadly, on the same night, there will not be a practice at Leiston, and nor will there be for the time being, as repairs are being carried out to the tower, but on a more positive note and after being out of action for the same reason, Orford bells are up and running again, so help there would be appreciated more than ever.

For tonight though, my wife and I were supporting the aforementioned eight at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the protracted birth of Moog and Ange's next child meaning that Kate was unable to attend this evening's practice, as she was looking after their firstborn Lucy. This time, soon-to-be ex-SE District Chairman Mary ran the ringing, with a decent turnout seeing a range from Bob Minor for Derek Martin and John Pallant to Yorkshire Surprise Major for Elaine Townsend and some Stedman Triples to finish with. Although it meant forsaking another Tuesday night in, we were more than happy to support others in their ringing. I just hope many more are prepared to do that around the Guild at towers and events coming up.


Monday 2nd December 2013

Babies were very much the theme of the day, with one that has just arrived, one that is due any moment, and one that is still brewing.

Having inadvertently phoned my mate Wellsy on Thursday night whilst his wife Katy was being induced, I was delighted to hear that she finally gave birth last night to their first child Alice. Wellsy has been a good mate since I shared a hall of residence at uni way, way back in the day, and Mason, Ruthie and me enjoyed their wedding a couple of years ago, so this is another moving landmark in our collective lives, as the Dudley crew who once spent every day getting drunk, sleeping all day and generally misbehaving at night continues to grow up!

St Mary-le-Tower.Back here in Suffolk, we were all awaiting news on the next addition to my wife's vast family. Her Uncle Moog's wife Ange was due to give birth way back on 20th November, with jokes being made that when he arrives he should be called Edmund in honour of the county's patron saint whose day we of course marked twelve days ago. Nearly two weeks on though, and Nicholas would be more appropriate, and in order to make sure things didn't drag on so long that Valentine and Bunny are names taken into consideration, she was booked to go to Ipswich Hospital this morning to induce the process. However, with not enough available midwifes, the poor girl was sent home and asked to return later in the day, only to be sent home again and asked to return tomorrow morning. It all meant a day on tenterhooks for us (though how Moog and Ange were feeling I can only imagine!), and with Kate on call to take their daughter Lucy if things got going, she was unable to go to St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening.

Our baby boy at twenty weeks.However, Mrs Munnings and I made it, though not until we had dealt with our very own baby-related business. For whilst friends and family are popping or are about to pop, we have reached twenty weeks, which meant it was time for our next scan, and a significant one at that. For after weeks of referring to our unborn child as 'it', we can now refer to it as... 'him!' It came as a bit of surprise actually, as just about everyone suggested that from the signs thus far, it was almost certainly a girl, from my mother-in-law to the midwife, but it didn't matter to us what gender the baby was. We are simply delighted that as things stand, everything is going as it should be, which is by far and away the most important thing.

It put us in an extremely positive frame-of-mind for what turned out to be a very positive evening of ringing. Beforehand, David had made an understandable plea for everyone to up their game after a poor couple of sessions in the last two weeks, with a request to think about our striking, and learn methods properly. It's not that people haven't been trying, but as I've found in the past, whether as SMLT or Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, occasionally people don't always go the extra mile needed to produce better results, for whatever reason. It's easy to go through the motions without thinking, but left to go on like that, ringing will eventually disintegrate. Whether at the county's heaviest twelve or anywhere else, we are privileged to have the opportunity to produce some fantastic ringing, and I can't describe just how good that feels when it happens. But we all need to have more belief in ourselves, and think about what we're doing, and how we can improve things. Do we need to be firmer with our backstrokes, rather than float them about with random and often unpleasant results? Do we have a habit of just leading at our own speed without listening to what speed everyone else - and if there are lots of different rhythms as there too often is, then revert to the tenor's - is ringing at? How do we learn methods? There are so many tips to make things easier, but when they are offered to us, do we take them in? Or - as I have so often found - do we smirk when they are imparted and dismiss them as being too complicated to take on board?

Sometimes it just takes a shift in attitude, and that seemed to be the case this evening, as there was a vast improvement at all levels, from Little Bob to Surprise Maximus, as those present responded magnificently. As David was quite rightly at pains to point out, we ought to be making this the minimum standard, and not just a one-off reaction.

With so much positivity flying about, a pint in The Cricketers was all the more enjoyable, as we celebrated good ringing and babies here, about to be here and - God willing - to be here in a few months!


Sunday 1st December 2013

The first day of December is when I allow myself to begin feeling festive. Despite the best attempts of adverts and card shops, I can't bring myself to feel the warm glow that comes with the season when I've only just come back from my summer holidays and there's still a third of the year left, or else I would be bored and annoyed by it all before we'd even got to November. Once the month of Christmas starts though, it feels about the right time to enjoy everything about it. We have licence to get stuck into our advent calendars, festive events begin coming in abundance, and necessity means we will have to start thinking about cards, though purchasing presents for family members has already begun.

But even putting all that to one side though, it would have been impossible not to feel incredibly Christmassy today, as we headed to Loughborough. This is a place most famous to ringers for Taylor's of course, but whilst we were just yards from the foundry where a band consisting of some of our ringing friends were scoring a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, and we were welcomed to the Great Central Railway by the sound of the front six of the 30cwt ten at nearby All Saints, it was trains and Santa that we were here for!

Father Christmas arrives!Great Central Station, Loughborough.Mason watches up close.

Mason was in his element, as were Kate and Ron, and Ruthie and I loved the whole occasion, as we travelled by steam to the other end of the line at Leicester North, whilst Father Christmas and his helpers handed out presents, chocolate and sherry. This was very much the life!

As exciting as it is, and as close as the big day seems when we tick into the twelfth month of the year, it is still some weeks until the 25th, and we need to get back to school and work tomorrow, so after a wonderful day out we headed home, via The Brewers Fayre at the Brampton Hut services for some lunch/tea.

Many thanks to Kate and Ron for taking us on a lovely weekend full of happy memories. Nice as it was, it was also good to return to Suffolk though, the lit towers of the Cathedral, Woolpit and Creeting St Mary guiding us along the A14 like beacons. It is a county that even (or especially?) in our absence had been busy today, with the Rolph sisters Alex and Nicole again achieving, as they rang their first quarter of St Clement's College Bob Minor in the 1260 at Wissett, and Stephen Dawson and Pam Ebsworth ringing their most methods in the Doubles at Great Finborough. Well done all of you!

However, I was sad to return to news that Peter Mayle passed away earlier this week. His son Alan of course continues to carry this famous Suffolk ringing name not just across the county, but into Essex and beyond as one of the best ringers within our borders, but Peter was was no ringing slouch either. Among his hundreds of peals, he could count numerous of Surprise Major and Royal, as well as spliced, and he was synonymous with one of the most well known towers and rings of bells in the region, Clare. His passing is a sad loss to the Guild and Suffolk ringing, and our thoughts of course go out to Alan and his family.

Despite not having done any ringing this weekend, we returned to the county exhausted, and stuffed (two carvery meals in two days will do that to you!), but ready to face December!


Saturday 30th November 2013

Our annual trip with Ron and Kate to see trains and Father Christmas has become a tradition that Ruthie and I look forward to almost as much as Mason. It is a fabulous combination, evoking nostalgia and fond childhood memories for us adults, and amalgamating two subjects that the li'l chap still finds utterly magical.

Mason riding a pony.Mason stroking a donkey.A turkey dancing with Ron's feet.Mason feeding the goats.

That is all to come tomorrow, but since my wife started having every other Sunday off last year, it enables us to make a weekend of these trips, so today we travelled to Leicestershire where all the fun is taking place, starting with a trip to Stonehurst Family Farm. This a delightful little place not too dissimilar to our very own Easton Farm Park, and it offered all the thrills of there too. Mason fed the goats and rode a pony, I fell off a hay bale, and Ron danced with a turkey, and we all enjoyed a tractor ride around the surrounding area, as we viewed, stroked and fed goats, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs and much more over the course of an exhausting but fun-filled afternoon.

It was all enough to make us very hungry, and so once we'd booked into the nearby Mountsorrel Guesthouse, we headed out into Mountsorrel itself to find food. The Swan Inn had been recommended to us, and it is obviously very good, as it was fully booked when we went in to enquire, but we eventually found ourselves in nearby Rothley and The Red Lion for a lovely carvery and jovial evening.

Meanwhile, on facebook, it was heartening to hear about Alex Rolph's achievements at the North-East District Surprise Major practice at Halesworth. Not only did this promising youngster ring her first blows of Surprise Major with a couple of courses of Cambridge, but she followed this up on the same night with three well-rung leads of Bristol, and then some spliced Bristol, Cambridge and Yorkshire. Well done Alex!

It was a nice way to top a nice day out.


Friday 29th November 2013

There was an article on the East Anglian Daily Times website about local band Doghouse playing at Wickham Market Village Hall tomorrow night in aide of the local football club, which caught my eye for two reasons today.

One was that the band in question features Ruthie's uncle, and Kate's brother Moog (he's the one at the far right of the picture for those interested, and even those not interested), though as they normally play at the weekend, we haven't had an opportunity to watch them yet.

The other reason was a quote made in the article by a mother of one of the kids who plays for this worthy club, that indicates to me why we struggle to get recruits in many places. Her remark that "there's very little for the children to do in Wickham Market or the surrounding villages - the team is all they've got" is the type of comment that usually causes me to mutter about what they really mean is "there's nothing that their kids can be bothered to do", but that obviously isn't the issue here. This is a club that does a lot of good, and the eighty youngsters involved suggests this isn't a hotbed of lazy obese children. But it does concern me - even if it was just a quick soundbite to ram home the cause - that the very enthusiastic band that practise every Monday at All Saints, those down the road at Pettistree on Wednesday nights, and the increasingly large and youthful contingent at nearby Campsea Ashe, Hacheston and Parham are not known about in the local area. To be fair, these towers collectively have done very well - especially recently - in recruiting, with new members and youngsters now enjoying ringing on the various sixes, and I know that they write in the local magazines for example. But it is perhaps a reminder of what we're up against when it comes to publicising our art.

Still, we don't do badly, and there were signs that our art is still very much a living one at Great Finborough today, as Andrea Alderton and Stephen Dawson rang their first blows of Edge Hill Bob Minor, and David Howe rang his first quarter in the method in the success. Well done guys, make sure the local football club know about it!


Thursday 28th November 2013

Apart from unintentionally ringing my mate Wellsy whilst his pregnant wife was being induced, it was a very quiet day, without even any quarters or peals recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile in the county. Ruthie went to choir practice, we both went to work.


Wednesday 27th November 2013

I'm not a number-crunching peal-ringer. Yes, I enjoyed the chase to my five-hundredth last year, and I find it interesting following the peal-ringing exploits of those who travel the country ringing five, six or even more a week, especially those I ring regularly with, like the Salter family, and I can well understand why they do so much. Will Colin Turner reach 10,000 peals? It isn't as improbable as it sounds, as according to PealBase, he is due at current rates to hit 7,000 in just over four years, having only just reached 6,000 earlier in the year.

However, whilst I would one day like to get to a thousand peals, even at my current rate that will take me over fifteen years to get to, so I'm not on a mad dash to add as many peals as I possibly can to my totals. No, I mainly partake in peal-ringing to contribute to raising and maintaining my own standards and those around me, and the variety it has offered me, from Minimus to Sixteen, little village rings to the grandest cathedrals, tiny bells to 30cwt+ bells, with learners and some of the most famous ringers in the world, across the country and even beyond.

So on that basis, I'm fairly easy-going on losing peals, depending on the circumstances. Obviously efforts lost near or even at the end are a blow, and I'm always keen to get ones rung for special occasions, but whilst I always give 100% to any ringing I do, I don't lose sleep over peal losses generally. Sometimes a loss isn't a bad thing. I had great fun in my first couple of years at uni going for the first ever peal of Martin's Triples at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham. This was a method using the same principal as Scientific Triples, in as much as there are different places where the calls come, and was significant enough to have a brass plaque put up in the ringing chamber to mark our eventual success, but we spent more time in The Gunmakers nearby than ringing as we would frequently (often every week!) turn up on a Tuesday evening, ring for half-an-hour and then lose it for one reason or another. So long as we made sure we were still ringing when David Pipe drove past on the way to the Bullring practice, we would be fine, as we would have good reason to miss the practice, rather than having to admit that we had just sat in the pub! More recently when we were building towards a peal of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods, we often went through months of frequently losing attempts before scoring. Neither project would've been half as satisfying or enjoyable, and I don't believe the final peals rung as well as they were, if we had just turned up and scored at the first attempt, though they weren't without their frustrations!

St Mary-le-Tower.Although not quite in the same vein as those, tonight's lost attempt of spliced Bristol and London Surprise Major on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower was probably for the best. We had a decent band this evening, one on paper that should've been more than capable of ringing a good peal of what was on offer. But from the start it was clear that more practise was needed, particularly at the numerous singles that featured in this particular composition, so tonight offered an opportunity to get some in, though even that was cut short by me carrying on ringing London when the conductor had called for Bristol! So whilst we didn't score a peal tonight, hopefully we will do in the near future on the back of this evening.

In a more practical sense, it also gave me time to join Ruthie in helping out at Pettistree practice, where a good crowd included the visit of the Twissell's who have recently moved into the area, and Ian and Rosemary, learners from Bredfield who were doing what all learners should do and pop out to other practices when they can. An evening that at one stage had one attendee worried that the Essex Association was about to disband (don't worry, they're not, unless events of a century ago are still rumbling on!), was topped with a drink in The Greyhound, which more than made up for any pangs of disappointment at this evening's loss!


Tuesday 26th November 2013

Having dismissed any chance of Sunday's peals at Aldeburgh or Iken getting to the top of BellBoard's 'like' board, it is impressive to not only see two Suffolk peals in the top four, but indeed three in the top five. My comment about BB was mainly tongue-in-cheek, but it's nice to be proved wrong!

And having also raised the issue of Christmas ringing in yesterday's blog, it's worth noting that there is much happening more immediately. The North-East District Surprise Major Practice at Halesworth on Friday should be something that anyone looking to progress their ringing at this level should go along to if they can, whilst of course experienced help would also be appreciated I'm sure. Likewise with the same District's Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday 4th December, whilst the South-East District Secretary would appreciate your company three days later for the last of the district ADMs this year, as we converge upon Ufford and Wickham Market. There's then Second-Tuesday Ringing at Henley and Ufford on the 10th, and the Bacton Monthly Practice in the evening the following day, before we get anywhere near the festive events. There's still business to be dealt with!

Those are ringing occasions that - barring any unforeseen circumstances - we are expecting soon, but this evening we had an unexpected night out ringing, as Ruthie and I responded to a last-minute SOS from Kate to help out and run Ufford practice, as she was unexpectedly needed elsewhere. Although we usually try to keep our Tuesday nights free for some down time, we were more than happy to help out, and had an enjoyable time, with Derek Martin doing tremendously well ringing a touch of Plain Bob Minor inside despite considerable distractions, and both he and John Pallant ringing Plain Hunt on Seven particularly well.

Tattingstone Wonder.Elsewhere, they were ringing the first ever peal of Tattingstone Wonder Surprise Minor in one hour and forty-one minutes of ringing at The Wolery, and Tim Stanford was ringing his first of Rutland in Ralph Earey's 800th quarter in the 1282 at Offton. Well done to the band in Old Stoke and to Tim, and congratulations to Ralphy! Maybe we can get these efforts to the top of BellBoard!


Monday 25th November 2013

The decorations have been up in the streets of Ipswich and Woodbridge for weeks. Apparently one in five households in the UK will have put up their tree and tinsel over the weekend just gone. Adverts have been festively themed for a month, believe it or not we were sent menus for the forthcoming John Catt seasonal meal over two months ago, and cards with snow, reindeer, Santa and robins adorned the shelves of local shops whilst we were still trying to stay cool in shorts and with the windows wide open, desperately trying to catch a refreshing breeze. It is hard to believe that it isn't even December, and that the big day itself is still a month away, but - if all goes to plan - that means a busy thirty days for ringers and ringing, and it is important to be prepared and get some dates in the diary if ringing is going to be carried out successfully over that period. Yesterday, Grundisburgh put out a plea for ringers at various events in the coming weeks, and tonight at St Mary-le-Tower names were requested for our Christmas Curry and for helping decorate the ringer's tree for the SMLT Christmas Tree Festival which begins next Thursday, and which Mike Burn, Stephen Cheek, David Potts and I did our bit for by helping the vicar Charles put the huge church tree up.

Ipswich, St Clement.Ipswich, St Lawrence.Ipswich, St Margaret.Ipswich, St Mary at the Quay.Ipswich, St Mary-le-Tower.Ipswich, St Matthew.Ipswich, St Nicholas.Ipswich, St Stephen.

Additionally, 01473 436575, was on the hunt for the minimum fifty-one ringers needed to man Ipswich's bells for ringing on the morning of Saturday 21st December, an event that is part of many planned ringing occasions with a festive-theme in Suffolk in the near future. All being well, the busiest day of all will be Saturday 14th December, when the North-West District will hold their Christmas Social at Rougham between 10am and noon, the South-West District will have their Carol Service (though as yet I don't know where or at what time), and Barsham will be hosting the North-East District Carol Service from 4.30pm, with ringing on this 6cwt five for half-an-hour beforehand.

It is still November for now though, and in the main it was a very normal Monday night, with Kate, Ruthie and me dropping Ron off for bagpipe school on the way to the aforementioned session, and then picking him up after a post-practice drink in The Cricketers where entrance was bizarrely restricted to one door manned by a door-lady following 'an incident'. Still not quite the season of goodwill yet then...


Sunday 24th November 2013

On my radio interview last Wednesday, I mentioned how proud I am of being from Suffolk, and how keen I am to celebrate those from the county who have made a positive mark on national and even international society. That was particularly made in reference to St Edmund, but whilst he is mostly noted just within our borders, Benjamin Britten is someone globally famous. In the last twelve months, the centenary of his birth has apparently been marked by three thousand events in forty-four countries ranging from Armenia to Brazil to China to Palestine, and the BBC have made a huge deal of the milestone, with Peter Grimes and Noye's Fludde on the lips of seemingly most presenters on the beeb's TV channels and Radio Three. Not only was he born within our borders, but the work that made him his name was inspired by the local landscape, especially along the east coast.

Iken.As I drove to Iken to ring a peal of one-hundred Doubles methods in his honour, I could see why too. This part of the world has a wonderful isolated and almost wild nature about it, and there are few more spectacular routes that I have taken to a peal attempt. As I turned off the 'main' road - which in itself is barely more than a country lane that winds and weaves it's way through fields and forests - to the Snape Maltings he made so well known, I was instantly transported down a woodland lane that feels like it is a secret route to some sort of fictional fairytale land, hidden beneath a mass of trees in all their glorious autumnal colour, only to come out the other end to a wide expanse of space, overlooking the River Alde, St Botolph church in site, sitting proudly out on its own peninsula in what I consider to be the most picturesque setting of any Suffolk church. You don't come out this way unless you're going to Iken, and it has a wonderful charm and sense of meditative isolation about it. And once at the church at the end of a long dead-end, you can well imagine that this is what all of East Anglia was like about a thousand years ago. It is an ancient church on an even more ancient site, with not so much as a carpet in site, and it is incredibly peaceful.

It was appropriate that we were here at the church that can be seen from the music venue Britten constructed and vice versa, but setting ourselves the ambitious target of a ton of Doubles methods in forty-two extents, with all the twists and turns, three blows here, four blows there, Stedman places either side of points and cat's ears, and pretty much any other aspect of a blue line you can think of, meant that there was little opportunity to appreciate our surroundings. This was hard work mentally and physically, with the tenor rope's position practically scraping the south wall of the ringing chamber not exactly suited to my oft-mocked wide ringing gait, meaning getting the necessary purchase on this tricky bell almost impossible at times. I was glad we'd had our practice run at The Wolery twelve days ago, but I've learnt enough to know I'm not really cut out for multi-Doubles. Still, it was a reasonable peal, and I'm so glad we did it, and grateful to Tom, David, Colin and George for taking seriously my suggestion of marking BB's big centenary in such a way, especially Mr Salter Senior who worked out the structure and then called it magnificently. This was hard to ring, but calling it is something else, especially with the speed that everything happens at this level. Thank you David.

Ours wasn't the only one being rung for Benjamin Britten in the vicinity, and I was delighted to see that the attempted peal of Kent Treble Bob Major rung at Aldeburgh was successful, heard no doubt from the home the man himself once shared with Peter Pears in the town. Well done to Alexandra and Nicole Rolph on ringing their first of Treble Bob, Michelle Williams and Jason Busby on ringing their first of Kent and congratulations to Jonathan Stevens on circling the tower for a second time. As neither of our peals were rung in London, Birmingham, Cambridge, or India and didn't involve ringing drunk in the toilets at the NUA weekend, then I don't expect either effort will touch the higher echelons of the BellBoard 'likes' board, but I'm proud of what was achieved this afternoon in honour of a local done good!

Tunstall.The positive news was continued afterwards when I returned the keys to John Calver's delightful cottage. Having had to cancel a peal at Tunstall to avoid a Kilmersdon-style catastrophe with the tenor, this pretty six are good to go again, whilst after a year out of action due to one of the buttresses needing to be repaired, John is extremely hopeful that Orford bells will be ringing again for Christmas.

Talking of Christmas, Grundisburgh will not only need help for the practices on Thursday 5th and 19th (the latter of which will feature hot punch and mince pies!), but also for ringing for a concert on the evening of Friday 6th December between 6.30-7.30pm, and on Sunday 22nd December for the Carol Service, between  5.30-6.30pm. I wouldn't expect ringers to flock from across the county to help out (though that would be nice!), but it is a timely reminder that as we approach what is usually a very busy month for us ringers, that there may well be much extra ringing and changes to the normal order of affairs, so - if you haven't already - please check with your local tower to avoid disappointment!

There was no disappointment for Mason, Ruthie and meI, with the li'l chap getting over not being able to visit his chum Henry by helping Ron and Kate construct the latter's new greenhouse this afternoon, with my wife and I joining him round Edwin Avenue for stew and dumplings. Thanks Kate, it was a wonderful way to end a great day that started with decent morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and the aforementioned Grundisburgh, and took in one of the most satisfying afternoons of my ringing life. I was happy to do my bit for Benjamin Britten in the county he loved and I still do.


Saturday 23rd November 2013

When Mason arrived at ours yesterday with a sore under his nose that had increased in size considerably since we'd last seen him just four days ago, we hoped it was just from him picking a spot he'd had there originally. However, Ruthie put her Boots healthcare hat on, and suggested it may well be impetigo, and so we popped into her place of work as soon as it opened this morning to speak with their pharmacist, hoping for assurance that it wasn't. Instead, we got confirmation that it may well be the aforementioned infection, and told to see a doctor when we next got the opportunity. With us hosting the latest in our Come Dine With Me parties this evening, we were keen not only to ensure the li'l chap was going to be alright, but that he wasn't going to infect our guests with something quite unpleasant, especially Amy and my wife in their conditions. So we dialled 111, and awaited a call-back.

In the meantime, I reluctantly took an excited son to a friends birthday party at Northgate Sports Centre, an occasion that was delayed somewhat by an oil spillage that closed the A12 at nearby Martlesham, and held up a number of party-goers coming from that way, including the birthday boy Christopher himself. With the entire rail network between Ipswich and Lowestoft shut down for four hours due to just ONE person calling in sick, it wasn't a good morning for transport in the east of Suffolk.

Bardwell.Presumably it was better in the west of the county, where a shorter than planned attempt of Stedman Triples was rung at Bardwell, and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was pealed at The Norman Tower for St Edmund and Benjamin Britten, who were also honoured in the 5040 of Plain Bob Major at Southwold. Well done to Clare Veal on ringing her first of blows of the method and first on that number altogether in the success on our newest twelve. With last Sunday's peal at Milton at the top of BellBoard celebrating an age-gap of seventy years between Henry Pipe and William Harris, it is worth noting that today's peal on the coast features an event greater age-gap, with seventy-one years between Nicole Rolph and Helen Price. At eighty-five years young, it has been suggested there can't be many - if any - older females than the latter still ringing peals, whilst the former with her tremendous progress has shown the benefit of taking the mini-ring out and about, as this is how she first got involved in ringing when it was at The Henham Steam Rally! Both are fantastic role models to ringers.

There was no time for ringing for us today though. In fact, when 111 called back to inform us that if we wanted the li'l chap to see someone today we would need to get to the Saxmundham Health Centre, we had relatively little time even to prepare for the dinner party that we had originally set aside the whole day for. We're glad we went though, as the doctor who saw him confirmed that it was impetigo, but it wouldn't be dangerous to any unborn children, or indeed anyone else coming round, though a planned afternoon with Henry Salter tomorrow had to be called off.

Relieved, we set about preparing about five or six hours after we'd planned, helped by everything going right from that point! Toby, Amy, Nick and Kala arrived for a convivial evening in our cosy surroundings, the latter couple bringing a brilliant starter of kebabs and the former a scrummy lemon tart, sandwiching Mrs Munnings' superb pie. For all his troubles today, the boy enjoyed himself as an evening of good food and good company was accompanied by much laughter, and - as far as we're aware - everyone left with nothing worse than a full tummy!


Friday 22nd November 2013

There are quite a lot of significant anniversaries being celebrated this weekend, and if you have been watching TV non-stop over the last few days, it has probably morphed into one big event where Benjamin Britten has been assassinated by Doctor Who in Dallas.

In all seriousness though, the one that we in Suffolk have been most concerned with is the birth one hundred years ago today of the famous composer born in Lowestoft, who made a small village called Snape and remote seaside town called Aldeburgh internationally known. Bells are featuring strongly with airtime on Radio Three today and tomorrow, and peals at the town that gave his festival its name and Iken being attempted on Sunday, but they were also doing their bit at Rendham this evening, with a 1280 of Kent Treble Bob Major in honour of BB, a first in the method 'for most'. Well done most.

Great Finborough.It wasn't the only quarter in the county, with one of Single Oxford Bob Minor rung at Great Finborough, and Alex Scase ringing his first Minor inside to the Plain Bob at Ashbocking ahead of his eighteenth birthday in a week's time. Well done Alex, and Happy Birthday for the 29th!

For Ruthie and me though, it was a quieter day, though the whirlwind that is Mason livened things up before even he had to succumb to bed, ready to celebrate more anniversaries tomorrow!


Thursday 21st November 2013

It has been documented here before that Ruthie and I enjoy a pub quiz. However, we very much do them for the enjoyment of partaking, and the occasional moment when we get an answer that no one else knows, rather than the glory of winning, as we've hardly been very successful at them! So when we teamed up this evening with Mike Whitby's son Jimmy and his girlfriend Emma, who enjoy pub quizzes as much as us, and also have a comparable track record in them, we weren't expecting to trouble the leader-board, especially with an incredible twenty-five teams crammed into The Cherry Tree up the hill from us. Imagine our surprise then, when - after a tie-break - our team 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' came in third, picking up a handsome reward of £10 between us! So close were we to actually winning, that we almost felt a slight tang of disappointment and sense of what-might-have-been, with the mere half-a-point difference between us and second place, and single point between us and the winners meaning that the answers which got away niggled away at us afterwards a little. Damn you Fleetwood Mac and Madeleine Albright, why could you not come more readily to mind!? In all seriousness though, we had a fantastic night out in good company, and are looking forward to returning soon and seeing if we can do just a little bit better!

Ringers in Suffolk were doing more than just a little bit better today, with a peal of Doubles at The Wolery apparently featuring the youngest band ever to ring a peal on a mini-ring. I've mentioned before that the definition of a mini-ring is a grey-area, and not really a necessary one, but well done to the youngsters anyway, and particularly to Neal Dodge who was ringing his first of all the methods bar Grandsire, and his first of Doubles without a cover. It is an achievement that is already noted on the Young Ringers very own page on this website, set up recently in response to the huge enthusiasm that has been built up amongst our Guild's young ringers. It's looking a little sparse at this very early stage of course, but I look forward to an abundance of reports and photos chronicling their activities and achievements, and I'm sure would appreciate hearing from young ringers from across the county wanting to post on the site.

As impressive as the youngsters are, others are not to be forgotten, and elsewhere there was a notable footnote to the 1280 of Kent Treble Bob Major at Ixworth, which saw Pam Ebsworth ring her first blows in the method, Stephen Dawson ringing his first in the method and his first of Major as conductor, and David Howe ringing his 100th quarter in 2013. Well done Pam and Stephen, and congratulations David.

Iken.Aldeburgh.Blythburgh.It is a great warm-up to a weekend that will see Suffolk bells and ringers being heard on a national platform, as Radio Three celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the birth of famous composer Benjamin Britten, a man for whom the churches at Aldeburgh, Blythburgh and Iken were very special. It is the bells of those churches which will be heard on BBC Radio3, the 8cwt five at St Botolph featuring in a programme starting at 4.30pm on Friday, and then the 11cwt eight of SS Peter & Paul, and 10cwt six of Holy Trinity being heard in a programme starting at 3.25pm on Saturday. All of which I'm sure Ruthie and I will enjoy as much as pub quiz!


Wednesday 20th November 2013

Appearing on the radio has always been a fairly daunting experience, even for someone like me who tends to take things in his stride. Having to hold the attention of thousands in their homes, workplaces and cars, when I struggle sometimes to hold the attention of my wife and son. My unfortunate tendency to ramble is a trait disagreeable with any media work (unless you work for one of the twenty-four hour news channels, in which case it is a prerequisite), especially when given just two or three minutes to impart something I could literally talk all day about. Despite running through my mind beforehand everything I hoped to say and get across, I haven't always managed it, but I'd like to think I did today on Lesley Dolphin's Radio Suffolk show (The ringing bit starts at 15.35. Ed.), getting across some of the technicalities of change-ringing without then going into a dull, in-depth explanation of place-notations and coursing-orders, and putting forward relatable reasons why someone should take up that which holds our interest so.

The Norman Tower.Importantly, I was also able to inform the county of ringing taking place within our borders to celebrate St Edmund's Day, the main purpose of my slot on the airwaves. There wasn't a huge amount to be fair, but in the end, more than I thought there was initially going to be. The Norman Tower appropriately did their bit, with two quarters, one of Cambridge Surprise Major, and one of Grandsire Triples, whilst George Reynolds rang his first quarter of Norwich Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Pakenham which was also rung for the Golden Wedding of the Burrows'. Well done George, and congratulations Sal and Jim!

Meanwhile, the pre-Pettistree-practice quarter was moved to Ufford, allowing us to ring a 1250 of St Edmund Surprise Major with more confidence than we did last year on the same occasion! This is a simple enough method at first glance, Cambridge/Yorkshire above the treble, and with the same lead-end order, but those double-fish-tales on the front proved deceptive last 20th November, so we were glad to cope with them better this evening!

The Wolery.Doing better than coping this evening though, was Clare Veal, who tonight conducted her first peal in the 5056 of Plain Bob Major at The Wolery, which is flying towards the top of the BellBoard charts! She has already shown herself to be a very talented young ringer, so it's no surprise, but this is an impressive effort, especially with the speed of thought required on a mini-ring. Well done Clare, and congratulations to Mick on fifty-nine years of peal-ringing as he reached his 998th peal!

Whilst Miss Veal was so spectacularly succeeding in Ipswich, and others went on to SS Peter & Paul for practice night, we had arranged to pop round Toby and Amy's, to make arrangements for the next Come Dine With Me experience, and with Ruthie not entirely confident she would still be awake at 9pm, we cut-out going ringing and headed straight to theirs. There was much talk of puds, I'm A Celebrity, and - with their Christmas Day due date exactly five weeks away - babies. A relaxed evening that was far less daunting than being on the radio!


Tuesday 19th November 2013

At last night's St Mary-le-Tower practice, a recent copy of the East Anglian Daily Times was passed around. As they regularly do, the paper had a page of photos from the archive, and as is sometimes the case, there was one featuring bellringers. This latest one is from amongst the bells at Boxford in July 1988, with George Pipe at the centre. Just to his right is Dennis Bugg, who rang at Sproughton when I was learning to ring not long after this photo was taken, and to his right is a young Ralph Earey, who looks the same now as he did a quarter of a century ago it seems. However, behind him is a young chap that no one at SMLT yesterday was able to identify, and to GWP's left are another two unidentified characters, a young lady and gentleman of more advanced years. No doubt someone will know who they are, and perhaps what they're up to these days.

Offton.Whatever they're up to, it is probably more interesting than our evening of going to Tesco and then blitzing the house in anticipation of visitors later in the week, but I'm happy to report that elsewhere ringers were busier, with George Salter calling his first of spliced Doubles at Rushmere, and Tim Stanford partaking in his first of Pudsey in the pre-practice quarter at Offton. The future of Suffolk ringing succeeding as we look back at its past - well done lads!


Monday 18th November 2013

Holbrook.There is much happening around the Guild in the next few days, starting on Tuesday night, where it is worth noting that Holbrook have now moved their practice to. If you are nearby and free, then please do support them if you can. As much as I've bemoaned the lack of attendance from the Shotley Peninsula to District and Guild events, we are perhaps guilty as an organisation of not offering enough help in return. This is perhaps a good opportunity to rectify that.

Further up the east side of the county on the same night, the North-East District Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice will be running at Worlingham, another event well worth supporting, before we come to St Edmund's Day on Wednesday, and I'm glad to add a quarter attempt at Pakenham to the slowly growing list of extra ringing being done for Suffolk's patron saint. More would be appreciated though!

Hadleigh.What would also be appreciated I'm sure, is a good attendance at the Guild's next District ADM, with it being the South-West's turn to hold their showcase occasion. The NW and NE District have held theirs and made important decisions and changes, so it would be great to have a big turnout to support any decisions or changes made in Hadleigh this Saturday. Do get in touch with Richard Finch, 01473 827180, to book your tea as soon as possible!

There were no major decisions being made at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, on a practice night when very little went right. Lack of concentration and unusually poor striking made for a very, very frustrating evening, especially for David Potts, who continually put forward bands who should've been perfectly capable of ringing what was requested, but then continually let him down. Still, you get nights like that, and hopefully it will spur all concerned on to do a lot, lot better next week.

With our chauffeur Ron needing to be back in Woodbridge earlier than normal on this occasion, we passed on The Cricketers tonight, and instead picked up Mia and had a drink or two in The Bell & Steelyard in our town of residence, on a busy evening ahead of a busy few days for Suffolk ringing.


Sunday 17th November 2013

There is an early episode of The Simpsons where Homer has to sit through one of Lisa's recitals at Springfield Elementary, before the family can then go on to a monster truck rally featuring the one and only Truckasaurus, the event he is desperate to make. He reluctantly agrees to attend the former on the basis that there will then be time to go to the latter, but as the concert drags, every long drawn-out note, and every rambling explanation of what is about to be played is torture to a frustrated Mr Simpson, as the likelihood of making the start of the monster truck rally appear to be fading away. Eventually it finishes, and having given his daughter just enough time to take a bow, he whisks her off stage and they make it to the stadium just in time to have their car crushed.
Essentially, that was our afternoon, with some crucial differences!

Woodbridge.I was actually enjoying this afternoon's concert to raise funds for the Friends of St Mary's, the society who look to offer financial support to the upkeep of Woodbridge's largest church. There were lots of talented people playing and singing, from Farlingaye High School's choir, to the local church choir, featuring Ruthie of course, and all culminating in a rousing singalong of You'll Never Walk Alone, Rule Brittania, and my favourite Jerusalem. The problem was, there was just too much of it, and so a gig that we attended on the proviso that it would finish at 5pm at the very latest didn't finish until just past 5.20, some twenty minutes after this month's Special Practice at St Mary-le-Tower had started nine miles away in Ipswich.

So no sooner had my wife finished on stage and taken her bow, then I whisked her away to the car, which thankfully didn't end up getting crushed! Instead, we were still able to contribute to a useful session, with some aborted but improving Bristol Surprise Royal, followed by London (No.3) Surprise Royal and decent Stedman Cinques, before Mrs Munnings and I relaxed a little more afterwards by taking a peek at the newly turned on Christmas lights round the corner.

Earlier in the day, we had attended church in the same building we would spend nearly three hours in this afternoon, with Mason and I hearing about the ringers successful open tower morning yesterday. No new recruits, but at least more became aware of what goes on up there, with one who had been attending church at St Mary's for forty years making his first ever visit to the ringing chamber!

Alex Tatlow & Louis Suggett on the tenor at Liverpool Cathedral.Mason, Ruthie and I returned home to ice biscuits, as our weekend of ringing and baking continued, whilst elsewhere there was much happening involving young Suffolk ringers. Alex Tatlow and Louis Suggett were present in Liverpool for the Northern University Association's annual bash. As the name suggests, this is a get-together for northern university ringing organisations to do what ringing students do, but - like their southern counterparts - all are welcome, hence the presence of Messrs Tatlow and Suggett from their respective bases in Bristol and Birmingham, even grabbing the heaviest bell rung full-circle in the world at the huge Cathedral.

Young Ringers at Otley.Some even younger ringers were also having a good weekend, judging by the tremendous turnout at Otley for the latest Young Ringers' practice. It really is great to see our young ringers getting together, and hopefully with the next one at Sproughton being held during the quiet period between Christmas and New Year on 30th December, there will be an even bigger turnout! If we're not all stuck in over-running concerts that is...


Saturday 16th November 2013

Since my brief nod to Fabian Stedman in my blog earlier in the week, I've felt I'd undersold him a little. He wasn't really just an early pioneer of change-ringing. He can justifiably be called the Father of Change-Ringing. I'm sure he wasn't the only one who developed the idea of doing more than crossing only one pair of bells at a time in the seventeenth century, but his books Tintinnalogia in 1668 and Campanalogia in 1677 were the catalyst for what we now enjoy in change-ringing. And of course, he also left us with my wife's favourite principle, Stedman.

It was appropriate therefore, that with today being the tercentenary of his burial at St Andrew Undershaft (now in the shadow of The Gherkin) in the City of London, that modern-day change-ringers marked the occasion with peals, quarters and special touches of Stedman, including a superb 5300 of the Cinques variety at Saffron Walden, appropriately rung for the Ancient Society of College Youths who he became Master of in 1682 , and which I was privileged to be ringing in. This nice - if a little indistinct - 22cwt twelve are the type of thing I wish we had within our borders, and are becoming a good peal-ringing venue for me, with my previous peal here being a brilliant 5040 of Bristol Surprise Maximus back in 2007, and as I stood in the south-west corner of the ringing chamber ringing the fourth, in front of the clock as it ticked, clunked and whirred, and overlooked the countryside immediately to the north of this pretty market town, all following a very pleasant drive through the beautiful area straddling the Suffolk-Essex border and the River Stour on a bright sunny autumnal morning, I mused that there were worse ways to be spending my time.

That said, it nearly didn't happen here at all, as at their practice on Tuesday night, the clapper on the ninth broke. Although the organiser David Rothera had arranged for Chelmsford Cathedral as a back-up option, it was a race against time to get a replacement from Taylors, with the local Roger Collins having to drive over to Loughborough yesterday to pick it up, and it wasn't until late last night that he could confirm that it was St Mary-the-Virgin church in north Essex rather than the less-appealing Cathedral in central Essex that was to be our destination this morning. Even then, things didn't run smoothly for Mr Rothera, as he had to find a replacement for a last-minute drop-out through illness, with Hilary Donoghue - sister of leading ringer of the art instigated by Fabian Stedman, Chris Kippin - valiantly stepping in to not only ring her first peal for over a year, but her first of Cinques altogether. And even once we were all gathered in the ringing chamber, proceedings were delayed whilst a clapper-tie on the fourth - which had understandably been forgotten about in the commotion of getting the ninth clapper sorted - was removed.

Still, it was very much worth it for an event which was also marked in Suffolk, firstly by local Cumberland Youths for the SRCY Peal Weekend, who rang Stedman Triples at Rendham, and then by a North-East District band at Rumburgh, with a 1260 of the Doubles version. Well done to Mary Garner on ringing her first of the former, and Alex Rolph of ringing her first of the principle at all in the latter. But also, congratulations to Michelle Williams and Maggie Ross on ringing their 100th and 1000th quarter respectively in the six-bell effort at St Michael and All Angels and St Felix. Both have been driving forces behind much that has been good in their district and the Guild, with Michelle last week taking over from Maggie as NE Ringing Master, so these are deserved landmarks, and hopefully just the latest of many, many more to come.

For me though, as some in the band whom I had shared the previous 3hrs34mins with headed north to ring in David Lord's first quarters of Surprise Major and Lincolnshire - well done David - at Bardwell and Hopton respectively, and others went south for another peal attempt of Stedman Cinques at St Magnus-the-Martyr in the capital, I headed home to Woodbridge. It was merely the other side of my home county, but it may as well have been the other side of the planet. The downside to being able to meander through picturesque villages like Cavendish, and Clare, is that like so many other main routes in the region, traffic is restricted to going whatever speed the dawdling pensioner at the front of a three-mile queue is 'moving' at, meaning that this afternoon it took almost as much time as it has taken me to get to Birmingham in the past, and twice as long as it takes to fly to Edinburgh from almost the same spot, to just get from one side of Suffolk to not quite the other side of Suffolk.

Eventually I returned home to Ruthie and Mason, who had had a fun morning of shopping (thank you dear!), and we set about making chocolate cake, at the end of a day where it appears that in the Staffordshire village of Colton, an Ipswich lad was making a little bit of history. Congratulations to Colin F Salter on almost certainly becoming the youngest person to ring one hundred peals in a calendar year, with the 5040 of Surprise Minor rung for the St Blaise Society on this 8cwt six just north of the West Midlands. I expect - along with all that was rung for him today - it is an achievement that would've staggered Fabian Stedman at the beginning of change-ringing's story.


Friday 15th November 2013

Campsea Ashe.Well done to Ian Wright and David Clough on ringing their first quarter of Grandsire Doubles in the success at Campsea Ashe yesterday.

No ringing for us tonight however, though still a pleasant night out as we popped round to Ruthie's schoolfriend Verity's for a get-together of some of her other schoolfriends. On the way we picked up Mark, who has recently returned from working in Cyprus, where he has had a truly horrific time, having been taken ill and subjected to the vagaries of the Cypriot health 'service'. His experience of filth, racism, incompetence, and the fact that he wasn't even given water didn't exactly encourage us to pop over to the sunbaked isle, but we were glad to see him after a frightening experience.

There will be busier ringing days in the forthcoming days, hopefully on Wednesday in particular which will be St Edmunds Day. As yet, there doesn't seem much going on, so I may have to be flexible in reporting what Suffolk's ringers are doing for Suffolk's patron saint, but it would be great to hear from members if they are doing something extra, whether it's additional general ringing, a quarter or peal.

At the moment, there is more going on for the centenary of Benjamin Britten next weekend, with a North-East District band going for a peal at Aldeburgh next Sunday. Other than one in Lowestoft, and ringing a peal of Singles on the 4cwt three at Snape (we're not!), that's got the two most appropriate venues covered!


Thursday 14th November 2013

Today was a very upbeat, positive day, as John Catt were at their generous best, taking us in the sales team out for dinner to thank us for our hard work on the recent international campaign - it made those 4am starts worthwhile! They took us to The Coach and Horses down the hill from the office, but having not seen the need to book on a nondescript Thursday lunchtime in mid-November, we were lucky to get a table, with the five of us present eventually being squeezed onto one for four, with the establishment absolutely heaving!

It was a pleasing sight, but sadly the same people-to-space ratio was not repeated at Ufford this evening for the latest Surprise Major practice. With a significant number having not turned up that had been expected, we were initially ringing on the back six, until Ruthie and Kate arrived from their other commitments at choir and Brownies respectively. Once they had arrived though, the months of dedicated practise showed, as Cambridge, London and Eight-Spliced Surprise Major were rung, most importantly all struck extremely well. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to practise St Edmund Surprise Major tonight, with a quarter attempt of it here next Wednesday, as we look to mark the day dedicated to Suffolk's patron saint. However, so far, this and the peal attempt at Southwold on the following Saturday is all I'm aware of taking place for the event, which won't be an overly impressive list to take to our local BBC radio station! Let me know if you're doing anything, and if you're not doing anything then why not arrange something?!

Gislingham.There was ringing to mark another occasion today though, as a quarter of Stedman Doubles was rung at Gislingham to mark the tercentenary of Fabian Stedman's death and burial, an event being marked by ringers across the world to celebrate this early pioneer of change-ringing, and hero of my wife. Significantly, today's 1260 was Kay Lucas' first in the principle, so well done to her!

A positive note on an upbeat day.


Wednesday 13th November 2013

A district commissioner presents certificates to some Brownies after rushing to get ready in the small space of time available between work and the presentation. Certificates presented, one of the brownies raises her hand and asks them "why have you got different shoes on each foot?"

Pettistree.On a completely unrelated note, many thanks to my mother-in-law Kate for giving us a lift to Pettistree this evening, via Ufford to take the muffles off. It was fun night of ringing and drinking, with a quarter of St Clement's College Bob Minor followed by a session that saw Bob Minor and Bob Doubles right up to Wells and some of the best Norfolk Surprise Minor you're likely to hear anywhere, before we reconvened in The Greyhound.

Elsewhere, all were ringing their first peal of Yatesbury Manor Surprise Major in the 5088 of the method at The Wolery, so well done to them. The band included George Salter, to whom I am grateful for a clip of some decent half-muffled Grandsire Caters rung at St Mary-le-Tower on Monday night (Lots more YouTube ringing clips here. Ed.), with Kate Eagle ringing the third of the back ten, Peter Davies the fourth, Stephen Cheek the fifth, Rowan Wilson the sixth, me on the ninth, and Owen Claxton bonging behind on the 35cwt tenor. It is a superb sound, and though you can't see, I recall all those ringing had the same shoes on each foot!


Tuesday 12th November 2013

There is much planned for the next few weeks, most of which will be reported on in next year's Annual Report, which I am delighted to hear has taken on. Thank you George!

The South-West District and the South-East District will be holding their ADM's in the next few weeks for example, with the former planning on going to Hadleigh, and the latter to Ufford and Wickham Market. These are important events, most directly so in making sure the right people are in place to guide the districts through the next twelve months. With the North-West District having voted in David Steed to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Maurice Rose as their Chairman, the North-East District's ADM at Reydon and Southwold at the weekend saw Maggie Ross step down as their Ringing Master, to be replaced by As much as Maggie will be missed in that role - which she has carried out superbly - Michelle is the very best person to pass the baton to, as they ring and work closely already, most particularly on matters of the Young Ringers. Thank you and well done Maggie, and best of luck Michelle!

The Young Ringers are holding one of those many forthcoming events, with a practice at Otley this Sunday between 5-6.30pm, the day before the next Anything But Bob Doubles Practice at Reydon. There is also the Bacton Monthly Practice on Wednesday evening, and the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday evening.

Next Wednesday sees St Edmund's Day come around, which has proved a great source of good PR for Suffolk ringing in the last few years, and I hope it can prove to be so again. There is a quarter attempt at Ufford, and the annual Southwold peal attempt in honour of the saint which their church is dedicated to is due to take place on Saturday 23rd November.

Children in Need is another event that comes round at this busy time, but is not regularly linked with ringing, perhaps because the method most appropriate to the occasion is so universally disliked. But ringing can be tied into it. I recall ringing in a quarter of Pudsey Surprise Sixteen at the Bullring on CiN night many, many years ago, and this year there is an opportunity to have a BBC sound engineer record your bells for a CD, and to raise money for this extremely worthy cause. More details are available on The Ringing World website, please do take a look and strongly consider taking part.

Iken.But there is an additional, one-off event that ringing - at least in our part of the world - will be marking in this hectic period. For 22nd November will mark one hundred years since the birth of Benjamin Britten, the world-famous conductor for whom this county - and particularly its coast - was both a home and inspiration. All being well on that weekend, some of us will be attempting a peal of one hundred Doubles methods at Iken, the five sat at the epicentre of Britten's landscape, housed in the church that can be seen from the Snape Maltings made famous by the man himself. It is an ambitious attempt, but of course not one that most of us mere mortals can just turn up and ring. So this evening saw a practice run of sixty-nine methods at The Wolery, in an exhilarating peal that I believe also goes down as my quickest at just 1hr33mins, and a particularly phenomenal effort from David as conductor. It was the perfect preparation, and if we can ring as well as that in twelve days time, then we should have a very fitting tribute to BB.

It starts what should be a busy few weeks.


Monday 11th November 2013

Whilst yesterday's Remembrance Sunday was typically moving and poignant, today was of course the main day of remembering the fallen. Remembrance Day. Armistice Day. The eleventh day of the eleventh month, and at the eleventh hour, I'm glad to say John Catt's office fell silent. Phones off the hook, the sound of keyboards being tapped unusually absent for two minutes in this normally busy office. It was the very least we could do.

I'm also glad to say that ringers in Suffolk again did their bit, with a quarter rung at Hollesley immediately following the two minute silence, and another one at Pettistree, both rung half-muffled.

The muffles were still on at St Mary-le-Tower for this evening's practice too, as we returned two weeks after our last practice. Muffling often seems to produce better ringing, perhaps because with quieter backstrokes ringers are forced into concentrating more than they might typically do! And so it was tonight, as a decent half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Max and well-rung touch of Stedman Cinques being the pinnacle of a very good night's session.

It was topped off with a pint in The Cricketers, where on the day that we were still remembering those who have died for us, they were already onto Christmas, with the decorations and trees up a full six weeks and two days before we settle down to turkey dinner and bad cracker jokes. It's a shame they couldn't wait a couple of days to get everything up, but as a friend commented today, I don't suppose there is as much money to be made out of remembering the dead. Still, we remember them.


Sunday 10th November 2013

We as bellringers are privileged to use instruments that can be heard by so many, and often mean so much to them. We are associated with happy occasions, like weddings, Christenings, Easter Day, Christmas, New Year, birthdays, sporting achievements and national celebrations. We offer the soundtrack to everyday life, as people go about their leisure and business in our cities, towns, villages and countryside, as identifiable with our country and culture as ale, cricket and tikka masala. And bells are perhaps at their most moving when rung for sad occasions and sombre reflection, such as someone's passing, a funeral, Maundy Thursday, All Souls, or - as today - for Remembrance Sunday.

Ultimately to my mind, bells sound at their most powerful and poignant when half-muffled, especially if it is on higher numbers, and on heavy bells. I used to be mesmerised by the sound of the sixteen at the Bullring half-muffled, and St Mary-le-Tower sound absolutely superb, so I was delighted to arrive at the latter this morning to find they were muffled at backstroke. There is something about the muffled plip-plopping of the lighter bells in amongst the soft booming of the heavier bells that is really rather beautiful.

It was an experience continued this evening at the same venue, as a band capable on its day of ringing more complicated stuff well, turned up and rang a 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Royal brilliantly - hopefully a fitting tribute to the fallen. As I'm sure were the half-muffled efforts at Halesworth and Aldeburgh, where a quarter of Bob Triples and peal of Danesburgh Surprise Major were rung respectively, the latter also marking Mary Dunbavin's 1000th peal in Suffolk, and David Salter's 1100th as conductor for the Guild. Congratulations to both of them on their respective landmarks.

Burgh.Bells don't have to be muffled to have an impact on such an occasion though. Once I'd rung at SMLT first thing, Mason and I made our way over to Burgh - having popped into pay our respects and remember Uncle Eric in an Ipswich Cemetery still strewn with trees felled by St Jude nearly two weeks ago - where the bells were rung open, but still played an essential part in benefice proceedings, with the 8cwt tenor tolled eleven times prior to the two minutes silence, which was adhered to perfectly, bar passing cars on this busy junction.

It was worth the time and effort for those who have and continue to put in so much more than a little time and effort for us, sometimes paying the ultimate price, thus allowing us the continued privilege of ringing bells for all manner of occasions.


Saturday 9th November 2013

Bredfield.From a ringing perspective this was an extremely quiet day for me. I would've liked to have rung in the peal in memory of Mike Daniels at Bredfield, but with more peal attempts than I would usually undertake in the coming weeks, including one in each of the next two weekends, I felt I ought not add another to the list. Time with Mason and Ruthie is valuable, whether we're out and about together as we were last Saturday, or just pottering around the house and nearby town centre as we were today. Still, I was delighted to see they were successful this afternoon on the 11cwt six at St Andrew that Mike was so familiar with. He was a good ringer, and lovely chap, and I'm glad he has been remembered in such a fitting way following his recently well-attended funeral.

Bures.It was one of three peals recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile being successfully rung in Suffolk today, with an Essex Association 5040 at Sproughton, and a significant 3hrs20mins of Bristol Surprise Major at Bures. Congratulations to Richard A Knight on ringing his 500th peal, a much deserved landmark for a man who has served the Guild so well for many years. His work in the South-West District and on the GMC, as well his unwavering support for Guild events is the all more remarkable considering his work doesn't offer him a huge amount of spare time at home. Along with his wife Christine, he has always been willing to help out when he can, with the example that comes most readily to my mind being him ringing with a hand injury in a peal at St Matthew in Ipswich, with a band made up of Ipswich Town fans in memory of Sir Bobby Robson, just after one of England's best ever football manager's had died in 2009.

Richard's day would've been made even better with the Tractor Boys' last minute 3-2 win in Blackpool that had me dancing around the kitchen getting bubbles everywhere, as I listened to the match commentary on Radio Suffolk whilst doing the washing-up! Doubtless it would've overjoyed Caroline Bass (the footy result, not my washing-up!), another ringing Town fan already celebrating today. Or should I say Caroline Goodchild after her wedding at her home tower of Offton today. Caroline has really taken to ringing with the kind of enthusiasm that I wish so many more learners and indeed experienced ringers would display. Congratulations to her and her new husband Will on their marriage - here's to a lifetime of happiness together!

Clopton.Although probably not right at this moment, she will probably be interested to know that the South-East District Committee has set out a calendar of events and locations all the way through to March 2015! Obviously it depends on being able to get permission from the towers involved, but if all goes to plan, it will make for an interesting and even exciting year or so, with many destinations not visited by the district for several years on the list, and venues selected for the Guild Striking Competitions being held in this corner of the SGR on Saturday 17th May. Watch this space! It was all deliberated on at length at the latest committee meeting, kindly hosted by George and Diana Pipe, and which - in her capacity of District Secretary - was attended by my wife. Much else was discussed judging by the minutes, and among them it is nice to see that learners at Clopton had their first practice session last Wednesday under the watchful eye of David Stanford.

I'm glad that others are busy, even when I am not!


Friday 8th November 2013

The events at the 21cwt six of Kilmersdon in Somerset, which have been on Facebook over the last couple of days and today appeared on the website of the Frome Standard, are quite shocking, especially when you see the photos. For those not aware, the tenor became dislodged somehow, and promptly knocked the fifth which fell two floors and became lodged in the hatch in the ringing chamber ceiling. Perhaps most frightening is that this doesn't appear to have happened during rare ringing on an unmaintained rough peal. By all accounts, it all occurred during their practice night, and there seems to be an active band there. As recently as 27th October there was a quarter rung on the bells, and a peal there marked the Queen's Diamond Jubilee only last year. It could of course have been worse, with no injuries bar a minor one sustained on the stairs in the understandable haste to get out. However, it is also worth noting how incredibly unlikely such an incident is. There have been occasions when things like this have happened, though not many as bad as this to my knowledge. But when you consider that every day for hundreds of years there have probably been hundreds and even thousands of people ringing church bells, and that - according to Pealbase - 37,931 ringers have been involved in 268,329 successful peals since 1950 alone, the odds of this happening to any of us are probably about the same, if not longer than us getting hit by a falling tree, or being involved in a car crash. Or bumping into Graham Norton. So whilst our thoughts go out to the local ringers who were present at the time, as well as to the church itself which has been closed whilst repairs are made, I wouldn't worry too much about the same happening again anytime soon.

Rendham.With that in mind, I was more than happy for Ruthie to head out to Rendham, the home tower of the Guild's Technical Adviser and Chairman of the Belfry Advisory Committee Jonathan Stevens, for an attempted quarter of my wife's favourite, Stedman Triples. I say attempted, as sadly they were unsuccessful, but there was success elsewhere in Suffolk today. Congratulations to South-East District Ringing Master Tom Scase on ringing his 250th quarter as conductor, with the 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Brandeston.

For me though, it was a quiet night in with Mason, who was excitedly showing off his Star Wars glasses. No drama for us.


Thursday 7th November 2013

Grundisburgh.Grundisburgh practices are picking up in their regularity, and whilst it's still worth checking with Stephen Pettman, David Stanford or Jo Crowe if they're going ahead, it is now more likely that there will be something on than not, with the notable exception of second Thursdays.

That said, Ruthie and I didn't make it out there tonight, as my wife was still struggling a bit from her flu jab earlier in the week. With a quarter attempt tomorrow, and the South-East District Committee meeting the night after, she thought it best to stay in the warm, and so passed on choir practice and the All Souls service (why was it not held on Monday?!) at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, and so I stayed in to look after her with food and tea. Aren't I good?

Others were more active today, with a quarter of Cambridge at Ixworth being Richard Brewster's first of Surprise Major. Well done Richard! And well done Grundisburgh on getting back on its feet, with or without our help!


Wednesday 6th November 2013

In recent weeks, we've got used to correspondence from the NHS, but when without warning we got a letter recently saying Ruthie had been referred to a consultant at Ipswich Hospital on 6th November, we were slightly worried. We had been reassured by others since that is was most likely a precaution, but we still arrived at Heath Road with some trepidation. Indeed though, there was nothing to worry about, my wife being selected for further investigation merely because she hadn't ticked all the usual boxes on her original forms when we first discovered her 'condition'. After a matter of minutes we were informed that things are currently progressing normally, and sent on our way, reassured by the consultant too. It's nice to know they're on the ball and keeping such a close eye on things.

Pettistree.Unsure how long we would be, I had booked the afternoon off work, so we relaxed in the warm, wished my brother Chris a Happy Birthday, and then did the same for Peter Harper when we popped along to Pettistree practice, where a quarter had been rung in his honour beforehand.

The session itself was a good one, with Carlisle, Bob Minor, Double Court, Norwich and variable-treble mixed Doubles and Minor all mingled together, as SS Peter & Paul's eclectic needs were catered for, before we retired to The Greyhound, reassured.


Tuesday 5th November 2013

Remember, remember... erm... the something of something... erm...
I forget.

Tuesdays for Ruthie and me do tend to be fairly forgettable, and so it was today in the main, the highlight being a quick cuppa at Kate's with the ever-growing Mia bounding around excitedly and trying to help her owner keep the fire going.

Otherwise, we were kept warm by a trip to Tesco, returning to the sound of Woodbridge's half-muffled bells being rung-up for practice, a timely reminder that this Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. There may be slight changes to timings of services as communities look to mark 11am in the usual way, and indeed in many benefices there will be a change to the usual venue. For example, rather than ringing from 10.15-11 at Grundisburgh, there will be ringing from 10.15-10.50 at Burgh. Do check what your local church and tower are doing. This is one of the most important Sunday's of the ringing year in my mind, so I urge you to make sure you get along to ringing for this, and (as you all always do I'm sure!) put in your very best efforts for the last of these occasions before we begin marking the centenary of the war which began this tradition.

We will remember.


Monday 4th November 2013

We as bell ringers are first and foremost - unless we have a peal of bells in our shed, garage or bedroom, or are proficient on handbells - servants to the church. That is as it should be, as even if you aren't a churchgoer, or a believer, we have to be grateful to the church for housing these huge valuable tools that enable us to carry out the art we enjoy, and for being able to ring out noisily regularly.

Still, it felt a little frustrating and odd not to be at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, practicing our higher number ringing, due to the All Souls service in the church. It's lucky we found out about this, as it would've been even more frustrating if ringers from across the county and beyond had turned up to find there was no ringing, but to give the vicar Charles Jenkin his dues, he has at least given us plenty of notice that the same will happen on the first Monday of November in 2014 and 2015!

And as it turned out, personally it was perhaps for the best, as Ruthie was a little under the weather tonight, having been big and brave and having her flu jab.

Barsham.Others who would've been at SMLT on this cold night, took advantage of the unexpected free night by ringing elsewhere, with some partaking in a peal at Mistley, which also happened to be George Salter's one hundredth peal since we ticked over from 2012 into 2013 just over ten months ago. Well done George on this effort, and to him and his younger brother Colin on ringing their most changes in the 6000 of Doubles at Barsham on Friday.

Any getting withdrawal symptoms from ringing on this occasion have plenty of opportunities this week to make up for it. Indeed, if you missed out on your ten-bell fix tonight, you will be more than welcome on Wednesday night to join the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice, before then catching up with ringing on lower numbers on a busy, busy Saturday. Three districts are holding events, with the North-West holding a morning Practice at Hopton, which will be a vital chance for many to have a go at some eight-bell ringing, and the South-West are running an important Learners' Practice at Glemsford, where helpers in particular are needed. If you can, please do support them. If you can't make it to the west of the county though, out on the coast, there is a chance to have an afternoon at the seaside, as the North-East are holding the Guild's next District ADM at Southwold and Reydon.

I hope the latter does get a good turnout from its members, as the NW ADM a few weeks ago was apparently very poorly attended, which was a shame for the outgoing Chairman Maurice Rose, who deserved better after years of hard-work and dedicated service in that position. It was also disappointing of course for his replacement David Steed, but if you believe outgoing Central Council President Kate Flavell, "the old British style of general ringing, service, tea and meeting has had its day", at least according to her latest blog. She makes this assertion on the back of visiting the North American Guild AGM, where they made a weekend of things, with training events, and evening buffet supper, with no church service. Apart from the fact that - because of the reasons mentioned at the beginning of today's blog - I don't think we ought to do away with a church service at our meetings, those ringing in the NAG are in a very different position to us in Suffolk - and indeed the vast majority of ringing organisations in the UK - and so need very different events to serve their members' needs. Whereas we can hold training and other events separately and regularly, with support from across the Guild, the hundreds and indeed thousands of miles members are required to travel to ring in North America means it makes more sense for them to hold less frequent, bigger events. That said, some people have suggested that evening ringing at such events can be a drag and I've certainly noticed that even at well-attended meetings, numbers in the evening are disappointingly low. Personally I feel this is often the case where just one tower is open before and after the formalities, and so people don't feel the need to ring there twice, or when people have to travel to another a venue after the food and business. Perhaps afternoon ringing and service at venue A, and then tea, meeting and evening ringing at venue B, as they are doing in the North-East on Saturday? Or maybe people want to get straight to the pub/go home once the Chairman has given the all-clear, which would perhaps suit those who don't or can't stay out too late?

Either way, I quite enjoy the tea and the catching up with friends, and if people would rather there wasn't a service, they don't need to go, and as I've mentioned before, such informal meetings are still important. Therefore, I hope that people will support the NE ADM in a few days, and indeed the other events coming up, and that they are grateful to the church for the use of the bells for these occasions.


Sunday 3rd November 2013

The young ringers of Suffolk are to be congratulated not just for an apparently superb Halloween ringing event on Thursday, but for a brilliant bit of PR forty-three minutes into Rob Dunger's show on the county's BBC radio station. Particularly well done to Neal Dodge, Ambrin Williams and her mother Michelle on great interviews, and to all concerned for the seven minutes of publicity which was pretty much as perfect as you could hope for! It will hopefully have changed some perceptions that many non-ringers will have had of ringing and ringers, and hopefully encouraged more to consider taking our art up, especially youngsters.

The Vestey Ring.It wasn't the only positive PR in the making today either, as on my visit to the ringing chamber at Woodbridge this morning, I was regaled with the local ringers plans for holding a tower open day alongside the church's Autumn Fair on the morning of Saturday 16th November. Here, it is a difficult to get people up to see where the bells are rung, as it is a long old climb, so they are encouraging visitors to come up by holding a quiz where all the answers are to be found among the ropes, and offering the opportunity to chime the tenor, with those who manage to make a noise getting their entrance fee back. And no, Bruce isn't taking the clapper out for the occasion! In all seriousness though, I've always found that tower open days have been - to varying degrees - a success. You'd be very unlucky not to have anyone at all, and if even just one turns up and gets a rare chance to see inside the mystical ringing chamber and blow away some of those myths, then to my mind that is a success, however small. All the better of course if can get some new recruits, but the more who at least understand what we do and why, the easier recruiting is. There are plenty of things to do to entice people in, such as the brilliant leaflets the Guild has, and cameras and TVs relaying pictures of the bells into the church, as well as The Vestey Ring. And I'm glad that my nearest band has taken my suggestion of a couple of months ago to hold it as part of another event!

Being in my town of residence for morning ringing meant I wasn't able to partake in the usual first Sunday routine of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh, but it is worth reminding readers that there is no SMLT this Monday, due to a service in the church.

Call-changes and Reverse Uppingham (ringing down for those who don't know!) on the front six of my local 25cwt eight was all the ringing I did today therefore, but elsewhere there was much going on at the end of ropes in the county, as the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight came to an end with two quarters of Plain Bob Minor, with one at Pettistree and the other at Rushmere St Andrew. District Ringing Master Tom Scase deserves a rest after simultaneously arranging this and yesterday's popular outing which saw around forty members descend upon North Essex. The last sixteen days have seen over thirty quarters rung by goodness knows how many members, and most notably including three first quarter-pealers. Having until this year been the poor relation to quarter-peal events in the Guild, this has now laid the gauntlet down to the other three districts!

Colin and George Salter in particular did much to boost the numbers for the event, but today they took a break from contributing to this massive success by ringing their one hundredth peal together, in the 5088 of Bristol Surprise Major at the Colin Turner Peal Factory in Milton, with the elder brother finally ringing his first in the method. Congratulations boys, and well done George!

Mason. Mason. Mason.Once we three had attended church though, we made our way to Bury St Edmunds to see my brother Chris and girlfriend Becky's new home. It was the first time we had seen their abode since they got the keys after a protracted move due to the vagaries of mortgage chains, but we weren't there just for a nose! Rather, we were there to 'help' decorate, with Mason throwing himself into job with a little too much gusto! We were delighted to offer our services after they had very generously helped us with our own move three months ago, but they nonetheless kindly got us lunch at the Rushbrooke Arms at Sicklesmere before we set about our task.

ASCY Dinner.After a couple of late nights, with the li'l chap returning to school tomorrow after half-term, and Ruthie singing at evensong at this morning's location, we returned home for tea, and a quiet evening in. That enabled us to catch up with all that has been going on in the world of ringing this weekend, most particularly photos on Facebook from last night's 376th College Youths Anniversary Dinner, in the same venue - the Guoman Tower Hotel - and of the same size as when my wife and I went to this a couple of years ago. There were many pictures of people gradually descending into a worse and worse state up to at least 3am, but one from Jonathan Slack - son of SGR Treasurer Gordon, and once of this parish - highlights how big a do it is. Finances, practicalities, and - for this year - Mrs Munnings' current condition prevent us from making attendance at this highlight of the ringing calendar a regular occurrence, but we do hope to go again in the future, as we had an amazing time in 2011, as it looks like those present at 2013 were!

As glad as I was to recall happy memories and see so many friends having had such a good time, it was the peal-ringing exploits of three young ringers who learnt within our borders. Well done to Robert Beavis on ringing a peal at Wells Cathedral yesterday (I wouldn't mind one there myself!), and to Louis Suggett and Alex Tatlow on partaking in the youngsters peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Shoreditch today. As proud as we all ought to be of them, the fact that they have flown the nest should motivate us to encourage more PR like that which was on Radio Suffolk this morning, so that we can bring through more talented youngsters to replace our current superb generation as they become adults and/or fly the nest. Keep it up young ringers!


Saturday 2nd November 2013

Taken out of context, when I commented on this blog earlier in the year how the Rambling Ringers tour had high standards because we were ringing on other people's bells, it may suggest that we ought only to be taking our very best ringers on outings, and that there is no space for learners. However, a fortnight long-tour and a day's outing are in many respects, very different beasts.

As I explained at the time of our summer holiday in the Leighton Buzzard area, when the Ramblers visit, it is essentially a ringing invasion. We need to ring at our very best, not just for the sake of the thousands at home, work and going about their business within earshot of our efforts over the fourteen days, but also ringers who allow us to ring upon their bells, often at peculiar times, like during a working day. A visit from the RRs gets noticed by local ringers, and word would get round quickly if we crashed about everywhere, something the Society can ill-afford after decades of building up a good reputation. It is also our holiday, and if on tour for more than a couple of days, it is easy for ringing fatigue to set in, so variety and quality is essential to keeping that at bay! With the ability to attract some of the best ringers in the country and even beyond, it is something - in our opinion - not to be put off by, but aspired to, and is an occasion to us, not just an outing.

Ringing at Halstead.The unusual rope 'circle' at Greenstead Green. Mary Garner on the 4th at Greenstead Green, with Pippa Moss hidden behind her on the 3rd!
Gathered outside Greenstead Green.
Greenstead Green Farm Shop Cafe.Five Bells, Colne Engaine.Coggeshall

A typical day outing plays a different role though. As far as I'm concerned, it is vital that learners attend when they can, as ringing at new towers, with vagaries thus far not experienced by them locally, can only help their long-term progress. There was certainly that element today, with the South-East District Outing to North Essex. Greenstead Green - former residence of John Taylor, and where the locals were industriously clearing the churchyard of leaves - and their strange anti-clockwise rope 'circle' were a challenge for example. As were the long draft at Earls Colne where I was in charge. And for many there was a rare and even first opportunity to ring on ten, when we went to the superb peal at Coggeshall. But those less experienced of our party coped admirably, as they did at the other two towers of the day, Halstead and Great Tey, which bookended the aforementioned threesome, a trip to Greenstead Green Farm Shop Cafe to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the now unringable Colne Engaine, and a fantastic lunch at the Five Bells in the said village we missed out on ringing in.

Whilst we were south of the border, back in Suffolk, new North-West District Chairman David Steed and his fellow quarter-pealers were achieving. Well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of spliced Treble Bob in the Spliced Treble Bob Minor at Offton, before she joined David Howe and Stephen Dawson in ringing her first of Bedford Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Kersey. And well done too to Lucy Dawson on ringing her first blows of Double Norwich Surprise Minor in the success at Ashbocking, and first of Spliced Treble Bob at Barking, and indeed to her and her bandmates on their first in the method in the former, and first in Snowdrop in the latter!

Meanwhile, whilst rung for the Norwich Diocesan Association from the other side of the county, very well done to George Salter on conducting his first peal of Surprise Major in the 5088 of Yorkshire at Horham. George's enthusiasm and considerable abilities have been a real bonus for our Guild in the last couple of years, so this is a richly deserved achievement, and hopefully the first of many!

Back in Essex, our lunch wasn't the last eating out that Mason, Ruthie and I did today, as once we returned to Woodbridge, we had been invited to join Kate and Ron for a curry at Shapla in the town. It was a nice way to end a wonderful day, that was as good for those of us more experienced as it was for the learners, as well-rung call-changes were interspersed amongst method ringing that ranged from Grandsire Triples, to Stedman Caters, to Surprise Minor, Major and Royal. District Ringing Master Tom Scase is to be congratulated on masterminding a marvellous event which was every bit as useful as a day outing should be, and every bit as enjoyable as a Rambling Ringers tour!


Friday 1st November 2013

Max.Max.Max.Having grown up without pets (bar a stint looking after snails behind our garage when I was a little boy, which ended quickly after I got bored), I never used to get the bond between animal and owner. But when I started going out with Ruthie over seven years ago, I was introduced into a household which over the years has been home to gerbils, fish, rabbits, chickens, cats and Max the dog. It was the latter that really made me realise how attached one can get to pets. The gentle, slightly dopey giant, has been there for birthdays, Christmases, BBQ's, family events, preparation for weddings, has welcomed Mason and Katelynn to the family with kindness, and generally been a familiar and friendly welcome to Edwin Avenue over the last few years, blundering along adorably all the way, and offering us much amusement. He will be familiar to many ringers having accompanied Kate to various ringing events and practices over his life.

So his passing this morning has saddened me greatly, though of course it is particularly difficult for my wife, her mother, and sister Clare, who have known him from the beginning, and whose arrival into their lives came at a significant time. It was a shock too. At thirteen he was well into doggy old age, and not in the best of health. He was quite deaf, he couldn't feel the back end of his body, and couldn't move very easily, but he was still able to go for walks, and still seemed happy, well loved and looked after as he was. The fact that he has almost certainly been spared a lot of pain in the future, and we welcomed Mia to the fold recently will hopefully help, and a pre-planned visit to the mother-in-law's this evening to watch Ipswich Town play on the TV helped distract us all. Not that their 1-1 draw at Portman Road against Barnsley - before tonight the only team without a single point away from home - did anything to raise the spirits.

Still, it was a nice opportunity to have a few beers and for the li'l chap to watch the Tractor Boys, as he jumped around and moved a lot more than his 'heroes' on the tele. But ringing was going on elsewhere, with of course the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight notching up more successes following a rare day off yesterday. There was a notable 1260 of Grandsire Doubles rung at Wickham Market, with a band almost entirely made up of ringers resident in the village. And congratulations to John Taylor on ringing his fiftieth quarter, a landmark deserved for the considerable time and effort that John puts into his ringing, especially in supporting District and Guild events.

Someone else who has worked hard to achieve in ringing, is Alex Tatlow, and though away from Suffolk, his calling of a peal of Grandsire Triples at SS Philip and Jacob in Bristol is worthy of a mention on here.

As of course is Max, faithful companion. RIP Max.


Thursday 31st October 2013

Many will say that Suffolk is at its most stunningly beautiful on a hot summers day, a gentle breeze whispering through the deep green leaves of trees and hedgerows and over golden fields that sit beneath a big, blue, cloudless East Anglian sky, pretty cottages in all their glorious colour dotted in amongst the dreamy rural scene that surrounds them. Others will say it is on a frosty or snowy day that our county is at its best, with bare branches glistening, and an almost Narnia look about the landscape, with those isolated cottages puffing smoke up into the air as their owners try to stay cosy and warm.

However, bizarre as it may sound, there's a lot to be said for our county on a dark, cold and blustery evening such as tonight, as Ruthie and I made our way to meet Toby and Amy at The Ship in Blaxhall. This part of the world feels particularly isolated as the land heads down towards the North Sea via various streams, forests, heathlands and worn but pretty villages, and on a night like this seems quite magical and very atmospheric. It was added to as we were forced into a diversion around a blocked-off Tunstall, down narrow country lanes still littered with debris from Monday's storm, and in complete darkness, bar Emily's lights. On occasions like this, you can imagine what it's like to be the only people in the world!

Of course it was Halloween as well, a night where ghosts and ghouls dress up as children and ask for sweets from the natives, and Toby's place of employment was resplendent in fake cobwebs, papier mâché skeletons, and cardboard spiders, as the pub resounded to the noise of a full house and a quiz decided by just half a point!

Our trip out came at the end of an otherwise quiet day, but I was sorry to hear of the death of Colin Johnson from Chatteris, husband of Sue Marsden. Although many in the Guild will perhaps know Sue better than Colin, he rang numerous quarters within our borders and with our members, and three peals for the SGR, including helping out for the main St Edmund's Day peal at The Norman Tower back in 2008, in the first year that we as ringers had marked the occasion county-wide. I was very grateful for his help with that. Our - and I'm sure yours too - thoughts go out to Sue and their family.

Back in Blaxhall, once I'd picked my wife up from choir practice, it was great to catch up with Mason's Godfather and his pregnant fiancée, on a lovely, wild night in the Suffolk countryside!


Wednesday 30th October 2013

When pregnant, there are a lot of appointments. Understandable really, as there is so much to keep an eye on. Having already had a midwifes appointment and scan in the last couple of weeks or so, we had another of the former today, memorable not just for her assistant knocking Ruthie's sample over, but more so for hearing the baby's heartbeat as he or she shuffled around trying to get comfortable. It was a moving moment of an upbeat twenty minutes, where it was imparted that everything is going as planned.

As did this evening's peal at The Wolery, where - after a slightly unsettled start - we enjoyed some vey good ringing in the 5088 of Queen's Park Surprise Major, an uninspiring variation of Yorkshire which nonetheless enabled me to complete the Surprise Major alphabet to peals, and ring my 350th for the Suffolk Guild of Ringers. Neither landmark is any indication of me making progress, and so might be considered somewhat frivolous, which they are really. The former has been 'achieved' by ringing a mixture of some relatively complicated methods and some quite banal ones, but is one of those little challenges that keeps the interest levels up. The latter is far from significant to the wider world. According to the superb resource of Pealbase, I am only the thirty-sixth most 'prolific' ringer of peals for the SGR, and that's before figures for 1923-1949 are added. Nor is it a particularly special one as such. But each landmark that I reach for my home Guild, which I grew up with and has given me so much pleasure is special to me.

There have been more worthy achievements in recent times. Although it hasn't been published on BellBoard and Campanophile (and it doesn't have to be of course!), I have been reliably informed that John Pallant rang his first quarter on a working bell when he rang the treble to a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Bures on Tuesday. It is richly-deserved for John, who has worked hard at Ufford to progress, attentively taking in advice, and being the model pupil. Ironically, it was a cancelled practice at the aforementioned Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary due to a lack of electricity that led to him and Mike Warren finding themselves on the Essex border for their success, so well done to John on taking this unexpected opportunity!

Suffolk Guild Peal Band at Giggleswick on Craven.Talking of recent achievements, many of you may recall the Suffolk Guild peal rung for the significant birthdays of Ruth Young and Maurice Rose at Giggleswick in Craven in Yorkshire on 21st September. Ruth Suggett has emailed me not just with a band photo, but also an additional footnote to the occasion which I thought was quite impressive. Remarkably - considering it was Mrs Young's first peal since 1975 - the day saw all three Bedford siblings ringing a peal, with Vernon partaking in a 5021 of Stedman Caters at Egham in Surrey for the Guildford Diocesan Guild, whilst Stephen was ringing in a 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Selly Oak in the West Midlands for the Worcestershire & Districts Association. Good to see this famous Suffolk family still actively peal-ringing across the country!

There was another Suffolk ringing family achieving tonight though, and it included a third first quarter-pealer for South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight 2013! Well done to Lucy Williamson who was accompanied by her mother and father in her accomplishments in the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree. Lucy has been progressing superbly, and it is wonderful to see her take this step - hopefully the first of many for another promising ringing youngster!

Sadly the Williamsons were gone by the time I rejoined Ruthie in The Greyhound after my own exploits tonight, but a drink with what remained of those who had been at the practice, Kate, Ron and the three dogs was an upbeat way to finish an upbeat day.


Tuesday 29th October 2013

Thank you to Maggie Ross, who - in response for news on what members are achieving that isn't writ large on BellBoard or Campanophile - has filled me in on the progress of the handbell group which has been meeting regularly in Halesworth over the last couple of years. It started with Philip and Maggie, Jonathan and Suzanne Stevens, and Trevor Hughes, who all professed to be rusty in the medium, and young Philip Moyse who had never rung them before. Since then, their numbers have been boosted by visits from the Salters and Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters, and more recently Ed Elderkin, who is a very good ringer, who I rang with at St Mary-le-Tower in the 1990's before he moved to South Africa (where he still kept active as the aforementioned sites will testify!), and who I was delighted to hear moved to Wissett last year. Since then, they have progressed to Cambridge Surprise Minor, Kent Treble Bob Major and can now ring a course of Plain Bob Major "without Philip and his wild conducting elbows"! As someone who has never got on with handbells because of a severe lack of coordination, I am in awe of those who can do anything more than rounds on them, so this is a real success story, which - apart from some quarters - is largely unrecorded in the wider world. Well done guys!

Their next practice is on Thursday 14th November and if they would have me, I would love to join them at High Hill House to have a more concerted go at handbells and lots of cake and biscuits if we get a clear Thursday evening sometime. Though of course it would clash with the local practice on the eight at St Mary, we would find it easier to get up there on a Tuesday, as a quiet evening tonight highlighted, but there was ringing going on elsewhere today, with another three quarters added to the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight. The young Salter boys - on which note don't forget Thursday's Young Ringers Halloween event, which now has the added bonus of ringing at Cretingham from 1.15pm-1.45pm, and the chance to ring All Hallows Place Doubles - rang another couple of Minimus quarters on handbells at home, with 1272's of Reverse Court Place and Single Court Place, whilst a quarter of Rutland Surprise Major was rung at Offton, where in a few days local ringer Caroline Bass - someone whose ringing progress has been recorded on these pages over the last year or two - and her husband-to-be Will are getting married. Best of luck for your big day guys!

We did do one useful thing this evening, by emailing over our lunch choices to Tom Scase for Saturday's South-East District Outing to nearby North Essex, which need to be in by 6pm on Thursday. Last year we had a really good turnout for this, and it made for a tremendous day out with ringing shared out, plenty of opportunities for those learning, and LOTS of socialising. SE members, please do support your young Ringing Master on Saturday if you can.

And did anyone else hear ringer David Mulrenan from Brundish guessing the correct answer to Dolphin's Dart on Lesley Dolphin's show on Radio Suffolk just before 2pm? It wasn't ringing-related, but well done David!


Monday 28th October 2013

I'm quick to berate society and particularly the media whenever they sensationalise what is essentially just different weather. Whenever temperatures creep over twenty-five degrees Celsius, dire warnings are made that if we do more than get out of bed, we're liable to melt. If there's more than an average amount of rain, puddles suddenly become vicious killers liable to swallow you up. And you're a fool if you even inch slightly out of your house when we've had a bit of snow, lest you might slip and DIE!

But I could understand the warnings for this morning's storm, which was so bad they gave it a name - St Jude. All the other aforementioned weather 'extremes' can be - apart from at their very, very worst - easily dealt with, with a bit of extra care, caution and time. However, it's hard to prepare for a roof tile flying at you at high speed and without warning, or a tree landing on your car as you go along. That said, there were some who sadly perished even when staying at home, and so it was encouraging to see the residents of Woodbridge get on with their lives. Not that we were unaffected by the high winds here. As I returned an excited Mason to his mother's, we passed a tree which had been brought down across the road, one of many in the area. And whilst I was there, her fence came crashing down with a mighty clatter. Of course all the trains were cancelled (understandably judging by the number of pictures of trees down, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would have occurred if there had been an accident or passengers were stranded), so our one and only public transport user at work was unable to get into the office from Colchester, but everyone else did get in, from outposts like Aldeburgh, Alderton, Iken and Kettleburgh, no doubt helped by traffic lights in various spots not working - at just after 5pm at the traffic lights by the Red Lion in our town of residence, there wasn't a queue to be seen where normally they are banked up around the town, though of course with half-term and people heeding warnings to stay at home there will have been slightly fewer cars about.

But there was no doubting that it was all causing genuine disruption and damage. The warehouse which John Catt is mercifully in the process of moving out of at Great Glemham had its roof ripped off. Many were without power. We had a visit from my wife's schoolfriend Vicky, who had just come from her parents house where their chimney had fallen into their conservatory, with thankfully no one being hurt. Branches, fences, signs and bins were laid across roads and pavements. And St Mary-le-Tower churchyard is soon going to look very sparse, as for the second year running a tree came down, blocking the main gates.

Tree down behind the main gates to St Mary-le-Tower churchyard.Of course it was already difficult enough to get to SMLT this evening as it was, with Tower Street closed at the end that we usually enter, meaning a trip down the pedestrianised streets of Ipswich town centre, so it was a relief that the felled tree had been cleared away by the time Kate, Ruthie and I arrived for practice. Unfortunately, the bad weather (or perhaps its aftermath as everything had long died down by 7.30pm) and Krypton Factor- style challenge to get to Suffolk's heaviest twelve, seemed to have put a number off, with none of our friends from Bury St Edmunds or Essex making it on this occasion, so we were a lot shorter on numbers than we usually are, but we still managed an impressive repertoire of 8-Spliced Surprise Major, Surprise Royal in the shape of Bristol, Cambridge and London (No.3), and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, with much learnt, and progress made.

Frustratingly though, it looks like there won't be a practice next Monday evening, as there will be an All Souls Concert. Sorry, service. It's easy to forget that it is a church sometimes. Now I'm no expert on the church calendar, but as far as I'm aware, this falls on 2nd November, which is this Saturday, not next Monday, which is the 4th. Apart from the fact that of all the dates they could've chosen, they have chosen our practice night again is bad enough, but - as far as we're aware - no one has actually informed us. From the debacle of the bulge which stopped us ringing the back four last year, I think we ascertained that there is no conspiracy against the ringers (as much as sometimes it feels like it), but rather a distinct lack of understanding in the church that whilst they have a superb choir, they also have a superb set of bells whose fame takes the name and reputation of this church around the world, not just the community, and which people travel huge distances to ring on because of the still rare opportunity it offers of ringing on ten and twelve bells. It seems we're not getting that across to them. Ironic when you think that the tower is the building's most noticeable and famous aspect.

It made this evening's low attendance all the more disappointing - however understandable it is - as a depleted turnout had a pint in The Cricketers afterwards, before we three negotiated the various pedestrianised and backstreets we needed to use to pick up Ron from bagpipe practice and get out of town.

Meanwhile, Tom Scase did well to get bands out to ensure it would take more than a bit of wind to halt the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, as a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor was rung at Barking, a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was successful at Offton, and Eleanor Earey rang her first inside in the 1299 of Grandsire Doubles at her home tower of Sproughton. Well done Ele!

Congratulations as well to Mary Dunbavin on ringing her 1400th peal in the 1hrs42mins of Freston Surprise Minor at The Wolery, which was also Colin Salter's one hundredth with his father David. It's good to see life go on whatever the weather!


Sunday 27th October 2013

I am always happy to highlight the achievements of our members, and usually that is most easily done by looking at BellBoard and Campanophile, where performances - typically quarters and peals, but occasionally shorter significant efforts - are recorded for the world to see almost instantly. Such as the three quarters of Doubles that continue the relentless progress of the impressive South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, with 1260s at Hollesley and Tannington, and a 1280 at Earl Soham. And beyond quarters, the first ever 5040 of Stutton Surprise Minor, rung at the tower it was named after, seeing David Salter circle the 11cwt six, and Jon Waters ring a peal on his 125th different tower. Well done guys!

However, recently on here I suggested readers let me know if they or their ringing colleagues had achieved anything on the end of a rope that they were proud of, and felt needed imparting to the world, especially stuff that doesn't get recorded on the internet. I'm never presumptuous enough to assume that I have a large enough readership to see such requests flood my inbox with stories from hundreds of readers, but it's a bit of a shame not to have heard anything in the couple of weeks since. I'd like to think there have been plenty of success in the towers of Suffolk, like a learner managing rounds for the first time, or someone getting Cambridge licked after months of trying. Perhaps we are all too modest, but if it is good enough for the Eareys to let the globe know about a course of Plain Hunt, then I'm pretty sure we can feel good about doing the same through this more modest medium!

So in the absence of anything else, I shall tell you about Adrian Craddock ringing inside to a 120 of Plain Bob Doubles the best I have seen him do so far, quickly followed up by a decent effort at trebling to Plain Bob Minor, all during morning ringing at Grundisburgh. This is something he's been trying to get right for a while, so well done Adrian on doing it so well today!

His success contributed to a very positive session on the county's lightest twelve, as we welcomed David and Gillian Twissell to the tower which will shortly be their local, once their future home in the village is ready for them. They have already moved within our borders from their previous residence of High Wycombe, and have been helping out in the Campsea Ashe Benefice, with Gill already ringing her first quarter at Hacheston on Thursday, so hopefully they'll be a useful addition to the ringing scene in this area.

It wasn't a bad morning's ringing at St Mary-le-Tower beforehand either, though the main focus was to remind people of the closure of one end of Tower Street tomorrow night, and the diversions needed to reach the practice. It'll be most troublesome coming from the west, from which direction Crown Street will be closed off, but if you want to avoid driving around the houses to get to the usual car-park, it may be worth doing what some are thinking of doing, and parking up before they get to the affected area and walking in. Hopefully it shouldn't be too hard to get there, but maybe a good attendance in these circumstances would be worthy of mention in the blog!


Saturday 26th October 2013

Perhaps more than anywhere else in the Guild, ringing at St Mary Magdalene in Debenham, upon one of the finest eights in the county, I get a real sense of stepping into the shoes of our change-ringing forebears. The bottom of the tower is apparently over a thousand years old, which is mind-boggling to me. Since it was built, it has witnessed the Norman Conquest, the Magna Carta, Henry VIII and the Reformation, the discovery of the Americas and Australia, the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars, man on the moon, Ipswich Town rising to the top of European football and back down again, the internet, and most of Sir Bruce Forsyth's life.

And yet still it stands in full use. Bar visible electrics, the ground-floor ringing chamber appears to have changed little over the centuries, with timber beams - that have no doubt been changed but I imagine carry the same appearance as they always have - still framing the room, and the ancient walls sporting a vast array of peal boards from across the ages, featuring impressive performances and well-known historical ringing names. With the doors closed, and the only view of the outside world a smallish window high up beyond the wooden ladder to the floor above, one could easily imagine they are ringing this 21cwt eight in times gone by, with the local farmhands leaving the surrounding fields to come and ring here and at neighbouring historic rings like Framsden and Helmingham. Except for when a noisy vehicle rumbles past on the busy High Street at the west end of the churchyard that is!

It is a location inextricably linked to the Scases for some years now, and so I felt honoured to join the Harpers here in helping ring a family quarter to the memory of Robert's mother Audrey, well known among Suffolk ringers for the support she offered whenever we visited this beautiful part of the world, and a churchwarden at this home to history. She would've been proud I'm sure of her grandson Tom as he conducted a well rung 1344 of Plain Bob Major to a non-too-easy but extremely musical composition by Alan Reading, as Ruthie and Mason played with the toys in the church. I enjoyed the many roll-up's off the front!

The success also went towards the immensely successful South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, which was later boosted by another quarter at Stonham Aspal, more Minimus handbell ringing in Old Stoke, and a second first quarter-pealer of the week, as young Clara Gostling successfully got though a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at her home tower of Sproughton. Well done Clara!

As much as we would've liked to have helped out more, we had a family engagement to get to, once I had returned to Tesco's petrol station to retrieve the cap I had forgotten to put back on after filling up. I thought Mrs Munnings was supposed to have the forgetful pregnancy mind!

No damage was done to Emily, who was able to get us three to my wife's grandparents and back with no drama. In between, we were treated to lunch and tea, as ever with more than any mortal could be expected to eat at once, as the family gathered in numbers to celebrate the October birthdays of Kate, Ruthie's Aunty Ange and me. It was as usual a superb occasion, with fantastic and generous hosting. With four children six and under there (as well as Mia on her first such gathering), and - God willing - two more on the way from the company present this afternoon though, we may have to consider a bigger venue for these gatherings soon! Though we might not find anywhere to match the history and longevity of Debenham's ringing chamber!


Friday 25th October 2013

When I began writing this blog exactly six years ago today, it started with a few sentences explaining the circumstances of then ten-month old Mason, and why on that day he was in hospital. Most of you will now be familiar with my son's problems with his feet, and the efforts to straighten them out, and today those efforts took a huge step forward - if you'll excuse the pun - as he had his first appointment at the famous Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The outcome was that he will be back there for a couple of operations on his troublesome left foot, to cut his arch strap, have an oversized ankle bone halved and the bones in his toes straightened out, and will spend some time in a wheelchair, all most probably in the New Year, though exact dates and arrangements haven't been confirmed yet. However, in many respects it was a positive result. We all knew something big and unpleasant would be needed, especially when Ipswich Hospital had understandably decided they had done all they could do and referred him to GOSH. But we had been warned he might have had to have a frame pinned to the leg, and thank God he won't have to be subjected to that. The timing is as good as it can be if it is all to take place at the start of 2014, allowing him to enjoy Christmas in his usual energetic style, and hopefully not have to recover in sweltering hot uncomfortable summer conditions. And he is in the best possible hands at an institution with an impressive track record of doing so much good for poorly children over many decades. Besides, typically for the boy he isn't phased by it all, and for now at least is even looking forward to it, and challenging the world to wheelchair races!

The li'l chap's amazing cheerfulness in the face of more adversity than thankfully most kids his age have had to put up with, has been a consistent theme in my ramblings over the last seventy-two months. He is one of the aspects of my life that I am most proud of.

As is Ruthie of course, now my wife of over a year. We have done much together since 25th October 2007 as recounted in my writings, but whilst the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight was rounding of its first week off with what I make is its eighteenth success with a 1298 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Ashbocking, it was a quiet night in for us tonight. That was once we'd put an excited but exhausted Mason - full of tales of sightseeing in London - to bed. As much as its nice to mark six years of this blog, today was very much about looking to his future.


Thursday 24th October 2013

As delighted as Ruthie and I obviously are at the bundle of joy that - God willing - will be arriving with us on or around 17th April next year, we are also very cautious. Everything is taken day-to-day, week-to-week, appointment-to-appointment, with everything that my wife eats, drinks and does done with much thought where once we just got on with things, though she frequently has to point out to me that she isn't ill or disabled!
We have therefore tried to avoid getting ahead of ourselves by getting in clothes and equipment, but today practicalities kicked in. Kate very generously offered to buy us a buggy, repeating a gesture she made to Clare and Kev when my sister-in-law and brother-in-law were expecting Katelynn a couple of years ago, and keen to get  one as good as possible, whilst not taking the Mick, this week's double-discounts offer at Boots made an early purchase sensible. So today we took delivery of one buggy, and still wanting not to jinx things, we took it to the mother-in-law's where we (or as is usually the case in these circumstances, mainly Mrs Munnings) constructed it and then stored it away, hopefully to reemerge in the spring, God willing.

Even putting aside not wanting to think too far ahead, we have enough to keep us occupied in the present. This evening, Mason travelled down to London with his mother and one of his Godmothers to stay with a friend of theirs in the capital, in anticipation of his early appointment at Great Ormond Street Hospital tomorrow. At the very least it will give a big indication of his immediate future, with frightening words like 'operation', 'pin' and 'wheelchair' being thrown about thus far, so - as excited as we are about his potential little brother or sister - it is the li'l chap who our immediate thoughts are of.

For now, and having dealt with the delivery to Edwin Avenue, all we could do was get on with our Thursday night, which on this occasion saw Ruthie go to choir practice before I picked her up and we headed onto Grundisburgh practice. Happily, this is now becoming a regular fixture, primarily due to the efforts of Jo Crowe, who has been arranging quarters before the practice in order to get a quorum of ringers together for a decent session afterwards. And so it was on this occasion, though with one of the band members forgetting to turn up, an attempt of Grandsire Triples was changed to a successful 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor with the tenor knocking behind.

It was one of many in the area today, as the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight had another busy day, with quarters of Minimus on handbells at Rectory Road and on the back four at Burgh, the latter of which was the first at this stage for all the band! There was also a 1320 of Plain Bob Minor at Otley, but the most significant of the day - and for me, of the week so far - was Plain Bob Doubles at Hacheston, which was Gill Twissell's first ever quarter. As fun as the number crunching of such events are, and as great the enthusiasm that is generated by that is, it is firsts that really make such focus worthwhile.

Back at Suffolk's lightest twelve, we were glad we had made what we could of the practice, as our presence enabled Mike Whitby - who was running things this evening - to call for Surprise Major, with Pudsey rung for Tim Stanford, 4-Spliced for Jo, and some Superlative at the end, as we celebrated the news that Anne had become a Gran for the first time, with her son Joe becoming the proud father of Emily. Congratulations all round!

Meanwhile, it will be a little trickier than usual to get to the county's heaviest twelve for practice on Monday night, as the council's favourite pastime of digging up roads and causing chaos means that the usual way into Tower Street - the road on which St Mary-le-Tower sits - will be closed off. Although we have been given details of diversions aimed at catching all incomers into Ipswich in a couple of instructions, essentially all it means is approaching Tower Street and the car-park we usually use from the other end, via the pedestrianised Carr Street and Tavern Street usually given over to shoppers during the day. These streets being one-way in a westerly direction, it means going round the houses a bit for those approaching from the west, but not as much as the official diversions suggest. Please don't let it put you off coming along - as ever, all are welcome - but do be aware that some forethought may need to be put into your journey in and out.

As much as our current situation means we're not looking too far-ahead, sometimes planning ahead is necessary!


Wednesday 23rd October 2013

Ringing at Blythburgh.There is some great PR for ringing on its way, thanks to the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung at Blythburgh today, famously one of Benjamin Britten's favourite spots. As such, part of the successful quarter will be broadcast on Radio 3 as part of the commemorations to mark one hundred years since his birth on 22nd November 1913. Listen out for it folks!

Whilst the most notable rung in the county today, it wasn't the only success since we all awoke this morning. The pre-practice quarter at Pettistree was another addition to the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, whilst I was involved in another notch for the 2013 campaign, as we rang a quarter of Ashtead Surprise Major on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower. Strictly speaking, as a quarter rung after a lost peal attempt, it may be questioned as to whether this was a success, but in the circumstances I think it can be described as such, as none of the plans for this evening went as expected.

For a start, Ruthie and I had arranged to catch-up with her school friend Verity at ours tonight, arrangements made before I remembered I'd agreed to the SMLT attempt. Still, I was keen to ring a peal, which would've been my 350th for the Suffolk Guild, so I went there ready and raring. However, such was the atrocious traffic coming into Ipswich from the A14 way, due to the never-ending road-works in town and the mile-after-mile of counter-productive traffic lights, we didn't actually get started until 6.20pm. Though I didn't agree with the comment "you won't get these under 2hrs 50" (I feel a challenge coming on!), it was obvious we weren't going to manage that on this occasion, in an unfamiliar method and with too many mistakes. So when it inevitably collapsed after ten minutes or so, the conductor sensibly suggested that it was best to go for a quarter, a decision justified by some good (quick!) ringing.

I left straight afterwards to meet up with our guest, only to discover that whilst I was holed up in the ringing chamber, that visit had been called off as Verity wasn't feeling too great. It was perhaps typical of today!

Still, at least someone got a peal today, and well done to Clare Veal and Colin Salter on ringing their first of Grandsire Triples at The Wolery. Though as Old Stoke wasn't one of Britten's favourite spots (as far as I'm aware), then I'm afraid it's unlikely to appear on Radio 3. Good work anyway!


Tuesday 22nd October 2013

This is a huge week for Mason. On Thursday night, he travels down to London in preparation for a consultant's appointment at Great Ormond Street Hospital first thing on Friday morning, where Ipswich Hospital have referred him now they feel they have done as much as they're able with his troublesome wonky left foot. Hopefully then we will know more about what his immediate future holds, with some quite daunting options on the table.

However, at the start of this big few days for the li'l chap, we know more about his present, as straight after work I nipped over to his school for his latest parents evening. As with most kids of his age (or indeed most people full-stop), he is far from perfect, but it was generally good news, especially that he is above-average for spelling!

Having been to that, popped in to see the boy, picked Ruthie up, dropped Ufford keys off to Kate for tonight's practice, and done our weekly shop at Tesco where we bumped into my former work colleague Cat and spoke on her phone to another former work colleague Wendy, we eventually settled down to a quiet night at home, dominated - for my wife at least - by the final of The Great British Bake-Off. Like many, I am extremely cynical when it comes to these sort of shows, with the faux-drama of it all, the considerable lack of perspective, and unnecessary nastiness at times, even if this particular proponent of the genre is less guilty than others. But I can see it's appeal, and what's more, it makes me wonder that if something as dull as making cakes can be turned into primetime drama with viewing figures of over seven million, is it possible for something similar involving bellringing? Instead of a 'Signature Challenge', maybe you could have a 'Method Challenge', where contestants have to ring a method they would usually ring in their local tower? Or a 'Composition Challenge' instead of the 'Technical Challenge', where they have to call an Alan Reading one-part? And how about a 'Showstopper Challenge' that involves ringing the most complicated touch they can come up with? I'll leave it up to you to speculate who ringing's Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would be...

For now though, ringing has to progress with the more mundane, but nonetheless invaluable ways of gathering ringers together in order to maintain their interest in our art, and ensure it continues to thrive. Such as the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, which today notched up its eighth success of 2013, with George Salter conducting his first of spliced in the 1296 of ten Surprise Minor methods at Stonham Aspal. Well done George!

Preston St Mary.But there is also the South-West District Practice at Preston St Mary this Saturday between 3 - 4.30pm. Now that I don't travel as much between the districts I'm not as in touch with how the practices are going around the Guild, but my experience of the SW events is that whilst the best supported, they have a promisingly large number of learners, which I believe now includes a strong youthful element, so I'm sure support from whoever can make it would be very much appreciated. It is only a short afternoon out of your day, to make a big difference to a number of learners.

Winston. Debenham. Talking of youthful elements, Thursday next week sees the Young Ringers' Halloween Practice, at Winston and Debenham, followed by a s-s-s-spooky event at Dove Cottage. Work commitments will preclude many including myself from attending, but it is of course half-term, so if you are able to go along to help, and even better can bring a (willing) ringing youngster along, then that would be superb!

And two days later, it is the South-East District Outing to North Essex. If you currently have one of Tom Scase's green posters, you will see that the last tower before lunch is Colne Engaine. Except it isn't anymore, as a recent peal attempt led to the discovery that they are - at least for now - unringable, with a barely attached headstock on the tenor and loose wheel on the third amongst a number of other problems. As fun as it might have been to ring them, common sense and safety quite rightly dictates that we don't, and wish the locals there all the best in sorting out those issues, especially as there are apparently some enthusiastic learners there. By the time we gather at the first tower of the day Halstead, we should have learnt if there is a replacement tower or a longer lunch, as well as having a much better idea on Mason's future.


Monday 21st October 2013

For the first time in three months, I went into work for a 'normal' nine-to-five. It meant that Ruthie and I were able to get ready and go out to St Mary-le-Tower practice without that shattered feeling that accompanied the early 4am shifts, nor the rush and hastily eaten tea that went with the late shifts that didn't finish until 7pm.

Instead, I got home, prepared tea whilst Pointless was on, and ate it as I watched The Simpsons, before we picked up the returned travellers Kate and Ron, the latter having enjoyed bagpipe school in Scotland, all arranged as a surprise by the former.

Following tonight's practice, it's tempting to say we needed to go to ringing school. It was far from our best session, and indeed probably our worst for a long, long time, which was a shame for Claire O'Mahony, who was visiting tonight from Beckington in Somerset. Most things crashed to a halt, or limped through to the end, all far below the high standard that David Potts has instilled here. Still, these nights come along every now and again everywhere (I recall evenings like this even at the Bullring occasionally!), and it is a practice after all, where people are expected to push themselves and therefore will sometimes fall short.

Harkstead.And at least elsewhere there was success, as the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight notched up another success with the 1320 of Lawford Surprise Minor at Harkstead.

Meanwhile, for those who would like to attend, Mike Daniels' funeral will be taking place at 11.30am next Monday at Bredfield. I'm sure there will be a good turnout for a lovely man, and it is nice to see a quarter at Pettistree and a peal at Grundisburgh rung in his memory.

Back in Ipswich, we were able to get over our unusually poor evening with a drink in The Cricketers afterwards, as I basked in not having to get up at 4am, or having to recover from a rushed evening!


Sunday 20th October 2013

When this blog was first written almost six years ago, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock had just become Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and one of my earliest entries described my first encounter with him, after a service to bless a statue dedicated to St Bartholomew at Orford. I was a little reluctant and nervous to approach him at first, finding it hard to imagine why this busy, important figurehead essentially in charge of hundreds of parishes across the huge area the Diocese covers would be the slightest bit interested in meeting little ol' me, even though at the time I was Guild Ringing Master. However, with more than a little cajoling by Alan McBurnie, I was introduced to him, and instantly found him to be a hugely likeable, approachable and down-to-earth chap, qualities that had no doubt elevated him to this lofty position and now to the right hand of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Could we even see Nigel himself in that position one day?

Since that late-November day on the eastern coast, he has supported the Suffolk Guild of Ringers beyond just his symbolic position as Guild President, at countless ringing-related dedications and of course the last two Dinners, with he and his wife Carolyne showing a genuine interest in not just the SGR and bells, but its ringers, and what they were up to.
I remember sharing airspace with him a year into his role on Radio Suffolk, when we were talking about how the Diocese and Guild were celebrating St Edmund's Day, and it is worth noting that that is just one month away - it would be superb to mark this occasion again with extra ringing and more good publicity.

Bishop Nigel's Certificate.The 20th of this month however, was all about saying farewell to Bishop Nigel and Carolyne, as the huge cathedral at Bury St Edmunds was packed out for his final service. Whilst it was disappointing that there wasn't a better turnout from ringers, Mason, Ruthie and I were greeted by a decent sounding piece of Grandsire Triples ringing out from the back eight of The Norman Tower, and Guild Chairman Alan Stanley made a presentation of a certificate especially made up for Nigel, prompting the outgoing Bishop to recount those dinners with fondness!

Cathedral.Services like this can be difficult to get right, trying to celebrate someone who has made as big a mark as Nigel and Carolyne, whilst trying not to eclipse the One we're ultimately there to serve, but appropriately for the man, there was not as much direct mention of him as could've been made, and his sermon reflected more on his predecessors and those who have worked tirelessly for and with him, rather than remarking on all that he has achieved since October 2007. The li'l chap's good behaviour throughout the one hour and forty-minute service was justifiably commented upon favourably by those around us though!

Tea, coffee and cake were served in The Refectory afterwards, and it was good to catch up with a number of people over the afternoon, such as Carl Melville, George Reynolds, Fred and Pauline Stentiford, Ruthie's Godmother and vicar at Grundisburgh Clare, Cathedral PR Officer and fellow juror Sarah Friswell, and of course the Bishop and his wife themselves.

Whilst we were joining the masses in the west of the county, there was much going on in the east, with the aforementioned Clare's church being the scene of Clare Veal's first peal of Bristol, in what was also the 800th peal on the bells. Well done Clare, and well done Carol Milligan on ringing her first quarter inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor as the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight continues apace, and to Nicole Rolph who rang her first Treble-Bob inside with forty-five minutes worth of Kent Minor at Halesworth.

For us though, not getting to the ringing in BSE was typical of today, as we finished a week of chasing round after a puppy keen to munch on anything including us and Max, and who is still in the very early stages of learning where to do her business. It meant that the boy and I were too late to get out to ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, and so instead we joined my wife in going to St Mary in Woodbridge, where she sang and I rang. I was sorry to hear that local ringer Peter Meyer is out of action for a while after an operation, which is a shame as he has been making strides in his ringing progress, by adding to his experience at Pettistree and SMLT in recent months.

I was also sorry to hear that the church here is struggling to make ends meet, with a £10,000 deficit and a monthly shortfall of about £1,500, as outlined by Kev the Rev after this morning's service. It is a sobering reminder of the environment in which we as bellringers do our fundraising, and why it is so important to have 50% of Guild subscriptions go into the Bell Restoration Fund so we can be as self-sufficient as possible, without having to ask for money from stretched churches and parishioners.

It is also a reminder of what a huge task overseeing an entire diocese can be if this is but a small part of it, and for the time being we are grateful for the Rt Revd Dr David Thompson, the Bishop of Huntingdon for overseeing things until the Bishop's role is filled, a process that will take over a year. But for now, thank you Nigel for serving us.


Saturday 19th October 2013

Monewden.Band ringing quarter at Monewden.Mason on our walk, with Monewden church in the background as the quarter is being rung.Though mild for the time of year, this morning was wet and grey, with not even a speck of blue to break up the dreary shade of the expansive East Anglian sky, and the footpaths and fields around Monewden (or Monoden as it was recently renamed) were sodden and muddy, mine and Mason's trainers and trousers caked in the latter by the time we were done. Yet there was nowhere else we (or at least I) would rather have been, as we took in the stunning autumnal views across the undulating landscape of this most rural corner of Suffolk, with the sound of the pretty little six at St Mary drifted across the scene before us, as Ruthie took part in her first quarter for a while. The boy and I heard it all, and it was an excellent effort, one of six rung today  and involving nineteen ringers, to get the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight underway in fine style, on a day that also saw Peter Harper ring his 250th peal in the success at Campsea Ashe. Congratulations Peter, and well done to Glenys on forty years of ringing!

Mia.Hopefully I shall partake in the Fortnight at some point, but for now this was our only involvement, as we needed to be back in Edwin Avenue to check on Kate's dogs in her absence, and particularly Mia, who continues to be adorable but exhausting, before we popped round to Pete and Susanne's for a drink and to catch up with Maurice, Pete's father, who is up visiting this weekend, and is always amusing company. At that point, with a beer in hand, a fire going, and in good company, there was no where else we'd rather have been.


Friday 18th October 2013

It feels like a long time since that first 4am start the day after a boozy celebration of our first wedding anniversary, and at the end of our two weeks summer holidays, and indeed it is. Much has happened since then, but after ten exhausting weeks, I finished my last international shift of the year with some calls to Canada and the USA, and picked Mason up from his sister's birthday party at Play2Day, before a quiet evening in.

Not such a quiet evening for young Ambrin Williams, who rang her first quarter of Plain Bob Minor in the 1260 at Rendham. Well done Ambrin!


Thursday 17th October 2013

"Reading between the lines is dangerous. Especially when you're on a railway track."

"Why do pine forests smell like air fresheners?"

"I'm caucasian. My father's from a city in southern Ireland, my mother's from Japan."

No, it wasn't an evening with my father, but rather with Milton Jones, an hilarious deadpan comedian, who excels at one-liners such as the above which he treated us to at The Regent in Ipswich this evening, among many others, either side of cameo by his support act Chris Martin. Out of all the acts I've been to see, I think the main star of the night is the funniest, a very generous early-Christmas present from the mother-in-law. Thank you Kate!

It meant us missing Grundisburgh practice though, which - whilst we had a fantastic night we wouldn't have wanted to miss - was a shame, as there was actually a practice on tonight. And there is a practice next week too, as indeed there will be on every first and third Thursday of the month, with a quarter beforehand, so there will be enough on each occasion to have a decent session.

Talking of quarter-peals, Saturday sees the start of the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, and District Ringing Master 07542 470974, Scase is still on the lookout for ringers to take part, so if you feel you can help, or would like to do something to help progress your ringing, then please do get in touch with him.

Reydon.Meanwhile, there is an excellent opportunity to expand your Doubles repertoire on Monday at Reydon, with an Anything But Bob Doubles Practice, which will hopefully become a regular fixture at Reydon and surrounding towers.

Chediston.Whilst there was success on Suffolk's lightest twelve this evening, there was success elsewhere in Suffolk too, with young Alex Rolph ringing her first quarter of Surprise in the 1272 of Cambridge Minor at Chediston today. Well done Alex!

I'm pleased to say that Alex gets a regular mention on this blog, along with others who achieve in easily recorded and found peals and quarters, but it has been suggested too that I could make more of a mention of those who are achieving in other mediums which are not recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile, which I think is a marvellous suggestion. However, I'll need people to tell me, so if you have done something ringing-related you are proud of, or one of your ringing colleagues deserves to be given a mention, then let me know, so that I can let others know!

It can't all be quarters, peals and one-liners!


Wednesday 16th October 2013

I often get nice feedback from people about my blog (though not always!), but occasionally I wonder what purpose it serves, if any. Some seem to enjoy it for finding out what others across the Guild are getting up to, though this element isn't as expansive as it once was now that I no longer regularly travel the county attending district events. Some find it informative, and discover things that they didn't know. Some seem to actually find it entertaining and interesting, whilst some read it to see if they get a mention! But one comment from one man has perhaps done more to encourage me to keep writing and more importantly impart as much as I can, within reason!

Bredfield.That man was Mike Daniels, a ringer from Bredfield who also rang with us at Pettistree, but for some time has been quite ill, meaning he was unable to join us very often at all. However, on one occasion he could join us on a Wednesday night, he told me how this blog had helped him keep in touch, making him feel a part of things. It was quite a moving thing to hear.

So I was very sorry to hear he passed away on Monday morning, though he is another whose passing evokes emotions swinging from sadness to relief, as I think his final years were quite painful. Mike was of course more than just one of my most avid readers though. He was a very capable ringer, extremely useful at SS Peter & Paul at practices and for quarters, and although his last one was in 1967, I'm led to believe he rang fifteen peals for the Suffolk Guild, with such stars of the SGR as Jim, Sylvia, George, Diana and Rod Pipe, Howard Egglestone, Ernie Pearce, George Symonds and Neville Whittell, among others. And besides all that, he was a genuinely nice chap. His enforced and prolonged absence meant he was already much missed, but he is even more so now we know we shan't see him again, and of course our thoughts go out to his wife and family. Rest in peace Mike.

With a late shift at work, and a visit from Toby and Amy this evening, we didn't make it to the practice he was once a regular part of tonight, which was preceded by a quarter of Ipswich Surprise Minor rung in his memory, one of two quarters rung within in our borders today. The other was a 1320 of five Doubles methods at Preston St Mary, which saw Richard Brewster ringing his most methods as conductor, and followed on from Tess Blower ringing and Sarah Plummer calling their first of St Clement's Minor in the success at Worlingham yesterday. Well done Richard, Tess and Sarah! I've no doubt that will interest many of this blog's readers!


Tuesday 15th October 2013

When I was younger, I remember scoffing my elders for placing such little importance on their birthdays, if not always outwardly, coward that I am! At the time, every anniversary of my birth was an opportunity to have parties, or - later in life - a night out. But I'm beginning to understand their reluctance to wildly celebrate the annual landmark. With over thirty of these behind me, they do lose their significance somewhat, and with my contemporaries and myself getting families and growing out of long nights (and days) of excessive drinking, the opportunity to mark the 15th October with anything particularly special has dramatically reduced.

Ufford.However, that suits me just fine, and our current circumstances - and Ruthie's in particular - call for quieter evenings anyway, so today passed with a mere nod to the event, with cake and doughnuts taken into work, and - once I'd run Ufford practice in Kate's absence - a curry and a couple of beers given to me as presents, whilst watching the second-half of England's 2-0 Wembley victory over Poland, which booked their place at next summer's World Cup Finals in Brazil. And I was grateful for all the birthday wishes, and indeed for all the nice messages folk have imparted to us over the last couple of days following our recent revelation - thank you everyone! So it was still a day worth celebrating!


Monday 14th October 2013

Interesting to read on the East Anglian Daily Times' website today, that Essex church towers may well be playing hosts to broadband masts, particularly in rural, isolated communities, and I wondered if that was something that may well be picked up upon in Suffolk. It seems a good idea on the face of it, and I know of a number of towers which already have mobile phone masts on top of them, but I'm also aware of the potential pitfalls. Many are concerned about the health implications to bellringers who would regularly share a tower with such equipment, though I don't know enough in regards to that to comment. However, there are also practical issues, like making sure installation is carried out with a full working knowledge of bells and frames (cables through wheels and that kind of thing!), and then access once installed.

No such issues at St Mary-le-Tower, where I eventually made the practice having got out of work following a late shift, grabbed a Big Mac and dropped some music off at the back of the church where Ruthie was rehearsing for her concert on 24th November. Following Saturday's huge turnout here for the North-East District Walking Tour, the ringing chamber seemed a little sparse this evening, but in reality, we still had a decent turnout, allowing us to ring London Surprise Royal (No.3) amongst much else, before retiring to The Cricketers where Ruthie met us.

All brought to you online through the power of broadband, with or without the help of a church tower!


Sunday 13th October 2013

Baby Munnings.Ruthie and I can now announce that - God willing - we are expecting a baby come the spring, the tiny pitter-patter of feet. If I'm honest, the cautious side of me would have been quite happy to keep it a secret until said child popped out and we were sure it was healthy, anxious not to jinx anything. However, it was getting increasingly difficult to keep using my wife's 'shoulder problem' as an excuse for her not doing lots of things she was doing before, such as ringing regular quarters and peals, and drinking beer, and we didn't think we would be very good at explaining away her rapid weight gain in the coming months. But once Thursday's scan at Ipswich Hospital revealed that thus far everything appears in order, it's actually been a joy to share the news with everyone after two months of keeping it to ourselves, bar our closest relatives.

We found out in the midst of our recently enforced house-move, another reason why that particular turn of events was extremely difficult, and since then have gone about even the most mundane tasks with extreme caution, from what food Mrs Munnings can have, to ringing, to socialising and even drinking tea, all whilst trying to avoid awkward questions about this odd behaviour. To be fair, we make rotten liars, with many of the wonderful responses this weekend being followed by the exclamation of 'I knew it'!

Many thanks for everyone's kind words, face-to-face, via text and of course on Facebook where a solitary picture enabled us to reveal the news to hundreds worldwide in an instant. Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we go into this joyous yet daunting next few months.

Grundisburgh.Our son or daughter's due date is 17th April, which someone has already pointed out is very close to the Suffolk Guild AGM at Stowmarket on Saturday 26th April, with our important date being Maundy Thursday. However, if mini-Munnings does arrive on time, they will share a birthday with the late-great Roderick W Pipe. Which seems somehow appropriate this weekend, the Rod Pipe Commemoration Weekend. Although not entirely sure of the significance of holding it this weekend, this struck me as an absolutely superb way of remembering probably Suffolk's greatest ringing son, and celebrating his amazing contribution to the world of ringing. Ruthie and I were incredibly disappointed not to be able to go to Birmingham to partake in the main events due to her work commitments, but I'm glad to say that we in his home county were able to mark the weekend with a peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal to his own composition, and very appropriately at Grundisburgh, the tower in which he learnt to ring, and where his most extraordinary career on bells began. Our effort joined many other peals and quarters for him over the last two days, including his grandson Henry's first on twelve at St Philip's Cathedral, a ringing chamber I have spent much time in with Rod, taking part in the kind of phenomenal ringing that he did so much to make possible.

My original intention was to ring Yorkshire Max, but in the kind of situation which has become worryingly familiar in recent years, it was too much of a stretch to get a twelve-bell band from within our borders, especially with the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh and a quarter at The Norman Tower. Still, with a little help from our Essex friends, I was able to get a band for Surprise Royal, though even this changed from Yorkshire to Cambridge at the last minute when I saw just how hairy Rod's compositions of the former were!

Still, even this worked out well, with it being Ian Culham's first in the method - well done Ian, I'm pretty sure Rod would've approved.

The Cathedral.I thought it only right too to mark the Right Reverend Nigel Stock's departure as our Bishop after six years of strong support for the SGR, and I hope that lots of members will be going to his farewell service at the cathedral in Bury St Edmunds next Sunday at 3.30pm, and that we as a Guild can mark his leaving appropriately and generously.

It was also an early birthday celebration for myself, and so I treated the band to a drink each, as well as Mason's Godmother Kala and her husband Nick who had kindly been looking after the li'l chap this afternoon, and Ruthie who joined us in The Dog afterwards.

We also raised a glass to my brother Chris who generously drove me about this afternoon so my wife could have the car, as he and his girlfriend Becky take collection of the keys to their new house tomorrow after many, many frustrating weeks of waiting for the vagaries of mortgages and chains to sort themselves out.

It was a day of celebration today, with God willing another one in mid-April!


Saturday 12th October 2013

Our trip to Pettistree this morning highlighted some issues I have brought up in my blog.

The issue of training for example. We could and should be offering our learners more than a bit-part role at a practice or two and indeed at District meetings and practices, as useful as those are of course. As highlighted by the recent article I mentioned a few weeks ago, and the successful special Surprise Major practices at Ufford, a session focused entirely on the needs of the learner is the ideal way of progressing them.

So this morning's hour-and-a bit of ringing Plain Hunt on Five, Bob Doubles and Bob Minor at SS Peter & Paul was an immensely useful exercise for Bill, Daphne and Derek, and one that Ruthie and I were delighted to help with, and Mason was happy to watch, as he ran around and played with toys.

It also sets an example to other towers twitchy about doing extra ringing, for fear of upsetting neighbours. There is no sound-control here, and yet there is at least one quarter a week (and indeed often two and sometimes three), a handful of peals each year, a two hour practice every Wednesday, and very early morning Sunday service ringing, before I even mention weddings, outings and visits from the South-East District and the Suffolk Guild, and ringing for Midnight Mass and seeing the New Year in. And this isn't the first time we've held such focused practices on this 7cwt (8cwt if you're going by the weight of the heavier fifth) six. This is an extremely active tower which currently ensures it can do all that it does by having a good relationship with the local residents, mainly led by Chris and Mary Garner, who explain what we do and why, and compromise, rather than pander to the occasional grumble and overly restrict the bells and thus deplete the opportunities for ringers here and across the ringing world to progress and enjoy our art.

Our presence in this delightful village just off the A12, was but part of one of those Saturday's which was busy, but never rushed, as we alternated between duties of the day and checking on Kate's dogs, particularly little Mia.

The North-East District ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on their Walking Tour of Ipswich.The North-East District ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on their Walking Tour of Ipswich.Between chasing an energetic puppy hell bent on eating everything including her much elder counterpart Max, and cleaning up her business, we popped to St Mary-le-Tower to help the North-East District man the twelve on their walking tour of Ipswich. As it turned out, they didn't really need our help, as fifty (yes, fifty!) crammed into this sizeable belfry, or at least as many of them as could fit, and encouragingly featuring quite a few faces I didn't recognise, which always a good sign! I don't think I've ever seen as many people as that inside a ringing chamber in all my years of ringing, and it was superb to be there to witness it. And quite apart from the tremendous turnout, it was a memorable hour for seeing Neal Dodge and Alex 'Flea' Rolph ring the 35cwt tenor so well, young Richard Stevens ringing the third to Rounds on Twelve as part of an under-40's band, and some Stedman Cinques to finish proceedings off, all very impressive for a district with no twelve, and a fair few who had never rung on this many bells. Well done to Maggie and co on a very successful session on what was apparently a very successful day, including ringing at St Clement for the Admiral Broke celebrations at the nearby UCS - thanks for that guys!

In complete contrast to the wonderfully cramped conditions at SMLT, our visit to Aunty Marian afterwards was very quiet. As I've said before, trips here are rarely high-octane, but are always interesting. Today, my Dad's sister produced from a pile of paper work two photographs of ringers from the 1950's. One was of  four handbell ringers, including Ernest Bloomfield and a ringers outing, stood outside an as yet unidentified church, and featuring my Granddad Jack. It was a timely reminder that we hold in our hands the future of an art that has given so many so much joy and satisfaction over centuries. We need to give our learners more opportunity, and need to make our bells as available as possible to do so, and help keep ringing going.


Friday 11th October 2013

My last early shift of the year was celebrated with a trip to see Toby and Amy, as we took in England's 4-1 victory over Montenegro, which leaves them needing just one more win on Tuesday to qualify for next year's World Cup Finals in Brazil. Hopefully there will be more to celebrate than just my birthday on the 15th!

Rendham.There was plenty more to celebrate this evening, not least at Rendham, where Tim Stanford rang his first quarter of Superlative Surprise Major. Well done Tim!

Despite all this celebrating, a long week eventually caught up with us, and it was time for bed and a lay-in!


Thursday 10th October 2013

An early start and early finish allowed us the chance to visit Ruthie's grandparents before a productive evening, as the latest monthly Surprise Major Practice at Ufford took place. There was a wide range rung, with Cambridge, Superlative, Lincolnshire and 4-Spliced amongst the repertoire, all topped off with a course of Bristol when Kate and Ruthie had arrived from Brownies and choir respectively. There wasn't quite that magical perfect piece I was rambling about in yesterday's blog, but it was a useful night for Anne and Elaine in particular, with one of the 224's of Cambridge producing some really quite good ringing. Progress has definitely been made.

Dennington.The same can be said this evening of Mike Burn and Alexandra Rolph, who rang their first of Treble Bob and first of Cambridge Surprise respectively in the quarter at Dennington. Well done Mike and Alex!

For us, it was back home for an early bed, in readiness for my last early shift of the year tomorrow!


Wednesday 9th October 2013

By their nature, practice nights don't always produce the best ringing. It is an opportunity to improve upon something you haven't got licked yet, so you won't necessarily ring it perfectly. However, I always think it's nice to have a touch that you expect to be a showcase piece of ringing, something for learners to take in and to aspire to, where everyone in the band are capable of ringing much more complicated stuff, but are called upon to ring something simpler really, really well.

That's easier said than done. In some places there just aren't enough experienced ringers to manage that. At the two practices that Ruthie and I regularly attend at St Mary-le-Tower and Pettistree, we are lucky in most respects to have the opposite problem, inasmuch that we tend to have big attendances. Whilst that means we have plenty of help to hand, it also means there are more people looking to try things out in their noble quest to progress their ringing, leaving less time to throw an exhibition touch in. And of course ringers are human, and no matter how good, prone to making mistakes when you least expect it. On numerous occasions when running ringing somewhere - SMLT, Grundisburgh, Ufford, AGM'S, outings or wherever - I have put together such pieces of ringing, only to find experienced Surprise Maximus ringers missing dodges in Little Bob or similar!

However, on Monday and Wednesday nights, we have managed some really good ringing, and when you get a piece like that it is a joy to listen to. If you get two like we did this evening, then it is a bit of a thrill. When it is backed up by a couple of less well rung but still superb bits of ringing, then you know you've had a good night! Once we'd rung a quarter of Surfleet Surprise Minor in which I was far from my best, and my wife and I had nipped back to Melton for some fish 'n' chips, the main method of the evening was Francis Genius Delight Minor. It was rung three times - once absolutely faultlessly, and twice with method mistakes but some really good striking. The session was then topped off with a faultless plain course of London Surprise Minor, with a band which could ring much more complicated stuff.

That final piece was requested by the mother-in-law Kate, who tonight was proudly showing Mia off, who in turn lapped up the attention both in SS Peter & Paul and then The Greyhound where we retired after the practice, and was able to take in tales of holidays and searching for lost glasses, and of course that superb ringing!


Tuesday 8th October 2013

Today was a minor victory for my body clock, as I got through - barring any unforeseen circumstances - my last 3.30am get-up for this year. God willing, no more getting up in the middle of the night to get to the office, feeling like I'm the only person in the country awake, and only being fit to sleep for the afternoon, as was the case today. No more feeling exhausted from the proceeding Saturday evening just thinking about the early start looming, and no more having my evening's curtailed or going to bed to get up as soon as my head has hit the pillow. I know there are people who do this all the time, and more power to them. But I really am not a morning person.

There's still three 6am starts to go this week, but they at least feel vaguely civilised, with people about, and getting light not long after I get into work. And I can at least have some sort of evening, though this time round - as with most Tuesdays - it was a quiet one in for us.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral.Meanwhile, if you are looking to attend Bishop Nigel's farewell service at the cathedral in Bury St Edmunds at 3.30pm on Sunday 20th October - and for all the support and friendship he and his wife has given the Suffolk Guild, I hope there are many of you - then it would help the organisers greatly if you could let them know you're coming on At least I can enjoy that event without having to get up at 4am the next morning!


Monday 7th October 2013

Mia.Before heading on to St Mary-le-Tower practice tonight, Ruthie and I met a character that - God willing - will be a familiar one to us for several years. For Kate has taken on a new dog, an eight-week old German Shepherd called Mia. Now I'm not cold-hearted, but I'm also not overly susceptible to cuddly cuteness, but she is adorable, with her over-sized ears, inquisitiveness and bouncy energy, which seems to bring the puppy out of old man Max!

It sent us onto Ipswich with a bounce in our own step, for another useful practice, and I was particularly impressed to arrive just after 7.30 with London Surprise Royal (No.3) already being rung. It was a precursor to a decent session, where not everything went - as you would expect from any practice - but much was achieved with another large crowd, including Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Maximus.

With Rounds on Six ringing out across the building site which was once Tower Ramparts Bus Station, some of us stole a march and headed over to The Cricketers for refreshment, slightly astounded to discover that apparently Christmas is beginning on 11th November this year. Forget remembering the fallen then, let's get straight into the festive spirit and hope we're not all partied out after nearly two months of the season...

That aside, conversation turned its head to all sorts of - mainly ringing-related - topics, such as my brother and Becky's conservatory, St Mary-le-Bow, Minimus methods and Chris Woodcock's latest exploits on Sunday, which were quite extraordinary!

Having been up since 3.30am, and another early start just a handful of hours away, we popped back to Edwin Avenue to say night to Mia. We're looking forward to getting to know her!


Sunday 6th October 2013

Reydon Bell Ringers' Beach Outing Scarecrows. Well done to Ambrin Williams and the Reydon ringers for getting this delightful Suffolk location onto the front page of Campanophile with her lovely account of the recent Scarecrow Trail. Though I shall leave it to braver readers than I to guess which scarecrows represent which ringers!

It is always nice to see churches decorated in such a way, bringing them to life, and in recent weeks of course, they have been filling up with various foodstuffs, building up to Harvest festival services today, including in Woodbridge where Ruthie was singing and us boys were in the congregation, with Mason taking a bag of food up to the front, as we are reminded how lucky we are compared to others around the world. As with last time we attended a couple of weeks ago, paramedics turned up to wheel one of the more elderly members of the congregation away, and the li'l chap and I climbed the many steps up this tall tower to join the ringers. Unlike last time when we were a little short, we had a surplus of ringers in the ringing chamber today, with Adrian Craddock so shocked to find the appropriate abundance of ringers for Harvest Festival, that he turned around and left again! Still, at least it meant we could ring all eight for Bruce and Gill's non-ringing friend Pauline who was visiting from Hampshire.

A quiet afternoon followed for we three, welcoming back from Switzerland yesterday's birthday girl Kate, who came bearing gifts, before we explored our next door neighbour's house. It seems after just two months, we have already driven her out, though obviously not offended her too much, as she wanted to give us first dibs on renting it. Despite the tour of her lovely abode, we can't really stomach another move just yet, so we politely declined, before my wife accompanied Mary Garner to St Mary-le-Tower to begin rehearsals for a concert there on Sunday 24th November, one of many being held that weekend I'm sure, as the world of music celebrates the significant anniversary of his birth on 22nd November 1913.

Maybe Ambrin and co could make some themed scarecrows for the occasion!


Saturday 5th October 2013

Happy Birthday Kate!

Stonhamm Aapall.There may not be anywhere left for my mother-in-law to celebrate in years to come though. It is well known that pubs - especially rural pubs - have been closing quicker than Usain Bolt runs a hundred metres. And whilst things are apparently improving slightly as the rate of closures is slowing (though that may be more to do with the fact that there are fewer taverns left to close down!), there are still regular reports of village inns in particular packing it in. Just this week I learnt that The Ten Bells at Stonham Aspal directly opposite the wooden-topped tower which houses the 23cwt ten the hostelry is named after, closed in April, though it seems that the local community is now looking to buy it, as so many have valiantly done in recent years. The other day, I was gutted to find out from an acquaintance who lives in Hasketon, that The Turk's Head is by all accounts seemingly being driven into the ground by the couple now running it. They have made some decisions that don't entirely tally with people looking to make this a viable business, like not only stopping food, but tearing out the kitchens and replacing them with an office. The regular events being held in the old barn adjacent this perfect ancient building have gradually been phased out apparently, and dogs have been banned. Quite what their intentions are can only be speculated upon, but it doesn't bode well for an institution fought so hard for by the local residents, a vital meeting place for villagers, and genuinely one of the rural idylls that symbolised for me the beautiful Suffolk that I missed whilst living in the West Midlands.

Ringing at Grundisburgh.Ringing at Grundisburgh.Ringing at Grundisburgh.Traditionally following ringing in neighbouring Grundisburgh, we have retired here for drinks, primarily because Stephen Pettman dislikes The Dog across the green from the wobbly red brick tower which houses the county's lightest twelve, but also because we have always enjoyed the surroundings and beer of the TH, so I felt a little guilty about 'abandoning' it in favour of The Dog following this evening's South-East District Practice. Quite apart from the fact that even we can't support every pub all the time, with Mr P away, there was no pressure to leave the Big G, and it made more sense with people having traveled from across the District to wander across to the local rather than jump into our cars and negotiate the winding country lanes in the dark to the next village, but as good as it was to see, to an extent that feeling of guilt wasn't helped by the fact that The Dog didn't really need our support, heaving so much so that there was no room for us to sit down, and so a convivial drink was had stood around the bar.

It was a drink well deserved after a relatively successful evening across the way at St Mary-the-Virgin. The twenty-three present at the practice was enough for what we needed, but whilst it is difficult to envisage how practically we could've fitted many more into this tiny belfry (though I'm sure we would've managed!), we could always have done with more, and as ever it was hard to fathom that every single one of the missing two-hundred and seventy-five members was unable to come. Another vital opportunity missed by learners to get more out of this for them and us.

Still those who did attend enjoyed a session which offered most things an occasion of this kind should, with much joviality but focus, a repertoire that ranged from a Munnings-Scase touch of Grandsire Doubles on the front five to Yorkshire Max, and at times some very good ringing in the circumstances. These aren't the easiest ten and twelve in the world to ring, and many present tonight rarely get the chance to ring on this number regularly, but we showed they can be rung well. Well done to Tom on keeping on top of everything.

Someone somewhere wasn't on top of things this afternoon mind, as Ruthie was witness to some quite extraordinary scenes as she sang for a wedding at another St Mary-the-Virgin, this time the parish church of Woodbridge. Things were delayed somewhat when the bridesmaids turned up at the wrong church. And they didn't just turn up at St John a few hundred yards down the hill. Rather incredibly, they had gone to St Michael & All Angels in Framlingham, some twelve miles away!

St James Garlickhythe. Meanwhile, about eighty miles south of us (whilst I have Google Maps open!), better organisation was no doubt on show for the ultimately successful 10hrs 17mins of Superlative Surprise Major rung on the Royal Jubilee Bells in St James Garlickhythe. At 18432 changes, this is the longest peal in a method familiar to many, subject to ratification of course. Whilst for this talented band of ringers not a complicated exercise, and not ringing on a heavy ring of bells, the mental and physical effort of ringing nearly four peals over nearly half a day without a break is phenomenal and to be applauded, even if it isn't something many of us would ever consider doing ourselves! No doubt there was much refreshment needed and partaken in afterwards, and no doubt with plenty of open, welcoming pubs to do it in!


Friday 4th October 2013

Another Friday, another fairly nondescript day, though as ever it was lit up by Mason's arrival for the weekend, and slightly differed from previous Fridays inasmuch as we were looking after Kate's house this evening.

Eriswell.With nothing other than a peal of Doubles at Eriswell to report from today, it is perhaps a good point to remind members of what is coming up. For example, next week sees the Second Tuesday Ringers going to Helmingham and Otley. This has understandably got a reputation as being retirees on tour, and naturally that category of our membership predominantly makes up the participants of this entertaining monthly tour of Suffolk, as with no work to worry about they are free to enjoy all that the laid-back day out has to offer, including lunch at a local pub, I believe on this occasion The Cretingham Bell. However, if you are on holiday, have a day-off or work shifts that give you some free-time on Tuesday, then it is well worth attending and helping out - do get in touch with 01394 411355, to find out more.

Then a week-tomorrow sees the North-East District come to Ipswich for a walking tour of the county town. Such occasions are always enjoyable in my experience, at least once you've got into the metropolis, and it is always worth getting the bells down by the waterfront ringing to remind the new and growing community of residents, workers, and students down there that they have bells on their doorstep. And help at St Mary-le-Tower from 2-3pm would be particularly welcome.

For those in the west of the county - and indeed anyone who fancies it - the North-West District will be kicking-off ADM season at Eye. Whilst the meeting is essential if our districts are to be run democratically and as closely to members needs as possible, for me such events are primarily hugely enjoyable social days out, from the ringing to the tea and to the pub at the end of it. As with most meeting days and practices, there is much work behind the scenes to get these on, so please help out if you can.

Indeed, the same can be said for any of the activities organised between now and when incredibly we get into November, and can be seen on What's On. After all, there are still plenty more quiet days like today to relax and get stuff done in between!


Thursday 3rd October 2013

For all that the bells aren't the county's finest, when well attended and well-run, a practice at Grundisburgh is something of great use to Suffolk ringing, offering ringers an all-in-one route from Minor to Maximus in less daunting surroundings than at The Norman Tower and St Mary-le-Tower. The bells are lighter than at our other two twelves, meaning learners can ring further round, and perhaps give the option of fitting more of them into one piece if desired, and the touches are shorter, allowing for more to be fitted in.

Grundisburgh.There is of course a chance to take advantage of all of this on Saturday evening when the South-East District Practice is held in St Mary-the-Virgin's little wobbly red-brick tower, where more than at almost any location besides SMLT, we will really need big numbers to make it worthwhile. But today, following the first of what is proposed to be a monthly pre-practice quarter, there was a local session, the initial steps towards hopefully getting things up and running regularly in this corner of the world, on first and third Thursdays.

So used to there not being anything on a Thursday night though, that we had inadvertently made other arrangements tonight, as we met up with James Whitby and his girlfriend Emma in The Mariner in Woodbridge. I still don't like the new decor, but the beer does seem to be well kept and of good quality, and of course we had really nice company! Still, the hope is to be at a well attended and well-run practice at Grundisburgh in two days time.


Wednesday 2nd October 2013

Good news for bell restoration projects, as it has been announced that VAT on work to - among other aspects of church life such as organs and turret clocks - bells and bell ropes can be reclaimed under the Listed Places of Worship grant scheme.

Grundisburgh.It was a subject of conversation at The Greyhound in Pettistree tonight, alongside Mary Garner's day of many hats in Bury St Edmunds, Saturday evening's South-East District Practice at Grundisburgh (where learners who don't usually get the opportunity on ten and twelve, and those used to ringing on such numbers would really be appreciated), and last words, including imagining that the final utterance of one particular husband would be "I don't agree with you Jane..."

Ruthie and I did at least make some of the practice at neighbouring SS Peter & Paul which preceded these conversations, but another late finish at work and some much needed grub meant we didn't make much, though we did enjoy the best spliced Doubles and Minor that we've rung in for some time.

There would've been no time for us to join in with the 250th peal on The Wolery bells this evening, which also doubled up as Clare Veal and George Salter's first of Pudsey Surprise Major. Congratulations to the Salters, and well done Clare and George! Good news all round then!


Tuesday 1st October 2013

The end of my day was immensely annoying. Ipswich Town throwing away the best chance they are likely to have of an away win by drawing 4--4 at Derby County when at one point being 4-1 up was infuriating, though I count my blessings that I wasn't one of those who travelled all the way to the East Midlands at much cost to time and money, many no doubt taking time off work to watch richly rewarded players put in half a shift.

It meant that when we returned home to find that the nearest we could park to our house was a ten minute walk away thanks to Woodbridge's ludicrous parking regulations, I was unusually peeved.

Ufford.All of which was a pity, because it had been a productive evening, as I opened up for and ran Ufford practice in Kate's absence. Sally Clarke and John Pallant partook in much bonging behind and trebling, Derek Martin had a concerted effort at Bob Minor inside, and Hilary Stearn tried her hand at Kent Minor and Grandsire Triples, before I left for that frustrating finish to my day.


Monday 30th September 2013

As good as it is not to have to get into work in the dark, four or five hours short of a good night's sleep, the later shifts still pose their own negatives, as I try to get out to evening ringing having only left work at seven. So it was this evening, as we didn't get to St Mary-le-Tower practice until after eight, giving the appearance of the exiting Stephen Cheek metamorphosing into us as we arrived. It promised to be a superb night's ringing, with another crowd in the mid-twenties in number, and an absolutely superb exhibition of Grandsire Caters on show when we got there. Sadly, things didn't quite live up to those high standards for the rest of the session, though as it usually is, it was still a very useful experience, with reasonable Yorkshire Max, and improving Bristol Royal, though still far off the standard we're ultimately aiming for with this.

Shelfanger.With Ruthie feeling a little unwell, we passed on the pub on this occasion, making for a short outing, but someone who has been a little more active is Stephen Dawson, who yesterday rang his first blows of Wells Surprise Minor in the quarter on the nice little six of Shelfanger just over the Norfolk border, his most and first as conductor in spliced Treble Bob Minor in the 1272 at Rickinghall back here in Suffolk, and along with the rest of the band his first in Hexham Surprise Minor at Bressingham, back up among our northern neighbours. Well done guys, particularly Stephen!

Talking of Sunday's ringing, I forgot to mention a significant footnote to the impressive Pipe peal in Willingham. Congratulations to David's Uncle George and Aunty Di, who have become great grandparents for the first time, with the birth of Amber. Welcome news indeed, in a tough year for them.


Sunday 29th September 2013

Following our day out in Cambridgeshire yesterday, I continued my partial tour of East Anglia by journeying south into Essex this afternoon.

Peal band.Friday saw the one hundredth anniversary of the charming Warner twelve at Chelmsford Cathedral being dedicated (has it only been one hundred years?!), and to mark the occasion, a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was arranged upon them today, an occasion I was privileged to be invited to partake in. And pretty good it was too, as 3hrs25mins of rhythmical, well-struck ringing was brought round with much satisfaction, a very enjoyable afternoon.

Coddenham.As worthy as it is for inclusion on the homepage of BellBoard, it faces some stiff competition. Just within our own borders, I was delighted to see the peal rung in memory of Alan Smith, appropriately rung at his home tower of Coddenham, and in the method named after his home county of Kent. Well done to young up and coming ringer Stephen Pettman for ringing his first of Kent, Tim Stanford on ringing his first on eight, and his father David on ringing his first of Kent Major. Beyond Suffolk though, and following on from their impressive first quarter of Major as a family yesterday, just miles from where we were ringing on the Hollesley outing, the Pipe's did what they usually do. Taking things a stage further, which they did today, with their first peal of Major as a family. It is impressive stuff, but so too was a peal of Minimus rung on the other side of the world. It may seem an unlikely peal to get noticed, but the 5040 at Lismore in New South Wales saw four of the five ringers ringing their first peal, whilst the fifth was conducting a peal for the first time. This effort by an entirely locally trained band, in a place where time and distance needed to get help puts in the shade the sort of time and distance required to attend a district or even Guild event here, should not only serve as an inspiration to those who think they can't, but a motivation to those who won't. In Lismore, it has no doubt taken huge amounts of effort to get this far, without the kind of abundance of help and expertise we have all within an hour's drive wherever we are in Suffolk. It is something that far too many members take for granted, meaning that the kind of opportunities ringers in many places like Australia and North America would chew their right arm off to have (an exaggeration I know, but you get the gist!), are left unused and sometimes are not even offered. So with much happening over the next few weeks, let's have some of the Lismore spirit in the SGR.

St Margaret.My peal came after a break from the normal Sabbath morning routine, as with no ringing at Grundisburgh or Sproughton due to fifth Sunday benefice services being held elsewhere, I followed up ringing at St Mary-le-Tower by accompanying my son, Mum and Dad to St Margaret. Despite my infrequent visits to the wobbly tower reassuringly watching over Christchurch Mansion and it's park, the ringing chamber here always seems familiar, a cosy throwback to my childhood, when my brother Chris and I spent many a Sunday morning, firstly as spectators and then as participants, if nothing else getting lots of practice at Bob Major, all under the watchful and proud eye of our Granddad. It is a belfry full of character. The ringers of two and three almost can't see each other due to the clock case which protrudes into the circle, whilst the same table that us Munnings boys used to sit at drawing before we could ring, is still rooted in the centre. All in all, there is not much space up there.

However, as alluded to in the latest edition of Awl a'huld, that is all set to change, with the ringing chamber and bells to be moved down the tower. Chatting to an enthusiastic John Girt this morning, I was able to glean more about the details. Although personally I would love to see these replaced by a new, light ten, it has to be said these are exciting plans which will only improve things here. If John gets his way, one, two and four will be recast in the mould of the other five Miles Graye bells, making for a more complete sounding ring. They will then be hung in a new frame just a couple of feet above the aforementioned clock case, the treble and tenor positioned in the corner where the ropes of three and four currently drop, with the old frame left in its current position, which will have the benefit of dampening a sound which shouts out over the long-suffering residents of Bolton Lane next to the church, and hopefully give the ringers a bit more flexibility in when and for how long they do their ringing. At the moment, all bar the sixth are drawn, but the hope is to rectify this, making them easier to ring. The existing ringing chamber will be the clock and sound room, whilst a new gallery will be installed just below the sill of the west window to accommodate the ringers, making what is currently hidden away and shrouded in mystery near the top of the tower, open and visible to what is - judging by the lively and popular family service as we arrived, and well-attended main service as we left - a promising recruitment ground. However, whilst the vicar and PCC are both wholeheartedly behind the scheme (indeed the Revd David Cutts instigated this idea this time round), there is still a long road to travel, as all those who have been involved in similar projects will testify, with the DAC still to persuade, and no doubt English Heritage will want to put their two pennies worth in too, so it may be a couple of years for this to actually happen if successful. It will undoubtedly help a band that would've numbered just three if we Munnings hadn't have helped out this morning, and provide facilities up there with some of the best in East Anglia, and well worth being part of any tour of East Anglia!


Saturday 28th September 2013

We seem to have two seasons on the go at once currently. The weather is lovely, with bright sunshine and warm temperatures more reminiscent of summer. But clearly autumn is in the ascendency, with leaves on trees and hedges turning beautiful shades of brown, red and yellow, and beginning to drop to the fields and country lanes below them.

Here in East Anglia we are fortunate to be able to appreciate it all in it's full glory, and rarely more so than today on the Hollesley outing, which took its local ringers and associates such as the Spreadburys, Prices, my parents and yes, us from the heathlands and shingle of the coast in the far east of Suffolk, to just beyond the western border into Cambridgeshire.

Ringing at Swaffham Prior.The Twin Towers of Swaffham Prior - the bells are in the right hand church.With Ruthie working first thing this morning, we were unable to join the rest of the party for breakfast at the Black Horse in Swaffham Bulbeck, and indeed for ringing at St Mary in the village, so the beginning of our outing was at neighbouring Swaffham Prior, home to two churches in the same churchyard, with the community's six bells hung in the redundant St Cyriac & St Julitta, though apparently the bells have been periodically swapped between the two towers!

Ringing at Burwell.Mason concentrating on his drawing at The Five Bells at Burwell.Having run the ringing here, as others took in the tea and coffee kindly provided downstairs, we moved onto Burwell, home not only to a ring of eight, but also The Five Bells, location for our superb lunch today, prior to a shifted around afternoon.

In the ringing chamber at Isleham.Waiting outside Fordham church.The original plan had been to kick-off our post-food ringing at Fordham, with Soham following, but with work on the organ making access to the ringing chamber impossible at the latter, the former was moved back, and Isleham was inserted into proceedings. These are a six visited a couple of years back on a St Mary-le-Tower outing, that would make a fine eight, if only they had a treble and tenor, and so instead they sound unpleasant, though go nicely.

Fordham are much more conventional, and home to a common occurrence - ringers who have contributed to both the Ely Diocesan Association and Suffolk Guild. Recently of course, they have sadly lost Rosemary Palmer, first female CC Rep of the SGR, and whose funeral was held at this very church just a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, they still have her husband Roger, and Philip Wilding, both of whom met us, the latter helping us ring a decent touch of Grandsire Triples at his home tower.

A superb day out - thanks to Alan McBurnie for organising it - was to finish at St Mary in Ely, in the shadow of the finest cathedral in the region. However, we had been unaware that in another change to the schedule, ringing here was taking part at a later time than we thought. With Ruthie not feeling great, and a long journey home ahead of us, we called time on our participation, and headed back to Woodbridge, commentary of the end of Ipswich Town's 2-0 win over Brighton keeping us going as we passed the big open summer skies, and autumnal woodlands and hedgerows of East Anglia.


Friday 27th September 2013

Another early shift, giving us further opportunity to autumn clean our home, before I picked Mason up for the weekend.

Ashbocking.Elsewhere in Suffolk, there was more going on thankfully, with Ruth Darton and Hilary Stearn ringing their first of Reverse Canterbury Doubles in the 1260 at Brandeston, and Oliver Scase ringing his first inside in the quarter of Bob Doubles at Ashbocking. Well done Ruth, Hilary and Oliver. I was sad to hear of the passing of Audrey Scase, a huge support to one of the biggest and most active ringing families in the county, and to ringing generally, such as with the tea at the Veteran's Day at Debenham over the years. Our thoughts are with the Scase's at the moment.


Thursday 26th September 2013

With and without my PRO hat on, it is always interesting to read of what others are trying in terms of recruitment and training, so the article I read by Richard Booth, the tower captain at Marsworth in Buckinghamshire, was worth taking a few minutes to take in before I wandered up to meet Ruthie from choir practice. Inspired by ITTS, and 'Learning the Ropes', they arranged for an intensive weekend of condensed training. It seems to have gone well generally, and I can understand why too. In the ideal world with anything, you would rather give learners an intense longer course to get them up to speed, rather than short occasional bursts, so this struck me as a good idea.

The friendly robin in our garden.The friendly robin in our garden.It may be worth a go here, and one place that may benefit is Grundisburgh. Practices here are apparently due to start running regularly on the first and third Thursdays of each month, but for now things are still quiet, so there was no practice this evening, leaving Ruthie and me to relax at the end of a day which had seen us use the sunny afternoon and early finishes at work for both of us to blitz the thus-far unattended garden, accompanied by a brave and friendly robin, who hopped and fluttered around watching us with interest.

The Wolery.It was productive, but not as notable as that which was going on in another certain garden in Old Stoke today, where Colin Salter beat his mother's record to become the youngest Suffolk born ringer to ring one hundred peals, reaching this landmark with a 5040 of Minor at The Wolery at the grand old age of fifteen years, three months and four days, six months younger than Katharine was when she reached her century. He hasn't simply been banging them out either, with peals on all stages up to Royal, including many of Surprise and spliced, at many locations across the country (not just the shed!), with some very good ringers. I have rung in twelve of his peals, and he has always been a focused young ringer, making few mistakes. So congratulations and well done Colin! Maybe we can follow Marsworth's lead to see if we can find more like him!


Wednesday 25th September 2013

The Wolery.In recent weeks, due to late shifts, peals, MOTs, and general lack of organisation, I have only made it to The Greyhound when travelling out to Pettistree on a Wednesday evening, rather than the practice at the neighbouring church. Tonight, it was the other way round, as I accompanied Ruthie to SS Peter & Paul, but passed on the pub, instead popping over to Toby and Amy's for a cuppa, whilst elsewhere George Salter was calling his first - of many, many more I'm sure - peal of Major, rung appropriately at The Wolery. Well done George!

Back in Pettistree, there has always been a strong element of learning, as there should be at any practice, but there was a particular abundance of it on this occasion. Bill Lloyd and Derek Martin were having a concerted effort at Bob Minor inside, Peter Meyer at its Doubles counterpart inside, and young Sam from Campsea Ashe was brought along by Glenys Fear to practice his trebling to Bob Doubles, all on top of Hilary Stearn and Anne Buswell improving their Cambridge Surprise Minor and Double Court Bob Minor respectively, further along the learning curve, before many of them headed across the churchyard for a drink. Hopefully next week I'll be able to join them both!


Tuesday 24th September 2013

Much like yesterday, it was up at 3.30am to go to work, back home at 11am and then sleep in front of the TV.

Benhall.Unlike yesterday, we didn't even leave the house to go ringing, though we did pass on the opportunity to partake in an ultimately successful quarter at Benhall - we didn't think we could entirely guarantee I'd be awake by that point!

Instead, it was a less than energetic evening in, the highlight of which was me making an entire shepherd's pie. Only three early starts to go this week...


Monday 23rd September 2013

I admire those who can do this all the time. With each week that I come in on the early shifts at work, it gets harder and harder, so I'm glad that after this week there is just one more to do this year. After today's 4am start, I pretty much slept all day, awoken only by the sound of gunfire coming from the TV coverage of the dramatic events in Kenya, and when Ruthie returned from work.

If I'm being honest, I could've carried on sleeping through this evening, but I had the keys for St Mary-le-Tower, so I not only needed to be at this evening's practice, but there from the 7.15pm start, so I was grateful to Ron for picking we two and Kate up early, as was Amanda Richmond who was running things in David Potts' absence.

She carried out her role with typical enthusiasm and high-energy, kick-starting us with three lots of Grandsire Triples on the front eight, as much for George Salter to find a touch that worked as for Sean Antonioli to bong behind, and Felicity Brasier and Mike Burns to ring inside. That said, for all her efforts, we weren't at our best this evening. Spliced Cambridge and Yorkshire Royal struggled more than it really ought to have done, though it was the first time Peter Davies had ever rung those spliced. The first piece of London Surprise Royal (No..3) went really well, but the second piece collapsed, firstly in the second lead, and then without even making the first lead-end, in complete contrast to the earlier four leads. However, we finished with a decent touch of Stedman Cinques, especially considering there were a number of people for whom this was a relative step into the unknown.

And all in all it was a decent session considering there were a number absences on top of our leader's, with some on tour in Yorkshire, and much of our contingent from south of the border partaking in the Essex Association North-East District's Quarter-Peal Month. The latter seems a good point to bring up the Quarter-Peal Fortnight for the South-East District of the Suffolk Guild, running from Saturday 19th October to Sunday 3rd November. In comparison to the comparative events in the North-East and North-West Districts, this has never really got off the ground, which is disappointing as many ringers from the aforementioned two districts have benefitted from the events, and many towers which may otherwise remain silent have been rung meaningfully. Therefore, 07542 470974, is pushing this hard, so please do take note of the dates and try and do something for it, especially if you have learners who may benefit from a quarter.

Elveden.Indeed, there is - as ever - much coming up which will need support, such as the Young Ringers' Practice at Elveden on Sunday from 3 - 4.30pm. There is a healthy number of youngsters across the Guild - it would seem in each district - so it would be great to see a really good turnout from all corners of the county to encourage the future of Suffolk ringing.

Before that on Saturday, there is the South-West District Mini-Tour, and there is then much on as we enter next month, with the Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday 2nd, the South-East District Practice at Grundisburgh in the evening of Saturday 5th, the First Sunday Surprise Minor Practice at Pakenham (a place which always seems to encourage good ringing in my experience, so should be a good 'un) the next day, Second Tuesday Ringing at Helmingham and Otley on the 8th and the North-East District Walking Tour of Ipswich on Saturday 12th.

That final event is on the same day as the first of the season's ADM's, which as is the tradition is the North-West District's, this year being held at Eye. Some will say they'd rather ring than talk about ringing, and I'd agree. But the truth is that in meetings much is imparted and arranged, especially at the ADM's. The election of the officers who will not only be taking the district forward over the twelve months that follow, but shaping how that district progresses and interests its members. It is a chance for members to put forward their opinion and hear the opinions of others in a democratic forum, vital, unless we want the Guild run by quangos. Let's also not forget that not everybody is online, keeping up with goings on with emails, the website and facebook. Awl a'huld is superb, but it is only as up to date as when it is published. And ultimately for those who can no longer or currently can't ring, the meetings and the tea and social time out of a ringing chamber are a vital link to old friends. So please do support the meetings, as well as the ringing.

Tonight, we three supported our local branch of Wetherspoons, with a pint in The Cricketers, as Mum and Dad regaled us of people met and stories heard from their weekend in Northamptonshire and particularly at the Peterborough Diocesan Guild Striking Competition (well done on home team Towcester Branch on their victory in that!), and Stephen Cheek tried to arrange a peal of Major with five ringers and two venues, before Ron took us home, primarily so I could go to bed! Only another four early starts to go this week...


Sunday 22nd September 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.As with every third weekend in September, it is College Youths' Peal Weekend, and after a lost attempt of Stedman Cinques at The Norman Tower yesterday morning, I'm glad to say we in Suffolk managed to chalk up a success for the occasion this afternoon, as we rang a really well-struck and well-rung 5040 of Grandsire Triples on the back eight at St Mary-le-Tower. This is no easy task - you don't get huge numbers of peals rung on 35cwt eights, largely because it takes no small degree of skill to strike bells well and get the pace right for the best part of three-and-a-half hours on this weight of bells. When ringing Triples, it is the sixth and seventh of the back eight which do most of the work here and round whom you try to ring, and Paul Bray and James Smith got things spot on this afternoon, not falling into the trap of ringing at state funeral pace, whilst showing the respect this grand ring deserves. It can get very dull bonging behind for such a long period of time, and you can get lost in your own thoughts, but there was no such problem today, as I enjoyed the good ringing going on below me.

It followed on from a morning which was slightly more dramatic than I expected, as I went to the 10am service at St Mary's in Woodbridge, a service disrupted by an elderly member of the congregation collapsing during the sermon. Apparently it was nothing more than low blood-sugar levels, so she should be fine, but I was relieved that the paramedics who attended had wheeled her out of the church on their stretcher before we lustily sang the line "Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on..."

Before Holby City came to town, I helped the locals ring five, with tower captain Bruce Wakefield still recovering after his recent stint in hospital. However, before he was poorly, he starred in an article now appearing in the Woodbridge Society magazine. It is a decent spread, over three pages and with pictures, and whilst it will go out to a relatively small readership, it will do us no harm.

I finished my day by rejoining Ruthie and Mason at Kate's, where she and Ron had been putting them through their paces in the garden and had also very generously put on one last BBQ of the season on this mild and very satisfying day!


Saturday 21st September 2013

Although we did our first ringing for five days today, it was still predominantly a day of bells, ringers, and listening to and hearing of ringing, rather than ringing ourselves.

Grandsire Doubles at Hacheston.Mason occupying himself at Hacheston.The actual ringing we did was in the cosy ringing chamber of Hacheston, at the conclusion of the Pettistree mini-outing, on which they still allow me, despite not having been along to SS Peter & Paul for a few weeks! These are surprisingly odd-struck bells, but still go like a treat, and were a fitting end to a day that had earlier taken in Campsea Ashe, Marlesford and the nearby Farm Cafe for lunch, another well-arranged and enjoyable Mike Whitby production.

Mason enjoying Wacky Warehouse at Henry's party.Not that Mason, Ruthie and I had been able to take it all in, as the li'l chap had been invited to Henry Salter's sixth birthday party this morning, so we found ourselves in Ipswich at Wacky Warehouse in the shadow of the tower of St Peter's church, which houses an unringable 7cwt five which gave up it's treble for the augmentation at Offton.

Of course, the youngsters enjoyed themselves immensely in the ball-pits, tunnels and slides that they can get lost in, but we oldies had fun, with ringers left, right and centre, as you may expect from a family with such strong ringing connections. It was particularly nice to catch up with the birthday boy's grandparents, Jennifer Warren - fresh from Mike and her sunning themselves - and Neville Whittell, who imparted the tale of a peal at Hintlesham in 1965, where all bar him and his brother Roger were first-pealers. Thus began the peal-ringing careers of Simon Christian, Roy W Lockwood, Robert J Southgate and Alan R Walters.

Once the party was over (many thanks to David, Katharine and Henry for their hospitality!), we reluctantly nipped into town, spending several minutes queuing at the expensive new traffic lights on Civic Drive where we once drove straight through a roundabout with no waiting, and paid a small fortune to park where it was once free to park up to easily and quickly pop into town. And they wonder why the town centre is struggling. Despite the traumatic experience - we shan't do that again for a long time - we carried out our jobs, including one which took us to the Tourist Information Centre in St Stephen's church, home to a difficult three, and we enjoyed listening to the quarter of Bob Major being rung at St Margaret as we carried out our tasks. Well done to Neal Dodge and Mike Burn on ringing their first of Major inside, and to Eleanor Earey on not only ringing her first of Major altogether, but doing it whilst apparently not feeling too well.

Suffolk Guild Peal Band at Giggleswick on Craven.Meanwhile, Suffolk ringers were busy achieving in Yorkshire, as a band rang a 5060 of the Surprise Major method which carries the county's name at Giggleswick in Craven. Particularly well done to Ruth Young who was ringing her first peal for thirty-eight years, and best wishes for her and Maurice Rose's forthcoming significant birthdays! And to all of the above for being busier ringers than us today!


Friday 20th September 2013

At John Catt this afternoon, we briefly had the entertaining company of the MD's eleven-month old daughter, a welcome distraction on another long late shift in the office. She has reached the stage of toddling about with the help of her father, but the arrival of Mason with us this evening highlights that he has reached the stage of telling us all he had learnt about George Stephenson at school this week - some of which 'even' Ruthie and I didn't know!

Sproughton.whatson.php#D20130924Other youngsters - albeit quite a bit older than the aforementioned pair of kids - are also progressing nicely. Well done to recently elected twin sisters Claire and Rebecca Last on ringing their first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at their home tower Sproughton, rung in memory of their Grandma. I'm sure she'd have been very proud.

Clopton.The band plus two locals after the quarter at Clopton.Also very proud as well I'm sure, are those who have worked so hard for so long to transform Clopton from an unringable six to the superb peal they are now, as the first quarter was today rung upon them since the work. What is more, it was also Mike Whitby's 1200th as conductor, another impressive landmark for one of the best conductors in Suffolk, who has done so much for ringing in the county. He's progressing well!

Somewhere where progress will be temporarily slowed is Offton, though only for one week, as there will be no practice there this forthcoming Tuesday.


Thursday 19th September 2013

Emily the car was returned to us today, with Bob Champkin picking me up in our own car. Well Ruthie's car.

Vestey Ring.Not that we had much use for her on another cold, wet windy evening, bar picking my wife up from choir, as Grundisburgh practice was again cancelled. It hasn't been alone in the cancellation stakes this week, with the unfortunate loss of what would've been a very useful Stedman Triples Practice at Rendham on Wednesday, and today the sad withdrawing of The Vestey Ring from this weekend's Henham Steam Rally. On the occasions that I have been up to Henham Park to help with the mini-ring at this superb event, it really has been an immeasurably useful occasion to be present at, attracting considerable interest in ringing, so the fact that not enough people were able or willing to volunteer their help to man this for short shifts over the two days is a massive disappointment.

It highlights a greater, but familiar problem that ringing in Suffolk - and to be fair across the country - has. It is the same, relatively tiny proportion of Guild members willing to help out at events, whether it be District or Guild meeting days, focused practices, manning the mini-ring, or taking up posts. It is a big stretch on those people's time and energy, as we look to recruit more ringers to compliment the hundreds trying to man as many of the thousands of bells in the county, and then offer them opportunities to progress and thus keep their interest. So when those few can't make something, things don't happen. Therefore a chance for learners to have the kind of concerted practice at Stedman that they wouldn't get outside of a quarter or peal is lost (though I hope it can be rearranged), and a fantastic chance to make a large number of people aware of ringing and give them a chance to take it up is missed.

So, a call to action. If you do have the time spare - and I appreciate that not everyone will - then please seriously consider going along to the next ringing event near you. Put dates in your diary, move those things which can be moved, and help out the few that do it for you.


Wednesday 18th September 2013

As Emily the car gets older, her MOTs take a little longer, as the parts needed take a little longer to get. So it is this time around, as having dropped her off at Champkin's yesterday lunchtime, we were informed today that she won't be available to us until tomorrow.

That's not a major problem, as both of us can walk to work very easily. but it meant we had no means of getting to Pettistree practice this evening, with Kate - who would usually be a patient fall-back in such a situation - otherwise engaged tonight, and me not getting back from work until seven, as my week of late shifts continues.

I'm sure they coped with our absence, and they certainly started it well with a pre-practice quarter of Norwich Surprise Minor, which was Hilary Stearn's first in the method. Well done Hilary!

Ixworth.It was one of three quarters in the county today, with a 1344 of Rutland Surprise Major rung at Ixworth, and a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Preston St Mary. I'm glad they could all get out!


Tuesday 17th September 2013

Ruthie's best friend, and our bridesmaid Fergie is up from Brighton this week, so once they had spent the day together and I had returned from my late shift at John Catt, we took advantage of The Anchor now being our closest pub by popping along there for a meal on this wet and windy autumnal evening. As usual, the company and food was great, hopefully we'll be able to enjoy both again in the not-too-distant future.


Monday 16th September 2013

Worlingham.It was a shame to hear of the cancellation of Wednesday's Stedman Triples practice at Rendham. This would've been a really useful event for so many people, so it's disappointing that the plug had to be pulled due to so many people being unable to make it. Hopefully it will be rearranged, and there is of course Tuesday evening's Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham which will need the support of North-East District members, and indeed anyone else who can help out.

On a more positive note, well done to Sophie Wiseman, who yesterday rang her first quarter in the success at Pakenham. Welcome to the world of quarter-peal ringing Sophie, hopefully the first of many!

And there was another big turnout at St Mary-le-Tower tonight, as over twenty contributed to a session that saw some really good ringing, even though my father was absent through illness - get well soon Dad! Not everything went of course, that is the nature of a practice night, and if everything went perfectly I'd actually be slightly concerned that we weren't pushing ourselves enough. But besides the pieces that didn't quite go to plan, and pulling off in rounds on twelve with the wrong second, there were some real highlights, including the first of a concerted effort to get Bristol Royal going here, with London already an established and well-rung part of the repertoire on a Monday night.

It was all topped off with a pint in The Cricketers, always a more enjoyable experience when I'm on the later shifts and have an 11am start at work rather than 4am! And it was made all the more enjoyable by celebrating Ian Culham's election to the College Youths last Tuesday, further proof that it isn't all bad news at the moment!


Sunday 15th September 2013

In the ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower, behind the tenor box, there are - as many who have been there may have noticed - pictures hanging, taken of the band at SMLT in April 1982 and the summer of 1991. We are probably due another photo shoot. Many faces and names feature, such as Mark Liebenrood, Ruth Symington, Kevin Girling, Paul Wakefield and Mark Ogden, who haven't been seen on the end of a rope in the area for many, many years, and Tony Warren, Simon Girt and Herbert Jillings, who have sadly passed away in the intervening years. I too feature in there. I was three-and-a-half in the early-eighties shot, looking frighteningly like Mason when he was that age. Nine years later, and - if my maths adds up - I was twelve, and both pictures have been a source of much amusement to many, myself included.

Me at the 1991 National Twelve-Bell Final outside St Mary-le-Tower, helping Ann Davies' boy on Ralph Earey's demo-bell.So a smile was brought to my face when Ann Davies - a ringer from High Wycome I have shared many a drink with - today sent through on Facebook a photo of me teaching her boy to ring on Ralph Earey's famous demo-bell when the National Twelve-Bell Final was held in Ipswich during that summer of 91. Obviously I've become a much snappier dresser in the last twenty-two years.

I spent the beginning and end of my ringing day at the aforementioned 35cwt twelve, taking in those pictures, firstly for morning ringing where we had more visitors - Simon, a ringer at Chesterton near Cambridge, and Debbie a former colleague of Amanda Richmond - but were minus Ringing Master David Potts, who was having car trouble, and then for this evening's Special Practice, where David was able to join us for a well-attended and good session, which saw some very well-rung Yorkshire and London (No.3) Surprise Royal.

The Woleery.In between, there were more visitors, with Gordon and Maureen from Uckfield paying us a visit at Grundisburgh whilst they were staying with a friend in the village. And I paid a visit to Rectory Road in Ipswich with Mason, so he could play with Henry whilst I rang a peal of Zealot Surprise Minor at The Wolery at the top of the garden. I had actually rung this variation of Bourne to a quarter at Pettistree back in March 2009, but it was the first peal in the method, certainly for the Guild, and it appears ever. I can see why, as it is one of those lines I dislike, with three blows leading, but it was for a couple of good causes. When he had his stroke at the end of last year, Mick Edwards was not far off his goal of ringing a thousand peals. He is now a lot better, but understandably he doesn't feel up to peals on heavier tower-bells, so the eight in the little blue shed has enabled him to continue building towards that total. Following this afternoon's success, he is now 'just' twelve away, whilst Colin Salter is three away from his one hundredth, and potentially becoming the youngest Suffolk ringer to reach that landmark, beating the current record of fifteen years and nine months currently held by his mother! No doubt there will be a picture taken to appear somewhere online in twenty years time!


Saturday 14th September 2013

It was about as quiet a day as I can ever remember us having today. Apart from a couple of occasions when I popped out to nearby Budgens and Gobbit & Kirby, we didn't even leave the house on this drizzly Saturday. So I caught up with the photos on my blog, getting last weekend's South-East District Meeting and Clopton Service of Thanksgiving added.

Worlinfham.They are past events of course, but as is always the way in ringing, there is much to look ahead to and support if you possibly can. The North-East District alone are busy this week, with Tuesday's Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham, and Wednesday's Stedman Triples Practice at Rendham. These are both specific practices which ought to appeal to anyone in the NE and beyond who is at these levels, as you know you will get the opportunity to practice that which you need to practice most. And of course, they will both need experienced ringers so those learning Bob Minor and Stedman Triples can make the most of these occasions.

Likewise, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on the evening of Friday 20th September, the South-West District Mini-Outing (in my experience, jolly good fun!) to Essex on Saturday 28th and - perhaps most importantly as we look to the further future of Suffolk ringing - the Young Ringers' Practice at Elveden from 3 - 4.30pm on Sunday 29th. If you are a youngster who hasn't got involved with the Young Ringers, or you know of youngsters who haven't, then please get in touch with 07960 888041, to find out more, as young ringers ringing together is what really encourages them.

Talking of the future of ringing in Suffolk, well done to Jane Dow, Jasmine, Kian and Teresa Ives of Bardwell, who have gained their Level One certificates in the Learning the Ropes Scheme. Well done to them, and to Ruth Suggett and those who gave up their time on progressing this promising quartet. It is only through the help of the type offered by those who have helped these four, and who attend district and Guild events such as those aforementioned to help learners, and of course the learners themselves dedicating time to improving, that we will keep this wonderful art going. So keep it up helpers, and keep it up Jane, Jasmine, Kian and Teresa. I hope we'll get the chance to ring with you on a less quiet day than today!


Friday 13th September 2013

I'm not particularly suspicious (as an Ipswich fan I've found it both impractical and majorly unhygienic to grow a beard or not change my underwear until the Tractor Boys win), but it was perhaps safest to have a quiet afternoon and evening in on Friday 13th, once I'd been to work and picked Mason up from school, especially as a neighbour was being taken away in an ambulance!

Campsea Ashe.Instead of risking some bad luck, Adrian Craddock made sure he got his first quarter in before today, by ringing it at Campsea Ashe yesterday. Adrian has been steadily coming on in recent months, regularly joining us at Grundisburgh and Pettistree, as well as going along to Bredfield, so he's certainly deserved his success. So well done to him, and Happy Birthday Joanne! Their lucky charms obviously worked yesterday, I hope they worked today!


Thursday 12th September 2013

Peals often get a bad press, quite wrongly in my opinion. Many ringers seem to focus on the occasional complaint amongst the millions who hear the thousands of peals annually, and have a view that it is some form of torture that only a selfish few elite enjoy. From my personal experience, I've seen and heard far more compliments from the public for peal-ringing than complaints, and those who regularly ring peals are amongst the most dedicated of all to progressing our art through attending practices, helping learners and publicising ringing, and tend to be the most concerned that the peals they ring don't cause trouble, because it's not in their interests for towers to be closed to peal-ringing. And to my mind, there is little more satisfying in ringing than two or three hours of really good ringing, with good peal-ringing often begetting more good ringing in peals and in other aspects of ringing. It is as valid a part of ringing progression as any, and doesn't deserve the demonisation and sneering it gets. A bigger problem to ringing are rogue tower-grabbers who ring at towers without permission, something highlighted in the Central Council President's Blog for this month.

Letter.With all that in mind, it was lovely to read the letter in the Thetford and Brandon Times (Page 13) following Sunday's peal on the 18cwt eight at St Peter just over the Norfolk border, which hits the nail firmly on the head about peal-ringing and its purpose. It is nice for ringers to be appreciated!

Somewhere else ringers are being appreciated is Woolpit, where they and their helpers are being hosted by the PCC for a meal as a thanks for all the work they put into repairing and rehanging the tenor there. It is well deserved, but means there will be no practice on the 8cwt six at The Blessed Virgin Mary this Monday, so please don't go!

It came on a day that - inspired by the report on it at Saturday's South-East District Quarterly Meeting - I had a read of the draft minutes from June's GMC Meeting. My experience of these meetings were that much was discussed and sorted, and judging by these notes that hasn't changed. Recruitment and Training, Young Ringers, restoration, The Vestey Ring, Grant Conditions and much more were covered, but some items jumped out at me.

Cotton.For example, it is a pity that due to rot on the beam ends, ringing has been curtailed at Cotton. This is a real novelty ring, the type of place that contributes to making ringing interesting. For those who aren't aware, this 10cwt eight are rung in a ground-floor ringing chamber completely open to the elements, unique as far as I'm aware. In my humble opinion, I feel we ought to be making more out of these, and doing more on them, so it's sad that they have got to this stage. Perhaps this is the opportunity for something to be done.

On a happier note, it was great to see the healthy Bell Restoration Fund doing its job and justifying the subscription, with £1,685 being allocated in grants in total, to Clopton, Elmsett and Thelnetham, and thought is already being given by the South-West District to what they will do when they host the Guild Social next year.

It was also interesting to note Jed's suggestion that we hold the Guild Six-Bell and Eight-Bell Competitions on separate dates. I can certainly see where he is coming from. For the Guild Ringing Master and judges (and in the case of the unfortunate circumstances this year, single judge), this is a very, very long day. Personally though, I prefer it all on the same day, as I feel it makes it more of an occasion, especially if one of the competitions is short on entrants, as the Rose Trophy often is. The practicalities may be awkward too. Some teams are able to enter a band in one competition because the ringers they need are coming out (sometimes long distances) for the other competition. And when would you hold whichever competition gets moved? Having also judged similar competitions with Ruthie for the Norwich Diocesan Association and the Essex Association, I think it is quite interesting to take in so much good ringing, not an opportunity you always get. From an organising point of view, you would also need to get two sets of judges, though maybe it might be easier to get them for a shorter day. A bit of debate on it would be healthy though, rather than just doing it the same way because we always have, and I'm sure the GMC will come to the decision they feel is best for ringing in Suffolk.

Grundisburgh.Ringing in Suffolk continued on regardless of all that anyway this evening, with the Surprise Major practice at Ufford. It was a little slow to start, with just eight there for the first half-hour, but with later reinforcements, a very useful evening with noticeable improvement justified the arrangements once again. Thursdays are looking up in this part of the world. Although there was nothing at Grundisburgh again this evening, Joanna Crowe has embarked upon arranging a monthly Thursday quarter attempt in the little wobbly red brick tower, to ensure there is a band already there, and therefore a practice. The first of these will be on 3rd October, so if you do want to attend a practice here, there will be one on that week. Hopefully that'll stop Grundisburgh practice from getting a bad press.


Wednesday 11th September 2013

Here in Suffolk we are extremely fortunate to live in the surroundings that we do. Ruthie and consider ourselves particularly lucky to live in Woodbridge, one of the gems of 'The Curious County', and - for all the upheaval of our unexpected and unwanted recent house-move - to now be just yards from the River Deben. Even something as mundane as wandering to the garage to retrieve Emily the car after having a couple of her tyres replaced this afternoon, can be turned into a picturesque meander, as I went via the pathway alongside the waterway, as it trundles its way towards Ufford, Wickham Market and then eventually Debenham.

The Wolery.It also gave me the opportunity to learn Penmaenpool Surprise Major, the method for this evening's ultimately successful peal attempt at The Wolery. It can't be said this was our finest effort, but it was decent enough, and a worthwhile endeavour. It was topped of course by ample amounts of cake and biscuits afterwards, as we not only celebrated our success in the little blue shed at the top of the garden, but also David and Katharine's twentieth wedding and therefore the twentieth anniversary of my first peal on twelve - and indeed my first peal inside - which I rang on the morning of the wedding at Grundisburgh, with the groom conducting. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Salter on two decades of wedded bliss, and many thanks for that ringing opportunity all that time ago.

Ixworth.With my wife of a mere year and a month exactly still not ringing quarters and peals due to her shoulder problems, she went to Pettistree practice and then The Greyhound, where I met her after enjoying the hospitality at Rectory Road. They too had been successful with their pre-practice quarter, on a day of successes within our borders, with an impressive peal of spliced Surprise Major in the standard eight at Ixworth, and 1344 of Rutland Surprise Major on the simulator at The Norman Tower. Well done to Clare Veal on ringing her first in the method in the success in the latter, and for getting into West Suffolk College for this year after her fantastic A-Level results. It's good to see we shall still have the benefit of this young lady's considerable ringing skills!

Well done as well to Peter Summers, who on Sunday rang his first of Triples inside in the 1260 of Grandsire, also at The Norman Tower, a structure which is a jewel of Bury St Edmunds, another beautiful place we are fortunate to live near.


Tuesday 10th September 2013

A visit to Argos to pick up a new chest of drawers for Mason, a trip to our old neighbourhood to collect our hammer and have a cuppa and chinwag with Toby, and an expedition to Tesco where I had most of the store looking for polenta were the highlights of an otherwise quiet and long day after another 4am start.

However, at least we have internet access at home again, and I've been taking advantage by finally viewing the You Tube clips that George Salter very kindly sent to the website some time ago. I was particularly impressed by the video of Devon Call-Changes at Lavenham. By the nature of these heavy bells, they aren't easy - though far from impossible - to ring really well, so the level of precision demonstrated on this video is incredible. What is more, it is attainable by any ringer in Suffolk willing to put in the right attitude and dedication. Too many of us (and I do count myself in this), too many times, adopt a 'that'll-do' approach to our ringing. We start a piece of ringing, and so long as it comes round it is considered a job done. We chuckle at our mistakes, we float our backstrokes, we crash though the changes to get to the next dodge, some of us simply handle lazily. And it is something that ringers of all abilities are guilty of. Whether we can't be bothered or we've just given up, I don't know, but listening to this clip of spectacular ringing ought to inspire us to try harder, and focus more. This shows what can be achieved, and that it isn't impossible to ring that well.

What I find particularly good from the point of view of inspiring ringers locally is what they are ringing. I have come across plenty of clips of some of the top ringers in the world ringing perfect Stedman Cinques at St Paul's Cathedral, or faultless Surprise Maximus on handbells, but these are essentially call-change ringers ringing call-changes. With the right aptitude, this quality of ringing is entirely attainable from each and every member of the Suffolk Guild. Wouldn't some more of you enjoy it more too? And doing ringing like this more often would be more interesting than trips to Argos and Tesco!


Monday 9th September 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.With the visits of Andrew from Lincolnshire and John and Hilary from Oxfordshire, we had another attendance in the mid-twenties at St Mary-le-Tower, contributing to a lively practice. Stedman Cinques eventually went, despite Ian Culham's rope untucking itself, there were some well-struck Call-Changes on Twelve, London Royal (No.3), and a decent half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Max to finish with, despite a heavy downpour of rain trying to distract us!

A pint in The Cricketers topped a long day that started at 4am, prior to another 4am tomorrow. It may be a quieter evening tomorrow!


Sunday 8th September 2013

Some ringing chambers in Suffolk enjoy lovely and even spectacular views. Lavenham overlooks a vast stretch of probably the most picturesque part of our county. Stare out beyond the treble and second at Beccles, and Norfolk unfolds. Just today I was able to enjoy the pleasant view of the green out of the large window at Grundisburgh this morning, and in my opinion the finest of the lot, from the tenor box at Woodbridge, where you can watch the River Deben meander off towards Bawdsey and the North Sea.

Clopton.The view through the floor from the ringing chamber at Clopton.No such luxuries at Clopton. Here, the bells are now rung from their original windowless chamber, with no sense of what the weather is like outside, or indeed if it is even daytime or night. However, they have come up with a novel way of getting a bit of air into the room, the sort of which I haven't seen done before. In the middle of the floor they have placed a grid, though this doesn't and won't find favour with everyone, including Ruthie, especially with the ladder up to the ringing chamber. It's not quite Pershore Abbey or Merton College, but I could see where she's coming from as we attended the service of thanksgiving at St Mary the Virgin today, to mark the completion of the rehanging and restoration of these bells - it was strangely unnerving watching people passing below us on the way into church!

That said, it is worth it to ring on these bells now! A superb job has been made of these by Nicholsons who hung them, Soundweld who repaired the cracked bells, and Whitechapel who retuned them. They sound lovely, and are possibly the easiest going ring of bells I've come across in the county - they practically ring themselves! Jimmy Wightman, along with others involved in the project, and the locals were quite rightly very proud of what has been achieved here, and it showed with the sea of smiles at this afternoon's service, and at the fantastic spread set out for everyone afterwards.

Clare Saunders and John Waine dedicate the bells at Clopton.The crowds mingle after the service of thanksgiving at Clopton.The crowds mingle after the service of thanksgiving at Clopton.The 'new' ringing chamber at Clopton.The great and good were present, with the service led by my wife's Godmother Rev Clare Saunders and former Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich John Waine, who proudly told us of how he dedicated the famous Royal Jubilee Bells as they sat in the church at their new home of St James Garlickhythe, and Suffolk Guild Chairman Alan Stanley led a healthy contingent of ringers.

Before all of this, as Mrs Munnings accompanied her mother to ringing at Pettistree and Ufford, I left Mason with his Grandparents after ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, with me heading onto the aforementioned 10cwt twelve, the li'l chap and my folks moving onto St Margaret and Sproughton, where ultimately the boy took part in the annual teddy bear parachute jump off the top of the tower, and paper aeroplane flying inside the church.
Once all three of us were reunited after our afternoon's activities, we went together to the 25cwt eight in our town of residence, my better half to sing in the choir, and my son and I to help the local ringers to man seven of the bells, before we joined a well attended evensong.

Thetford Peal Band.We three returned to take advantage of the fact that we finally have internet at home, allowing me to finally start uploading my backlog of photos for the blog going all the way back to Ramblers, but elsewhere it was a busy day as well, with the peal at Thetford rung as part of the town's festival scored, as well as the second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh, this month's method being St Osmund Bob Triples. And with a nice view of the car park!


Saturday 7th September 2013

Sproughton.Bramford.In the church of All Saints Sproughton, there is a 360 degree panoramic photo taken from the top of the tower in April 2006. From it you can see across the rooftops of the village of course, and the imposing sugar beet factory nearby. And just above the woodlands to the north, the spire of St Mary the Virgin Bramford can be spied.

It was these two close neighbours which hosted today's South-East District Quarterly Meeting Day. The former was the location for afternoon ringing and is a tower well known to me as the place I learnt to ring. The latter was where we retreated for evening ringing, and is a place full of a surprising amount of history for a 10cwt six which rarely gets a mention these days. From the 1960's to 1980's, there was a large, successful and predominantly youthful band, which included many well-known names, such as Neville and Roger Whittell, Lawrence Pizzey, Christine Hill and my father. Several peal-boards adorn the walls of the cosy ringing chamber, and on a ledge sits four photos of the locals clutching various striking competition winners trophies.

In between the ringing, the day was largely an Earey family production, and a superb one at that. Ralphy had made the local arrangements, his father Michael took the lovely service, his mother Heather played the organ, his daughter Eleanor did a reading, and his wife Tessa and son Matthew were marshalling the tea. And what a tea, especially the cakes with chocolate bells made by Clara, Claire and Rebecca, three youngsters who today became members of the Suffolk Guild - congratulations girls, on both the cakes and your election!

Ringing at Sproughton.They were part of an encouraging youthful element present, which even saw the service touch rung by a band where Colin Salter was the elder statesman! Indeed, that in turn was part of reasonable turnout generally. Personally, I don't see why we shouldn't be getting closer to a hundred at an event like this, for a district numbering three hundred in total and with the best transport links in Suffolk, especially when held in venues as accessible as these. However, I'm a realist (Ipswich Town aren't getting promoted to the Premier League anytime soon, and we're stuck with Ant and Dec for a lifetime on our TV screens), and I recognise that if we get over thirty people to a district event anywhere in the Guild, then we've done well, so today's forty was pretty decent. What's more, there was a decent geographical spread of members too, representing Ashbocking, Barking, Campsea Ashe, Debenham, Grundisburgh, Hollesley, Offton, Pettistree, Rushmere St Andrew, Ufford, Wickham Market, Woodbridge, the hosts Sproughton and the Ipswich towers of St Mary-le-Tower, St Margaret and even The Wolery, with the two older Salter boys showing true dedication by cycling over following a peal at Tollesbury this morning. It was a shame that there was no one at all from the Shotley or Felixstowe Peninsulas in attendance, and we could've done with some more of the many experienced ringers the district has under its roof to help the youngsters in particular, but all in all, a good and lively mix of folk were there enjoying themselves.

The Meeting in Sproughton Village Hall.The Meeting in Sproughton Village Hall.The crowds sat patiently through a slightly longer meeting than the usual half hour, with quite a few additional items to the normal remembrances and reports. The meeting expressed its desire that - if not already being considered - the SGR should really present the departing Bishop Nigel Stock and his wife Carolyne with a gift to thank them for their tremendous support for bellringing in the county, and to that end it would great to see as many Guild members as possible present for his farewell service at 3.30pm on Sunday 20th October at the Cathedral.

There was also the issue of next September's District meeting, which will in fact be on Saturday 30th August 2014, so as not to clash with the Ringing Roadshow, which will be held on Saturday 6th September in Newbury. This is something I've long wanted to go to, and I hope many others within our borders will be looking to go, but even if not many do head down to Berkshire in twelve months time, it is important that all members have the opportunity to do so, and not have to choose between this and the South-East District Quarterly Meeting.

Even then the extra stuff kept on coming, with Elaine Townsend being unveiled as the District Correspondent for Awl a'huld, and it was announced that David Stanford will be taking on the Clopton locals keen to learn, along with the Burgh ringers.

To top all that, George Pipe marked his welcome return to ringing life - though not ringing itself just yet - by finding the strength to climb to his feet to movingly impart his gratitude for all the goodwill which had come his way over the last few months, and his sadness at the recent death of Rosemary Palmer, whose funeral - it is worth reminding readers - is at 3.30pm on Tuesday at Fordham, before he then admonished the significant numbers who still haven't paid their Guild subs some nine months after the due date, with the kind of forthrightness we have missed over that same period of time. He also revealed he is the only person to have postcards of all 519 Suffolk churches, a collection which will be on show in the Cathedral next year as part of the Diocese's centenary celebrations.

Ringing at Bramford.A substantial percentage of those present then moved onto the neighbouring village for a decent evening's ringing, which included a sort of Oxford medley of Treble Bob, Double and Single, the last of which was the final and probably best piece of the day. It may seem strange that despite being the next ring of bells to the one on which I learnt, and one of the closest towers to my childhood home, this is not an overly familiar location for me. Although Bramford now practice on Tuesdays, for some reason they both practiced on Wednesdays back in the 1990s when I was learning, so apart from a couple of weeks when we joined our friends from the north, having willingly accepted a polite request to stop ringing at Sproughton due to a local young boy who was sadly dying of cancer, I rarely got the chance to visit here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the local pub, The Cock is more familiar to me, having hosted Aunty Marian and Uncle Eric's ruby wedding anniversary bash nearly seven years ago, and a John Catt meal last year, and tonight the end-of-day drinks.

Well done and thank you Ruthie, Mary, Tom and the Eareys and their helpers for a lovely day out. Here's to the next neighbourhood we are visiting, Grundisburgh on Saturday 5th October - please help us!


Friday 6th September 2013

On this Friday evening, the night drawing in ever earlier, it was nice to be able to invite our former neighbours Toby and Amy round to watch England winning their World Cup Qualifier 4-0 against Moldova on the TV, allowing Mason, Ruthie and me to catch up with the li'l chap's Godfather and his blooming fiance, six months into her pregnancy. No longer being directly opposite these good friends is one of the many negatives of our enforced move from our old home, but this is a friendship that has continued through many house-moves and changes of circumstances.

Earl Stonham.Whilst we were enjoying a beer or three with the footy in the background, FNQPC (Friday Night Quarter-Peal Club) was doing what it does best, and scoring what was no doubt another very good score at Earl Stonham, which in the process was Robert Scase's 350th quarter. Congratulations Robert! Proof that there are many different ways to enjoy a Friday evening.


Thursday 5th September 2013

In many respects, today's blog is more about where's not ringing than where there is ringing. For example, if you were considering ringing at Woodbridge this Sunday morning, then reconsider, as there is no service and therefore no ringing, though there will be some of both later in the day, with 6pm ringing for a 6.30pm service.

If you were hoping to go to Stutton practice on a Wednesday, you will have to wait until 25th September.

And if you were planning on attending this evening's practice at Grundisburgh, you will have been disappointed, as it was once again cancelled. That said, it appears a good chance there will be one next week, so watch this space!

It meant another quiet evening and indeed day, the only notable aspects of which personally was getting a shock at the local market, and for Ruthie was returning to choir practice after their August holiday.

Offton.There was ringing elsewhere today, and well done to Jason Busby and George Salter on ringing their first peal of Stedman and first of Stedman Triples respectively, in the impressive success at Offton. At least someone is ringing!


Wednesday 4th September 2013

The 7pm finishes on my late shifts make it difficult to get out to ringing the evening, though it is not impossible. On Monday, with military precision, we were ready for Ron to take us to Ipswich by ten past seven. On this occasion though, things didn't work out quite so well, and with us still eating our hastily purchased and prepared tea at twenty-past-eight, it became increasingly apparent we weren't going to make it out to Pettistree practice. Hopefully we weren't missed, but either way, at least they scored what was no doubt a useful quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor for Joanna Crowe beforehand.

Preston St Mary.That wasn't the only success of the day in a Suffolk ringing chamber either, with Stephen Dawson ringing his first of Surprise as conductor, and the entire band ringing their first in the method, with the 1320 of Allendale at Preston St Mary. Well done Stephen in particular, and the band in general. I'm glad you could make it out!


Tuesday 3rd September 2013

A day off and a late shift at work for Ruthie and me respectively, allowed for a considerable lay-in at the start of the day, and a quiet evening in at the end of the day.

Clopton.It is a rest well deserved for my wife in particular, who has had a busy few days in her role as South-East District Secretary. Saturday night saw her attend the latest district committee meeting - held on this occasion at Chris and Mary Garner's place - and much was progressed. One aspect covered was some potentially exciting venues for when the SE hosts the Guild Striking Competitions on Saturday 17th May next year, but much was also discussed in regards to arrangements for Sunday's Service of Thanksgiving to mark completion of the work on the six at Clopton, and looking further ahead someone to teach the locals there who are keen to learn to ring.

The meeting also discussed the arrangements for, and anything that needs bringing up at this Saturday's Quarterly Meeting, for which there is still time to book your teas for. It highlights the amount of time and effort that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that events that are put on are held at appropriate and interesting places, practical times, with suitable arrangements and which will be useful to learners and experienced ringers alike. This is as true for the South-East District as it is for the South-West, North-West and North-East, so if you can support these events then please, please do, starting with the SE Quarterly Meeting at the easily accessible Sproughton and Bramford (the former is practically sat on top of junction 54 of the A14, and both are easily reachable by public transport from Ipswich), but also the Second Tuesday Ringing on the 10th September, which on this occasion is being held at Palgrave and Redgrave, the Bacton Monthly Practice next Wednesday, the SW Learners' Practice in the lovely location of Polstead on Saturday week (we are truly fortunate to have places like this on our doorstep, so please do take advantage!), and the NE Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham on the evening of Tuesday 17th September. All of which have been have set up with much work behind the scenes, and which will only work if people put in just a fraction of the effort expounded by those organising the events, and attend them.

Lakenheath.As is often the case, the youngsters of the Guild were today leading the way in the effort stakes, though with the help of some less-youthful helpers.  The 1260 of Bob Minor at Brandon saw Sally Veal ringing her first of Minor, Simon Veal ringing his first of Minor inside and Clare Veal ring her twentieth quarter of 2013, whilst the 3cwt five at Eriswell played host to Neal Dodge's thirtieth quarter and his first as conductor. He also rang on his twentieth different tower to a quarter in the shape of Mildenhall, on the day that he rang his tenth quarter this year at Lakenheath, as did Simon Veal, who at the same time was ringing his twenty-fifth quarter altogether. Exhausting just reading about it! Well done and congratulations on the various achievements and landmarks on a productive day, particularly to Neal on his first as conductor.

As deserved as our rest may have been, I'm glad others were more active today!


Monday 2nd September 2013

There was a big crowd of twenty-five at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, even with some still away, but including the welcome visit of Ted from Doncaster. During the 8.30 announcements there were the usual bits and pieces, such as ensuring there is enough to ring at St Lawrence on Wednesday lunchtime, and making people aware of Saturday's South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Sproughton and Bramford - as I hope was and will also be happening at other SE towers at their practice nights this week. But Diana Pipe was also able to inform us that Rosemary Palmer's funeral will be at her home tower of Fordham just yards over the Cambridgeshire border at 3.30pm on Tuesday 10th September. I'm sure there will be a big turnout from Suffolk for this popular lady and good friend of the Guild (she was only very recently on Brian Whiting's Quarter-Peal Tour as she usually was), particularly to support Roger, Gill, David and their family at this difficult time.

All of this came in between predominantly ten-bell ringing, to help further progress those who come to us with mainly eight-bell experience to make that otherwise huge leap to ringing on twelve. This included some reasonable London Surprise Royal (No.3 of course!) which was rung well by Colin Salter, as well as some Little Bob Royal for Felicity, but there were well-rung call-changes on twelve with the bells called to tittums (172839405E6T for those not aware) and back, and a few leads of Yorkshire Max to finish, though we can't say it was our finest attempt.

Reydon.Elsewhere they were ringing a quarter at Reydon, a 1296 of London Surprise Minor (there's only one at that stage!), which was not only Michelle Williams' first in the method, but her 50th with Maggie Ross, who in turn was ringing her 500th with Philip Gorrod. Well done Michelle, and congratulations on the various landmarks guys!

Back in Ipswich, we topped off our evening with a drink outside The Cricketers on a warm evening, a good night had by all I think.


Sunday 1st September 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.Mason and I had the great pleasure of seeing George Pipe this morning, leaving the early service at St Mary-le-Tower as we were arriving to ring for the later service, the first time we've actually seen him this year. He was a sad shadow of the giant presence he once was, those hands that once gripped the ropes of some of the biggest and most famous bells with such accomplishment now gripping tightly onto the walking stick which currently supports him, and he looks skinny and very frail. But he actually appeared a lot lot better than I had expected. A huge beam came across his face as he saw us striding across the car-park opposite the twelve which has become synonymous with him, and he was chatty, asking how our move had gone, and imparting that he was walking a little further each day. I even heard it mentioned that the consultants had said that if he continues improving as he is, there is no reason why he shouldn't be ringing again in six months or so! Still, it is a slow process.

Nonetheless, it was delightful to see him, and it kicked off a pleasant enough morning's ringing at SMLT, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh, the former two hosting the visit of Steve and Sue Roderick from Bishops Itchington in Warwickshire, and the latter seeing another bumper attendance in Stephen's absence, with all twelve rung.

Hasketon.The afternoon saw a rarity, with a Sunday wedding. Such a rarity in fact, that it seemed to have caught out one of the ringers booked to ring at Hasketon, as we met one short, meaning we could only ring five beforehand. They arrived just in time to ring the bride out though, the mix-up being that the they had never received the email which had informed us that this was a 2pm ceremony rather than a 4pm one as originally advertised. Still, the happy couple and their entourage didn't seem to notice, and so no harm was done.

On a sadder note, I was sorry to hear that Rosemary Palmer has died, and glad to see a footnote to her memory in the quarter of Stedman Triples at Southwold today, one of two quarters rung in the county, with Norwich Minor scored at Pettistree.

It's good to see the ringers of Suffolk keeping active - hopefully GWP will be able to join us again soon.


Saturday 31st August 2013

It is the perennial question amongst ringers. How do you spend your time during the ceremony when you ring before and after for a wedding?

Barsham.The answer can depend on various factors. Where you are for example. You may be in a ringing chamber out of the sight and hearing of those in the church, which will by and large allow you to chat. Think Bardwell, Barsham, Hollesley or Lavenham. You may be in a belfry open to the church, which means silence or leaving. Such as Badingham, Dalham, Great Glemham or Stradishall. Or perhaps one that offers the choice of staying and chatting in the ringing chamber or going outside without that awkward walk through the smartly dressed congregation, conspicuous by your comparatively scruffy appearance. Like Burgh, Cotton, Nayland or Saxmundham.

The time of day can make a difference. Do you need to bring a packed lunch, or do you need to pop to the local chippy? Is the nearest pub open? Can you listen to the footy on the radio?

Length of service can make a difference too, and that can't be entirely relied upon these days. When I first started ringing for weddings, back in the day when the suits were garish, I was chuffed to get paid £3, and a civil partnership was when both sets of families got on, you could pretty much bank on the ceremony lasting half-an-hour bang on. Ruthie and I did once get caught out at Ufford when we didn't realise we were actually ringing for a blessing rather than a full-blown marriage jobbie, and twenty minutes in, as we were thinking about finishing up our pints outside The White Lion nearby and making the two or three minute walk back to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we heard the bells ringing. Scooping Mason up, we dashed back and sheepishly walked through the happy couple and their photos to get to the ringing chamber. However, they can also last up to forty minutes/three-quarters-of-an-hour (including ours, so nothing wrong with that!), so you still have to be prepared to kill an extra ten or fifteen more minutes then you've accounted for.

Thankfully, most ringing chambers are full of interesting history that you don't normally take any notice of, even if you regularly ring there, such as pictures, pealboards, annual reports and/or past Guild newsletters and magazines.

Grundisburgh.One tower that ticks all the right boxes in regards to occupying oneself during yet another wedding, is Grundisburgh, which is where we three found ourselves today. The ringing chamber is entered without the need to go into the church, up only a handful of stairs, and whilst you can't be too loud (not always easy for the li'l chap!), you can have an interesting thirty to forty-five minutes conversation whilst also being able to keep track of where the service has got up to. However, if you don't fancy being holed up in the little red-brick tower, The Dog and village store are both just a short walk across the picturesque green and stream, complete with ducks for li'l 'uns to interact with.

With this wedding being a noon one though, and being a little too early even for us to grab an ale, we chose to sit amongst the ropes, taking in the wealth of ringing history that surrounded us. The pealboards go back decades, and right up to the notable peal of Bristol Max rung here at the end of 2006, and marks gems such as David Pipe's first of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at the age of eleven (his boy Henry has already upstaged him by recently ringing his first of Surprise Royal - and in Bristol at that - at the tender age of ten-and-a-half), the 5000th peal for the Guild, the first all-the-work peal of 41-spliced Surprise Minor twenty-five years ago at the end of this year, the first peal on twelve tower bells in the county at somewhere other than St Mary-le-Tower, and Ruthie becoming the youngest Suffolk female to ring a peal on twelve. And there are newsletters and annual reports going back to the last century. This afternoon, it was the 1995 Annual Report which caught our attention, full of names from the past and 159 peals over the twelve months revealing various milestones such as my first as conductor, the birth of Helen Stanford who has just qualified to go to Bath University (well done Helen!), and David and Katharine Salter's 500th together. Not an email or website address in sight. Much has changed in eighteen years, but it is also interesting to note how little has changed. The various reports indicate exasperation at the poor attendance for many district events, something that continues to frustrate those who arrange such occasions at the expense of much time, effort and sometimes even money.

The wedding rung for with little trouble (despite Stephen's expected absence), we returned home to sit in the more spacious back yard to listen to Ipswich Town throw away more points (personally I can't see this season being any different to the last five or six apart from possibly relegation finally catching up with us) on the radio whilst the sound of Woodbridge bells wafted clearly on the breeze, as they rang for another wedding, no doubt having had to think of ways to occupy themselves.


Friday 30th August 2013

As the summer months draw to a close and the autumn months approach (even if the weather doesn't entirely follow suit), then it is worth noting that we we will soon be entering ADM season. Even if they aren't the most exciting, these are possibly the most important dates in the District calendars, so it is vital that they get a good, representative turnout, and that people note the dates now, though they have long been the second Saturday of October for the North-West District, second and fourth Saturday's of November for the North-East and South-West Districts respectively, and the first Saturday of December for the South-East District, so there should be little excuse for not being aware when they are coming.

However, the dates and venues to note for your respective District's ADM - and indeed if you fancy crossing borders and taking in other District's ADM's, which is encouraged - are Saturday 12th October at Eye where there is a young band to be encouraged for the NW, Saturday 9th November by the seaside at Southwold and Reydon for the NE, Saturday 23rd November in the beautiful market town of Hadleigh for the enthusiastic and increasingly youthful SW, and Saturday 7th December at either St Mary-le-Tower or Ufford, depending on whether the Christmas Tree Festival clashes with the plans at the former. All the meetings are important, but each offers something more than simply a meeting, so please do support them.

Clopton.Before then there are many other smaller events which all need supporting, though not necessarily by the same people! It is worth checking you have Ralph Earey's correct email address when you book your tea for the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Sproughton's refurbished village hall on Saturday 7th September, whilst before that there is the final Great Barton Afternoon Summer Practice of these holidays on Wednesday from 2-4pm, and then that evening the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles, plus the Clopton Service of Thanksgiving for the work carried out on the six there on Sunday 8th September - please ensure you let 01473 737602, know if you are intending on going.

For today though, things were a little more mundane for Mason, Ruthie and I, though useful, as the early start and finish at work, combined with an unusual burst of motivation on our part, saw us return boxes to their owners via E.B.Buttons, and viciously attack a holly bush that was beginning to engulf our non-too-spacious back yard. After all, as the summer subsides and the autumn takes over, there will be less opportunity for this kind of thing!


Thursday 29th August 2013

Barking.It was nice to see the peal rung in memory of David Barnard scored at his home tower of Barking today, ten years after his death. Along with the service of thanksgiving for Alan Smith yesterday, it is a reminder of how fortunate the Suffolk Guild has been to have characters such as these dedicating so much time and expertise to our art.

Though the sands of time mean that we have lost such good men, there are still others around who do much for ringing and ringers within our borders, such as Stephen Pettman, who has for years been arranging and helping out with peals and quarters that have helped progress countless members. Despite his absence this evening though, there was a bumper attendance at a rare Grundisburgh practice. In fact nineteen-and-a-half crammed into the little red-brick tower on this occasion, including six-month-old Benjamin Lindley, who very kindly brought his mother along, David Stanford's brother Stephen and his other half Sarah who were over from Bedford, and Jason, who has been learning to ring at Burgh. The latter's presence ensured that David had a wide range to choose from, with Rounds on Ten to Surprise Major, Stedman Caters and Little Bob Max, the last of which was trebled to ably by Mike Burn.

With another early shift in the morning, and the previous three this week catching up on me a little, I headed straight home afterwards, but a sizeable looking crowd made their way over to The Dog across the village green, topping off a very positive night.

Elveden.And there is a lot of ringing positivity about elsewhere locally, especially when it comes to our youngsters. There have been a good number of events going on for Suffolk's young ringers, and an encouraging number of them have taken advantage, from Halesworth to Sproughton and Ipswich to Great Barton. Therefore, things are stepping up a little, and Maggie Ross, Ruth Suggett, Michelle Williams, George and Katharine Salter having been meeting to put together a calendar of events over the next few months. Starting with open ringing at Elveden from 3 - 4.30pm on Sunday 29th September, there is much lined up, including spooky Halloween ringing, paddling, a day of mini-bell ringing during the normally silent Holy Week (with the idea that this may be opened up to other local ringing organisations' youngsters to make it a big event!), and much, much more, with supervising adults - ringers or otherwise - always welcome. If you are a ringing youngster, or have some in your midst, then please do get in touch with either Maggie, Ruth, Michelle, George, Katharine or - if you can't find their details, me. I know from experience how vital it is to ring with other youngsters to keep the interest up, and there may be ringers of a youthful age out there who think they are the only ringer in the world under the age of forty. This is the chance for them to realise they're not alone! After all, we need to ensure we have the next generation of David Barnards, Stephen Pettmans and Alan Smiths to help keep the Guild going strong over the next few decades.


Wednesday 28th August 2013

Coddenham.It's not unusual to attend funerals and services of thanksgiving/memorial and find out something about the deceased, even relatives and friends I thought I knew everything about. But Alan Smith's service of thanksgiving at Coddenham this afternoon was a really interesting insight into the life of an intensely private man. His family imparted information about his early life growing up in Cuxton in Kent with four sisters under his father who was a churchwarden. Yet they admitted they knew little about his life in Coddenham, something Judy Hailes was able to go into greater depth on, fondly remembering a story about him, a bride with a see-through dress and St Michael. Meanwhile, John Girt spoke movingly on behalf of the Suffolk Guild in regards to the work Alan did as Treasurer between 1978 and 1988 in sorting out the Guild's finances, work that I'm sure today's Treasurer Gordon Slack - who was also present today at the service - is very grateful for! Mr G spoke of the work that Alan did over twenty-four years on The Central Council too, and I've no doubt that many others in attendance were unaware of the details of this aspect of his life.

His private but caring nature were regular themes, along with his sports car, his work in finance not just in his everyday job at the council, with the SGR and CCCBR, but also with his local church, and at deanery and diocesan level. And how many people can say they were picked out of a crowd by Prince Charles, years after working with him on the Prince's Trust?

There weren't as many ringers there as I would've hoped, no doubt not helped by holidays and work commitments, and perhaps the fact that many members had either not seen Alan for several years due to his illness, or had not met him at all. Nonetheless, Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters was there, as well as some who worked with him on the Bell Restoration Funds Committee on the Central Council, and there were more than enough to ring, with Ruthie and me unable to get away from work soon enough to ring before the service, but able to ring in a superbly rung touch of Grandsire Triples afterwards.

We were also able to join others in the village's fantastic community hall in a part of the community less disturbed by people using Coddenham as a cut-thru to the A14, for a cuppa, cake and a chat with - amongst others - Stephen and Janet Clarke, also up for a very special peal tomorrow and who regaled me of the tale of their '99th peal'!

Sadly we were unable to hang around for too long, as although my wife has essentially given up peal and quarter-peal ringing for the next few weeks to aide her shoulder's recovery, I was still booked in for this evening's peal attempt of Uxbridge Surprise Major at St Mary-le-Tower. I have to say, I find ringing peals on the front eight quite hard work at times. It seems no matter who is ringing them, it's always slightly too slow for my liking. It's rarely the tenor ringer's fault - indeed I've rung it to a stately 2hrs57mins myself - but usually seems a collective decision of the band on the basis of the fact that we just always have rung them at that speed. These are a mere 11cwt - though admittedly as the front eight of a twelve they are slower turning - and yet we are regularly around the three hour mark. Compare that with the regular peals at Aldeburgh - another 11cwt eight - where the ringing is generally considered to be of a very high quality, and you see that those peals are regularly just over 2hrs40mins, and quite often under, with one even rung in just 2hrs32mins.

It certainly isn't a criticism of the peal or indeed the bells, but rather a bemusement of the mindset of pretty much every band who rings this front eight. These peals have been incredibly useful experiences, and a bit of variation in the speed is to be expected as we are trying things a little out of the band's comfort zone, at the end of a long day's work (and even longer than usual for me today after a 6am start!), and as I said they are different to the regularly-pealed eight on the coast. Nor is it me being the speed merchant most think I am. After all, if you're ringing the best part of three hours anyway, an extra ten-to-twenty minutes doesn't make a huge difference per se. But I feel it would make these bells much easier to strike, and to get a consistent rhythm on, if peals were rung at just a slightly brisker pace, as even though this was ironically one of the faster efforts on these bells, it still felt difficult and unnatural to hold the flighty third up as much as I had to on this occasion.

That said, this evening's effort was a solid and respectable - if unspectacular - effort in a method unfamiliar to most of the band at the end of a long day for many. David Potts conducted it superbly, and well done to him, Alex Tatlow and I suppose me too on ringing our first peal in the method. And appropriately it was rung in memory of Alan R Smith.

I left the others to it to be reunited with Mrs Munnings in The Greyhound at Pettistree, the village she had spent the evening in, though of course she didn't partake in the quarter before the practice, which this week was a 1320 of Yeah, But, No, But, Yeah, But, Delight Minor. We won't know what Alan Smith would've made of it, but judging on all we heard this afternoon, we may not have been told anyway!

RIP Alan, thank you for all you did for the Guild.


Tuesday 27th August 2013

The Wolery.Well done to David Salter, who in conducting the 5040 of Bacup Surprise Minor in Old Stoke, completed ringing and calling peals of each of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods individually. In the process, The Wolery almost certainly became the first tower to achieve the same, and they've all now been rung for the Suffolk Guild. Whilst many ringers would love to be able to ring these methods, this isn't an overly complicated project, at least for a ringer of David's capabilities. But it is a notable achievement, and is another example of how there is always something different to do in ringing, even for someone who has done as much as Mr Salter has in the exercise.

There is much ahead therefore for young ringers like Tim Stanford, but he too was notching up a first this evening as he rang his first quarter of Lincolnshire Surprise Major in the 1250 at Offton.

For me, there wasn't anything quite as notable (bar attending the final inspection of our old house, which we have finally been given the all-clear to wash our hands of), but still worthwhile I feel, as I ran Ufford practice in Kate's absence. Despite a low attendance that saw only just enough to ring all eight, due to people being on holidays, at concerts, in London or cooking steak and ale pies, we had a useful practice. John Pallant was able to have a concerted focus on ringing inside to touches of Bob Minor, whilst Hilary Stearn was able to do likewise inside to Grandsire Triples, with some Norwich Minor thrown in there for good measure.

All of which highlights the range there is in ringing, from the ringers we ring with, places we ring at, and methods we ring.


Monday 26th August 2013

Today's Bank Holiday gave us extra time to get back home from Halesworth after a wonderful weekend up north (I would otherwise have had to be up at 4am!), though as ever it was a slow process getting down the 'main' A12 road which is supposed to serve the hugely popular east coast of Suffolk plus Great Yarmouth, Sizewell Power Station (and all the traffic associated with the building work they'll be doing there in the next few years) and events held at Henham Hall, such as Latitude and the Henham Steam Rally. I recently joked on here that the road couldn't cope with anything bigger than a car boot sale, but on today's evidence it can't even manage that, as the queues banked up for miles around the sizeable but not abnormally large Friday Street Car Boot Sale we passed on the way back to Woodbridge this morning, a hearty breakfast provided by Philip and Maggie (thanks again guys!) giving us the necessary energy to fight our way through.

That said, we weren't in a hurry today, and still in a good mood, we were back in time to return Mason, who was bursting to tell his Mummy about his weekend, and to pop along to St Mary-le-Tower. Practices on a Bank Holiday Monday often see a larger proportion of visitors than on a normal Monday, with many other local practices cancelled, meaning we can get welcome visits from ringers who would usually be elsewhere, though that in some cases can be offset by SMLT  regulars being away.

However, it wasn't really like that this evening, with most of the normos present, and a very familiar feel about proceedings. We did have some that we wouldn't usually expect  to see, like Nathan Colman, Don and Helen Price, and a slightly drunk non-ringer who came up and - to give him his credit - sat quietly in the corner for a number of pieces, before asking Sean what time the service was and getting up to wander between the treble and second during some Stedman Caters, the last touch of the session.

We were able to have a drink ourselves in The Cricketers, though with an extremely early start in the morning I wasn't able to get to his level of intoxication, especially as only a handful of people joined us. Still, those able to recall (well just my parents on this occasion), reminisced about peal-ringing during the rolling blackouts of the 1970's miners strikes, and we put together an application to be taken to the GMC for a light bulb at Wilby.

Offton.It was all appropriately upbeat, in keeping with today, as Sean followed up his quarter-peal success yesterday by announcing at tonight's practice that he and Louisa are to become parents for the first time (the two events aren't connected!), whilst in another ringing chamber not too far away, Claire Haynes was ringing her first peal on eight at Offton. Congratulations Sean and Louisa, and well done Claire, some marvellous bits of news to top off a fine weekend!


Sunday 25th August 2013

David C Brown. World famous ringer, one of the very best there is, and probably known of by most who read this blog. But imagine you are a non-ringer who has never heard of him, let alone met him, or know anything about him. How would you get his name across using only mime? Tonight, Jeff - one of today's Treasure Hunt participants - managed it in memorable style, though decency prohibits me from describing it on here. Give any of us present enough drink however, and I'm sure we could be persuaded to demonstrate. Suffice to say, I'll never look at David in the same way again!

Mason helps with Goldilocks and the Three Bears.Jason Busby with little Sophie and slightly bigger Maggie as we all prepare for the off at High Hill House.It was all part of a version of charades that involved three Queens, two Michael Jacksons, two Gods, two Buddhas, and two Philip Gorrods, and was a hilarious climax to a superb day, of which the Treasure Hunt was the centrepiece. As with our previous participation in Beccles a couple of years ago, this one in Halesworth was a fun way to explore a town, with pictures of landmarks and objects to identify and locate, clues to follow, and tasks to carry out, including reenacting a fairytale. With Mason in tow, there were plenty suggested, from Star Wars to Toy Story, but in the end, we and our teammates Adam, Denise, Ethan and Maxine found ourselves in St Mary's church with three bears and a 'Goldilocks' with wings.

Reunited with the others - including Ruthie who this time had been on another team - outside The Angel, we all compared stories, and the results were announced. Despite we three being on two separate teams, both of which were involved in a three-way tie-break at the end, we are still victory virgins in this friendly competition, but the main thing was we had a great time.

Halesworth.Either side of our wander round this delightful market town, we joined our hosts in Sunday morning ringing on the local ground-floor eight, and then enjoyed bacon butties generously supplied by the Busbys whilst everyone gathered at High Hill House, all before the big TH got underway, and then afterwards another fantastic meal for the thousands present and then that game.

St Mary-le-Tower.It was all a jolly lark, the only downside being we were unable to help Sean Antonioli ring his first of Treble Bob in the quarter at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Well done in Sean!

Nonetheless, we had a great day, and thank you to Philip and Maggie for organising it and asking us along. Maybe you should invite David Brown next year?


Saturday 24th August 2013

In my humble opinion, the ideal tower should have at its disposal a simulator and effective sound control. This should allow for them to be flexible in their approach to teaching learners and hosting extra ringing, such as district and Guild events, ringing outings, quarters and peals, all without being disruptive to their neighbours, whilst also being able to ring openly and proudly for services, weddings, funerals and any other occasion when appropriate. Bells should first and foremost be for ringing when the church requests, but whilst it is the 'extra-curricular' ringing which helps contribute to a better standard on those occasions, we have to be aware of neighbours who may not be too keen on the bells, and even those who like the bells, so as not to disrupt and disturb them unnecessarily.

Jonathan Stevens has pointed out before that sound control needn't be expensive nor a huge upheaval, but there may be instances in many places where it hasn't been possible for it to be installed. However, this is where good relations with local residents becomes paramount, and rather than merely backing down in the face of complaints, they find ways to work with neighbours so that they can continue functioning as a tower within the spirit of ringing.

One place they do this is Halesworth, the result being they are a very active part of the Blyth Valley Ringers, with their usual Tuesday evening practices, Surprise Major practices (the next one being this Friday), quarters, and the occasional peal, despite there being a vocal complainant living nearby. And as Mason and Ruthie played in the toy corner, it allowed us to ring today's well-rung and enjoyable 1260 of Stedman Triples, further helping the ringing progression of George Salter (well done on your first of Stedman Triples George!), Michelle Williams and local ringers Jason Busby and Maggie Ross.

Most of the band were then drawn to Philip's Bar at High Hill House, but whilst some of them returned home, we three stayed on. For tomorrow is Philip and Maggie's Annual Treasure Hunt. This is a fantastic way of getting some of their friends together, particularly those who are non-ringing and from distance, though some local ringers also get involved. We've been honoured to have been a part of things the last couple of years (though we couldn't partake in all of last year's due to it clashing with my stag do), and the hunt itself is immense fun, but it is but a part of a bigger social occasion stretching over two or three days. So we set about helping our hosts to prepare for the arrival of the next guests, which were Maxine, Jeff and their delightful four-year old daughter Lauren, who hit it off instantly with the li'l chap, who along with Maggie's mother partook in a typically convivial evening.

Barking.It was a good start to proceedings, and bodes well, but ringing in Suffolk continued on with a significant peal rung at Barking, ten years on from Tom Scase's very first peal, rung on the same bell and in the same methods. That in itself is worthy of note, but what the conductor James Smith omitted to mention was that it was also the thousandth peal for... James Smith! It is modesty which is in keeping with both these outstanding ringers. Both Tom and James go about their ringing business without making a song and dance about their notable achievements, their records on PealBase showing that they are as happy to help learners through various firsts, whilst also mixing it with some of the best in ringing, in some very clever stuff, such is the demand for the talents of these two stars of the Guild. But like the vast majority of regular peal ringers - who as a collective get a bad name amongst some who choose not to ring as many - their peal records are indicative of their overall contribution to ringing, with both more than willing to help out at practices, in quarters and in giving out useful words of advice, generally putting in a lot more than many who would denigrate peal-ringing and those who ring more than a handful a year. So well done and congratulations Messrs Scase and Smith for peal-ringing achievements no doubt aided by towers who allow themselves to further the art of ringing!


Friday 23rd August 2013

Brandeston.Well done to Ruth Darton on ringing her first of Minor in the quarter at Brandeston today, an important step up the ringing ladder.

We meanwhile were excepting Mason and Max into our home, the former after a day in Aldeburgh with his Nana and Granddad, the latter for the night as his owner was camping with the Guides.


Thursday 22nd August 2013

We had an unexpected return to our old abode today, in order to finish the bits of cleaning we'd inadvertently missed in our rush to get out last week. To be honest, it was an annoying hassle as we look to concentrate in getting settled in our new house, but primarily it was an odd experience feeling like trespassers in what was once our home. Having thought we'd seen the last of it a few days ago, we didn't really feel like we ought to be there, our previous neighbours once so familiar to us getting on with life as if we'd never left, or indeed as if we'd never been there.

Following on from another 11-7 shift, all this cleaning left no time to go to Grundisburgh practice, even if there was one this evening. However, next week there is to be one, with Stephen away next Thursday and keen to make arrangements ahead of time. Hopefully there will be a good turnout to support to whoever runs the practice.

Good support is what seems to be needed for the administrators of the Bellringers facebook page, a place for any bellringers on the social network site. However, it seems to have suffered from trolling (Google it if you're unsure, it's nothing dirty), and some pretty uncalled for criticism for those who spend time running a site with nearly 1400 members, which is a shame, as it's usually a really interesting and useful site for ringers of all abilities, though like Ringing Chat it can suffer occasionally from cliques and in-jokes. As an administrator for the Suffolk Guild's own Facebook page, I know how hard it can be sometimes to manage the line between healthy ringing-related discussion and debate and unnecessary sideswipes, but like any Guild post, it is only voluntary and I appreciate people's respect and patience if there are grey areas. It seems to have gone beyond that on Bellringers though, with one of the administrators resigning, so it is a timely reminder that whilst there have always been disagreements in ringing, it can all be seen in cyberspace and can have unfortunate effects.

Luckily, our site generally sticks to keeping people up to date, with such announcements that there will be no practice at Stutton next Wednesday evening, so take note to avoid disappointment!

One bit of news that wasn't on facebook, but which I gleaned through old-fashioned email correspondence, is that Laura Lindley is leaving us for Liverpool shortly. Although work and motherhood have understandably but significantly curtailed her ringing, she has always been willing to help out with practices, weddings and even peals and quarters, and is quite a good ringer, so she will be missed. She also currently has the mini-ring that was once housed in her mother's home in Framlingham, and so there is an opportunity to take those off her hands for anyone interested. It would certainly mean one less hassle for their house-move!


Wednesday 21st August 2013

With me working an 11-7 shift at John Catt, and Ruthie's shoulder playing up somewhat, neither of us were able to partake in this evening's pre-practice quarter at Pettistree, but eventually, we were at least able to get along to the practice itself, where there were brief cameos from former ringing local Mary Hallett, and new Campsea Ash ringer Sam, a confident young chap who on hearing the bells whilst dining at The Greyhound with his family, had made the brave decision to pop over for some well rung Bob Doubles. Top stuff Sam!

We too headed over to the local afterwards, as the appearance of The Vestey Ring at last Sunday's Sutton Fete, the forthcoming 'Discovering Bellringing' event at Hollesley, and Daphne Rose's eclectic mix of reading recently won in a raffle were all discussed with typical joviality.

The Wolery.Elsewhere they were getting down to serious business though, with the 1320 of Westminster Surprise Minor at Preston St Mary being the first in the method for Richard Brewster, Stephen Dawson and David Howe, whilst Clare Veal celebrated her impressive haul of three A's at A-Level by ringing her first peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major in the success at The Wolery, a ringing achievement shared with Colin Salter. Well done all of you, and many congratulations Clare!

Congratulations too to David and Katharine Salter, who in the above success at the top of their garden rang their 1000th peal of Major and 1400th peal overall respectively.
I'm sure Ruthie and I will get future opportunities to partake in all this excitement!


Tuesday 20th August 2013

Open days have long been a means to generating extra interest and new members for towers with varying degrees of success, and Ipswich Town Football Club obviously think along the same lines, judging by today's Open Day at Portman Road. But as I took the day off work to take Mason along to today's event, I did wonder whether we as ringers could take a leaf out of their book in getting big numbers along to these occasions.

Mason with Crazee.Mason in a Zorb.In the near-three hours we spent at the stadium, we actually saw very little football, or even footballers. Occasionally I managed to persuade the li'l chap to accompany me through to the sidelines of the main pitch to see the players signing autographs, and we at least got one autograph off Jonathan Leddy, who at eighteen and number thirty-nine in the squad is more one for the future than a recognisable name at the moment (perhaps when he's an Irish international in the Premier League, and superstar of the game it'll be worth something!), and having grabbed a quick word with Mark Murphy as he broadcast his show from the BBC Radio Suffolk tent, I then watched the DJ interview goalkeeper Scott Loach and new signing Cole Skuse. But otherwise, my son was more interested in catching up with the mascots Bluey and Crazee, taking advantage of the bouncy castles and doing a spot of zorbing, then he was in meeting players. However, he had been excited about going, he had a great time at the home of East Anglia's most successful football club, and importantly it strengthened his affinity with the club I have followed through highs, lows and very lows since I was only a little older than him.

So perhaps we could do with having more on offer at a tower open day to attract people in the first place, maybe with stalls and games, talks and exhibitions. I know that many towers do this to a certain extent already, and some tower open days are held as part of a bigger event anyway, but on the basis of today, I believe we need to do it bigger and more often. Have a think about it as you look at ways to recruit.


Monday 19th August 2013

Halesworth.If there was ever vindication for the view that ringing progression and therefore fulfilment will most likely be achieved by getting out of your home tower, then it is events on over the next few weeks. From six-bell ringing at the Great Barton Summer Practices from 2-4pm on Wednesdays, to the First Sunday Surprise Minor Practice at the same tower on Sunday 1st September, to the North-East District Surprise Major Practice at Halesworth on Friday 30th August, to the same District's Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday 4th September, there is an opportunity to hone your skills at nearly every level in the space of two weeks. They should be essential visits for anyone looking to progress, and obviously will be at their most useful if experienced ringers also turn up to help.

SproughtonAnd Ruthie is keen that as many people as possible attend the South-District Meeting at Sproughton and Bramford on Saturday 7th September. This is a date in the District calendar which has really suffered in recent years for reasons I've never fully understood, but noticeably the two that had attendances of particularly disappointing depths were last year's at Orford and 2009's at Felixstowe, both on the coast and admittedly a long way for not just District members in the west, but some who may have considered attending from other Districts. Though I'd like to think in a District with as good transport links as the SE, and not huge from east-to-west, distance for an event that only happens every three months shouldn't be a massive factor. Nonetheless, it is a factor that should hopefully be removed for this event, with the location easily accessible from not just the A14 but the centre of Ipswich, though granted still some miles for those back on the coast. So please do support this lovely afternoon out, including those from beyond the District boundaries.

Either side of all these events, are two important occasions for which a large attendance would be appropriate. In nine days time, on Wednesday 28th August at 2.30pm, there will be a memorial service for Alan Smith at Coddenham with ringing from 1.45pm beforehand. This is a man who did immense good for the Suffolk Guild, particularly in relation to its finances, but he was also well respected beyond our borders, especially on the Central Council, where he represented us from 1984 until 2008, when illness prevented him from continuing, and I took his place. After my mere three years of 'service', I have developed a deep respect for the dedication Alan showed in not only serving on the CC, but how much he was able to contribute to it, and he was held in very high esteem on the Council.

Clopton.A happier occasion will then be on Sunday 8th September, as a Service of Thanksgiving for the completion of the work on the six at Clopton will be held at 3pm. Your presence would be most welcome, but it is to be noted that Doris Main would like to know in advance if you are coming, so please do get in touch beforehand.

One place and time where no ringing will be going on though, is this Friday at Rushmere St Andrew, where the practice has been cancelled for this week only. However, there was a practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, which my wife very kindly drove me and Kate to, via dropping Ron off for his bagpipe practice, as I munched my tea after a late shift at work which didn't finish until 7pm. The practice itself was low on numbers again, though we were aided by the visit of Richard Walters, and a sizeable crowd was in attendance at The Cricketers afterwards, whilst it was also interesting to hear about Alex Tatlow's recent visit to the cinema. Like I said, it's a quiet time of year.


Sunday 18th August 2013

I got my first look at the new edition of Awl a'huld this morning. It may seem pointless having a magazine in this day and age, with some of the articles - such as Ruthie's marvellous report on the South-East District Striking Competitions and the enjoyable article on the North-West District Striking Competitions - already featured on this very website. But quite apart from the fact that many members don't use the internet, there is the highly interesting Peal Compositions series by David Salter, Mandy Shedden's lively background to March's Guild Dinner, and Jonathan Steven's insight into the clock room, amongst much, much else, as well as some nuggets of information that I hadn't been aware of until I picked up yet another superb edition at a quiet St Mary-le-Tower today.

For example, the news that the go-ahead has been given to lower the bells and the ringing chamber at St Margaret in Ipswich, turning this eight into a gallery ring. Or the extent to just how well things are going in Clare Deanery, in the South-West District. Superb to see not just so many learners progressing at towers like Boxford, Edwardstone, Great Thurlow, Haverhill, Stoke-by-Clare and Stradishall, but a good dollop of youth in there too, and well done to Clare and Julius Bell, Matthew and Amanda Crysell, Aaron Whittington, Caroline Priestley, Tom McKenny, David Newton, and Neil Murfitt on their progress, and to Paul Mitchell on ringing his first 120 of Bob Doubles without being observation bell, and to Esther Gray on her wonderful article. Well done too to Christine Knight, David Smith, and no doubt others not mentioned in the magazine on bringing all these learners on. Things are looking bright in the South-West! And whilst sad to see she is retiring from ringing, I'm glad that Edith Nurse has got the recognition she deserves for her years of loyal support to ringing at Bardwell.

Round our way though, things weren't quite as active. The aforementioned SMLT only had ten as holidays continue to take their toll, as they so often do at this time of year. But I was glad to hear that George Pipe had felt well enough to come to church last week for the first time since his operation, though he wasn't quite up to it this time around.

And whilst the low attendance at Grundisburgh enabled Mason to have his first go for a while (including handstrokes), the cancelled evening special practice on the heaviest twelve in Suffolk enabled we three to join Pete and Susanne for a curry at Saffron, once my wife had finished work. Then back home with enough time to read Awl a'huld!


Saturday 17th August 2013

Many years ago, in my previous life as a student in the Black Country, I got asked to ring for four weddings in one day, all on the ten of Cannock, where the countryside begins to breath after miles and miles of the depressing concrete urbanity of the West Midlands. It was a memorable day not just for the fact that for the first time in my life I was the oldest in a band of ten, but for the not insubstantial wad of cash I earned for my efforts, and then that due to misreading the train timetables, I ended up missing the last train back and blowing all my fees on a taxi back to Dudley!

I've not had the benefit of ringing for as many ceremonies in a day since, partly because I haven't been fortunate enough to regularly ring at a church as popular a venue for beginning wedded bliss as the red-stoned church of St Luke in South Staffordshire, partly because a change in the law since quite rightly gives engaged couples a much bigger choice of locations to tie the knot at.

However, Ruthie and I did have two to ring for today, dragging a cheerful Mason along with us.

Unlike that Saturday many, many, many years ago though, these weddings were at different venues, and the most noticeable difference was timings. When a church is holding four in a day, discipline and timing is everything. Harsh as it may seem on the happy pair, that means there's no time to run fashionably late, have a huge extravagant and lengthy service showcasing your friends' musical talents, or take up the churchyard afterwards with photos of every conceivable combination of relatives from every conceivable angle. One wedding comes in, goes out, and the next comes in after it.

Ufford.It was the kind of discipline sadly missing today, as having arrived at Ufford at 11.45am for a noon wedding, and another one at Grundisburgh to get to by 1.45pm for a 2pm wedding, the bride at the former arrived thirty-five minutes late! To an extent it would be hard to be harsh on them, as much of the delay was caused by avoidable but unforeseen circumstances, such as her hair and make-up take fifteen minutes longer than expected, and the boys leaving the rings at home and having to return there to collect them! Nor do I feel that generally we as ringers want to be seen as being difficult on a couple's big day. No matter how justified, a bad impression formed by a bride and groom of ringers and bellringers, is likely to be spread to the hundreds of relatives and friends in attendance on the day and indeed those who are told about the occasion subsequently, doing ringing's reputation no good at all. It may be just another wedding for us, but for them it is the biggest day of their lives. Those of you reading this who have got married, will be aware of the potential for misunderstandings, overruns and things just generally not going to plan in amongst a dazzling number of aspects to be organised, even if you were lucky enough for everything to fall into place. Within reason, my personal opinion is that we simply need to show patience, make sure that vicars are aware of the problems we ringers may encounter through the late-running of weddings, and hope that that is used as part of the advice they give to those planning future weddings, as Kev the Rev does at St Mary's in Woodbridge, who even went as far as insisting Ruthie arrived a quarter-of-an-hour early for our big day last year!

Grundisburgh.Today's extremely late-show did cause some unavoidable issues though, not least that we only had time to give the new husband and wife five minutes of six-bell ringing afterwards, before we three left Elaine, Anne and the Harpers ringing four bells. I'm glad we could do at least that, but also that we didn't leave any later, as we only just made it to our latter venue in time. Except that bride was ten minutes late herself, although to my mind this a reasonable amount of time - just - in the circumstances, and not beyond the wit of ringers to factor into their plans.

Having happily rung for two couples' big day, and having had the foresight to make a packed-lunch beforehand, we returned to Woodbridge to continue unpacking boxes. On this occasion we were glad not to have four weddings to ring for!


Friday 16th August 2013

Today, we handed back the keys to our old house in Pytches Road with mixed emotions. All problems aside, this is a lovely old house, full of history (it used to be the cottage for the chauffeur to the residents of nearby Melton Grange back in it's Victorian pomp), in a peaceful spot, with plenty of garden and lovely neighbours, including Mason's Godfather Toby and his fiancée Amy. Even in the relatively short amount of time we have lived there (even by my standards!), it has been a happy everyday home as well as home to so many memories. It was where I prepared for marriage on the morning of our wedding day, and where we set off on life as Mr & Mrs Munnings. Dinner parties, birthday parties, that magical look on the li'l chap's face when he arose on Christmas Day to a trail of reindeer dust and a half-eaten carrot - all memories from this house that make us smile.

However, recent events and discoveries mean we are relieved to be clear of the whole mess, and we have landed on our feet somewhat with our new abode, where hopefully lots more happy memories will be generated.

That said, we didn't stop the night there tonight, much to Mason's disappointment, as he was keen to get into his new room. Rather we were looking after Max and Jude whilst their owners were in Scotland for a surprise for Ron. More mixed emotions there, I'm sure!


Thursday 15th August 2013

There was champagne flowing at John Catt as one of the directors retired today, complete with presentation, group photos and much reminiscing after her twenty-four years at the company. Apt perhaps that today is exactly five years since the company moved out of the old schoolhouse at Great Glemham.

With no Grundisburgh practice yet again, it wasn't to be the last of the drink, as having cleaned up the old house with the considerable and gratefully received help of Pete and Susanne, Ruthie and I went out to celebrate Toby's recent birthday, with him, his fiancee Amy, Nick and Kala, as well as the birthday boy's other friend called Nick. We begun at The Mariner, my long time favourite pub in Woodbridge, primarily for it's character and cosy nature. Sadly, all of that has been ripped out by the new owners, and whilst importantly the beer is still good, it is now bright white and spacious, and I have to admit that I - and indeed those I was with - didn't particularly like it. That said, it is a pub that has been saved for the town, and I've no doubt that - all being well, and God willing - it won't be the last time I go in there for a drink.

Therberton.We did move onto The Bell & Steelyard for this evening, up the hill and now run by Tom and Chris who were previously running The Mariner, whilst elsewhere a peal was rung at Theberton and a handbell quarter in Halesworth, to follow on from yesterday's first ever quarter of Happy Birthday Delight Minor, rung of course at Pettistree. Sounds like a good reason to get the champagne out again!


Wednesday 14th August 2013

Believe it or not, there are considerable differences between waking up for a 4am start at John Catt as I have been doing for the last couple of days, and arising for a 6am shift as I did today. In contrast to the cold, dark loneliness of the former, it is at least light for the latter, with people arriving for work, a delivery lorry backing up to nearby Budgens, and one or two cars negotiating the roads of Woodbridge, still absurdly marshalled by the traffic lights that clog up the town during day and magic up queues even at this early hour. Nonetheless, it still felt surprisingly civilised following the last couple of mornings.

It didn't stop Ruthie and me - who herself had an early start - feeling absolutely shattered by the time it came to ringing a peal of Zagreb Surprise Major at The Wolery this evening, following another afternoon's moving. Despite us two not being at our best, a well-rung 5024 changes of a musical method to a very musical Fred Jackson composition was successfully negotiated, before we returned home to sleep in anticipation of another early start tomorrow.


Tuesday 13th August 2013

After much going to and fro, and living at Kate's, we got the beds into our new home and were thus able to actually move in, rather than just dump stuff there. We are indebted to Kate and Toby in particular for getting us in, as well as Mason who did his bit, and to Pete who was very kindly prepared to help us this evening if we still needed help. But once the mother-in-law had again generously given up her time to help move the mattresses, it was brother Chris and his girlfriend Becky's turn to greatly help us, as the last of the big stuff was transferred from old to new abodes, and the main reason Mr Faircloth was not needed this evening. Thank you to all the aforementioned.

Whilst the move has been going on, ringing across the county has been continuing, and well done to Michelle Clutten, who yesterday rang her first of York Surprise Minor in the quarter at Metfield.

And unsurprisingly, I have received further requests about the funeral arrangements of Alan Smith, to which I am grateful to Colin Spreadbury for imparting to me. There will be a private ceremony for family on the morning of Wednesday 28th August, with a public thanksgiving/memorial service at 2.30pm that day at Coddenham. Provisionally, ringing is pencilled in beforehand from 1.45pm, and possibly afterwards too. Do spread the word, I know there are a lot of people who would like to come if they can.

For now though, we celebrated our nearly completed move by popping up to The Bell & Steelyard for some grub and a drink, but two 4am starts and several days of shifting furniture has taken its toll, and I was well and truly ready to use that newly installed bed.


Monday 12th August 2013

It was back to work with a vengeance, with a 4am start in the dark, seventeen days after leaving for a fortnight of relaxing. Not that it worked out entirely that way.

St Mary-le-Tower. Of course there was no rest even after my much earlier finish, as we still only have days to carry out a house-move, though we were cheered by the appearance of Pete Faircloth and our appearance in the East Anglian Daily Times, as the visit of a reporter and photographer to St Mary-le-Tower was transferred to a spectacular two-page spread on pages 42 and 43 of today's paper, though I can't see any evidence of it on the website. Of course there was the odd strange phrase, like Di's favourite being 'the Cambridge Maximus' and a peal being a method, and people will struggle to get hold of David Potts on mine and Ruthie's landline. Indeed, you'll struggle to get hold of me and Ruthie on it for a while, as TalkTalk have given us some date in about 2017 to connect everything up at our new house.

However, generally those were minor details, and the main thing was that a flavour of ringing and why we so enjoy it was imparted, and as always, whilst it would be nice to get recruits on the back of it, if it at least raises the public's understanding of what we do, then I will view it as a success.

Slightly flagging, we accepted a lift off Kate and Ron and returned to the scene of the feature for this evening's practice, which was slightly light on numbers, as may be expected at this time of the year. It was a shame though for visiting Rambling Ringer Phil Wild of Nottinghamshire, who was down to see family. We still managed a decent course of Little Bob Max on the twelve, as well as some 8-spliced Surprise Major on the front eight, which was rung well until Pudsey nearly floored it!

I just about managed a pint - after Mr Potts and I had to send our watery Golden Jackals back - in The Cricketers, but that 4am start soon caught up with me, and I was well and truly ready for bed when I got back 'home'.


Sunday 11th August 2013

It doesn't feel like it, but it is an entire year since Ruthie became Mrs Munnings, on the happiest day of our lives. Although this week has been stressful enough to contend with the stress of the corresponding week in 2012, we have been eternally grateful that we weren't forced to move exactly twelve months ago!

Besides, we took a break from the whole house-move thing today, and relaxed, beginning with Kate and Mason providing us with some much appreciated breakfast in bed, the li'l chap bursting in shouting "Happy Anniversity"!

From there we headed to Pettistree with my mother-in-law, via picking Pete up, before we returned to Edwin Avenue to prepare for the arrival of family from both sides for a celebration BBQ. As with 365 days ago, the weather was kind to us, and as much as we enjoyed the festivities of our wedding day, today felt a lot more relaxed, as we all chatted, ate and drank, the li'l chap and Lucy playing up the garden, radio commentary from The Ashes match floating on the air.

It is an anniversary we share with Mr and Mrs Redman according to the very upbeat footnote to the quarter of Bob Triples at Long Melford, so congratulations to them too, and well done to Linda Goodban on ringing her first on eight and to David Howe on his one hundredth as conductor.

Quite what the Redman's (and for that matter Linda and David!) did to celebrate I don't know, but we were very grateful to Kate and Ron (and of course Mason!) for helping arrange and set-up our own celebrations today - thanks guys, and Happy Anniversity/Anniversary to my very patient wife!


Saturday 10th August 2013

Ordinarily we wouldn't ring a peal in the middle of a house-move as we did this morning, but this is of course no ordinary house-move, and this was no ordinary peal. For tomorrow is mine and Ruthie's first wedding anniversary, and we wanted to mark the occasion with a peal.

Sadly, Woodbridge - location for our ceremony on that glorious day 364 days ago - are unavailable for peals during the summer months due to a complaint from the last time one was rung at this time of year, though hopefully in the long-term this will be made possible through negotiation and/or sound-control, rather than simply giving up on summer peals altogether. However, the next most logical place to ring this peal was Grundisburgh, where my wife's Godmother is vicar, and the scene of most of our early ringing experiences together, and the twelve was available, once the Witham ringers and friends had been for their outing.

Holidays and then this week's goings on put paid to getting a band for ten or twelve, but we still had a strong Surprise Major band which rang a decent 5001 of Bristol on the back eight. Many thanks to the band for indulging us, and - for those who didn't have to depart for weddings or Ipswich Town's 3-0 win over Millwall - to those who joined us out the front of The Dog for beer and chips!

It was a nice break from moving and shifting stuff between the three houses that can vaguely be called home at the moment, before Mason and I headed off to Ufford to meet up with the Witham ringers outing again, and let them in there.

By the end of the day though, we were exhausted again. We shall be taking a break tomorrow!


Friday 9th August 2013

Today was another busy day, as we got the keys to our new home, so it was a significant day for us. Nonetheless, even we were quite rightly stopped in our tracks by the sorry news that dedicated Guild servant Alan Smith of Coddenham passed away on Monday.

From its ninety years thus far, few names will be mentioned before Alan's in the annals of the Suffolk Guild's history. Treasurer for ten years, and CC Rep for goodness knows how many years, he is a figure of real note, not just within our borders, but well beyond, especially on the Central Council where he was held in very high regard. I met him for the first time for years just a couple of months ago, when the South-East District held it's June Quarterly Meeting at his home tower, but years of debilitating illness meant he cut a sad figure, especially compared to the intelligent sharp man that he once was. When he was at his peak, I was just a youngster, so there are others who will know far more about his character, but suffice to say it is a sad day for the SGR.

It was a sad distraction on the day when our first belongings were dumped into our new house, and Mason was returned to us by Mum and Dad after they kindly took him to Legoland. Many thanks too have to go to Kate and Toby, who both generously gave up their time to help us move with the use of their trailer and van respectively. It helped make a busy day less daunting.


Thursday 8th August 2013

Normally we would have weeks to prepare and pack for a house-move. On this occasion, we have seven days. So we had a quick look around our new abode, and got packing what we could in the old one.

We have got prior commitments though, and whilst we felt shattered mentally and physically, Ruthie and I were delighted to help Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend ring her first quarter of Yorkshire in the 1280 at Ufford prior to another successful Surprise Major practice.

Elsewhere, it was good to see Peta Whiting making a ringing comeback by bonging behind to a 1260 of Bob Doubles at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland - hopefully the first of many more!

For us though, it was time to rest up in preparation for another busy day tomorrow.


Wednesday 7th August 2013

Today goes down as probably the strangest day of my life. Stranger even than waking to find Leicester ringer Terry Astill wandering my student digs the morning after the National Twelve-Bell Final at Birmingham back in 2000, and hearing the reason that The Ringing World wouldn't accept one of Robert Beavis' letters was the accusations of bestiality. Against whom I've never been sure.

For it isn't everyday that you are told that your oven and boiler have been condemned, and that they and the windows with gaps in them won't be replaced because the landlady can't afford to pay for them, thus making your house legally uninhabitable, and meaning you needed to move out.

Thankfully, we are extremely fortunate to have mother-in-law Kate just round the corner, and before we had even asked she immediately and very generously offered her place to put ourselves up at for as long as we need. Which won't be very long as it happens, as before the morning was even out, our letting agents Gobbitt & Kirby had found a place for us to look around, and by the end of the day it was confirmed that this nice little terraced house in Woodbridge would indeed be our unexpected new home by the end of the week. G&K were absolutely superb in circumstances that had shocked them as much as it did us.

Thank you to everyone for their messages of support, and offers of accommodation in places as far apart as Canterbury, Norwich and Halesworth - it is nice to know there is always a place to lay our head if needs be!

For now, we are extremely grateful to Kate for putting us up, and giving us a lift to Pettistree for the first ever quarter of See You Jimmy Surprise Minor and another lively and productive practice, which saw Peter Meyer of Woodbridge do what I wish more learners would do, by venturing beyond the four walls of his home ringing chamber to help progress his Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Minor.

Ixworth.A pint or three in The Greyhound was primarily taken up by recounting our extraordinary day, whilst elsewhere there was some extraordinary ringing, with a handbell peal for the Guild at Pretyman Avenue in Bacton and a quarter of spliced Surprise Major at Ixworth, both very impressive looking efforts worthy of note. As indeed were the efforts of John Ramsbottom in ringing his first of Surprise Major in the 1376 of Cambridge at Bardwell. Well done John.

Sadly though, our hard work at Helmingham yesterday doesn't look like it's going to make the front page of BellBoard, primarily due to a pair of drunk students ringing a handbell quarter whilst sat in cow poo in the middle of some fields. Though it seems entirely in keeping with our very strange day!


Tuesday 6th August 2013

Ever since I first saw the 1993 pealboard at Kersey for the first peal of Suffolk Surprise Major rung by the likes of David Brown, Paul Mounsey and Mark Regan to mark the seventieth anniversary of the formation of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, it has been a ringing ambition of mine to ring a peal of it myself.

Helmingham.Today, I managed it, as we rang a peal of this tricky method to celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the Guild. And very proud of it I was too, as the band worked hard together in hot conditions on the heavy eight at Helmingham to ring a very, very good peal, one worthy of the occasion.

It seemed an appropriate tower in which to ring it too. These are bells that represent the rich past of Suffolk ringing, and with their recent rehang, hopefully a bright future too. But the location epitomises the beautiful surroundings in which we are so fortunate to ring in all the time. As we rang, a group of tourists came in, and distracting as it could have been - though their visit actually coincided with some of our best ringing - I like to think the sound of the bells across the golden fields of crops, through swaying trees, over the rooftops of quaint cottages, past the wonderful grounds of the neighbouring Hall and along the winding narrow lanes of the surrounding countryside may have encouraged them into the church to take a look round.

Of course it was all topped off with a drink and - having been a morning peal as our two week holiday continues - some food at The White Hart in nearby Otley, before we all went our separate ways, for us home for a quiet night in, for some to The Norman Tower practice, others to a quarter of Pudsey Surprise Major. one to fix his printer and for Maggie to the College Youths practice at St Paul's Cathedral, a ringing ambition realised for her too!


Monday 5th August 2013

As ringers, we can underestimate the interest that non-ringers have in ringing. It is after all a complete mystery to most, yet they will all have heard change-ringing at some point.

St Mary-le-Tower.St Mary-le-Tower.St Mary-le-Tower.Tonight we saw that interest in action, as the beginning of St Mary-le-Tower's practice was taken over by a pre-arranged visit from a reporter and photographer from the East Anglian Daily Times/Ipswich Star. They are looking to run a feature on ringing sometime next week, so were here to interview some of us, take pictures and see us in action. It was a little disruptive, as the first half-hour saw no ringing being able to be done at all, but we must always be willing to accommodate those interested in spreading the word of what we're doing. We need to project a positive image.

And once they were gone, the practice was able to continue unabated with a larger than expected attendance for the time of year, before we retired to The Cricketers, which was also very crowded. There is much more to ringing than may meet the eyes of non-ringers.


Sunday 4th August 2013

Back to the usual ringing routine this morning, and with St Mary's choir in Woodbridge having August off, my wife was able to join Mason and me at St Mary-le-Tower, St Lawrence to witness Amanda Richmond juggle her rope, and Grundisburgh, where our sixth twelve of the week was heaving with ringers, even allowing for some Stedman Cinques to be rung.

As much fun as that all was, the highlight of our day was to come this evening, as we three joined neighbours Toby and Amy in going round Nick and Kala's for our latest Come Dine With Me experience. As ever, it was an extremely enjoyable occasion, with good food, good drink and above all good company.

Pettistree Band.Meanwhile, there was a notable landmark reached at Pettistree as the 800th recorded quarter on the restored bells was rung today. It is a by-product of a tremendous ringing scene at SS Peter & Paul, where regular quarters have helped raise and maintain standards, and hopefully it won't be the last big landmark on these bells.

Elsewhere, members might like to note that the Old Newton practice on Tuesday 13th August will in fact be held at Buxhall, in a break from their usual ringing routine.


Saturday 3rd August 2013

Just some of the Rambling Ringers on tour outside Houghton Regis.So that is that for this year. At least for Mason, Ruthie and me, the 2013 and 63rd Rambling Ringers tour ended at Houghton Regis, with typical well-struck and well-rung pieces of Plain Bob Minor and London Surprise Minor for my wife and me respectively, completely in keeping with the standard of ringing this week.

Earlier, Mrs Munnings junior had rung in a touch of Horton's Four methods of Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow and London Surprise Major at Tottenhoe, and we ringers took in a coffee morning at Eaton Bray, ironically the only first tower of the day we three had made since just making the last touch at Pirton on Tuesday, despite this morning having to take our tent down and pack everything into poor Emily, my wife's car.

Today we were joined by Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters, who was brought by my brother Chris and his girlfriend Becky, who was having her first experience of ringing on a Ramblers tour, and more than held her own. It was good to catch up on the progress of their big house move too!

We left them to it though, along with the other Ramblers, but not before partaking in the tour meeting at our last tower. Bar it being announced that one of the towers booked in for the forthcoming week North Marston was now suffering from Death Watch Beetle, and therefore now unable to accommodate the Society, and the usual thanks for the fantastic work Secretary Geoff Pick has carried out in organising this mammoth event, and Ringing Master Chris Woodcock for ensuring the quality of ringing was kept high, the main purpose of this meeting is to decide where the next tour will be going. And for once, they shall be going somewhere that Ruthie and I voted for, as Yorkshire - and particularly the area around Harrogate - was elected as the destination for the 2014 and 64th tour. Even a whole year ahead of time, it is a trip I am eagerly looking forward to.

However, it is this tour which will provide us with happy memories until then, with a high standard of ringing taking in twenty-four towers for us, methods ranging from Flamstead, Westminster and Norwich Surprise Minor, to Horton's Four, eight-spliced Surprise and Bristol Surprise Major, to London Surprise Royal, to Bristol Surprise and Littleport Little Surprise Maximus, on tiny sixes, long-draughted eights and cathedral twelves, with fifty ringers from across the UK and beyond.

For now though, there was a group photo, farewells made, Morrisons across the road visited for lunch, and we three were off back home, to be greeted by post and emails galore. There was some interesting stuff awaiting us mind, including an email from Richard Grimmett highlighting the new website for the Rod Pipe Commemoration Weekend from Friday 11th-Sunday 13th October. I truly hope many from this great man's home county can attend - please, please do take a look at the new web site.

I was also interested to receive some bits of information delivered in the post to me by David Rogers. One was a programme for this year's Thetford Festival, which will be climaxed by a peal on the eight at St Peter on Sunday 8th September. It's good to see bells being used so positively.

He also sent me some photos he found on eBay, of bells in the churchyard of an 'unknown church'. Having won them online, he was able to do some investigation, and discovered they were the then newly augmented ten at Stradbroke, in 1952. Copies have been sent to the Guild Library, and are well worth a gander.

That was far from the end of our day though, and indeed even our ringing, as we were booked in to help out with the annual South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening. Before Kate Eagle introduced this event whilst she was District Ringing Master, this date in the calendar was a particularly difficult one to attract members to. I even remember one August practice at Bramford having to be abandoned because we barely had enough to ring the six there. However, such is the appeal of the quarters and the meal that follows, that current Ringing Master Tom Scase had to increase the usual three quarters to five, meaning Ruthie had to do a bit of extra organising of towers!

Choosing their puds.Many thanks to Tom, Ruthie and Kate (who superbly arranged the meal), who were rewarded for their efforts with a 100% success rate of quarters, and a brilliant turnout at The Three Tuns at Pettistree. My wife and I rang in a brisk and good effort of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Wickham Market as Mason occupied himself in the toy corner in the locked church downstairs, whilst Bob Minor was scored at Bredfield as well as at Pettistree, Doubles at Campsea Ashe, and Grandsire Triples at Ufford. Congratulations to James Smith and Claire Haynes, whose engagement was celebrated in a number of the quarters, and well done to all concerned this evening.

It was a superb way to end not just today, but the week.



Friday 2nd August 2013

The Rambling Ringers excel at five, six and eight-bell ringing. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there are very few occasions you could get such good ringing on these numbers without being involved with the big centres of ringing like London or Birmingham, or without ringing a quarter or peal. But they're not so comfortable on higher numbers, mainly because when touring the UK there are far more five, six and eight-bell towers than tens or twelves for this collective of ringers to go to together.

However, this week has seen an unusually high number of twelves for the tour, with Luton, Hitchin and Leighton Buzzard already visited, and today saw our fourth one in the form of St Albans' Cathedral. What the ringing here showed was that if there were a dozen twelves in every county, the Society would be quite accomplished on these numbers too and though the ringing on these numbers still isn't quite as good as the ringing we usually get on tour, another four leads of Bristol Max were rung here in decent fashion.

St Alban's Cathedral.St Alban's Cathedral.St Alban's Cathedral.St Alban's Cathedral.And although this 2010 replacement of the old twelve are another fine peal of this number, ringing them is no easy task. Not because they go badly, because they don't, as you would hope for such a recent project. Rather, the highly unusual setting of the ringing chamber makes ropesight very difficult. Indeed, the numerous beams that shoot between several of the ropes actually mean you can't see some at all! It is some years since I had rung here, and I had largely forgotten just how fascinating the set-up is. Not just for the beams, but for the fact that the bells are set in the far quarter of the vast central tower, leaving room for another three 21cwt twelves if they so desired! There is also a vast collection of pealboards new and old dotted around the room, some hanging up, some just sat on the side, seemingly waiting to be hung, though the boards from the 1940's may have given up hope of enjoying that status. The name of Don Price again cropped up on the boards, further confirming what we all really know, that despite his modesty, we have a very talented ringer in our midst.

For my wife and others, just getting up there was a challenge, taking in one of those walks far above the chancel, once everybody had gathered at the right place below, many wandering around trying to work out where the north transept was, others simply attempting to figure out if we were meant to be meeting indoors or out!

St Peter, St Alban's.It was the last of four towers rung at by the tour in St Albans today, though only the second for Mason, Ruthie and me. Once again, the process of waking and getting all three of us breakfasted and through the showers took too long for us to make the first tower of St Michael, whilst we were getting lost on foot in a housing estate of the town as the bells were being rung at St Stephen. Thankfully we made it to the ten of St Peter to partake in some London Surprise Royal (No.3) and to leave the li'l chap's later returned jumper, before we grabbed some very nice lunch (with posh chicken nuggets for Mason!) at The White Hart directly opposite the cathedral's east end and then made that terrifying climb into the beams.

Once finally out of this traffic-light obsessed Hertfordshire city (they've had since the Roman times to sort traffic flow, and this is the best they do?), we were joined by former Suffolk resident and maker of superb beer, Claire Monk at Sandridge, a tower recorded as a ground-floor ring on the tour list, but actually up quite a steep set of ladders. I was stuck up there the whole time too, as this was the second time I was running a tower, but my son and wife kindly kept me company, and as with Linslade earlier in the week, it allowed me to enjoy all that was rung, with Barham, Netherseale and Westminster particular highlights of a superbly struck session.

From here, it was off to Lemsford, a dinky little six, where the youngest person to ring a thousand peals, Adam Crocker, rang his first peal, and indeed many since. Andrew Mills - the previous holder of the record - could be heard to jokingly mutter how all Adam's peals here shouldn't have counted towards his record landmark. "Not that I'm bitter..." he remarked with a cheeky smile.

For Mrs Munnings and me, it was a superb course of Ipswich Surprise Minor almost rung at mini-ring speed, and then back to the campsite for tea, and a treat for the li'l chap as he was allowed to sit up with us round the campfire on our last night at Town Farm. Yesterday had seen a huge influx of campers, further enlarged today, and it was impossible to get him to sleep with all the noise going on around the site. So rather than battle a frustrated six-year old, he sat with us and other Ramblers looking out for shooting stars, planes and satellites, as some attempted to barbecue chocolate-filled bananas, though Stephen Croxall enjoyed his a little less having burnt his arm getting his. Having had to go home briefly earlier in the week to see his doctor about a nasty skin infection on his hand, and his side of the blow-up bed constantly deflating, this was the third - and hopefully last - bit of bad luck for him this week. After all, he is one of the Society's best twelve-bell ringers!


Thursday 1st August 2013

Wheathampstead.Wheathampstead. That name will send a shiver down the spines of many who have rung there, including many very talented and experienced ringers. For those still blissfully unaware of what this ground-floor ring of eight evokes in the memories who have been here, this is a peal of bells rung from the chancel, with nearly forty feet of unguided rope above you. A sort of antithesis to Wickham Market if you will.

Of course, if you handle correctly, by pulling straight all the way down, it shouldn't represent a problem, but it doesn't quite work like that. When the Rambling Ringers visited this afternoon, there was much correct handling, as you would expect from a Society which thrives on its members turning up pretty much anywhere, adapting to whatever conditions they're greeted with and ringing well. But there were still plenty of moments when sallies didn't quite come down where you would expect, and just the setting itself is quite daunting, playing tricks with your mind, and introducing doubts that wouldn't usually be entertained on an otherwise easy-going 14cwt eight. Therefore, with Stephen Croxall - a very talented young ringer who has rung all sorts of complicated stuff to a high quality on towerbells and handbells in Cambridge and London - and myself on 1-2 for Grandsire Triples, the sheer anticipation of what was about to come saw us drop our first backstroke horrendously.

To an extent, I had no excuse, having been here before many years earlier, but on that occasion there had been new ropes on too, just to compound the awkward circumstances, and meaning that it hadn't been an entirely pleasant experience. So I was more than a little wary, as were others including my wife, who had listened to my dire warnings ever since we got the tour list a few weeks ago. Still, it is an example of the variety in ringing. It would be dull if every ring was alike, and easy to ring, so to an extent I was slightly disappointed to hear that the new tower captain is keen to put guides in, though it will make them a much easier proposition.

That said, the Ramblers manged admirably, with more good ringing to add to that from earlier in the day, which for Mason, Ruthie and I begun at Little and Great Gaddesden, having failed to get up and off the campsite in time to reach the first tower of the day Studham, but still leaving poor Chris and Ellen Crabtree trying to get their car started. The first tower of our day saw my mother running the ringing, whilst the second made the national news a couple of weeks back for being the scene of a horrific murder in the village, but both towers will be remembered by me for having a go at the method of the day, Flamstead Surprise Minor, on each occasion rung to a high standard.

It was the tower which that method was named after which was not only our next destination, but good practice for what lay ahead, with another long, unguided draught, but also a huge circle completely disproportionate to the size of the bells. We partook in a well-struck course of Ipswich Surprise Minor before listening to others ring them from the beer garden of The Spotted Dog, which backs onto the churchyard of St Leonard. This in itself was a lively experience, with the mince having been sold out the night before, leaving the li'l chap having to make decisions, which isn't his forte! Still, I was impressed by their friendliness and determination to bend over backwards to accommodate us, which led to a pleasant lunch in the company of Stephen Cheek, Tony Crabtree and Chris Woodcock, before we then made our way to Harpenden, and then our nervy experiences at the aforementioned St Helen.

Recovering from that, we made our way to Welwyn for a novel touch of spliced Grandsire and Stedman Triples, before a quick top-up of provisions, storm-proofing of the tent by Mrs Munnings, a look around Mum and Dad's pad on the same site as we are staying, and a night kicked-off by champagne left-over from Chris and Ellen's wedding just a month ago, as toasts were made to them, us, Rex the dog and even to it being Thursday! And to surviving Wheathampstead...


Wednesday 31st July 2013

Ruthie and I enjoy the ringing on Ramblers for the quality and variety. However, it can be a bit much (how some members do the entire fortnight I don't know!), and we were keen that it wasn't going to be all churches and bells for Mason, despite the fact that his natural inquisitiveness (some may say nosiness!) means that he seems in an almost constant state of interest.

Mason on the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway.Mason enjoying being a train driver at the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway.So this morning we passed on the ringing, and instead did something for the li'l chap. Whilst Whipsnade Zoo and Woburn Safari Park are close by, you appear to need a bank account the same size as Liechtenstein's to go there, so we plumped for the more affordable Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway. I can't say this is the most romantic stretch of railway in the land, mostly travelling through the housing estates of the town before finishing at a factory a few miles away, but it did the trick. The boy was enthralled, watching everything with intense concentration, and mulling over what to get from the gift shop. As is normally the case with these types of venues, the staff were friendly and helpful, and it was a nice little trip back in time, though sadly we were led by a diesel rather than a steam engine as that was out of action.

Ringing at Linslade.Ringing at Leighton Buzzard.Ringing at Leighton Buzzard.By the time we had had lunch at The Three Horseshoes in Cheddington, and got some more gas for our stove, we were only in time for the last couple of towers of the day, Linslade and Leighton Buzzard. I was in charge of the former, allowing much time to take in the picture hanging on the ringing chamber wall of the band which rang the first peal on the restored bells back in 1998, including an even more youthful looking David Potts! It also allowed me to take in more of the variety and high-standards that make ringing on Ramblers so special, as near faultless ringing took in Bristol Major, Stedman Triples and a marvelous touch of 8-Spliced Surprise Major on this lovely light eight.

There more references to the St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master at the latter of the two towers, as well as more superb ringing on another nice twelve, including four leads of Bristol Maximus which was particularly impressive for being the first blows of the method for Dutchmen Paul and Harm Jan De Kok. Apart from on Dordrecht's simulator, there's not much opportunity to ring this on the continent!

Once Mason had excitedly shown off the photo of him, Henry Salter and The Wolery band victoriously showing off The Mitson Shield in The Ringing World, we decided to call our short day of ringing to an end and get back to the campsite to be greeted by the media students who we'd met at Luton earlier in the week, and who had since been following us around to film the life of a Rambling Ringer. Though perhaps thankfully they had left by the time another evening ended with beer round the campfire!

Henley.Meanwhile, back in Suffolk, it is encouraging to see so much being achieved by the Guild's youngsters today, with Eleanor Earey ringing her first on eight in the quarter of Grandsire Triples at Henley, Clare Veal ringing her first of seven-Surprise Minor in the 1hr46mins in Old Stoke, and also her first 5040 of Westminster Surprise Minor at the same location, along with George and Colin Salter. Well done all four of you. It's good to see that Mason wasn't the only one enjoying his school holidays today!


Tuesday 30th July 2013

It would be churlish to moan about the weather at the moment. After all, following last year's wash-out, this summer has been absolutely superb, with a pretty much constant heatwave since the beginning of the month. It was always going to end of course, but we were just hoping it would at least wait until after our holiday, so it was slightly depressing to wake on our first morning on site to the sound of rain and wind hitting the tent, and the sight of miserable grey clouds and mist.

Ringing at Hitchin.Luckily, ringing is primarily an indoor pursuit, and at least the bells this morning were as good as the weather was foul, as we took in Pirton, Hitchin and Lilley before lunch. The first tower didn't sound entirely enticing as an anti-clockwise five, but having just made it for a touch of Stedman Doubles and the ringing down, we were pleasantly surprised by this easy going ring in a spacious, clean belfry.

The second was less of a surprise, having only recently been augmented and rehung (as covered in detail on the front of a recent edition of The Ringing World), but I wasn't expecting a long-held view of mine to be challenged. Ever since I rung on them, Towcester have been by far and away my favourite twelve, harder to ring badly than to ring well. But the 17cwt gallery-ring twelve we rang at today were in a similar mould, and got me thinking a bit on that established view. Their Northamptonshire counterparts still just about hold the number-one spot in my humble opinion, mainly for the fact that the treble is quite inaudible at today's peal of bells, but they can be proud of the job that's been done in this Hertfordshire town. I enjoyed them immensely, especially to the well-rung Littleport Little Surprise Maximus - Bristol Major with point/fishtales/three-pull-dodge/fishtales/point above it, a method we ought to be well capable of ringing in Suffolk - as the Society put yesterday's twelve-bell blip out of its mind.

Our personal film crew.A quick ring at the pleasant little six of the aforementioned St Peter (once everyone had worked out which bell was which!) was enough to see Mason, Ruthie and me to The Green Man in Great Offley, the location of our next tower. After a nice meal and much use of the Picks' iPad by the li'l chap, we had a ring and caught up with Mike and Janet Dew who had joined us today on a tour that covers their old home turf, with Mike explaining that his strapped wrist was more to do with laying turf than peal-ringing! I'm not sure Mrs Dew completely agrees!

Ringing at St Ippolyts.Whilst the weather cleared up, conversely the bells that followed our lunch had some big acts to follow, and it isn't entirely harsh to say they didn't live up to the standards of bells set earlier, with King's Walden in particular a difficult six which dropped a lot and had a long draught to boot, though St Ippolyts were a pleasant follow-up.

With the boy feeling understandably weary, we passed on the two Wymondleys that made up the last towers of the day, and made our way back to the campsite for another evening of beer around the campfire, whilst back in the homeland, Caroline Bass was ringing her first quarter of Grandsire inside in the pre-practice success at Offton. Well done Caroline, it's good to see ringers achieving come rain or shine!


Monday 29th July 2013

Having given the whole 'ringing-has-so-much-to-offer' rant only a couple of days ago, I shan't bore you all with another one, but suffice to say, today saw the start of perhaps one of the very best examples of the variety and reach of our art if you take just a small step out of your comfort zone - the 63rd Rambling Ringers Tour.

This is no ordinary tower grab. This is an example of how ringing should be done. A huge repertoire of methods to be dabbled with to whatever extent you like, at a wide range of different locations, some good bells, some not quite so good, but all with a high standard of ringing, carried out with friends from across the UK and indeed beyond. During this tour, we shall be ringing with ringers from Cambridgeshire, Devon, Durham, Essex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Warwickshire, Yorkshire and Holland, with a consistent and encouraging youthful element of teenagers upwards. Over the years it has attracted the likes of David Pipe, Michael Wilby, Simon Poole and Matthew Higby. The famous Andrew Mills has been a fixture since Mum, Dad, Chris and I went on our first tour to Worcestershire in 1994 and before then, and indeed has been Ringing Master, and someone who it has been of huge benefit for me to ring with from a young age. His also talented father Brian (now sadly no longer with us) and brother Stephen have both been regulars on tour. Chris Woodcock - the current Ringing Master, and one of the best younger ringers in the country - has been helping raise standards further in recent years, and the Society has largely been responsible for the progress of the De Kok family from Dordrecht and the subsequent rise of the phenomenal ringing scene on the continent with the Central European Association. As much as the Society is looking to add to its numbers (like any such organisation hoping to survive beyond the next few years), this is no place to practice your Bob Doubles and Plain Hunt, though exceptions are made for members' children and partners. It is a fortnight-long tour taking in over eighty towers and being listened to a huge number of trained and untrained ears, as well as an opportunity for members to enjoy consistent top notch ringing.

This year's tour is going around Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, started at Ampthill on Saturday afternoon, and doesn't finish until they go to Cheddington a week on Friday. Our participation started today though, beginning with picking Mason up early from his mother's, our car already packed last night and full to the brim with camping equipment. About two hours later, we were at Town Farm Campsite near Leighton Buzzard, setting up our tent in beautiful surroundings on the edge of the Chilterns. With Mason already on the play equipment and making friends with other kids, the wife and I put our home for the few days up with remarkably little stress and surprisingly quickly, despite having to walk our begun erection halfway across the site when it was pointed out we were pitching it away from the other ringers on site.

It allowed us to then get on with joining the tour, and whilst we arrived too late to ring at Codicote (Peter and Jane Harper's home tower for many years before they came to Suffolk), we were in plenty of time for the first tower after lunch, Kimpton, and to grab a bite to eat in the village. With The White Horse pub almost next door to the church closed today, it fell to The Boot further down the road to accommodate us and numerous other Rambling Ringers in their roasting conservatory, including our very own Stephen Cheek, as we caught up with the goings on of the tour thus far.

A soaking on the way to the church later, and we were truly under way, joining the ringing at the nearby 10cwt eight of SS Peter & Paul, a course of Superlative Surprise and method of the day Knebworth Surprise under the belts of Ruthie and me respectively, a picture of Don and Helen Price from their time here noted, and Linda Pick hastily rehanging the model bell she accidentally knocked off its shelf!

It was a lively start, but only the start, as we then made our way to Luton, a place I remember well from getting lost in when trying to find St Mary's church for an ultimately successful peal of Grandsire Cinques back in 2006. No such problems this time, meaning we three were able to take in the full 'glory' of this 25cwt twelve, accompanied by some media students enthralled at our unusually badly rung Yorkshire Maximus.

Ringing at Whipsnade.From there we headed onto the tiny six at Whipsnade, grabbed a quick ring and headed to the nearest supermarket to stock up on provisions of the food and drink kind for the days ahead. It was ultimately a more successful trip than Mum and Dad's to another supermarket nearby at the same time, which saw them hit from behind once, and then have their wing mirror taken off by a passing car as they were sorting the previous incident out!

Ruthie settled down at the campsite.Cooking tea!Ramblers sat round the campfire.They were unharmed thankfully, as was their car by and large, meaning they were able to impart their unfortunate tale to us as they joined the campers for a chat at the start of an evening that ended with an exhausted Mason in bed, and us sat round a campfire catching up with friends not seen for far too long, the interesting-sounding bells of Ivinghoe ringing out over the site on the locals practice night, and The Ramblers Arms open for business. If today is anything to go by, we are in for a fun week of all that ringing offers.


Sunday 28th July 2013

Halesworth.It's not often we ring at two different towers over twenty miles apart on a Sunday morning, but we managed it today, and enjoyed some very good ringing along the way. Having woken up at Philip and Maggie's and been the beneficiaries of their tremendous hospitality following yesterday's exploits, the least we could do was help out at Halesworth for their service ringing, along with our fellow house guests from Hampshire. There can't have been many places ringing Bristol Major this morning, at least not to the standard that it was on this 18cwt ground-floor eight!

Saying our farewells to Ed, Graham, John, Roy and of course our hosts, all of whom bar Mr Gorrod were off to ring Mr Wright's 750th peal in the success at Wilby (congratulations Graham!), we then made our way to our next destination. We had then been requested to help out at Ufford, down the A144 and A12, a request we were more than happy to accept, and though we didn't quite ring Bristol, there was some more good eight-bell ringing here.

Ruthie eating cake at Pete & Susanne's.Pete proudly showing off his pop-up tent......and then trying to put it away!Having been to Pete and Susanne's for tea and cake, and to watch Mr Faircloth's hilarious demonstration on how not to put away their pop-up tent, we returned in the evening to the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary for a quarter of Yorkshire to celebrate the recent royal birth, but which more importantly was Anne Buswell's first of Surprise Major, in a really good effort. Well done Anne!

That wasn't the only success on Suffolk bells today though. Well done to Rowan Wilson, Barry Dixon and Alex Tatlow on ringing their first of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal in the 1282 at The Norman Tower, and to Neal Dodge and Simon Veal on ringing their first peal inside in the Grandsire Doubles at Great Barton, two years, three-hundred and sixty-four days after young Mr Dodge and Clare Veal's first handling lesson. The progress of the youngsters from Holy Innocents in that time has been a real highlight for the Guild, and I hope there is much more to come.

For Ruthie and me there was no more to come today, as exhausted after our exuberance last night and travelling this morning, and in need of a rest before an even busier day - all being well, God willing and all that - tomorrow, we returned home to rest our weary heads.


Saturday 27th July 2013

For far too many ringers, their experience of our art is a limited one, often to one tower, usually to just a handful of ringers, twice a week, restricted to whatever those around them can manage. It is such a crying shame, as they could be enjoying what some of us enjoyed today.

Badingham.As George Salter and Alex Tatlow were partaking in a 1839 of Stedman Cinques in the grand surroundings of Southwark Cathedral (well done to the former on ringing his longest length of Cinques), visiting ringers Natalie Brett, Rose Nightingale and Nicholas Brett were ringing their most methods and variations in the quarter of Doubles at Badingham, South-West District members were taking advantage of their practice at All Saints in Sudbury, and ringers rang for a wedding at Grundisburgh and no doubt many other towers across Suffolk, Ruthie and I were ringing a quarter of four-spliced Caters and Royal at Beccles, followed by curry and drink back at Philip and Maggie's.

This was something that ticked all the ringing boxes. An interesting and well-rung performance carried out with good ringers and good company, topped off by as much food, beer and wine we could get down us. The quarter itself was something different, but not complicated, bringing up different music, and showing that doing something new doesn't need to be difficult. If you can ring Cambridge or Yorkshire Royal - and many of you can - then you can do this.

It was hot work though, especially for those who had earlier rung a peal at Carlton Colville, so we were glad of refreshment in Halesworth after a very pleasant drive through beautiful sun-basked countryside. A game of croquet was begun but interrupted first by a band photo to up the 'likes' on BellBoard (don't delay, like today!), and then food, before rain stopped play altogether. Instead, we spent the rest of the evening and night drinking almost endlessly from Maggie's jugs, recalling various tales ringing and non-ringing related, and watching footage of some hilarious drunken handbell ringing at three in the morning in Philip and Maggie's bar, following a trip to the beer festival at The Wissett Plough! I'm hoping and praying it ends up on Facebook!

Neil getting a beer from the host at the bar in Philip & Maggie's house.It was great to see Neil and Nikki from over the border in Norfolk, and Ed, Graham, John and Roy from down in Hampshire. But of course it was great to enjoy the superb hospitality of Maggie and Philip again. The whole event was in honour of the recent birthday of the immediate past Guild Chairman and Mr Gorrod was in my opinion one of the very best officers the Guild has had, so we were delighted to celebrate with him.

And all this was possible through the varied and wide-reaching world of ringing that so many more should take advantage of.


Friday 26th July 2013

We received our copy of the method sheet for the forthcoming Rambling Ringers tour from the society's Ringing Master Chris Woodcock. Essentially it is a list of various out-of-the-norm blue lines to have a go at over the course of the tour, including a method of the day for each day. It may seem quite daunting, but the thinking behind it is sound. Over fourteen days, the tour will be going to eighty-five towers across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. It is an invasion really, and a lot of people will hear us, more often than not at times they wouldn't usually hear their local bells being rung, so the ringing has to be good, which is why the Society is careful about who joins them, though of course like any ringing organisation or band who want a future, they are always keen for new members.

However, despite the excitement and interest of visiting different places that we would never visit if it wasn't for ringing, and the flexible nature of the tour which sometimes sees up to eighty people coming and going over the course of the fortnight, if you are on it for more than a day or two there is a danger of ringing fatigue setting in. Therefore, it is vital that people have something to stop that happening, hence a collection of different but - in the main - not difficult methods to have a go at if they so choose.

It has further raised the sense of anticipation for us, but for now there are domestic duties to be dealing with, such as dropping off and collecting Mason from his grandparents, and bringing members attentions to some forthcoming Guild events, starting with Saturday evening's South-West District Practice at All Saints in Sudbury. It isn't just holiday season for us, but of course for many people that may usually attend such an event, so if you are about and can make it, then it almost certain that your help and support would be appreciated. That of course goes for a lot of events over the next few weeks, including the Great Barton Afternoon Summer Practice, being held every Wednesday over the summer holidays. And then there is the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening on Saturday 3rd August. Such is the popularity of this event on a date which once only attracted a handful of attendees, that the number of quarters has risen from three to five, but only a small number have booked their meal for afterwards in The Three Tuns at Pettistree. The gathering of the quarter-pealers and other hangers on is what has really made this event in the past, and presumably the majority of ringers will be coming along to this delightful pub for what I'm sure will be a superb social occasion. But it would really help Kate Eagle - who is organising the meal - if you could make her aware of your intention to attend and what you want to eat from the menu, which has been sent out and can be found on the What's On.

Meanwhile, well done to George Salter on ringing his first peal of Stedman, and Graham Wright on what I'm sure is a true highlight of his ringing career, ringing his first peal of Stedman Doubles, all in the success at St Lawrence in Ipswich.

Along with obscure methods, district practices, afternoon sessions, quarters and meals in country pubs, it is another example of the variety which makes ringing so interesting.


Thursday 25th July 2013

Unruly kids. From those that just hang around on street corners, to those who carry out vandalism, to those who binge drink and take drugs, right down to those who steal cars and the like, the stock excuse is that there is nothing for them to do. It is absolute rot of course. What they actually mean is there is nothing they can be bothered to do.

Ringing alone offers something meaningful and productive for youngsters almost everywhere (certainly in the south of England) to take part in and enjoy, as our very own youngsters show, and not just those who represented Suffolk ringing with such distinction in York recently. Almost certainly within very close distance of pretty much every child in the UK, there will be a hobby that they could partake in, that gives them new skills, disciplines them and generally rounds them into a better person. Choirs, volunteering, morris dancing, football, cricket, rugby, table tennis, gymnastics, go-karting and much, much more, are accessible, and today I found that even in bell-less - bar a single 4cwt bell at St Andrew - Alderton, nearly at the end of the remote Bawdsey Penisula, there is at least one activity that can be partaken in yards from the sea. For today I had my first go at lawn bowls on another sweltering day in beautiful surroundings, having previously only watched occasionally on TV (the father of one of my uni friends used to be one of the BBC's commentators on the sport meaning that I had more of an interest than I might normally have had) and over the fence at George and Di Pipe's abode.

My introduction to playing this most noble of sports, was as part of the latest John Catt jolly. One of my colleagues in the office, James, plays for the village club in tournaments and leagues, with Ian who also traipses the same bits of carpet at work as me another who plays league bowls locally, so it was thought a good idea to have a friendly company tournament.

The John Catt Bowls Tournament at Alderton Bowls Club.And indeed it was, though the sunburn I suffered playing outside in the midday sun may have suggested otherwise. This is a very thoughtful game, with a good mixture of the genteel and competitive, a sport for anyone of any age from any background. Yet it won't surprise you that like so many ringing chambers across the country, there is a worrying shortage of youngsters taking it up. With the summer holidays now underway, I could almost hear the voices of parents grumbling about how there is nothing for them or their kids to do in this boring village, as we enjoyed over three hours of engaging competition within their community.

Although I don't have the time with ringing to take this up as a new pastime, my positive perception of the game was considerably encouraged by the fact that I was a member of the winning partnership today, aided somewhat by being paired up with league player Ian, but like with ringing and countless other hobbies, there is absolutely no reason why those bored kids and indeed their parents couldn't also be enjoying what we did this morning. Apart from of course, laziness, low concentration thresholds and misplaced vanity.

We all celebrated mine and Ian's triumph with a meal in The Ramsholt Arms just a couple of miles away. Under new ownership and having undergone an extensive refurbishment, I have to admit that whilst the food is nice, the portions are a little on the small side and quite expensive, though as usual everything was on JCEL today. But it retains its perfect location overlooking various small boats on, and families crabbing in the sparkling River Deben, fields and forests as far as can be seen on the other side up until the North Sea and the tops of the cranes at Felixstowe Docks. If this had been lost to pubgoers it would've been criminal, so I hope they make a good fist of it.

I returned to Woodbridge with my trophy and sunburn to collect Mason with some slightly different arrangements in the coming weeks, before we popped round Kate's to collect the camping gear we will need over that period. There was no Grundisburgh practice this evening though, a reminder that we need to keep reaching out to those bored families rather than expect them to come to us.

However, there was plenty of ringing happening as might be expected with holidays and the big birth on Monday, which continues to be marked by peals and quarters around the world, including within our own borders. Well done to the ringers at Great Barton on ringing what is believed to be the first thirty changes of Prince George Alexander Louis Slow Course Doubles recorded in the UK, before then ringing a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor, which was also George Reynolds' first of treble dodging, and Clare Veal's 50th quarter. Particularly well done George, and congratulations Clare.

There was a 1260 of Bob Doubles rung in Prince George's honour at Chediston, and Robert Beavis continued his transformation from republican to monarchist with yet another effort dedicated to his favourite new-born, as he and Alex Tatlow rang their first peal of 8-spliced Surprise Major in the 5184 on the back eight of the county's lightest twelve. Well done both of you, and to all who showed today that there is always something to do.


Wednesday 24th July 2013

So now we know. The new-born Royal is to be called Prince George of Cambridge, to go alongside Prince George of Ipswich and Prince George of Old Stoke.

And Suffolk ringing has certainly responded to his birth, the quarters of Doubles rung at Buxhall and Wickham Market to be added to yesterday's successes within our borders. Today though, saw even more dedicated to the arrival of he who - God willing - will reign over us one day, or at least over those still around once he comes to the throne following the reigns of his great-grandmother, his grandfather and his father. There was a 1260 of spliced Plain and Little Bob Minor at Pettistree, and well done to Richard Brewster and Jackie Latham on his first Surprise as conductor in the quarter at Preston St Mary and her first Minor as conductor in the Norwich at Tostock respectively. Though a peal at the five plus one of Tattingstone was apparently lost in the fifth extent of seven.

Not everything rung today was dedicated to Prince George Alexander Louis (a fine GAL) of course, but there were still some notables in amongst them. Well done to Christine Richardson on ringing and calling her most methods in the success at Great Barton and on ringing her first of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Woolpit for example. And well done again to Jackie Latham, as well as to Anne Bridge, who both rang their first blows of Sandal Treble Bob Minor in the effort at Pakenham.

Sadly, Ruthie and I shall have to wait a little longer to partake in the fun, as an attempt planned for the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower was called off in advance with holidays biting, but it did at least mean we could attend the practice that followed on from that earlier quarter of spliced Minor at SS Peter & Paul, as the returns of the Garners and Harpers from their respective holidays livened things up and saw a better attended session than the last couple of weeks.

It was all finished off with a drink outside The Greyhound on another lovely evening. It's not always as nice as this George!


Tuesday 23rd July 2013

Offton.I owe a lot of what I've done in ringing to Offton. Sproughton kicked things off for me undoubtedly, where I predominantly learnt to handle and made my first forays into change-ringing, under the guidance of Mum, Dad and Ralph Earey. Grundisburgh and St Mary-le-Tower introduced me to ringing on higher numbers, thanks to the support of the likes of Stephen Pettman, Simon Rudd, Amanda Richmond and Owen Claxton. But it was Tuesday nights at Offton, under the leadership of Brian Whiting that I did most of my initial eight-bell ringing.

The practices and quarter beforehand offered me my first ventures into the world of Surprise Major and spliced-Surprise Major, but I occasionally feel guilty about attending their superb BBQ without actually ever visiting the light ground-floor eight in this quiet corner of Suffolk. So it was appropriate that two days after my 2013 visit to Brian and Peta's for their annual bash in the sunshine, that Ruthie and I arrived early at St Mary's church for a quarter 10-Spliced Surprise Major, with the standard eight plus Ashtead and Uxbridge. Sadly, after a few attempts, we had to give up with the main session about to begin. It was a shame, as it would have been nice to have joined the many footnotes to the birth of the new prince - which included an apt peal of Cambridge Royal at Westminster Abbey - but there aren't many places that would even attempt this, and it has to be said that the ringing up until the collapses - usually in London - was of a good standard.

Still, at least there were quarters rung elsewhere in the county, including one dedicated to Baby Cambridge (please give this child a name soon, before that catches on!) at Pakenham, with a band including the monarchy's biggest fan, Robert Beavis, fresh from having paid his debt off. However, the handful of quarters rung by predominantly Bristol Uni pals of Beavis and Tatlow today were mainly dedicated to Adam Bennett, who not only rang his first blows of Grandsire Minor in that royal 1260 at the Blessed Virgin Mary, but earlier rang his first blows of St Martin's, St Simon's and of spliced, and therefore of course his most methods in the Doubles at Whepstead. Well done Adam!

We got over our valiant loss with a practice that years after it offered me many opportunities to progress on eight, was still doing it this evening for the likes of Caroline Bass, Nathan Colman, Eleanor Earey and Tim Stanford amongst others. Almost the entire gamut of the standard eight were rung, as was Grandsire Triples and Oxford Treble Bob, with the traditional cuppa also enjoyed, though this is now served from the kitchen added since my days of regularly coming here.

Something else that has remained but changed since those days back in 1990s is the post-practice drink at The Limeburners nearby. Despite closure, subsidence and refurbishment, the ringers have stuck to this delightful outpost in the rolling fields of this area, but the building itself has changed a lot. The fish 'n' chip restaurant adjoining it is now well-established, but wasn't about when I had my first legal pint here. The two rooms that once made things a little cosier have long been knocked through to make a more open tavern, and the entrance to the car-park is at the opposite end of the inn to where it used to be. But it is still essentially the same lovely place to have a pint that it once was, especially on a warm evening like this, which allowed us to sit outside before sudden rain drove us indoors.

So thank you Offton, not just for those early lessons in eight-bell ringing, but for a great evening out, and long may you continue doing what your doing.


Monday 22nd July 2013

As I drove Ron, Kate and Ruthie into Ipswich for bagpipe and St Mary-le-Tower practice, there was only one question on our lips. Maybe we might get an answer before the evening was out. Perhaps we would have to wait until tomorrow. There was excited speculation in the car, as we impatiently pondered what could've happened today at a location far away.

Had Robert Beavis settled his debt with Brian Whiting for yesterday's BBQ when they met at today's quarter at Offton?

We never did find out, but we did discover that the future King of the UK and Commonwealth was born at 4.24pm today, though not what he is called, news that didn't reach us until we left SMLT. As I've mentioned before, I'm no royalist, but I don't hold anything against them, so congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, avid readers of this blog of course.

It will no doubt give birth to a flurry of footnotes to quarters and peals across the world, some tagged to already arranged attempts, others specially arranged for this bit of history, and I hope that we in Suffolk don't get left behind.

The downside was that this was the type of story that the 24-hour rolling news channels envisaged they were born for, meaning the BBC and Sky competed endlessly for the record of longest uninterrupted coverage of a story with absolutely NO new information.

Mason - at the back - in his first race of the morning.I had a day off work today, so it could've made for a long boring day, but thankfully I had much to distract me, most notably Mason's sports day. He did superbly, running in three races, one of which he came last in primarily because he stopped to wave and smile at his cheering fans! Most importantly of all though, he had a good time.

With Ruthie finished work at two, we then spent the afternoon relaxing in our garden, cool drink in hand, Radio Suffolk on and the world seeming very peaceful in contrast to the frenzy at St Mary's Hospital the best part of a hundred miles away.

A crowded St Mary-le-Tower belfry.Come the evening, it was still very warm and humid, so much so that David Potts had very sensibly suggested to folk that they bring water to the practice. As with last week, the heat seemed to contribute to a poorer standard of ringing than usual here at first, though things improved, with a course of Stedman Cinques littered with far too many mistakes and careless striking, but never in any danger of collapsing, and a well-rung half-course of Yorkshire Max particularly notable for it being Colin Salter's first attempt of it. Well done Colin!

The humidity was not helped by an otherwise welcome large attendance, with nearly thirty squeezed into the warm ringing chamber, including visits from Woodbridge ringer Peter Mayer, and Adam Bennett and Richard Webster, friends of Alex Tatlow from Bristol, who had been ringing in today's quarters at Offton and Gislingham.

In such humidity, the beer garden of The Cricketers was calling once again, before we returned home, some questions answered, others not.


Sunday 21st July 2013

The crowds gather as Janet, Jo and Will watch on.The Vestey Ring is raised. Relaxing in the shade.Bowls on the lawn.Robert Beavis, Alex Tatlow and Jed Flatters attempt Plain Hunt on Six on the Vestey Ring double-handed.If there is one event in the ringing calender that appears to guarantee good weather, it is the Offton BBQ held at Brian and Peta Whiting's delightful rural paradise, surrounded by miles of beautiful rolling Suffolk countryside, fields and trees as far as the eye can see, only interrupted by the occasional cottage. I have been privileged to have attended many of these since I was a much younger chap, as my mother's Tupperware could testify, if indeed inanimate plastic containers could speak of such history, but I only once recall having to dash into their lovely ancient beamed home due to rain. Even during last year's astoundingly mislabeled 'summer', when most outdoor events were washed out, a roasting hot day was somehow plucked out of thin air for the occasion.

So there was more than a sniff of irony on the wind that during the longest heatwave the UK has seen for nearly a decade, Mason and I today carried out our usual Sunday morning routine of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh - where Peter Emery was quite rightly chuffed with the peal rung in his honour on these bells twenty-four hours earlier - under a blanket of grey cloud, which liberally dispensed drizzle at will. Despite assurances from the weather forecasters that things would be clearing up this afternoon, it was hard to imagine it happening.

But happen it did, allowing for more memories of sitting in the sunshine eating, drinking and socialising to be banked in the Offton BBQ file! As ever, it was superb, with a feast of food to get through, two barrels of homebrew and a huge crowd of friends and family present. There were some absentees from the usual attendees, such as the Pipes, with George improving but still not up to public appearances. The Pettmans and Garners were also unusually absent, and sadly we left before any sign of Arnie Knights, but there were other new faces there to help compensate, not least that of Robert Beavis, who arrived to a barrage of friendly abuse and left with a £12 debt!

It was also nice to see Aunty Marian there, and Chris attending his first of these for some years, accompanied of course by Becky who was also making her debut at this event.

Regulars or newbies though, it was as usual a delight to mingle out in the bright sun, in the kitchen by a table loaded with delicious grub, under the shade of the established trees in the garden, on the lawn playing bowls or underneath The Vestey Ring, where much was rung from the kids having a play about, to some well rung Surprise Minor in various methods, a touch of Original and an attempt by Messrs Beavis, Tatlow and Flatters to ring Plain Hunt on Six double-handed.

It was - as it always is - a fundraiser too, part of Offton's challenge for the St Edmund Clapper, the competition open to all Guild towers to see who can raise the most money in a year for the Restoration Fund, which - despite RCB's efforts - is now £450 better off!

As with last year, the only downside was that Ruthie was unable to make it as it fell on the Sunday she was working, though the li'l chap and I did drop her a larger than usual lunch as some form of compensation before we left for the idyllic landscape south of Stowmarket, and was able to return with a rare raffle prize for her!

However, Kate had very kindly driven Ron, the boy and me over there allowing me a couple of drinks and to fully relax. We left after several hours of all of the above, with things still very much in swing, conscious of getting Mason home and to bed ahead of a big day for him tomorrow, and my poor wife at home who would've rather have been with the rest of us, but our thanks go to Mr and Mrs Whiting on yet another tremendous social occasion (it was mentioned there were more ringers present then at many district events!) and well done to them on raising so much money for the BRF.

There had been ringing going on elsewhere in Suffolk mind, and congratulations to George Salter on ringing his 150th peal in the successful 5040 of Whitley Surprise Minor at the top of his garden. I suspect just one of the earliest of many peal-ringing landmarks to come for this talented young ringer.

For us though, we were heading home via the winding country lanes surrounding our afternoon's entertainment, full-up, satisfied but slightly disappointed to be leaving. And as with every time I leave here, I was already looking forward to coming back next year. Hopefully the sun will shine on us again!


Saturday 20th July 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.For some weeks now, I’ve commented upon how well I feel the St Mary-le-Tower band has been progressing on higher numbers, and today – despite failure – that view was strengthened. For in cloudy but humid conditions this afternoon on the 35cwt twelve in the centre of Ipswich, a predominantly local band attempted a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus. Bar Brian Meads, James Smith and Mike Pollard (the talented young ringer who was with us for a few months last year, but has since been to York and is now resident in Lincoln), the participants were regular ringers at SMLT and/or resident Suffolk Guild members, and the vast majority of centres of twelve-bell ringing across the world would be delighted to even contemplate attempting a peal of Bristol Max.

Nonetheless, this was a group of ringers which hadn’t rung the method for some time. However, though we were of course aiming to score, the three courses and hour and fifteen minutes of ringing – though occasionally and understandably ropey – was in the main reasonable, if unspectacular, and showed visible progression for twelve-bell ringing in the county, with any number of resident Guild members capable of taking part today – including Ruthie who was otherwise engaged singing at a wedding for St Mary’s choir in Woodbridge - or in the near future. However, it is going to need those capable to put the effort in, learn the method, and be prepared to come and ring it. My wife and I know firsthand that the Sunday evening monthly practices aren’t always easy to commit to, but there seems fewer reasons why a core of ringers up to ringing it shouldn’t be able to attend Monday evening practices most weeks, if not every week. This isn’t just about showing off (though it would be a tremendous advert for Suffolk ringing generally), but about improving standards. For if we can make Bristol Max the standard, Yorkshire Max becomes a lot easier, as will most other methods on all numbers for those ringing, allowing them to concentrate more on striking in those methods, and hopefully having a positive knock-on effect on those which these Bristol Max ringers ring with elsewhere. The better you get at ringing, the more fun it becomes!

Today though, if you are going to lose a peal, we lost it at the right time. Long enough for any sensible considerations of going for it again or attempting a quarter to be quashed, but not so long to leave with that terrible feeling of having lost a peal in the home straight. And it allowed a bit more time to sit outside The Cricketers with a golden, summery ale, the sound of St Lawrence and then St Margaret’s bells being rung by visiting ringers from the Midland Counties Guild, before I collected Mason from his grandparents, whom I had left him with beforehand at the aforementioned town centre eight where they were ringing for a wedding.

Let’s hope that next time I drop him off whilst I attempt a land band peal of Bristol Max, I will be a little longer!


Friday 19th July 2013

Keen cricketer Mason was playing an away match at Copdock this afternoon, so I was glad that Kara was bringing him back to Woodbridge, as not starting until 5pm, I wouldn't have been able to get there in time after work. However, I have to admit that I didn't much fancy negotiating the A14 and A12 in rush-hour traffic, and the many looking to get away for another hot weekend, all exasperated by the immense numbers travelling to the Latitude Festival at Henham Park (though I was even gladder not to have travel on the stretch of the A12 from Wickham Market northwards which is so woefully inadequate for this event or indeed anything along there larger than a car boot sale), and no doubt many who had to drive rather than catch a train, with Ipswich Railway Station closed for most of the day due to some selfish twerp on the roof.

Instead, I enjoyed my commute to work, which amounts to nothing more than a ten minute walk through tree-lined suburbia and forested pathways in glorious summer sunshine, though such weather may not have been entirely ideal for ringing a peal on the heavyweight eight at Helmingham. So very well done to the band who did ring a 5056 of Superlative Major, and congratulations to Ruth Suggett on ten years of peal-ringing! And well done on getting there!


Thursday 18th July 2013

With no Grundisburgh practice, and an early finish at choir for Ruthie, we decided to take advantage of another absolutely gorgeous evening by chopping back a huge bush that had grown at a rapid rate outside our bathroom window. Well, my wife cut it back, as I wasn't about to argue with a determined lady clutching a pair of shears and a saw.

We then felt we had earned a pint. Well, Mrs Munnings did, and I wasn't going to argue with a determined lady clutching a pair of shears and a saw, and in need of a drink...

So we wandered down to sit in The Mariners' delightful beer garden, where we were joined later by neighbour Toby, the evening well and truly taken advantage of.


Wednesday 17th July 2013

Having missed out on fully enjoying the weekend, and to help further celebrate Ruthie's birthday, we both took a day's holiday today. We picked a good occasion on which to do so too, as the hottest day of the year thus far came to town, and once we'd visited my wife's Nan and had a summer clean of the house, it enabled us to sit outside having our tea, with a glass of wine in hand, and a line of Glazgow Surprise Minor in front of us.

That line was a part of a summer's evening of ringing that showcases Pettistree's practice at its best. With the cool church and a sun-soaked churchyard at our disposal, Mike was able to run another effective practice, whilst those not ringing could socialise freely, with absentees replaced by visitors Marion from Essex, and Sonia and John from Sussex on their annual holiday in Suffolk. I had a conversation with Sonia about attendances at local ringing events, prompted by one of my regular rants on the subject on this blog a couple of weeks ago. It is interesting to note it isn't just a problem we have, and nice to share ideas on how to improve the paltry turnouts we sometimes get at district practices and meetings.

In between ringing and chatting, I was interested to read in a recent copy of The Ringing World, the report on the 2013 Central Council Meeting in Guildford. It now appears a rebranding is being considered, which would be interesting to see, though it still wouldn't get me becoming a CC Rep again!

Elsewhere, well done to Clare Veal and Colin Salter on ringing their first peal of Spliced Major in the 5000 at The Wolery, but for us, an evening that began with a quarter of Glazgow, ended with a pint or three outside The Greyhound, before Kate very kindly drove us home, the very last drops of this lovely day eked out.


Tuesday 16th July 2013

Happy Birthday Ruthie!

It was her first as Mrs Munnings of course, and she wasn't working today, so she was treated to a morning of shopping in Ipswich by her Mum - thanks Kate!

I was back at work, but was delighted to join her for an evening in of watching one of her presents, the DVD of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a story of strange little creatures encountering all sorts of gruesome hurdles in order to find their way home and defeat the dragon holed up there. A bit like a night out in Great Yarmouth I imagine.


Monday 15th July 2013

Ruthie and I were slowly reintroduced to the world today, but not before we both took a very rare day off our respective jobs and popped down the doctors. With another beautiful sunny day outside, our time consisted of watching TV, and taking in Countdown's explanation of the link between dumbbells and ringing - apparently the action of ringing was much mimicked at one time, as it was considered such good exercise!

The time off did the trick though, as we felt well enough to go to a busy and humid St Mary-le-Tower practice, and whilst there was an element of us being there in body only, I'm not sure we were the only ones! The heat seemed to get to people, with it being our worst practice for some weeks. The striking wasn't at its best and concentration was severely lacking. Even the half-course of Yorkshire Max which has been steadily improving in recent weeks came crashing to a halt in very disappointing fashion.

Still, a drink in The Cricketers afterwards helped cool hot brains, and quell frustration, though I also learnt of the sad passings of Jenny Coley and John Bonney. The former wasn't a ringer, but was the wife of Ipswich St Margaret ringer Roger Coley, who along with her husband held tower BBQ's at their lovely home in Westerfield, which I remember with much fondness. The latter was also a ringer at the wobbly tower overlooking Christchurch Mansion, and once an attender of district and Guild events, though I haven't seen him for many years. I'm sorry to hear of the passing of both Jenny and John, and our thoughts are with their families of course.

There was good news too, as Mum revealed to me that earlier in the evening she had partaken in Eleanor Earey's first of Minor in the quarter at Sproughton. Well done Ellie!

As our day drew to a close, we mused that things can only get better, with Ruthie's birthday coming up tomorrow. Today though, we rested.


Sunday 14th July 2013

It was Woodbridge Regatta day today, and therefore Sea Sunday at St Mary-the-Virgin where we attended the service this morning. There was a suitably nautical theme to proceedings, with people dressed in sailor stripes, captain's hats on show, life jackets worn, and even a dinghy in church. And Mason had a pirates t-shirt on.

Beforehand, the boy and I did what Robert Beavis had failed to manage earlier in the week, by making it to the ringing chamber for some Rounds and Call-Changes on the front six, but still feeling low, that was about the sum part of our day, bar briefly feeding Pete and Susanne's cat in their absence.

It meant missing the Regatta itself, and also the special practice at St Mary-le-Tower in the evening, which was a shame.

However, as with yesterday, I'm glad to report the ringers of Suffolk continued on no matter what our condition, with the second Sunday peal-band giving the residents of Aldeburgh a break by ringing the first peal for the Guild and the band of Otmoor Surprise Major. And well done to George Reynolds on ringing his first of Major and first inside in the 1296 of Bob Major at The Norman Tower.

It was further afield that was making the ringing headlines today, as a handbell peal was rung in two different locations due to the marvels of modern technology. Edinburgh and Derby to be precise, and whether it is ratified or not - and sadly it almost certainly won't - it is an incredibly impressive effort. Where it takes ringing could be fascinating.

Where our current condition takes Ruthie and me is less fascinating. Safe to say, we've had better weekends.


Saturday 13th July 2013

Typically, as this beautiful weather continues, Ruthie and I are feeling under the weather. Enough so to reluctantly pass up on the opportunity to join the St Mary-le-Tower ringing outing round Alton Water (or Alton Towers as it was originally billed!) this morning, which in gorgeous sunshine as we currently have would've been wonderful. Can't say I'm desperately disappointed about missing out on Tattingstone though...

To the relief of a slightly bored Mason, we did pop out in the afternoon, though this was partly out of necessity, as we had said we'd ring for another wedding at Hasketon. This was quite a posh one, with a string quartet belting out modern songs for guests to guess beforehand on CD, and a duo playing and singing their way through the signing of the register. Though nobody to tell us when the bride had arrived, with a member of the congregation popping their head round the corner and awkwardly asking if we would be ringing through the service, as it had already started!

Still, at least others were doing rather more than us around Suffolk. Well done to the elder three Salter boys on ringing their first quarter of Grandsire in hand at home, and Tom Scase, David Potts and Alex Tatlow ringing their first of Belfast Surprise Major in the quarter at Ixworth. Let's hope we'll be well enough to join them all soon.


Friday 12th July 2013

Another ASCY peal on the retiree's tour of Suffolk, with a very impressive 5024 of Glasgow Surprise Major at Leiston, no easy feat in these warm conditions particularly.

At least the warm conditions allowed for more cricket practice for Mason on an otherwise quiet day that elsewhere in the county saw a quarter of Doubles at Tannington and 1320 of Minor at Pakefield.


Thursday 11th July 2013

It is that time of year again, as the tower list for the 63rd Society of Rambling Ringers was emailed through to us. This year we are going to Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, and as with every year there are places that catch my eye. The visit to Codicote for example, Peter and Jane Harper's home tower for many years before they joined us in Suffolk. Wheathampstead, the eight with a near forty foot of unguided rope, and - unusually for a Ramblers tour - four twelves, including Luton where hopefully I shan't get lost on the way to as I did last time, leaving us just 3hrs10mins to ring a peal of Grandsire Cinques at a tower where peals on twelve normally take around 3hrs25m. We just about made it in 3hrs11mins!

Still it has whetted the appetite for our forthcoming holiday, especially as we didn't go last year due to a certain event. Mason has been excited about going camping again for some time!

The excitement wasn't overly palpable this evening though, as I wasn't feeling great, so we unfortunately missed this month's Cosy Nostrils Surprise Major practice at Ufford, but at least elsewhere others were doing better, with the handbell band at Halesworth scoring a quarter at High Hill House.

And according to David House's Facebook update today, it appears the reason for yesterday's shortfall on the retired College Youths (from work rather than the ASCY's I assume!) peal tour of the county, was that the person who should've rung thought the tour was next week! Still, they managed another peal at Chediston after that, and then a 5088 of spliced Surprise Major at Southwold and 5152 of Bristol Major at Bungay, so it obviously hasn't affected them too severely.

Hopefully such mishaps don't await us on Ramblers though.


Wednesday 10th July 2013

Immediately opposite our abode, lives a lovely lady, sadly widowed almost as soon as we moved in, but who always waves as she's out and about tending to her beautiful garden and walking the dog. Currently she's having some kind of work done in her garden, and not long after eight this morning, with me still in bed and the window wide open, her chosen builders/landscapers began sawing concrete slabs up very loudly, as of course it is very difficult to do that kind of thing quietly.

Now, many people might complain. As bellringers, we are aware that folk are increasingly intolerant of anything they can hear. In our case it's not just peals, though some would like to suggest it is. There was a tower up north a few years ago that was restricted to no more than half an hour's ringing a week, when some new flats were built opposite the church. Apparently, a complaint was made about a recent quarter rung at Hasketon. And it's not just ringing. Those who live down by Kingston Field in Woodbridge managed to shut down a siren at a level crossing in their neighbourhood that alerted people to trains coming, preferring that lives were put at risk rather than occasionally be disturbed by this vital bit of equipment. Quite how they coped with the Woodbridge Carnival on their doorstep this last Saturday, with music so loud we could hear it from ours a couple of miles away for several hours, I can't quite imagine.

But no, I'm a little more tolerant than that. Admittedly I have to be so not to sound entirely hypocritical when a member of the public moans about bells, but I genuinely believe people ought to just be a bit more patient generally when it comes to noise. Even in sparsely populated rural areas, we share our space with hundreds and thousands of people living their lives, carrying out work, getting about, enjoying themselves, celebrating and so much more. To expect all of us to do that without disturbing others is unreasonable, up to a point obviously.

That's not to say that we should ring four peals a day for the next week at Gislingham, or that as ringers we shouldn't be doing more to placate those who live within earshot of our bells. Some tower correspondents don't allow peals during the summer, or in far too many cases at all. This may seem a reasonable response to complainants, but is entirely the wrong approach in my opinion, certainly in the long-run. If you have people so bothered by bells that you've been backed into such a corner, then it is time to think about sound control. As Jonathan Stevens once mentioned on the now defunct (What defunct Guetsbook. Ed.) Guestbook, it needn't be expensive, so look into it. Not just so billions of peals can be rung, as that shouldn't be the aim, but rather so you can allow more ringing generally, whether it be for outings, quarters, or - most importantly - extra ringing for any learners you might have.

If you can't do that - and even if you can - then build up a good relationship with your neighbours, or at the very least good communication. Let them know when extra ringing is taking place, so they can be aware of it and not have an unpleasant surprise. It works well at Halesworth, but perhaps the best example of this type of thing in a_ction is at Pettistree. For we have one or two residents in the village who aren't overly keen on the bells. But here, we have the Garners who are completely involved in the village, and we ringers regularly use The Greyhound at the heart of the community, and importantly, locals know when ringing takes place and are made aware of extra ringing like peals.

The result is that one of the most vibrant and enthusiastic practices in the Guild is allowed to flourish, just five short of eight-hundred quarter-peals being rung since the bells were done up (when incidentally they began recruiting from the village to man the refurbished bells) in 1986, producing and encouraging some of the mainstays of the SGR, winning The Mitson Shield twice, and ringing a wide variety of methods rung for various abilities. And this evening, we rang the thirty-sixth quarter of 2013 on the bells, and impressive it was too, as a not-too-confident band mastered Belfastish Surprise Minor, Kate having been the quickest to answer when Mike asked who would like to ring the treble!

Ruthie was sat in the church listening, so it was nice to ring it for her and the partaking Pippa's birthdays next Tuesday and Monday respectively, and they duly had birthday cards signed and handed to them during the practice. That practice was typically useful, but for all that I just bigged it up, it was unusually quiet, as holidays plagued us. So much so in fact, that after the normal early departures that some have to make, we were left with just nine, so Mr Whitby called an early finish to proceedings and most of us wandered over to the local for a refreshing drink.

We weren't the only ones ringing a quarter in Suffolk today, and well done to Clare Veal on ringing her first of spliced Surprise Major in the 1280 at Henley, as extra ringing like quarters and peals continues to show its vital part in progressing ringers and ringing.

Meanwhile, the Ancient Society of College Youths are in town for a private peal tour, but it hasn't started perfectly. Having successfully and impressively scored at Lavenham with a 5040 Stedman Triples, the mother-in-law went to let them in for an attempt at Ufford, only for them to meet seven! These things happen, and I'm sure there are more lined up over the next few days, including one at Grundisburgh on Friday afternoon. And at least they didn't disturb the neighbours!


Tuesday 9th July 2013

Despite my shameless attempts of stardom, with blog-writing, radio and TV appearances, hanging out with Robert Beavis and acting (bet you didn't realise I played Bouncer the dog in Neighbours for three non-consecutive years), I cannot lay claim to being the most famous Munnings to have lived.

That 'honour' goes to Sir Alfred Munnings, the famed painter of horses, President of the Royal Academy, knighted in 1944, friends with Winston Churchill. There is a museum dedicated to his art in Dedham, streets and roads named after him across the globe. I have heard him referenced on TV, and even when I have been phoning the other side of the world for work, people have bring him up as soon as I mention my name. And now his persona has been captured in a movie, Summer in February.

This evening, Ruthie and I watched it for the first time, as it was showing at the delightfully quaint and cosy Riverside Theatre in Woodbridge. If I'm honest, it isn't the type of film we'd usually watch, and it is very sad. But whilst I'm used to hearing the sentence "Munnings is a genius" and "is that what you want Mr Munnings, to be civilised?", it amused both of us when they raised a toast "to Mrs Munnings"! It's not often that a relative - though distantly, and we've never quite got to the bottom of the exact relationship - is depicted on the big screen, and whilst the story was located mainly on the spectacular Cornish coast, there were references to his home county of Suffolk. Set exactly one hundred years ago, it was interesting to think that the Munnings in front of me was precisely the same age as the Munnings writing this, our births being one century apart, almost to the day.

In one final link, the author of the novel which inspired the film, and writer of the screenplay was Jonathan Smith, who also wrote The Following Game, published by John Catt Educational, and so I had actually met him, albeit fleetingly.

Sadly, my namesake didn't come out of the tale looking too good, but I shall continue playing off his name, and when people ask, shall still say, 'well I'm related to him don't you know', before vaguely moving off the subject when people ask how!

I'm sure Caroline Bass won't awkwardly move off the subject of her first quarter of Treble Bob, rung at Offton this evening. Well done Caroline! Fame awaits you I'm sure!


Monday 8th July 2013

As you may have gathered, I like ringing. But I also occasionally like sitting out and listening to ringing, especially when it is in something I am normally required to ring in. So it was very pleasant being sat in the corner, listening to a well-rung half-course of Yorkshire Maximus. It is still well short of National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition standard. There were the obligatory losses of concentration, which we really need to get out of the habit of making. And there were still too many dropped backstrokes and little bells smashing through the bigger bells. But the rhythm was good (brisk, but not too fast), the front bells avoided stretching out the back of the change when they were there, and some in the band were ringing it the best I've seen them ring Surprise Maximus. And all with three or four of us sat out who could've rung, and a handful more who were absent.

We then followed it up, and topped the evening off with a decent - if not quite as good as the Yorkshire Max - touch of Stedman Cinques. It all bodes well for future progress, so long as we keep persevering, listening and practicing.

Of course it was all followed up by a pint in The Cricketers on another wonderfully hot night, shorts and legs out in abundance, and daylight still kicking about into the late hours. The perfect night to be able to occasionally sit out of ringing in fact.


Sunday 7th July 2013

As Andy Murray was becoming the first Brit to win the men's singles title at our showpiece tennis event for seventy-seven years, it occurred to me what a good example he is to those looking to reach greater heights in whatever they do. As this is a ringing blog, it is perhaps worth pointing out that the attributes that have taken Murray from a Dunblane Tim Henman to Wimbledon champ (as well as US Open champ already of course), are attributes we in ringing need too.

As big a day as it was for Britain's Number One tennis player, life was a little more mundane for Mason, Ruthie and me after yesterday's enjoyable and hectic schedule. Whilst my wife returned to work, the li'l chap and I went ringing at St Mary-le-Tower where all twelve rang out, St Lawrence where we entertained the visiting Jason and his son Charlie with some brisk ringing, and Grundisburgh, where we rang some very respectable spliced Surprise Major. For all the concerns about the current situation here, there are many, many places that would dearly like to do that on a Sunday morning!

From there, it was a quite afternoon for the boy and me, as another roasting hot day left me with no more excuses not to mow the lawn, all as the cheers of Centre Court leapt from surrounding open windows, my neighbours more enthralled with the history taking place on television than my son was.

I was enthralled later though, as we two met up again with Ruthie at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, who along with her choral colleagues had been joined by the choir of St Mark's Hamilton Terrace in North-West London for evensong. It is a church yards from Lord's Cricket Ground, the Maida Vale Recording Studios, Abbey Road Studios and the zebra crossing outside made famous by The Beatles. More importantly though, it is now home to The Revd Aidan Platten, once of this parish. His visit 'home' was the reason the choir - and indeed congregation - was swelled so considerably, and the affect was marvellous.

Choirs of St Mary's Woodbridge and St Mark's Hamilton Terrace after Evensong at the former.Afterwards, many photos were taken to mark the occasion, and it occurred to me what a good opportunity this had been for these singers to improve themselves, by singing with others and on a larger scale. They - like us as ringers - will benefit from the attributes shown by Andy Murray to get this far, and like Andy, put on a good show today. Well done them, and well done Mr Murray!


Saturday 6th July 2013

For all my banging on about ringing on ten and twelve bells in recent weeks, and how we really ought to be putting more effort into ringing on those numbers within our borders, I still think ringing on five and six is vital. It is the initial grounding for so many, where they learn the basics of change-ringing that can be carried up to ringing on ten, twelve and beyond.

Besides, some of my fondest memories of ringing in Suffolk are from travelling quiet country lanes on boiling hot days, to quaint villages with a pretty and cool church, and ringing on five or six bells. So today's South-East District Practice at Monewden and Cretingham was the perfect way for me to spend this gorgeous sunny summer's morning. You don't really pass through these delightful communities and the narrow winding lanes that surround them on the way to somewhere else, so as we negotiated the byways of one of the county's quietest and most delightful areas, hedgerows, fields, trees, farms and colourful cottages either side right up to the wide, blue, cloudless skies, we felt like we were the only people out there.

Ringing at Monewden.Ringing at Monewden.To an extent we were, as the turnout was bizarrely low. Yes, I'm sure at this time of year there were people on holiday, and more so than normal. Obviously there were some up in York. I'm aware of birthday celebrations, I'm sure work will have prevented some and ringing for/attending weddings is a factor, though less so in the morning I would've thought. But just sixteen out of a possible three hundred from the District were present for this short amount of time out of what are long summer days. And two of those were from out of the South-East as the Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters and Rowan Wilson very kindly came out to support us. I'm pretty sure not all of those absent simply couldn't come out, and it was a shame for Ruthie and Mary who had done much planning to make sure this event was as appealing as possible, and for Tom who had to repeatedly call upon the same people over and over again as he tried to get as much out of such paltry offerings as he could. I know not everyone can get excited about these sorts of events, but I've always found them very pleasant social gatherings, and most importantly useful opportunities for learners to progress and experienced ringers to help and perhaps ring something different.

There were just enough for Mike Burn and John Taylor in particular to get a good amount out of proceedings, and at the other end of the spectrum a superb, rare faultless course of Primrose Minor (there's nearly always someone who tries to dodge at the lead-end at some point!) at the six, and some well-rung and enjoyable variable-treble spliced Doubles on the five. But it could have been so much more, and actually at the expense of very little of one's day.

As if to underline that final point, it was but a part of a wonderfully busy day for me, my wife and son, which started with a visit from Nick, husband of Mason's Godmother Kala, who was round for cufflinks and with a tale of woe. For having only just checked last night that his rarely used suit fitted him, he discovered that this dry-clean only set of clothing had been washed and would now only fit Mini-Me. With a wedding this afternoon to attend, his next stop was to buy a new suit!

Funnily enough, the wedding he and Kala were going to was our port of call following our morning's ringing, as we headed - via lunch at home - to Hasketon to ring for the occasion. The downside was having to pass on the chance of a drink in The Bell at Cretingham, but there were many plus points about being able to contribute to the happy couple's special day, not least - as far as the li'l chap was concerned - being able to play in the park opposite, which on every visit seems to have an ever expanding array of play equipment.

Whilst Mrs Munnings then took a well deserved rest, the boy and I headed onto Kingston Fields to catch the first Woodbridge Carnival for some thirty years. I can't imagine it'll be that long before the next one judging by the huge crowds enjoying the stalls, races, bouncy castles and of course ice cream!

Still, there was time for more, as Toby and Amy popped round for a chinwag and cuppa or two, before we finally finished our day with a reconnoissance mission.

In just under a month, it is the South-East District Quarter-Peal afternoon, the superb initiative introduced by my mother-in-law when she was District Ringing Master, and being continued superbly by Tom. The quarters will be taking place at Pettistree, Ufford and Wickham Market - please make your availability known to Mr Scase ASAP - and as is traditional, will be followed by a meal for participants and hangers on. Finding somewhere local to the ringing locations, at good value, and able to hold potentially thirty hungry and thirsty bellringers isn't easy, even with the fine array of venues we have at our disposal.

So we three accompanied Kate, Ron and the Garners to a meal at The Three Tuns on the main road between Pettistree and Wickham Market, with an eye to this being the place to go. This was once a very familiar pub, the drinking hole of choice after our Wednesday night practices at SS Peter & Paul, but having migrated to The Greyhound, it must be over five years since Ruthie and I last came here. God willing we shall be coming again on the evening of Saturday 3rd August, as it ticks all the boxes. Good food at good prices, nice drink and ample space to meet our needs in a lovely location. There will be a menu available any moment if not already, so look out for that and book your space!

Suffolk Youth. Suffolk Youth.So that was our busy day. However, of course we weren't the only Suffolk ringers enjoying a busy day, as our youngsters were representing us in York in the National Youth Striking Competition. And didn't they do well! As with last year, they opted for the harder option of ringing a method, and they came third in that category (winning a bronze medal!), and apparently seventh out of sixteen overall. Well done to the Gloucester & Bristol youngsters on winning the Gold Medal in the method category, and the Bedfordshire kids on emulating their seniors in the Ridgman Trophy by winning the Whitechapel Trophy. But most of all, well done to our youngsters on representing young ringing in Suffolk so well. There are lots of pictures on Facebook of course, and it seemed - most importantly - that they had a great time.

Next year's final is in Worcester on Saturday 5th July, and there will be a vacancy in the band, as Clare Veal will be too old to ring, so come on youngsters of Suffolk, this is your chance to get involved! And keep up your five and six bell ringing too!


Friday 5th July 2013

Mason practicing in the nets.Mason at the crease.I had one of those proud father moments today, as Mason played his first 'proper' cricket game for his club St Audry's Melton. Their opponents Copdock are part of one of the best cricket clubs in Suffolk by all accounts, and seemed to take it all a lot more seriously, but I was very proud of the li'l chap as he bowled and batted well. Importantly, he really enjoyed himself, which was the main thing.

And I enjoyed it too. Whatever the level of match on show, there can be little more quintessentially and wonderfully English than watching a game of cricket on a lovely, hot, hot sunny evening, beautiful countryside alive and at its best beyond the youngsters having fun.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that if you were looking to travel further afield to ring in this gorgeous weather, that St Margaret in Ipswich won't be ringing next Thursday evening, so perhaps somewhere else can benefit from your enthusiasm!


Thursday 4th July 2013

Another truly unremarkable day on a quiet week for us. There was no Grundisburgh practice and not even so much as a quarter or peal rung by local bands, although the mammoth quarter-peal tour of our area continued unabated, with another eight quarters rung within Suffolk.

Monewden.Cretingham.For Ruthie, it was an evening of choir, chatting with her mother on the Market Hill, and ensuring that everything is sorted for Saturday morning's South-East District Practice at Monewden and Cretingham, ringing in two beautiful locations on what is going to be a gorgeous sunny day by all accounts.


Wednesday 3rd July 2013

LNER A4 Mallard."I hope you can all count to eleven," said David Salter as we prepared to embark on the long walk up the garden from the Salter's abode to the 9lb ring of eight at The Wolery. After 1hr46mins of ringing Cray Surprise Major, I think we proved our counting abilities, with the method containing eleven-pull dodges on the back, five-pull dodges on the front, and long places in 3-4 and 5-6. The line itself is not to my taste. Much like Superlative, it is very static, but it brought up some nice music, including the maximum 144 cru's.

After some biscuits and tea, we left Rectory Road quite satisfied, leaving our best wishes with Colin and George for their endeavours in York this Saturday. It is a long way to go, but if you can get up there, there is plenty going on according to the event's website, with open towers, a mini-ring, handbell workshops and a treasure hunt around this beautiful city. I believe there is also a peal attempt at York Minster in the morning which will be well worth listening to, although it is a shame that it prevents the next generation having the same opportunity as our Guild Secretary Mandy Shedden had this week to ring upon these grand bells in such a famous location, and take in the process take in one of the best views from a ringing chamber there is.

Monewden.Cretingham.However, if you can't get up to Yorkshire, there is the South-East District Practice at Monewden and Cretingham on the same morning, and I know first hand from the District Secretary your support would be much appreciated. Much thought has been put into this, even down to swapping the order of the towers round to make it easier for ringers to step out of the latter venue and into The Bell! I hope it is thought that won't go to waste.

Pakenham.Southwold.Wenhaston.Debenham.Similarly I hope George Reynolds' efforts will be rewarded with a good turnout at Pakenham for the First Sunday Surprise Minor practice, Peter Harper's arrangements for the Second Tuesday Ringing at Southwold and Wenhaston won't be in vain, and Muriel Page's time in organising the annual Veterans' Day at Debenham next Wednesday won't be pointless.

They'll all be counting on your support...


Tuesday 2nd July 2013

Today's rising sun was the dawn of a tumultuous day of drama, twists and turns sculptured into the course of each dramatic second...

Actually, it was a very quiet day, and largely dull, with not even so much as a quarter or peal rung, or at least none recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile at the time of writing.

Monewden.Cretingham.Pakenham.So all I will do is remind you good folk to look at What's On, see what is happening and support what you can, most immediately the Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday, the South- East District Practice at Monewden and Cretingham on Saturday morning, the young ringers in York that same day, and the Surprise Minor practice at Pakenham on Sunday.


Monday 1st July 2013

After Kate and Ron had been in Scotland the last couple of Mondays, it was back to the old new routine of us four travelling into Ipswich together, Ron to practice bagpipes, and us to practice ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. Both went well, with the latter showing further progress towards the goals stated a week ago, another well-rung half-course of Yorkshire Max. There is still much tidying up that needs doing, and there was a momentary and frustrating lapse of concentration that briefly threatened to undue all the good work, but generally the pace was good and it was a very coherent piece of Surprise Maximus ringing that many twelve-bell practices across the world would dearly love to emulate.

Ixworth.Many ringers around the world would also love to reach the standard that our very own Louis P H Suggett has reached, and today he further confirmed his rising stock by calling his 250th peal to his own composition of Grandsire Triples in the success at Ixworth. It was appropriate that Maurice Rose, who has done so much to nurture this promising talent, was also ringing his 400th peal on the same occasion.

Back in Suffolk's county town, whilst we waited for one quarter of our party to finish his evening, we partook in beers that were named in an unexplained Second World War theme at The Cricketers. Normal order very much restored.


Sunday 30th June 2013

We have enjoyed our weekend in Scotland, but having left the spectacular yet hard, mountainous landscape of our northern neighbours, the drab, square architecture dotted about it disappearing beneath us as we disappeared into thick, dark clouds above them, we were delighted to enter East Anglia's big wide open cloudless skies on a late sunny evening an hour later, the long shadows stretching across the patchwork fields and colourful, wonky cottages.

Mason at Edinburgh Airport.Whilst it was a rare Sunday without ringing (with the nearest being from 10-11am on the 6cwt six at Dunkeld some fifteen miles from our non-ringing relatives), that late journey home did at least enable us to enjoy a bit more of our hosts' superb hospitality, including a walk round to the home of their friend Nannie, who accompanied them down to Suffolk for Katelynn's Christening earlier in the year. We were keen to see her, as she is extremely good company, but having been there and sampled some huge custard fudge doughnuts and other cakes from the healthy eating section of Clare and Kev's local shop, it was time to leave, drop Fred off and jump on that flight home.

We returned to a county where much had been achieved on the end of a bellrope today. It was good to see that Helen and Don had got enough for their quarter at Southwold this morning, with Michael Burn ringing his first on eight for fifty years. Well done Mike! However, the biggest congratulations have to go to young Ambrin Williams on ringing her first peal, scored in the 5040 of Bob Minor at Reydon. Well done Ambrin!

Monewden.It is a tremendous achievement at the start of a big week for her and her fellow members of the band representing Suffolk in the National Youth Striking Competition in York this Saturday. Though a long way, I'm hoping there will be good support for the youngsters, but if you can't make it, there is still ringing to help out with, as the South-East District Practice makes a rare visit to Monewden and Cretingham. I believe a couple of newly arrived ringing residents are attempting to get a band started at the latter, so a good attendance on Saturday morning would be a boost, and of course the noon finish is the perfect time to then pop over to one of the best pubs in the county, The Bell, for a pint and a bite to eat!

Beccles.Either side of that, there is the First Sunday Surprise Minor Practice at Pakenham, on 7th July, and then before all of that the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice on Wednesday. Please do support these events if you can. They are all organised at the expense of much time and effort, and - as beautiful as Scotland is - our trip to the grey north has reminded us what wonderful surroundings we carry out our ringing in.


Saturday 29th June 2013

The Pettistree outing in Norfolk went well today. At least so we heard from our sources there, as of course we were a little too far away to tag along, as we awoke in Scotland for a day of fun with Clare, Kev and Katelynn.

And fun it was too, as we took the kids to Noah's Ark, an indoor play area which is a smaller version of our own Play2Day in Martlesham, before we had a look round Perth, partly to get gifts for Mason's sister and teacher, partly to have a look around a town we haven't been to since our hosts' wedding nearly four years ago.

Mason relaxing.Katelynn's Birthday Cake.With daylight still lurking until nearly eleven up here, it felt another long, but highly enjoyable day. Whilst it would've been nice to be on the ringing outing down south, we certainly didn't feel aggrieved to be up here!


Friday 28th June 2013

Regardless of what time of year it is, and whether it is dark or light, 4am takes on a different perspective depending on what you're doing. When I am up at that time for an early shift at work, it feels a truly depressing and lonely time to be up and about, torn from my nice cosy bed to tiptoe around the sleeping world around me for a stint in an unexciting office for the following eight hours. However, when I am up at that hour for something exciting like a trip away - as I was today - it seems an adventurous time to be out and about, and you almost pity those still sleeping, just to arise for another mundane day at work.

Ruthie and Mason inspecting the departure boards at Stansted Airport.For today, we were heading to Stansted Airport, for Mason's first ever plane flight as we headed up to Scotland for his first ever trip outside of England. I remember my first flight and the excitement of it all, and I was sixteen! Admittedly that was a longer trip on a bigger plane, as the Munnings family flew to Florida, via the east coast of the USA on a very clear day, taking in spectacular views of the whole of the South-West of the UK and then New York. However, that same look of excitement was evident in my six-year old son from the moment we left Emily the car parked up in amongst thousands of others, his suitcase wheeled around with zeal, and his mouth uttering excited chatter almost non-stop. Sadly, there was solid cloud every inch of the way to Edinburgh Airport where we were landing at the other end, but the li'l chap still loved it.

He was soon zonked out though, as having picked up our rental car - Christened Fred by the boy as it was red - he fell asleep on the journey to Perth, our ultimate destination, where we are going to be staying with Ruthie's sister Clare, brother-in-law Kev, and niece Katelynn, for whose recent first birthday we were in town to celebrate. It was the first time we had been to their maisonette, and they have made a good home here, with fantastic views out to the spectacular countryside that surrounds this small town, including to the famous Scone Palace just over the River Tay.

Mason and Katelynn playing together.Much catching up was done, the kids entertained us with their dance moves and we relaxed after a long day, whilst south of the Scottish and Norfolk border, Nicole Rolph was ringing her 25th quarter in the 1274 of Bob Triples at Rendham. Well done Nicole, hopefully it was as exciting as getting up at four in the morning!


Thursday 27th June 2013

Cowlinge.Congratulations to Kersey and Stradishall on winning the South-West District Method and Call-Change Striking Competitions respectively, as well as Cowlinge on pushing the Call-Change winners apparently very close, on Saturday at Hartest. The latter two teams are to be given much credit on doing so well as five-bell towers in a six-bell striking competition. The former two meanwhile, complete a list of victors in Suffolk's most enjoyable 2013 striking competition season, joining Debenham, Hollesley, Rendham, Southwold, St Mary-le-Tower, Stowmarket, Sweffling, The Norman Tower, The North-East District and The Wolery as bands that can be very proud of their achievements since the South-East District kicked it all off at Brandeston at the beginning of last month..

Indeed, all those who have taken part are to be congratulated on having a go, and contributing to some very successful ringing events, and those who have allowed their bells to be used and who have organised them are to be thanked. Hopefully it will encourage those who didn't take part this year, and also an even bigger and more representative turnout for the Guild Striking Competitions in the South-East District on Saturday 17th May 2014. These are immensely fun events, good social occasions to catch up with faces familiar and new. And they really are tremendously useful experiences.

It is something that our youngsters will be experiencing on a national level on Saturday 6th July, as they represent the SGR in York, and to that end, I was on Radio Suffolk just after 1.50pm talking to Lesley Dolphin about their participation and the need for sponsorship. As always, despite being armed with various stats - like the website for the competition being at rwnyc.ringingworld.co.uk, and that the average age of our band is fifteen years old - it was difficult to get everything across that I wanted in the couple of minutes over the phone I had, but hopefully something will come of it, and at the very least it will have made people aware that ringing isn't just carried out by old men in braces! Not that there's anything wrong with old men in braces...

Despite having had some handling lessons, Mason isn't quite ready to join our youngsters in his first striking competition, but I did collect him a day earlier than usual after work today, as he prepares for a different couple of significant firsts tomorrow.

Ixworth.It meant a quiet, early night in for us, but it wasn't so everywhere within the county, as Stephen Dawson and David Howe rang their first quarter of Lincolnshire Major in the success at Ixworth. Maybe good preparation for next year's striking competitions?


Wednesday 26th June 2013

I read an article on the BBC News website today - in between them ghoulishly hovering around Nelson Mandela like vultures, waiting for him to die with a little more glee than I think is befitting of such a great man - that highlighted the culture of celebrity and the misattributing of certain quotes to famous people.

Two stood out. 'I am sorry for the length of this letter, but I did not have the time to write a shorter one' has long been wrongly attributed to Mark Twain, and was in fact first uttered by a largely unknown French thinker Blaise Pascal in 1657, according to the article. It could be a quote attributed to me in regards to writing my blog.

The other incorrectly attributed famous quote was Albert Einstein's 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.' Except the first recorded use of this sentence was in a 1981 Narcotics Anonymous pamphlet, long after his death, so say the BBC.

Ixworth.Whatever its origin, this quote sprung to mind when after a truly atrocious peal attempt of the standard eight Surprise Major methods at St Mary-le-Tower, which lasted just over a part and about half-an-hour (and Brian Whiting - fresh from a quarter at Ixworth this afternoon - the conductor had done well to keep us going that long), we decided to go for a quarter. You all know my views on going for quarters after lost peal attempts, but even putting that to one side, that non-Einstein quote kept coming to fore of my thoughts. So appalling had our initial attempt at this been, it was hard to envisage getting a different result from doing the same thing, but we proved the quote wrong by scoring a quarter, which whilst it still had its moments, was quite well rung and had me wondering why we couldn't have managed it in the peal attempt. Though Bunny's attempts to sign the book afterwards summed our evening up!

The Wolery.Meanwhile, the first ever peal of Albatross Bob Triples was being rung at The Wolery in David Salter's 3001st peal, the entire band were ringing their first blows of Berwick Minor in the 1320 at Preston St Mary, and the weekly pre-practice quarter at Pettistree should've finished their little red book off by my calculations. (Yes we'll have to get a new book: it was the 792nd quarter in the tower.Ed) Well done to all concerned!

Whilst they were successful, our half-failure/half-success left extra time for eating, drinking and socialising, including tales of the origins of the names of methods. Orion Surprise Maximus was apparently named after Rod Pipe's car of the time, and - in my favourite one - the naming of Belfast Surprise Major was attributed to Jonathan Potter after the city he grew up in, as the line was considered worse than Glasgow, and as - in his opinion - the Northern Irish capital was a worse city than Glasgow it should be named Belfast!

At least, as far as I'm aware it is attributed to him.


Tuesday 25th June 2013

Bishop Nigel and Carolyne.It is a shame to read that our President the Rt Revd Nigel Stock will be leaving his post as Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich in October, to take up the position of Bishop of Lambeth. It is an exciting opportunity for him, and one that would be far too good to turn down, but I - and I'm sure I speak for most ringers if not all - shall miss Nigel and his wife Carolyn. Ruthie and I have had the pleasure of many a conversation with them over his near six-year tenure on various occasions, not least of course at the last two Guild Dinners, and it has always struck us how strong their memory of recall was in regards to what we were doing, despite the fact that they must speak with thousands of people a year. Although it is still four months before he steps through the next door on his life, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support of bellringing in Suffolk, and wish them all the best for what lays ahead.

Coming hot on the heels of the retirement of another supporter of bells in high places, the Rt Revd Clive Young as Bishop of Dunwich, it will be interesting to see who will fill these important positions in the future.

Whoever comes in, they will see a Suffolk Guild with a strong youthful element, an element that will be representing us in York in eleven days time. In regards to that, I shall be on Radio Suffolk this Thursday at 1.50pm, where I shall hope not only to encourage further sponsorship for travel and accommodation, but also to highlight what we already know - that ringing is varied, and something for all ages, regardless of who our President is!


Monday 24th June 2013

David Pipe was due to be interviewed by Simon Mayo (a one-time ringer according to someone on Facebook) on Radio Two at 5.20pm today, but was replaced before his moment of stardom by a ringer called Angie Dunsmith from Kings Norton. The topic was the National Twelve-Bell Competition, so it seemed strange to swap a ringer of David's expertise and calibre, winner of the competition ten times and runner-up on Saturday at Ripon, with a ringer whose last entry on Campanophile was a quarter of Bob Doubles at her local tower, but it does highlight the status of ringing's premier event, and the superb PR opportunity it offers.

Leading up to this year's final, the local media were enthusiastically reporting on hundreds of ringers from across the world descending upon this li'l old Yorkshire town, and I still remember seeing a newspaper billboard outside a newsagents in Lincolnshire ten years ago headlining the competition coming to Surfleet. It would be superb for the Twelve-Bell - whether final or eliminator - to come to Suffolk for the first time since the final was held at St Mary-le-Tower in 1991, especially as we have another new twelve worthy of holding such an occasion in the shape of The Norman Tower.

It would be even better if we could enter a team, but we're a long way off that. The rules stipulate that teams must only be from one centre of ringing, which is all very well for towers like Birmingham and the London teams with a huge number of Surprise Maximus ringers all within travelling distance, or Bristol and Cambridge backed up by a constant supply of intelligent, enthusiastic and young students keen to make their mark on the ringing world, but means that a Suffolk entry wouldn't be possible, the only real way we could currently enter a team.

It's not impossible though. Ipswich did once have a very successful team in this competition, finishing fourth in that final on home bells, and regularly qualifying for the final in their own right. Leeds have a thriving band, and Melbourne and Towcester have brilliant records in the competition despite arguably being just as isolated as us. And Norwich have in recent times done quite well too. But it takes a certain attitude. You need to recognise what this can do for your ringing and local higher-bell ringing. You need to be prepared to attend practices, sometimes not on the doorstep. You need to have the concentration to not just stay right, but listen to every single blow. You need to be ready to be put right and corrected. You need to take it seriously, which isn't the same as not enjoying it.

We don't have that at SMLT at the moment. There's no way we could participate in next year's competition, or even the one after that. But looking around at this evening's practice, I realised there is a good basis and potential to look toward 2016 for example, and work towards entering a band with realistic expectations. All the aforementioned teams punching above their weight have had what could be considered wasted journeys before. They've travelled to eliminators and not got anywhere near qualifying, but it all held them in good stead for what they have become, and rather than just giving up because the next eliminator was on the other side of the country, they have learnt lessons, practiced hard, and improved, and enjoyed the experience. It's obviously not up to me anymore, but I know it's something David has also been thinking about, and I'd like to think we could try to emulate that.

For tonight though, it was to The Cricketers as Mum and Dad filled us in on all their adventures of the last few weeks, and Ian Culham tried to find a contact for the six bells at Kilifi in Kenya. Any help would be much appreciated!


Sunday 23rd June 2013

Since Chris and I moved out from under their feet years ago, and especially since Mr Munnings senior retired, Mum and Dad have understandably and deservedly undertaken many long trips to far-flung corners of the Earth, when they have wanted, and in their own time. It is as it should be. They have spent a lifetime being slaves to the working week and demands of Dad's employers, and now they are reaping the rewards. Sadly, I can't imagine the majority of mine and Ruthie's generation being afforded the same luxury.

Still, as nice as it is that they are able to enjoy these holidays, it is good to see them on their return. So it was for Mason and me this morning, as the intrepid travellers returned to ringing in Suffolk at St Mary-le-Tower, following their near-three week break in the USA and Canada. They had partly been doing their own thing in places like Las Vegas and at the Grand Canyon, but also joining a ringing trip which included fellow Guild members Josephine Beever and Paul Stannard, with Dad even partaking in a couple of quarters, a 1264 of Bob Major at Shreveport and a 1260 of Bob Royal at Victoria Cathedral.

Their presence at SMLT boosted numbers at this unpredictable time of year for attendances, and we could have done with a few more at Grundisburgh, with even the li'l chap having to weigh in for some Rounds on Five. And there is still one inside rope for a quarter of Grandsire Triples next Sunday morning at nine at Southwold. If you can help, then please call Don and Helen Price.

For Mason and me though, that was it ringing-wise today. But Suffolk ringers were busy elsewhere. Very busy.

Woolpit.There was the first quarter on six since the tenor was repaired and rehung at Woolpit, and an impressive 1346 of Yorkshire Max at The Norman Tower, which was the first on that number for Richard Walters and the first in the method for Rowan Wilson. Well done Richard and Rowan!

But the headline grabbers were Ed Rolph and David Salter, two ringers at opposite ends of the peal-ringing spectrums, and who both shared their starring performances with achievements for others.

The former was ringing his first peal, knocking behind to Grandsire Triples at Rendham, as his daughters Nicole and Alex were ringing their first of Grandsire, as was Michelle Williams, with Philip Gorrod calling his first of Grandsire Triples. And it was also Nicole's first on eight. Very, very well done to the Rolph family (particularly Daddy Rolph!), Michelle and Philip, and this North-East District resident band generally, on so spectacularly marking the recent birth of Sophie Grace, a daughter for the District's Chairman Jason Busby and his wife Sarah, a lovely couple.

St James Garlickhythe.Peal Bnad.Meanwhile, down in London, former Ringing Master of the SGR David Salter was ringing his 3000th peal at St James Galickhythe, where The Royal Jubilee Bells used to lead last year's Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant are now housed. Although less than halfway to the total of leading all-time peal-ringer Colin Turner who was also in today's 5024 Yorkshire Major, this is a daunting figure. Most of us can't contemplate ringing that many peals, and indeed many wouldn't want to, but it is clear it is something that he enjoys doing, and is able to do so now with George and Colin, which must be very pleasing for him. How many parents in the country long to be able to do as much with their teenage sons? Indeed, Colin was ringing his 75th peal today, and wife Katharine - herself an established and celebrated peal-ringer - was ringing her 400th different tower to a peal. And well done to Mary Dunbavin on ringing her 800th peal for the Guild. Ultimately though, despite his modest footnote, this occasion was about a superb achievement for a man who has done so much for Suffolk ringing, and not just through peals. Congratulations David!

Mind you, I can't imagine him having quite as much time for holidays as my parents!


Saturday 22nd June 2013

Ripon Cathedral.I don't mind admitting to being slightly envious of many of my ringing friends over the course of the last day or so. Facebook was awash yesterday with ringers from across the country and indeed the world, excitedly relaying that they were travelling in the car or on the train, some leaving work early, and most revealing their camping plans. Their destination? Today's National Twelve-Bell Final at Ripon.

For all that I enjoy the vibrant, yet laid-back ringing scene in Suffolk, complete with interesting characters and carried out in beautiful surroundings, and glamorous occasions like the Anniversary Dinner of the Ancient Society of College Youths, the final of ringing's biggest striking competition has remained the highlight of the ringing calendar for me, and I'm always disappointed when I can't go along.

Hundreds of all abilities and none, gather to catch up with friends from across the ringing world, the drink, food, conversation and laughter flowing in such abundance that a day - or even a weekend - is simply not long enough to take it all in. And it is all set to the backdrop of some of the best ringing you are ever likely to hear. Easy-flowing change-ringing, carried out by dedicated ringers prepared to take advice in, rather take offence to it, listen to the rhythm of the piece, rather than just carelessly dropping their bell wherever it feels comfortable for them to put it, and regardless of speed moving it all together as one. Instead of bemoaning that Birmingham - for the Suffolk Guild competitions read St Mary-le-Tower, and the Ridgman Trophy Bedfordshire - always win it, they strive to emulate them. It should be an inspiration to all ringers, but sadly it seems to be dismissed by a lot of ringers as an exclusive event of no relevance to ringing, despite the fact that most of the 108 ringers taking part are the most enthusiastic helpers of learners and Sunday morning ringing in their local areas. Whilst not everyone will take part in a Twelve-Bell Final, and indeed many won't always get the opportunity to ring on twelve regularly, there are many potentially superb ringers within our borders alone who could achieve much, but rather than push themselves to aspire to the standards set in Ripon today, will dismiss the notion that they could be as good as these guys and just do whatever is easiest or takes the least amount of effort. Indeed, some question why ringing needs to be taken as seriously as this, which I find astounding. Yes they practice, yes, they analyse their ringing, yes they travel, and yes they take it seriously, but the results are worth it and more often than not trickle down to everyday ringing in their area. It means it all climaxes in a way like no other striking competition, as can be seen by a You Tube clip of the results being announced in St Mary-le-Bow after the final at St Paul's Cathedral in 2009 - look out for me at the back in the blue t-shirt trying to get a better view and stay upright at the same time!

Well done to Birmingham who won it for the twentieth time in total, the fourth year in a row, and for the eleventh time in the last fourteen years, but also to our near neighbours Cambridge on coming second, and Bristol with their Suffolk connections - most notably Molly Waterson and Katie Hill who I believe were in the band - on coming third. It is an achievement just taking part in this event, let alone doing so well in it.

Unfortunately, when the final is held in a location as far away as it's Yorkshire location today, it is a weekend away, and with Ruthie at work tomorrow it wasn't really feasible for us to attend on this occasion. It is likely that next year's final on 28th June in Oxford will be the same (though popping down to one of the eliminators on 22nd March at either Cripplegate, St Sepulchre or Waltham Abbey might be a possibility), but - God willing - the 2015 final in Norwich should be one we can attend easily enough!

At least we had a superb alternative today though, as we headed up the coast to ring on the most easterly ring of bells in the UK, the 13cwt ground-floor eight at St Margaret, Lowestoft. The bells here and at the surrounding towers of Somerleyton, Oulton, Pakefield, Carlton Colville and Kessingland are in the odd position of being in Suffolk (and very fiercely Suffolk at that as an attempt to move them to Norfolk not that long ago showed), but a part of the Diocese of Norwich and therefore the Norwich Diocesan Assocition. It was perhaps appropriate then, that the reason we were there was a combined Suffolk-Norfolk enterprise, as a band arranged by Philip Gorrod and Maggie Ross, led by David Brown, and featuring ringers from both sides of the border rang a quarter of Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow and London - collectively known as Horton's Four. These are extremely tricky methods in their own right, with points, wrong places, starts going off in different directions and fishtails aplenty, but put them together, throw in some bobs, and you have a real mind-blower.

Still, inspired to listening to the ASCY's test piece on the live-stream coming from Ripon (a superb bit of ringing that was only sixth best on the day, thus further highlighting the quality on show up north today), we proceeded to ring a very decent quarter, though we were extremely glad of DCB's help at times!

Mason enjoying Noah's Ark in St Margaret, Lowestoft.Ruthie was more than capable of ringing this (she was of course a part of the band which rang it so superbly at Upham on our trip to Hampshire last year), but with Mason present, she plumped to listen outside whilst watching over a sleeping six-year old. Still, she and the boy (with orange juices of course!) were able to fully take part in the pub crawl that took place afterwards, as we wandered to The Mariners Rest, The Stanford Arms, The Oak Tavern and finally The Triangle, before we returned Philip and Maggie home. All in quite grim surroundings, but all good drinking holes, though if you're after manners, try not to take a dog and/or sit near the very large guy in the front bar at the last one.

Many thanks to P&M on arranging such a great trip out!

We even had time to fill our morning with plenty, with a trip to see my wife's Nan following on from a useful session for young Alex at Pettistree, who made considerable progress into the world of Plain Hunt. And it was nice to catch the end of a visit[ from Epping ringers beforehand, accompanied by John and Linda Sager, once regular ringers at Rushmere, whose visiting daughter Laura also rang Bob Minor this morning for the first time in about a decade!

Stanham Aspal.Whilst we were doing that, well done to the band who rang the 100th peal at Stonham Aspal, no easy task! And as we're on the topic of peals rung today, it was nice to see the footnote to the 5120 of All Clear Delight Major rung at Mandurah in Western Australia. Roger and Pat have many ringing friends here in Suffolk, so this will be news for everyone to cheer, on a day when there has been much to cheer from Stonham Aspal to Australia to Pettistree to Ripon to Lowestoft.


Friday 21st June 2013

Hopton.With it being my colleague Mark's last day at John Catt, some of us joined him for a lunch at the Golden Panda Chinese restaurant in town on a quiet day.

On the Suffolk ringing front it was quiet too, with 1280 of Double Norwich at Hopton, and a lost quarter at Rendham. Perhaps everyone was enjoying the late evening!


Thursday 20th June 2013

Not a particularly notable day for myself. It was a bit busier for Ruthie though, as she and five others rang at Burgh for Emily (Susan Schurr's granddaughter) and Oliver's wedding at Clopton just a few hundred yards across fields, and later went to choir practice.

And elsewhere within the county (either before or after a peal of spliced Surprise Minor at Scole across the border in Norfolk), well done to Jeremy Spiller on ringing his 1500th peal in the success at home in Bacton. It was nice too of them to take a picture as they were showing Winston out.

It is also worth noting that Friday sees the monthly practice at Helmingham. Please do help out if you can, and make your day more productive than mine was today.


Wednesday 19th June 2013

It is nearly two years since the much-loved and much-missed Susan Schurr passed away, a ringer whose enthusiasm was a constant reminder of the joy of life, and a prompt to induce a sense of foolishness into anyone who let life's 'problems' get the better of them.

Tomorrow, her granddaughter Emily is getting married to Oliver, an occasion that the Pettistree ringers had no hesitation in offering their services free of charge for. So it was a pleasant surprise for them - my wife included, and me as her plus one - to be offered an invitation to a pre-wedding gathering of family and friends at the Schurr home. It really is a beautiful place, a typically big old Suffolk farmhouse set in the rolling fields and forests that make up the vast majority of Clopton, the village they are resident in, with character and history oozing out of every slightly wonky nook and cranny. And it played host to a wonderfully happy party, as friends and family of the soon-to-be husband and wife attended from across the world, with residents of the Czech Republic, Austria and the USA mingling with local residents of the village.

Clopton.Those residents whetted the appetite for us ringers present, as they excitedly revealed the timeline for the rehanging of the 12cwt six just a few hundred yards down the road, with many of them planning to have a go at ringing, and a dedication pencilled in for Sunday 8th September. An advance warning though, if you plan to go, they would like you to let them know beforehand! I'm sure more details will be available closer to the time, but it is a date worth noting.

Burgh.As exciting as that is, things are actually not going entirely to plan with the project, due to an unfortunate and unprecedented swathe of illness amongst Nicholson's people on the job, and their relatives, delaying things somewhat. It meant hopes that tomorrow's wedding would see the first ringing on the rehung bells were dashed, and instead will see Ruthie and co ringing the bride in and out from the six at Burgh almost immediately neighbouring St Mary the Virgin, a system of communication in place and even tested earlier today.

For now though, the Garners and we had to leave our wonderful hosts, the superb spread of food and - for those of us not driving - seemingly bottomless supply of champagne, and join the practice at Pettistree, where Alex tried his hand at fast call-changes as Mrs Munnings looks to gently ease him into Plain Hunt, and a marvellous course of Cambridge Minor was rung, with the pace, life and good striking I've been ranting on about all week.

It was all topped off in The Greyhound by a drink, conditions still light and muggy at the end of an evening that Susan would've surely appreciated.


Tuesday 18th June 2013

Ufford.With Kate away, Ruthie and I were charged with running Ufford practice this evening. It was - as it almost invariably is - a useful hour-and-a-half, with Derek pushing his trebling to Triples, Sally doing the same to Bob Doubles, and Elaine and Jane partaking in a tremendous course of Cambridge Major. The latter in particular - in keeping with the theme of the week - was all the better for being rung with a bit of pace, allowing people to go with the flow, rather than picking out a space in a vast chasm in which to place their bell, and generally making the ringing sound a bit more lively.

More of the same will do well.


Monday 17th June 2013

Following Saturday's Ridgman Trophy result, and with Ringing Master Jed Flatters present, there was much discussion in The Cricketers this evening about how we go about ensuring next year we do better. Jed did well to get everyone together at a far-off location at the weekend - something I really struggled with, and indeed I didn't get an entry together at all when it was held at Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire a few years back - but he is keen to get the right squad, with the right attitude and the right preparation for Essex next June, starting now. Indeed, Rowan even joked that the practice at St Mary-le-Tower which preceded our trip to the nearby Wetherspoons was our first towards the 2014 competition!

That said, we're going to need others beyond just SMLT and The Norman Tower, and that need was very much recognised tonight, and I have high hopes for twelve months time.

Hartest.Looking ahead, there are still striking competitions coming up, most immediately the South-West District's this Saturday at Hartest. It was notable that despite our shortcomings in Lincolnshire two days ago, much was learned, and in many respects, that is what striking competitions are all about, and I hope that many SW teams will take that on board as they approach their own contest on this lovely six.

Wickham Skeith.Meanwhile, well done to Louis Suggett on calling a peal of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor for the first time, and within our borders at Wickham Skeith. I know how tough this is to call, but I at least built up to it by calling peals of fewer Minor methods, so this achievement by a Suffolk-lad-done-good is all the more impressive for going straight in at the top! I wonder what he's doing on 7th June next year...


Sunday 16th June 2013

Happy Father's Day to me!

 My Father's Day presents.And thank you to Mason, who - with just a little help from Ruthie - selected the perfect gifts of beer, chocolate and 'the biggest card in the world!'

Mason watering the garden at Kates.It was a joy to spend the day with my two favourite people, with an afternoon of relaxation and watering Kate's garden in her absence, following on from ringing at Woodbridge (where despite Bruce and Gill being away, we still rang all eight), church downstairs and a bring and buy sale in the church rooms.

Redgrave.Meanwhile, well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of Cambridge Minor in the quarter at Redgrave, and Stephen Dawson on ringing his first of Spliced Surprise Minor in the success at Blo Norton north of the border. And well done too, to the band who rang a peal in the Guild's name down in Putney yesterday, particularly Oliver Thompson who was ringing his first of Stedman altogether, and Christopher McLean and Robert Beavis on ringing their first of it in Doubles.

It has been a very pleasant Father's Day indeed.


Saturday 15th June 2013

I often get the sense in Suffolk that - despite the tremendous success of the Guild competitions - we don't completely grasp how striking competitions can contribute to a successful ringing scene generally. In Birmingham, we practiced endlessly for the National Twelve-Bell Competition, the result being that not only do they frequently win the whole thing (their nineteen victories dwarf the next best of four), but the ringing at practices, for peals and most importantly on Sunday mornings is of a tremendous standard, though there is also an element of the process working in reverse.

And whilst actually winning the whole thing is generally restricted to big city ringing centres with large pools of experienced twelve-bell ringers (though not exclusively), there is no reason why St Mary-le-Tower or The Norman Tower - with the right attitude and dedication - couldn't emulate places like Melbourne, Leeds, or indeed the SMLT teams of the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The same could be said for the Suffolk Guild and The Ridgman Trophy. This is an eminently winnable competition for us, but again, only with the right preparation. Back in 2010, we came second, having had the worst possible preparation, not even having time for the fifteen minutes of practice immediately before the test piece after falling victim to Cambridge's truly atrocious Park & Ride. Imagine what we could've done with the right build-up?

David Stanford & Brian Whiting ready for battle by the river outside The Mermaid.The leaning tower of Surfleet from the inside.However, as Jed is now finding too, getting the required abundance of dedication to this competition from the many experienced and capable ringers within our borders is nigh on impossible. That said, we arrived at Surfleet - ironically where I was a member of the victorious Brummie team in the Twelve-Bell ten years ago - with a very capable team for the 2013 competition today. All were experienced higher-number ringers, but things just didn't feel quite right as we grabbed hold for the half-course of Cambridge Royal which was this year's test piece. We had had no practice before today, and we never fully got to grips with the back ten of this odd-struck, slightly awkward light ground-floor twelve in a tower that leans so much it makes you queasy, and the result was that the ringing felt laboured, letting Mr Flatters down somewhat. Though Mason behaved impeccably in the church as we rang.

The Mermaid's garden in the sunshine...The leaning tower of Surfleet from the outside...Ringers gathering for the results.More pictures.
We retired back over the road at The Mermaid by the river, the mini-ring long since packed away due to the torrential downpours that interjected the sunshine, and if we were honest expected to have come last. Therefore we were actually pleasantly surprised to have come sixth out of eight, the Essex Association and Cambridge University Guild being the unlucky ones below us. But we came out as the slowest band of the day by some way, with a peal-speed of 3hrs19mins, the judges Richard Smith and Michael Purday noting that it did us no favours, and I'm inclined to agree with them. I've long been befuddled by our obsession with slow ringing in Suffolk, particularly on higher numbers. To my mind, the best ringing I've been involved in is quick, with bells slotting in and real life and 'sparkle' about ringing, something judges in particular look upon more favourably. If we are going to ring slowly, it needs to be spot on, and that's incredibly difficult, particularly on light, oddstruck bells. The bigger the gaps in between bells, the more space you need to find the right spot in, and the wide open handstroke leads we favour generally just offer up an opportunity for the other bells to plough into the one leading. You can be too quick too though, as the Peterborough Diocesan Guild discovered with their peal-speed of 2hrs59mins, only just finishing above us in fifth place.

But generally we could do with learning lessons from how others do it, most notably the Bedfordshire Association who again ran away with things, with a brisk peal-speed of 3hrs1min that didn't trip over itself, and much preparation, putting them ahead of the hosts Lincoln Diocesan Guild in second, the Ely Diocesan Guild in third, and the Norwich Diocesan Association in fourth.

Still, we had a nice afternoon out in a lovely part of the world, enjoying the company of ringers from across the Eastern region, like John Loveless, Linda Garton and Andrew Keech from the victors, Chris Woodcock and Les Townsend from our superb hosts, Sue Marsden, Brian Meads, Alan Marks, Nick Churchman, Brenda Dixon and many, many more at a great social occasion, even if teams knowing when they are ringing means more ringers just come and go.

Next year the date is moving from the usual third Saturday of June, to the first Saturday, meaning we in the South-East District may have to plan our quarterly meeting on 7th June 2014 around events in Essex, the hosts of the Ridgman Trophy in a year. Already, I'm glad to say our esteemed Ringing Master is looking ahead, so I'm confident of better things from us in fifty weeks time.


Friday 14th June 2013

Congratulations to dedicated Guild member Jason Busby and his wife Sarah, on the birth of their first child Sophie Grace. As mentioned before on here, Jason is one of the most enthusiastic, useful and helpful members of the SGR, and whilst I expect he will (very understandably!) have less time to dedicate to ringing, it is extremely happy news.

There was a footnote to the occasion on the 1250 of Yorkshire Major Ruthie was ringing in at Rendham, alongside one that revealed it was Tim Stanford's first in the method. Well done Tim.

Mason at cricket.Whilst my wife was being useful there, I was enjoying an unexpected burst of midsummer evening sunshine at St Audreys Sports & Social Club, as a celebration was held in honour of the new cricket nets there, meaning the usual pick-up of Mason was prolonged to a pleasant social of chilli and hot dogs, as he enjoyed playing in the aforementioned nets.

All the kind of thing that Jason and Sarah have got to look forward to!


Thursday 13th June 2013

Cosy nostril time at Ufford, and despite the first three pieces all needing at least one restart, it was a practice that got better, and once again served its useful practice by allowing those learning certain Surprise Major methods a concerted go at them with a guaranteed number of more experienced helpers.

Debenham.Two of those helpers are age-defying Don and Helen Price, who continue to be a plus at any ringing event, and I'm sure they won't mind me using them as a link to the forthcoming Veterans' Day at Debenham on Wednesday 10th July. We quite rightly focus a lot of support and guidance upon our ringing youngsters, but it's important to recognise what they are the future of. One of the many wonderful aspects of ringing is the lifelong friendships and activity it offers, from childhood to old-age, and this wonderful event organised by Muriel Page is a fantastic celebration of this. And so long has it been running, that many of the younger helpers when it first started over twenty years ago are now veterans themselves! So if you are 65 and over, want to catch up with faces familiar and otherwise, and can get out to St Mary Magdalene, then please do. Likewise, if you're under 65 and can spare the time to help, I'm sure it would be very much appreciated by Muriel!

Helmingham.And Jenny Scase would also appreciate help at Helmingham on Saturday, as she looks to demonstrate the simulator as part of the Open Tower Day at this isolated and historic 17cwt eight, especially as a substantial number of us are in Lincolnshire for The Ridgman Trophy at the same time.

Ruthie and I had done our helping out for now though, and returned to Woodbridge to pop round to see neighbours Toby and Amy. Due to a change of circumstances, they are having to get rid of their two cats Rosie and Oakley, and are keen they go direct to a good home rather than just fobbing them off onto the RSPCA, so if you - or anyone you know - are looking for a cat, or may like to take one on, then please do get in touch, and maybe we could sort something out.

Meanwhile, well done to Michelle Williams on ringing her first quarter of Lincolnshire Surprise Major in the success at Southwold yesterday (where incidentally they are looking for ringers to help out for a special service on the morning of Sunday 30th June if you can help), as she strives to achieve the same progress in Surprise Major as we are at Ufford with our cosy nostrils.


Wednesday 12th June 2013

Pettistree.Due to the longer-than-most 7-9pm length of Pettistree practice - even longer of course if you partake in the weekly quarter beforehand, and thanks for the birthday footnote to Dad on this occasion guys - and the open nature of this ground-floor practice, people tend to come and go, with more leaving well before the end of proceedings than I notice at any other practice I've ever been to. A bit like a drop-in centre with bells.

It seems to work though, giving the evening a uniquely 'fluid' feel, to steal a word from the oft-irritating news reports of current times. Sometimes it must be difficult for Mike to run, not always entirely sure who he is going to have as he plans a couple of pieces on, but I feel it also enhances the social side of the evening, rarely letting things get too dull for those standing out.

I noticed the effect more than usual this evening, with a sizeable crowd of twenty-ish on our arrival at a damp SS Peter & Paul, dwindling to just a handful as we approached a very well rung touch of Stedman Doubles and superb lower led by Ruthie at the end of another useful session, which saw much from Call-Changes to Surfleet rung, and Mrs Munnings introducing young Alex to the world of plain hunting.

Preston St Mary.Meanwhile, elsewhere there were achievements, and well done to Mary Allum, Richard Brewster and David Howe on ringing their first quarter of London Scholars Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 of the method at Preston St Mary, the latter calling it into the bargain.

Back in Pettistree, we topped things off with a drink in The Greyhound, making the night even longer!


Tuesday 11th June 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a programme called Behind the Scenes of 24 Hours in A&E or similar. So a behind-the-scenes look at a behind-the-scenes reality show. At the time I got the sense that TV was eating itself, the same sense I occasionally get with my own blog, and a sense I had when reading about a ceremonial unveiling of a statue to mark the centenary of a ceremonial unveiling today.

Said ceremony was taking place in Sudbury, and centred on the statue of local 18th century painter Thomas Gainsborough on the Market Hill, in the shadow of St Peter's church, and for all that I perceived from this distance that it was a bizarre occasion to celebrate, the main reason I bring it up is that the bells of the tower watching over proceedings are - albeit briefly - mentioned in the East Anglian Daily Times report on it all. Well done to those involved on getting bells a bit of PR. Perhaps in a century our replacements will ring to mark the 100th anniversary of when the ringers rang to celebrate the ceremony to mark the centenary of a ceremony...

Something definitely worth noting are the birthdays of three of the Guild's members today. Happy Birthday Maggie Ross, Becky Munford and my father Alan Munnings!


Monday 10th June 2013

towers/images/harkstead2_small.jpgGood to read that Harkstead are back in action after a lengthy silence due to building work in the church, with the added bonus being there is now a toilet available to churchgoers and ringers at this delightful ground-floor six in idyllic surroundings!

St Mary-le-Tower has long had such facilities, so long as you have a key and code for neighbouring Church House, but it obviously wasn't a huge draw this evening, as the holidays and work commitments which led to a small attendance last week, contributed to another low one this time out, and again saw Owen running the practice tremendously. In amongst a productive and useful session - especially for Sonia, Sean and Mike - I'm sure the absent David would've been chuffed to hear the first four leads of London (No.3) Surprise Royal this evening, as it produced some of the best ringing we've had at SMLT for a long time. He would've been less enamoured with the fifth lead that brought it crashing to an unexpected and premature end though...

With Kate having brought us, and the Lord calling upon one of His subjects whilst we were out, we had to pass on the pub on this occasion, so it was back home early, where we too have certain facilities!


Sunday 9th June 2013

As I've mentioned before, ringing is rare if not unique among hobbies, in that any change-ringer from anywhere in the world, can almost without exception, join a change-ringing band pretty much anywhere else they find change-ringing occurring. And at St Mary-le-Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh this morning, we got a welcome double-dose of this USP, as we were joined by the Gormans from Great Wilbraham in Cambridgeshire, and the Ellis from Vancouver in Canada. Their presence enabled much to be rung at all three towers, and it was great to see them.

Horringer.Whilst Mason and I were gently meandering between the above towers, I was delighted to hear ringing getting some publicity on Radio Suffolk. The Open Gardens in Horringer today got a good mention, as did the fact they were open to raise money for the rehanging of the 9cwt eight at St Leonard, and indeed the bells were rung for 5060 changes of Yorkshire Major to mark the occasion.

Aldeburgh.However, as notable as that was, it was arguably an even bigger day on the coast at Aldeburgh, as SS Peter & Paul welcomed the relatively new Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev'd Justin Welby to run the Festival service. I believe it was the first time that someone currently serving in the role has ever visited Suffolk - at least in an official capacity - and so was understandably covered extensively by our local BBC radio station. That meant that as Rob Dunger stood outside chatting with excited bystanders as the man himself arrived, the bells could be heard across the county, albeit faintly most of the time. Well done to the ringers there for producing - from what I could hear - ringing of a good quality for the event. And of course, the second Sunday peal band marked the visit and the opening of the 66th Aldeburgh Festival with a peal upon this superb 11cwt eight later on in the day.

Palgrave.It wasn't just peals within our borders this afternoon. Although by the looks of it a predominantly Norfolk band, it is still worth noting the quarter of Rutland Major at Palgrave, and particularly that it was the first in the method for Gudrun Warren and Alison Daniels. Well done Gudrun and Alison.

Long Melford.Congratulations too, to Sally Veal and Stephen Dawson on ringing their 10th and 150th quarter respectively, both achieved in the 1279 of Grandsire Doubles called by the latter at Long Melford.

It all goes to show, ringing has much to offer.


Saturday 8th June 2013

It was a quiet day for us on the ringing front, but still busy enough, as our day took us three from Ruthie's Nan, to my mother-in-law, to Toys 'R' Us for a treat for Mason, to neighbouring Tesco, to Aunty Marian's. Not exciting, but relaxing and interesting nonetheless.

Rickinghall Superior.Redgrave.There was much going on elsewhere though, especially at Rickinghall Superior and Redgrave, where the North-West District Striking Competitions and BBQ were taking place respectively. Very well done to Stowmarket Tower and Stowmarket Deanery on winning the Change-Ringing competition, and The Norman Tower on winning the Call-Change Competition.

Hartest.On a District basis, attention now turns to the South-West for their competition at Hartest on the evening of Saturday 22nd June - I hope towers across this beautiful District have been inspired by the other three Districts contests, and those for the Guild at Thornham Magna and Gislingham last month! A lot of ringers and bands have taken much from their experiences in these fun events, win, lose - or in the case of the NW's contest - draw!

And beyond our borders, the Suffolk Guild will be involved in The Ridgman Trophy at Surfleet in Lincolnshire in a week, whilst the Young Ringers would still appreciate support in whatever way people can for their trip to York for The National Youth Contest on Saturday 6th July.

Our occupied day also meant we just missed Ufford ringer Susanne Eddis talking about homing pigeons on BBC Radio Suffolk, at 11.41am for those who would like to listen to her informed views on iPlayer.


Friday 7th June 2013

If the events in Woolwich of a few weeks ago were anymore than a lust for murder and brutality in any name the culprits could think of, then I imagine one of the results they were hoping for was for people in this country to turn on the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course what actually happened was quite the opposite, with support for our brave troops strengthened, and a large proportion of an apathetic population stirred to defend the UK's forces just when many had become desensitized to the deaths of soldiers in a far off land. Indeed, quite why terrorists bother is beyond me. For many years we have been aware of their beef, and large proportions of the population already agree with some of their grievances. But despite years of IRA bombings, the 9/11 attacks and 7th July bombings, ordinary people have continued to go to work. Skyscrapers are still built ever taller and with as much vigor, even on Ground Zero. Plane travel has continued to be popular, to the extent that airport expansion to cope with its growth is a hot political topic at the moment. And the last few times that I've been on the London Underground, it's still been as busy as ever, and we have even felt safe enough to take Mason on it.

23rd Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) march down The Thoroughfare in Woodbridge.Mason lining up his targets...And as a consequence of the pointless murder of Drummer Lee Rigby two weeks ago, I was more determined than ever to cheer on the soldiers of 23rd Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) - based locally at Rock Barracks where I briefly worked - as they first marched through the streets of Woodbridge, and then put on a superb concert this evening in a sunbathed Elmhurst Park. By this point, Ruthie and I had the li'l chap with us and had met up with Kate and Ron, the youngest of our party enjoying sitting in an army jeep, eating ice cream, and running about with many of his contemporaries.

We followed it all with a pint or two at The Bell & Steelyard, at the end of a dramatic day for my wife and her work colleagues, as one of their customers nearly died on their shop floor. Thankfully, said customer left alive - albeit to hospital - but I think Mrs Munnings was glad to join us in saluting those who see much worse on a daily basis.


Thursday 6th June 2013

I've never been fearful of trips to the dentist, but I've never much liked them. A small fortune for the privilege of being told you don't brush your teeth correctly, and three-quarters of your lunch-break taken up with a one-way conversation with a man staring into your tea-stained mouth.

Still, I enjoyed that more today than the near two-hours solid live 'coverage' about a 91-year-old man being taken into hospital for a pre-arranged, non-emergency operation, the greatest consequence of which seems to be that said pensioner won't be able to go on walkabouts for the next couple of weeks. It was 24-hour rolling news at its finest. With absolutely no new information to add, and none likely to be forthcoming, rather than filling their time with other actual news, anyone looking to find out what is going on in the world was instead subjected to looping pictures, and phone conversations with lots of people who knew even less about what was going on.

Thankfully for Ruthie and me, there was other stuff on the TV, so an evening off from choir and Grundisburgh wasn't completely dominated by the inner medical conditions of the Royal Family, but today won't go down as one of the most memorable in our lives.


Wednesday 5th June 2013

The Wolery.It may not have been as physically exerting as ringing a 35cwt bell on a surfboard in an ancient oven for 3hrs23mins, nor quite as mentally stretching as 5040 changes of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, but this evening's 5088 of Pudsey Surprise Major in 1hr44mins at The Wolery on a bell weighing 7lb 5oz counts as one peal more than Sunday's efforts at Chelmsford Cathedral in mine and Ruthie's records! And though the occasional trip was frustrating, it was scored in good fashion, with particular credit due to young Colin Salter who was ringing his first of Pudsey. Well done Colin!

There were the usual grumbles afterwards of what a truly awful method it is, apparently fit only for those looking to complete the standard eight and peal bands in hell consisting of the likes of Hitler, Jack the Ripper and N-Dubz. It was decreed that it would never be rung (in full at least) on these bells again, much to the consternation of the elder Salter brother who is yet to peal the method. But I actually don't mind it so much. Sure, it's not as musical as Bristol, as easy to keep right as Yorkshire, or as interesting as London, but I think it's a quirky little method, better in my eyes than Cambridge and Rutland, and not really worth the demonisation it gets in the ringing fraternity.

I cannot speak for the merits of Waltham Delight Minor, as I didn't partake in the 1272 of it at Pettistree this evening, but congratulations to Pippa Moss on reaching the landmark of her 800th quarter. She is at Pettistree week-in-week-out, and regularly attends District and Guild events, as well as helping learners achieve much in the many quarters she rings in, so richly deserves this.

And at least it counts as a quarter more than our 'peal' on Sunday...


Tuesday 4th June 2013

Between us, Ruthie and I have thirty-two years of peal-ringing, with 746 successes and countless lost peal attempts of varying lengths under our belts. But we'd been extremely fortunate never to have partaken in a false one. There have been instances where they've been lost very near the end, but we'd never turned up at a tower, rung a peal, mentally logged it, left afterwards, only then to be told that actually our efforts couldn't be counted.

Until now.

I had been concerned that after Sunday's slog at Chelmsford Cathedral, our 5040 Cambridge Surprise Maximus had appeared on neither BellBoard or Campanophile. Nothing had been said, but I had my suspicions of what may have happened. Today, those fears were confirmed, with the rather sheepish and obviously very apologetic conductor revealing to the band via email that after much investigation, it had been discovered that it was miscalled, and one half-course had been rung twice.

Now, I'd prefer that my first false peal wasn't when I'd been surfing an awkward 35cwt bell for 3hrs23mins on a sweltering hot day, having travelled some distance there and back and sacrificed time with Mason. But, I am also aware these things happen, and indeed I have often been the cause of similar mishaps, most notably my shambolic organisation of a peal attempt at Great Yarmouth during Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2009 at much cost to time and finances for those involved.

The conductor's honesty is to be applauded too. I have to admit that I never noticed a thing (just staying upright was my main focus!), and in theory he could've probably got away with it. But I'm glad he did highlight it. Of my 510 peals thus far, some have been a bit rough, some may even not have been counted by our predecessors of centuries past and I've often thought 'tones' and 'big bobs' feel a little like a cheat. But - to the very best of my knowledge - they've all been true and within the rules, and means that I can look back at my records with genuine pride.

The bad news didn't change that today was a good day from a SGR PR perspective either. For today saw a campaign launched by Greene King and and our good friend Mark Murphy of BBC Radio Suffolk to reinstate our county's patron saint St Edmund as patron saint of England. Of course for some years now, we have arranged special ringing to mark St Edmund's Day on 20th November, so I was glad to hear the ringers at The Norman Tower given the opportunity to ring on the radio for today's launch. However unlikely it may be that St George will be usurped by Ed after all this time, it is all good fun, and importantly for us, very good PR. Well done to all concerned.

It wasn't the only local media that Suffolk ringing has appeared in over the last couple of days though. Take a look at page 31 of yesterday's East Anglian Daily Times, and you will see an archive picture of a band of familiar ringers from May 1981. Mike Whitby - who appears in it alongside the likes of Simon Rudd, Stephen Pettman, Christine Hill and Adrian Knights - believes it is from a failed 10,080 of Double Norwich Major at Woodbridge, an attempt apparently lost after five-and-a-half hours when two bells swapped over, but as with the 1974 AGM picture recently featured on this website, it is interesting just how little and yet how much certain ringers have changed in the intervening years!

Nationally, ringing was getting great publicity too, as a large audience caught the sound of the superb 5060 London (No.3) Surprise Royal rung at Westminster Abbey after the service there to celebrate the recent sixtieth anniversary of the Queen's Coronation, and featuring ringers familiar to many of us within our borders, like David Brown and Chris Rogers. And you can bet your bottom dollar it wasn't false!


Monday 3rd June 2013

As Ron very kindly drove Kate, Ruthie and me back from The Cricketers in Ipswich, the dying embers of a sunset still glowing to our left as 10pm ticked past, I was able to reflect upon a useful evening's ringing. Even with a lower than normal attendance due to holidays, works and gigs, and absentees including our esteemed Master David, Owen was able to run a good session that took in a wide variety, from Surprise Major to Surprise Maximus, and all topped with a decent touch of Stedman Caters. Even though there was enough in theory to ring Cinques for that last touch, it is important to note that with ringing's circumstances in the immediate area, we are as much a ten-bell practice as a twelve-bell one.

Rickinghall Superior.Meanwhile, I hope that teams are in for this Saturday's North-West District Striking Competition at Rickinghall Superior. But even if you're not ringing, striking competitions are superb events to go along to and take in, even more so one that mentions BBQ, pudding and alcoholic drinks!

If you're unable to travel out there though, maybe the North-East District Walk, Ring and Picnic between Tannington and Monk Soham floats your boat, an event which sounds like it will be greatly enhanced by some gorgeous weather!

Before that, it is worth noting that the same District will be holding a Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday, something that - like tonight for us - promises to be a useful evening's ringing.


Sunday 2nd June 2013

Exactly a year ago, we were in the midst of a long, long weekend of celebrations, with Union Jacks flying from almost every conceivable spot, and barely a footstep could be taken without tripping over an event of some sort.

It was a marvellous weekend in a marvellous summer of events internationally, nationally and personally, but in many respects it was a shame the powers that be held the celebrations last year and not this. I can understand why they were. As with the Silver and Golden Jubilees of 1977 and 2002, they were held in relation to when the then Princess Elizabeth actually becoming Queen. As someone pointed out somewhere though, we actually appeared to be celebrating George VI's death in 2012, the sixtieth anniversary of when her father died, which seems a rather morbid thing to mark.

However, today, exactly sixty years on from the altogether happier event of the Coronation, there seemed very little fuss made, with a glancing nod from the TV channels that dedicated their airtime to all things royal this time last year. No street-parties, no river pageant, no big concerts.

Bellringing still did its bit this weekend though. A peal of Cambridge Max at The Norman Tower yesterday was rung for the occasion, as were the quarters of Grandsire Doubles at Pettistree and Wimborne Minster Bob Minor at Buxhall. And congratulations to the deserving Brian Whiting on ringing his 800th peal in the 5040 Grandsire Triples also rung for her Maj, and which was the first peal at All Saints, Sudbury since 1955.

Ruthie and I were also ringing today, albeit south of the border. We were at Chelmsford Cathedral for an attempt which took some organising, and reminded me why I don't arrange them as frequently as I used to. Originally this was to be a joint Suffolk and Essex attempt of Jubilee Surprise Maximus. However, one by one of our contingent dropped out. George Pipe was obviously in no condition to ring - though it is good to hear that he continues to recover - Philip Wilding had to pull out due to unforeseen circumstances, James Smith's flight to Hong Kong had been moved forward to this afternoon rather than this evening, and David Potts was unable to make it due to work, any notions of going for the unfamiliar Jubilee put to the sword along the way. When we arrived to find Alex Tatlow sat in the porch looking particularly unwell and suffering from a migraine, it left my wife and me as the only remaining ringers in the band from north of the Stour.

To give him his dues, David Rothera had somehow managed to pull a Maximus band out of the hat, having only discovered about David and Philip's absence when he returned last night from some time in Wales for Tudor Edwards' funeral. Even more impressively, having been pre-warned about AWT's condition, he had managed to get a thirteenth member as back-up, a standby that was to be needed.

In the circumstances, the 5040 of Cambridge Max was a considerable achievement, with Helen on the treble ringing her first on twelve (well done Helen!) and others by their own admission a little out of their comfort zone. It was tough on the tenor mind.

The boxes for the back bells there are not my favourite. Tall, skinny things with just about enough room to stand on, they are not ideal for someone like me who tends to wander more during three and a half hours of ringing than I do going back and forth to work during an average week. So last time I rang it to a peal, I'd plumped for a box with more space to move around on, but much smaller. The result was a shattering experience, rung in 3hrs19mins primarily because I couldn't stretch far enough to go any slower! This time, having asked me a couple of weeks ago if I could ring the big one today, DER had prepared a couple of boxes, one on top of the other, with mats in between to stop them slipping. Or so went the theory. The twelfth here is not an easy job, with the backstroke so slow that an awful lot of work and jumping around is required just to get it in the right place, let alone anything else. The result was that with still another three courses and about an hour to go, the top box was teetering over the edge of the bottom one, nearly going on a couple of occasions with me still on it. I imagine it was a bit like what surfing, whilst trying to control a 35cwt bell, feels like. It certainly made for an uncomfortable last third or so.

The weather would've been better for the Jubilee celebrations if held this year too. On the first Sunday of last June, you may recall the sorry sight of the spectacular Thames Pageant in winter-like conditions, with wind and rain meaning temperatures barely got to double figures, and street-parties across the land were either cancelled or taken indoors. Today, we had roasting sunshine, as you might expect for a summer's day in most countries. Whilst that made for far from perfect conditions for heaving heavy bells about to peals, it did make for the perfect afternoon for Mason, Kate and Ron, as they went to Easton Farm Park whilst we toiled in Essex's city, before we all met again back at Edwin Avenue for a BBQ - thanks guys!

It all came at the end of a reversal of the norm for Sunday morning ringing. We were unusually short at St Mary-le-Tower, only being able to ring on eight, the knock-on effect being there wasn't enough to man St Lawrence this week. On the plus side, if you don't usually get the opportunity to ring on this famous five on a first Sunday, you have the chance in a week's time.

Meanwhile, Grundisburgh was full to bursting, with enough to ring on all twelve, before we all went forth to enjoy this sunny Jubilee day in our different ways.


Saturday 1st June 2013

I awoke with earache. That's right, less than a year into marriage.

To be fair to my wife, she looked after me superbly, and her work connections were useful for remedying my affliction.

Barking.Coddenham.Her time spent on me this morning was all the more impressive as she had rather a lot on her plate today, as of course it was the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Barking and Coddenham this afternoon. It wasn't just ensuring there were printed copies of minutes from the March meeting at Debenham, checking the tea lady was poised, and generally fretting that everything would go to plan after all the organising. But with it being a bring and share tea, she was doing her bit from the food side, as I sat and recovered - don't bother trying to talk into my right ear over the next couple of days!

As it happened, Ruthie - and her committee colleagues, particularly Chairman Mary Garner and Tom Scase, as well as my mother-in-law Kate who served drinks - can be deservedly chuffed with how things went. There were absences as there often are, especially at the June event at the end of half-term, with people understandably away on holiday, though I refuse to believe that all the 250+ SE members absent were UNABLE to attend.

Ringing at Barking.Ready for the meeting in Coddenham church.Ringing at Coddenham (l to r Pippa Moss, Tracey Scase, Mervyn Scase - hidden - Anne Buswell & George Salter).However, given the time of year, there wasn't a too unreasonable attendance, with - over the course of the day - about forty enjoying not just the ringing at the ground-floor six and rare eight, but also the huge tea - including a tremendous chilli brought along by Pippa Moss and Mike Whitby- and a brief meeting where eight members were elected from Wickham Market, Hacheston and Parham, a good number of whom were present and who acquitted themselves brilliantly on the awkward 14cwt ring we rang on afterwards. There were a good number of locals from the first tower of the afternoon, and at the latter it was great to see Alan Smith at his home tower, former Guild Treasurer, Central Council Rep and generally long-serving member of the SGR, who most of us hadn't seen for many years due to his sad illness.

We left with Mrs Munnings feeling very satisfied with her efforts, and quite rightly so, but it wasn't the end of our day, as we headed down to Ipswich to join Toby, Amy, Nick and Kala at Mason's Godfather's mother's house for a BBQ and some good news. And no, it wasn't that my earache had gone.


Friday 31st May 2013

Mason enjoying Kingston Fields.Nice warm, sunny evenings have been rather at a premium last year and this, so when one as lovely as today's comes along, it seems a shame not to take advantage. As a result, Mason and I found ourselves down at Kingston Fields by the River Deben whilst South-East District Secretary Ruthie crossed the t's and dotted the i's for tomorrow's ringing.

Whepstead.There was plenty to be said for today's ringing too. Well done to Simon and Clare Veal, and Neal Dodge on ringing their first quarter on five bells in the success at Whepstead.

Meanwhile, there were peals involving two of Suffolk's ringing stalwarts. Congratulations to David Salter on ringing his 1500th peal for the Guild he was twice Ringing Master of, in the 5040 at Hacheston, a landmark well deserved. And Happy 66th Birthday to Adrian 'Arnie' Knights, an occasion marked as it usually is with a peal of an appropriate length at Offton. As far as I can make out, this is a tradition which goes back at least to a 5048 rung eighteen years ago, so I'm glad to see it has continued with today's effort, in honour of one of the finest ringers to have come from within our borders.

What better way to spend such a lovely sunny day?


Thursday 30th May 2013

I continued the sporadic updates of my peal records this evening, which at the moment are focused on the start of 2007, helped by our old friend Pealbase and peals.co.uk. By this point of course, with me still in my first twelve months as Guild Ringing Master, the vast majority of my peals were rung in Suffolk for the SGR, though there was a peal rung at Darley Dale in Derbyshire as part of one of Alan McBurnie's tremendously fun quarter-peal trips away, and a long day out in Bristol on Easter Monday for Ruthie and me to ring a peal at the famous Redcliffe. It was an interesting time, with this year being my record one for numbers of peals, with sixty rung between my first on 13th January at Tostock and my last at St Mary-le-Tower on 28th December, and Mason being born in amongst the period I'm currently updating, and is another example of peal records telling a story, many of them holding memories specific to that time.

Monewden.Such as the peal rung at Monewden to welcome my son four days after his birth, and the reintroduction of Suffolk Guild Peal Week. There are names familiar in our peal columns at the time who we don't see much of now sadly. Some I know the whereabouts of, such as Revd Geoffrey P Clement, a very talented ringer now on the Shotley Peninsula and I'm glad to say still ringing. But for example, I haven't seen the two Barry's, Dixon and Rice for years. What became of them? And there was a young chap called Louis P H Suggett ringing his first peal on twelve in the success at Grundisburgh during SGPW07. Whatever happened to him?

Harkstead.Unfortunately, the bells which resounded to 5015 changes of Grandsire Cinques on that February day, lay silent again this evening, as another practice was cancelled, a big shame after last week's success. There was still ringing being done of course, as there are many other Thursday practices around, such as at Kersey, Harkstead, Great Barton, and St Margaret in Ipswich. And well done to Alex Rolph on ringing her first quarter on a mini-ring in the 1280 of Bob Major at The Wolery.

However, I still wasn't feeling great, though well enough to return to work, and - whilst Ruthie went to choir and in between arrangements for a couple of potentially good PR opportunities for local ringing - well enough to update my peal records.


Wednesday 29th May 2013

It was a busy day in the county, not least in ringing, where there were three peals at The Wolery alone, and one at Grundisburgh. In Old Stoke, congratulations to George Salter on ringing his 100th for the Guild in the peal of five Surprise Minor methods, well done to Clare Veal on ringing her first of Cambridge in the 5152 of the Major version of the method, and Mick, Clare, Mary, Colin and George on ringing their first of Alnwick Surprise Minor in the 1hr44mins of that. Meanwhile, on the back eight of our lightest twelve, well done to Ruth Suggett on ringing her first of Rutland in the 5026 of the Major.

But it wasn't just ringing where there was a lot happening, with the first day of what will hopefully this year be the two-day Suffolk Show being held at Trinity Park. Ruthie and I would've loved to attend, looking round all that it offers, from sheep shearers to ITFC, basket weavers to Radio Suffolk, and flower tents to the food tent. Sadly however, there was still no space for The Vestey Ring on the St Edmundsbury & Ipswich tent, so we have been unable to build upon the superb PR exercise we undertook at the show two years ago, and it meant we had nothing to help with. That coupled with the need to take out a day's holiday from work on the off-chance that the weather will be nice enough to spend hours wandering the huge site, and it generally being quite an expensive day out, meant that we gave it a miss this time round.

Not that we would have really been well enough to go today. I ended up having a rare day off poorly, whilst my wife got home from work in the afternoon not feeling too great either. With one of us booked in for the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree, it fell to me as the less-poorly of the Munnings couple to ring. I'm glad one of us did, as it was a useful exercise for Jo, who has been regularly attending ringing at Grundisburgh, Burgh and Hasketon on Sunday mornings, for weddings and the sporadically held practices since returning to the art last year. That has all been very helpful to ringing in that cluster of towers, but I always think it is best if ringers - particularly learners - can get out elsewhere, to at least another practice, and Guild and District events, especially when the ringing in the little red brick tower has become so unpredictable. And that is exactly what she has begun doing, ringing for one of the South-East District teams in The Rose Trophy at Gislingham eleven days ago, and now coming to join us at SS Peter & Paul this evening. I hope more follow her lead around the county.

The 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was all the ringing I was going to do today though, as I returned to recuperate with my other half, our day much quieter than for many others across Suffolk today.


Tuesday 28th May 2013

June is almost upon us, and with it another full and varied programme of ringing across Suffolk and beyond. Once May's last event - Friday's North-East District Surprise Major Practice at Halesworth - has taken place, it all kicks off with the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Barking and Coddenham on Saturday afternoon, with ringing at both and a Bring and Share Tea and the SHORT meeting at the latter. The eight at St Mary-the-Virgin in particular are rarely rung at, so it is a superb opportunity for many to have a ring here, whilst the 11cwt six at St Mary are a pleasant ground-floor six in lovely surroundings.

Then on Sunday, George Reynolds has arranged a Surprise Practice at Great Barton. George is one of the Guild's younger ringers, and yet another example of the kind of pro-activeness this Guild needs. Please do support events like this if you possibly can.

For this evening though, Ruthie and I weren't in any of Suffolk's ringing chambers. Rather, we were in The Bell & Steelyard in Woodbridge, as we enjoyed a drink with Toby and his friend Nick. But rest assured and God willing, we shall be out and about at much of what June has on offer for us ringers. Please make sure that you are too.


Monday 27th May 2013

I often feel sorry for those who do little more than go to work, and then go home and watch TV. These days for many, you can take any mention of work out of that sentence. Personally, given more time, money, and to an extent motivation, I'd love to do so much more, try new stuff out, see different parts of the world, try eating various foods, that kind of stuff. But that said, I love the variety in my life. In ringing alone, I enjoy helping learners in call-changes and Bob Doubles as much as ringing a good peal of Surprise Maximus with some of the top ringers in the world. And I feel just as comfortable exchanging office banter, attending posh dinners, singing rude songs about Delia Smith from the North Stand Lower (now the Sir Bobby Robson Stand of course), attending Mason-related events, and yes, watching TV occasionally.

Pettistree Church In Early Summer Evening Sunshine From Across The Village. Gathering For Refreshments
Pettistree. On this bank holiday Monday, Ruthie and I took in another variant, as we watched Thomas Bowes play the works of Johann Sebastian Bach unaccompanied in Pettistree church on a 1659 violin which was already an old instrument when Bach was at his peak. Now I'm no classical music connoisseur, but I have developed an appreciation for the medium through my wife, and have sat through many a classical set when she was studying at Colchester Institute, and I have mastered a lot of the terms and names on show tonight. I now know that Allegro is nothing to do with the car, Andante is completely unrelated to pasta, and Allemandra wasn't an Italian midfielder for Everton in the late 1990s. But whilst those performances at my better half's place of learning were always of good quality - especially the award winning Symphonic Wind Orchestra that the future Mrs Munnings was an integral part of - the mundane windowless 1960s built Swinburne Hall did their talents little justice, and it was very different listening to an experienced violinist at the top of his game, in an ancient village church on a late spring/early summer's evening, the golden glow of the sun lighting the building for much of the performance.

It was a stunning success for our very own Bill Lloyd and Mary Garner who were the main organisers of this wonderful event, and unsurprisingly there was a large turnout of ringers. Amongst those present were the Stevens (with young Richard behaving absolutely impeccably), Harpers, Garners, Bignells, Roses (of the Daphne and Rob variety), Mikes Whitaker and Whitby, Pippa Moss, Hazel Judge and Susanne Eddis, who we gave a lift back to Woodbridge after a pint in The Greyhound. We were joined in the hostelry by the star of the show Tom, who had used the ringing chamber at SS Peter & Paul as a dressing room, and was as intrigued by what we do as we were impressed by what he does. A thoroughly nice and talented chap.

To top off a varied day, well done to Colin and George Salter on ringing their first of Orion in the 1296 on handbells at home, and congratulations to the latter on ringing his 100th quarter in the process.


Sunday 26th May 2013

Ringing At Grundisburgh, As Viewed By Mason! With Ruthie at work, Mason and I had to occupy ourselves, starting with a low attendance at St Mary-le-Tower, where we nonetheless carried out some very good ringing on the back eight, onto a slightly larger gathering at Grundisburgh where I was running the ringing in Stephen's absence and where we peaked at Grandsire Caters.

Mason Enjoying The Sunshine In Elmhurst Park. The rest of the day was about enjoying the sunshine in Elmhurst Park, as a large and lively treasure hunt was carried out around us, and briefly playing host to bridesmaid Fergie on a very fleeting visit.

Meanwhile, it was good to see the first quarter rung on the Collings Eight at The Norman Tower, the extra sixth already making life easier for the ringers of Bury St Edmunds. And well done to Simon Veal in ringing his first of Plain Bob Triples in the 1274 at Bardwell.


Saturday 25th May 2013

It was a day of celebration.

Firstly of the wedding of Stephen Bedford’s daughter Helen at Hungarian Hall, as some of us somehow rang a quarter of spliced Helen and Bedford Delight Minor at nearby Pettistree, the former method in particular being a tricky little blighter! I hope the day went well for them.

With Ruthie, Mason and young Richard Stevens having listened patiently whilst we rung, we all trundled over to Thong Hall for a cuppa and some biscuits, and to hear more good news to celebrate. After years of having to ring the front five as the tenor was cracked, Woolpit are now a complete six again! Well done to all concerned, I look forward to returning there soon!

Mason at one with a huge ball at his friend's party!The celebrating wasn’t over though, as the afternoon saw the li’l chap and me head to Brackenbury Sports Centre in Felixstowe for his friend Anelie’s birthday party. There was much energy used, with many tears as all the racing around in hot weather saw predictable bumps and bruises and fractious tempers, but overall it was hard to drag the boy away from all the fun.

But drag him away I did, as we had a date with Pete Faircloth to celebrate his escape from Thursday’s car accident with a couple of drinks at The Bell and Steelyard back in Woodbridge to help aide his recovery, before we eventually returned back to Kate’s to watch Bayern Munich celebrate winning the Champion’s League.

What a lot of celebrating, I wish more days could be like this!


Friday 24th May 2013

Despite hours a week of using not inconsiderable coordination and timing on the end of a rope, we bellringers are not immune to car accidents. I rather consider myself the king of these, having written someone else’s car off whilst I was doing a three-point turn, put my car on its roof on the winding country lanes between Hacheston and Campsea Ashe, and getting squashed between a white van man and another car on the ‘BT’ roundabout on the A12 at Martlesham. Not my fault that one, and – without wanting to tempt fate – the last car accident I was involved in over seven years ago.

But I’m not alone. Guild Secretary Mandy Shedden had an altercation with a lorry earlier in the year, the Salters were rather unceremoniously shunted in Wales in between two peals, and I remember someone somehow backing into Kate Eagle’s car in the petrol station after a lost peal attempt at Rushmere a few years ago, all incidents in which said ringers were faultless and came out of relatively unscathed I’m glad to say.

Pete's Car after the accident.So spare a thought for poor Pete Faircloth, after someone – in his own words - ‘decided to shorten the back of (his) car by a couple of feet’ on the Foxhall Road roundabout on the A12 yesterday morning, just a mile or two further down from my own write-off the best part of a decade ago. Thankfully he is OK, with nothing more than whiplash, and the wrath of Susanne for squashing her bike in the boot, but his car is sadly a write-off.

Thomas Bowes.Thankfully there were no such problems for Mum and Dad as they brought Mason round to Edwin Avenue, where we are house-sitting currently, for another long Bank Holiday weekend which will be topped off by a concert at Pettistree church, which will see the much acclaimed (in the opinion of those much more an expert in these matters than I) Thomas Bowes play the music of Bach at 7pm on Monday. There is no admission price, merely donations desired, so it is well worth coming along, especially as there will be no St Mary-le-Tower practice.

And if you can ring handbells, change-ringing has been requested in this medium for a wedding at Hepworth on Saturday 29th June, so do get in touch with if you can help out!

Maybe the Salter boys could, as they continue to show their competence on handbells with a quarter of Pleiades Treble Place Minimus at home today, the first Treble Place for both of them. Well done boys, and well done to Mary Allum, Kevin Ward and Josephine Beever on ringing their first of Kemerton Bob Minor in the 1260 at Edwardstone.

Above all else, I’m glad you all got there safely!


Thursday 23rd May 2013

Grundisburgh.Let's not beat about the bush. Grundisburgh bells aren't the finest. The sound is not pleasant, since the new tenor was put in nearly five years ago the bells drop seemingly randomly, and ropesight is almost a foreign concept at times. But they remain a useful set of bells to ease many learner's progression from eight to ten and twelve-bell ringing, if used in the right way. Or indeed if used at all.

So it was heartening that after confirmation from a now absent Stephen earlier in the week that there would be a practice this evening, that the expected attendance of eight in fact turned into an impressive sixteen. It meant that David Stanford was able to run another varied and interesting practice, and whilst not everything went - an attempt of Stedman Cinques eventually fell after a gallant attempt - it was a good night, topped off by entertaining conversation in The Dog immediately afterwards, and a try of their exceedingly nice pickled eggs in many flavours. Much like Grundisburgh practice, they are something we should try more often.


Wednesday 22nd May 2013

The Wednesday night peals of Major at St Mary-le-Tower (or wherever is available if SMLT isn't) have been on a losing trot recently. Work commitments, cancellations, miscalls and just general losses mean that it is actually half a year since our last success of Double Norwich at Henley back in October.

So this evening's successful 5152 of the standard eight Surprise Major on the front eight of Suffolk's heaviest twelve was particularly sweet, especially with the baggage of past failures, the fatigue that can creep into peals at the end of a working day, and the fact that for most of the band it was their first peal of Eight-Spliced Surprise Major for months, years or even decades. Well done too to Brian on guiding us through it.

We celebrated in The Cricketers afterwards of course, with a pint, chips and - in David Potts' case after a particularly long business call - a cold burger. Let's just hope it isn't another six months until our next success!


Tuesday 21st May 2013

There was little going on in the Munnings world today, bar a brief trip to Ruthie's Uncle Moog and Aunty Ange's to drop a card off for li'l Lucy's recent birthday.

But even though Saturday's striking competitions were the last Guild event for a while, there is plenty of ringing to look forward to in the coming weeks. Indeed, there are still more striking competitions, with the North-West District competing at Rickinghall Superior on the afternoon of Saturday 8th June, and the South-West District in the evening of Saturday 22nd June at Hartest. These are both extremely friendly events at beautiful locations, and our day at Thornham Magna and Gislingham showed what good fun competitions can be! So please do get your teams into Winston Girling and Derek Rose respectively.

Even then, Suffolk ringers are involved in further contests, with a team going to Surfleet on Saturday 15th June to represent the Guild in The Ridgman Trophy, and perhaps even more importantly, our young ringers are representing us in the National Youth Contest at St Lawrence in York on Saturday 6th July. If you are able to come out to support either or both teams, it would be much appreciated, with the latter also looking for sponsorship to help cover the cost of travel and accommodation.

More immediately though, there is definitely a practice at Grundisburgh this Thursday, and with Stephen Pettman away, all help would be appreciated. If you aren't able to make that though, your presence - either to help or learn - would also be gratefully received at Stradbroke for the North-East District 10-Bell Practice on the same evening.

This is closely followed by Saturday evening's South-West District Practice at Kedington, in my experience always well-attended and useful sessions, which I hope as many people as possible will help out at. The following weekend will then kick-off with the North-East District Practice at Halesworth on the Friday evening, before the South-East District holds what I know will be a brief meeting the next day as part of it's event at Barking and Coddenham, towers rarely visited by the District in recent years, so a good opportunity for many. And the weekend will then be topped off by the 1st Sunday Surprise Practice at Great Barton from 3-4.30pm, organised by George Reynolds, and hopefully well supported.

So your days needn't be as quiet as ours today - there is much going on!


Monday 20th May 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.Despite many thinking it was last week, this evening was the 2013 St Mary-le-Tower AGM, meaning an early start and early finish to a practice which was again useful, though notable for the distinct lack of willing and able conductors for Grandsire Caters!

The meeting itself was fairly routine, now we don't have a constitution to haggle over, but it was upbeat. David Potts struck the right note with his Master's Report, highlighting that we had made progress as a team, but there was more work ahead as a team. Owen Claxton as steeple keeper urged action on the paint job that has needed to be done on the frame, and indeed some action is now being taken, as quotes to beat the £12,000 we had been quoted are now being sought. And plans were laid out for a tower open day on Saturday 14th September, as we look for new recruits, just like any tower.

It was also good to see Diana Pipe, who passed on thanks from her and George for the cards and messages of support, as well as imparting that he is still improving, if slowly. It was good news on a day when another big name in ringing was lost, with the sad death of Tudor Edwards from Wales. I didn't know him well, but had the pleasure of meeting him a few times and even the privilege of ringing a peal with him, and always found him good company. I'm sorry to hear of his passing.

Once the meeting was over, most of us headed over to The Cricketers where Ruthie and Kate had been generously holding a table for us, as we reflected on a productive evening.


Sunday 19th May 2013

After yesterday's excitement (and my ramblings on it), today was a lot quieter, but still not exactly dull.

From ringing at Woodbridge first thing, to attending the latest special practice at St Mary-le-Tower, it was a day which kept us occupied as we rolled from one thing to the next, as I witnessed one of the most extraordinary things I think I have ever seen.

There was a big attendance in the grand ringing chamber of St Mary-the-Virgin which Mason and I climbed to before climbing all the way back down to attend service, allowing the back two the chance to boom out across a town preparing for its annual 10k run.

Runners reaching the top of Church Street as they approach the finishing line of the Woodbridge 10k.It was that we went to watch afterwards - via a pint in The Mariners - as the li'l in particular was keen to catch some of the race. I have the upmost admiration for those who take part in such a long run, and at an event like this, we nearly always bump into people we know, with today being no different, as we saw and spoke to work colleagues, ringers, Mason's school friends, neighbours and fellow pub-goers, sharing in a really nice atmosphere.

Presumably it was all too exhausting for the boy to watch though, as once we'd done lunch he zonked out, putting paid to any plans to attend the Crow's Hall Country Fayre near Debenham, where The Vestey Ring was being used for its primary purpose of promoting the Guild. I really enjoyed this last year, so I was sorry not to be able to go this time round, but judging by the photos appearing on Facebook as the event was happening, there were plenty of ringers there having a good time!

Eventually we had to wake the six year-old from his slumbers though, as we'd promised ourselves to the aforementioned special practice in Ipswich. And we're glad we did, as a useful evening was had by all, especially on the Bristol Royal front, which was much practiced to varying degrees of success, but with noticeable improvement. It was all topped by a successful touch of Stedman Cinques, before we three finally rounded our day off with tea.

Meanwhile, others were also busy, with a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at St Peter in Sudbury, and a quarter of Minor at Buxhall. Well done to the entire band on ringing their first blows of Double Fairlie, David Howe on ringing his first blows in Single Fairlie, and Josephine Beever Lesley Steed, David Steed and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first quarter in the method in the latter success, and to Colin Salter on ringing his first on ten and his elder brother George on ringing his first Surprise Royal in the former, with congratulations to their father David on calling his 1900th peal.

All wonderful to see following yesterday's excitement!


Saturday 18th May 2013

If you look at the website for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition, search for Ringers in Finals and then sort by percentage of wins, and amazingly I'm still in the top ten, ahead of literally hundreds of far more talented ringers than me. It is is something I'm very proud of, which is why I like to point it out when I can, but in reality, I have been extremely fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, taking advantage of opportunities to make the most of abilities which are limited compared to so many ringers across the country.

It was a privilege, but also incredibly stressful. It is as close to professional ringing as I have seen it, especially in my time with Birmingham. Every blow was scrutinised, and indeed, when the Brummies come on, the hundreds of ringers in attendance from across the country and indeed the world stop what they are doing, leave the bar, and listen, partly for the incredible standard of ringing that they still produce, though also partly hoping they may slip up!

Quite apart from highlighting that the opportunities in ringing are almost limitless (let's face it, if li'l ol' me who learnt at Sproughton can do it, any number from our borders can do it given the chance), it has helped me put our own striking competitions in perspective. Unlike the pressured competition enjoyed/endured on a national level, the emphasis on the District and Guild events is very different. Rather than the glory of winning, and a huge spread in the Ringing World, I feel our competitions have a more practical purpose. For in my humble opinion, every time a ringer - especially learners - take part in a striking competition, they will be better for the experience, will have learnt something new, and helped their progression. It is an opportunity to focus on striking (which sadly we as ringers don't do enough of generally), to listen to other's striking, and to take tips and advice from those more experienced. And also to have a jolly good time!

There was lots of that going on today with The Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy and The Mitson Shield at Thornham Magna, and The Rose Trophy at Gislingham.

Listening outside Thornham Magna.Me and 'er at The Four Horseshoes.Ruthie and I were delighted to have an early draw for the two teams we were ringing for at St Mary Magdalene, with Pettistree A up first with Grandsire Doubles, and St Mary-le-Tower A ringing fifth (once Ralphy found the ground-floor ringing chamber!), as Mason reacquainted himself with Henry Salter, Richard Stevens and Bill Lloyd's equally lively children! With another nine teams to ring after that, it left plenty of time to chat in the churchyard and The Four Horseshoes down the tree-lined lanes of this picturesque village. There was even time for Ruthie and her colleagues to have a South-East District Committee meeting in the lychgate, before we gathered in what was once the local school, but now sits overlooking fields and forests as the village hall, for a superb tea, and the results.

 Jenny Scase accepts the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy on behalf of Debenham.The band from The Wolery which won the Mitson Shield, and their hangers on.There was real anticipation here, with potentially a handful of teams in with a shout, of winning, such was the high quality of ringing throughout the afternoon, so all were hanging on the judge Peter Hayward's every word. Congratulations to Debenham on winning the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy, and well done to The Wolery, who won the Mitson Shield at the very first time of asking! It was a result particularly pleasing for the youthful element, with Colin and George Salter, and Clare Veal ringing in the winning band, and Henry and (bizarrely!) Mason taking credit for the victory!

Three wise men - Maurice Rose, Don Price & Guild Chairman Alan Stanley.As with always at this event, we were only two-thirds of the way through at this point, as the crowds moved on the short distance to the red brick tower of St Mary-the-Virgin for the Eight-Bell Competition. Encouragingly, there were seven teams entered for this (the same number as entered the entire Six-Bell at Monks Eleigh in 2007!), though one of these - the Young Ringers - weren't strictly partaking, as sadly the rules can't allow for a band made up in their way. Still, it was great to have them there, and it will hopefully have served as good experience for their entry into The National Youth Contest in York on 6th July. Incidentally, if there is anyone out there who would like to sponsor the team financially for the travel and accommodation costs of their trip, please do get in touch with George Salter or Michelle Williams - your help would be greatly appreciated!

The youngsters far from disgraced themselves, but they did finish seventh-best, as the high quality of ringing from this afternoon was carried into this evening, with the North-East District coming out on top in another very close contest, where everyone did well to cope with the tenor being up wrong!

As a member of the SMLT band who came second in both the change-ringing competitions, I was of course keen to win, but from a neutral's point of view, the identities of the three victors was good for the contest. Come next year, it will have been three years since the Tower last won any of the Guild competitions, once again blowing the myth often used as an excuse for not entering - that they ALWAYS win. These are wide-open competitions, with an increasing number of teams in with a shout of winning, particularly in the Call-Change competition.

The only downside was the low number of entries from the west of the county, especially as the North-West District were hosts, though superb ones at that. The Norman Tower - who surely would've been contenders to win going on previous entries - were unlucky this year, with weddings, holidays and the unfortunate hospitalisation of Lawrence Pizzey (who is apparently doing well, but is quite fed up and bored) scuppering their chances of entering a band, but there wasn't any presence from the South-West District at all. I'm aware getting a team together for the Rose Trophy is hard, but I had teams from the SW in mind when I reintroduced the call-change contest back in 2008. From looking at the tremendous ringing many of their members carry out in quarters and peals, and from my experiences of their extremely well-attended district events, I know there is the talent and ability for them to enter teams, certainly in the Lester Brett Trophy, but maybe in the change ringing too. So come on South-West, let's have some entries in 2014!

It was noticeable that many of the talented ringers from the west of the county were elsewhere today, and whilst it was a shame not have their considerable abilities on show at Thornham Magna and Gislingham, well done nonetheless to David Howe and Richard Brewster on ringing their first blows of Allerton Bob Minor in the 1260 at Redgrave, the latter ringing his 200th quarter in the progress, whilst David Steed was ringing his 850th. It didn't stop there though, as Lesley and David Steed and David Howe rang their first blows in Rhyl Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Bressingham.

Whilst their day was successful, I'm glad to report that ours was too. Many thanks to the locals at the two towers for their marvellous hospitality, catering and ample supplies of tea and coffee! But also thank you to Peter for coming over from Nottinghamshire to judge on his own after his wife had to withdraw due to family reasons. Judging twenty-one teams over the best part of five hours is not easy with two, let alone on your own! Into the bargain, he had also delivered the new sharp sixth to The Norman Tower yesterday, a useful addition to Suffolk's newest twelve.

Also, well done to Jed, our Ringing Master. When I was Master, this was both one of the most enjoyable days in the year, but also the hardest. There is much on your shoulders, gathering entries, ensuring there are timekeepers, that the huge numbers of teams and ringers keep moving along, certificates, getting judges and looking after them... The list goes on, but for all the goings on earlier in the week, Mr Flatters oversaw another tremendously successful and memorable Guild Striking Competition Day.

It was a day when it was great to catch up with so many, from those taking part in one of their first competitions, like Sean Antonioli and Mike Burn from SMLT, Giles Croucher from Rendham, Caroline Bass from Offton, Hugh Spink and Ed Rolph from Halesworth to those for who this is old hat, like Trevor Hughes, Maurice Rose, David & Katharine Salter, Winston Girling, and many, many more. Therefore, it made sense to finish it with a sizeable crowd in The Six Bells, thoughts already turning to Saturday 17th May 2014, when it is the South-East District's turn to host. Much thought has already been given to it - we have a lot to do to top today's efforts!


Friday 17th May 2013

Having bemoaned the lack of excitement and interest that yesterday produced, well done to David's Steed and Howe on ringing their first quarter of Spliced Surprise Major in the success at Ixworth on Thursday, the latter even calling it into the bargain.

The achievements and landmarks continued into today, with Kevin Ward ringing his first quarter as conductor in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Hadleigh, and Mike Whitby reaching his 1600th quarter in the Grandsire Triples at Rendham. Very well done Kevin, and many congratulations Mike, both deserved landmarks.

Mason shows off his new plaster cast.And whilst Ruthie and I still did no ringing ourselves today, life was a little more interesting, as we collected Mason, complete with a new plaster cast. This week saw the beginning of the latest plan to sort the li'l chap's troublesome left foot, which in the last year or so has noticeably turned in again. The current plaster cast is aimed at forcing the ligaments into place without the need for yet another operation, but if it's not successful, the likelihood is that another painful procedure will be necessary, so there will be lots of crossed fingers and prayers over the next few weeks.

Still, the boy's main focus currently is showing his latest accessory off, and gathering signatures on it!


Thursday 16th May 2013

Helmingham.With no practice at Grundisburgh, it was quite an uneventful day for Ruthie and me. Indeed, the highlight of the evening was that Question Time was coming from The Corn Exchange in Ipswich, such was the excitement of the the last twenty-four hours, but there was genuinely interesting news coming out during daylight, as details of the Open Tower Day at Helmingham on Saturday 15th June were revealed.

That also happens to be the same day as the Ridgman Trophy at Surfleet in Lincolnshire, which the Suffolk Guild are taking part in, and which therefore will preoccupy our time on that occasion, and indeed, if you aren't going to Helmingham, any support would be much appreciated!

Thornham Magna.Gislingham.Of course this isn't the only striking competition in the coming weeks, with this weekend's showcase event at Thornham Magna and Gislingham poised to be one of the most intriguing for years for many reasons. But there is then the North-West District Striking Competition at Rickinghall Superior, followed by a BBQ at The Mill House in Redgrave on Saturday 8th June, and on the same day as The National Twelve-Bell Contest Final in Ripon on Saturday 22nd June, there will be the South-West District Striking Competition in the closer-to-home and (I think) more beautiful location of Hartest.

Exciting times ahead, even if not today.


Wednesday 15th May 2013

On the 15th May 1948 our Dear Lord decided to bestow upon us, his humble servants, the gift of one of his own fair Angels. Sixty five years have passed and yet Jane, for it is she, remains in the same state of grace and peace. Upon each anniversary, God instructs St Peter to stand at the pearly gates, look down upon us earthly mortals and cry out, "Where Is Jane?"

Hollesley.And so goes at least part of the footnote to part of our pre-practice quarter at Pettistree, as just six of Jane Harper's many ringing friends rang a 1296 of Where Is Jane? Surprise Minor for her significant birthday. Even taking into account the fact that she grew up in Suffolk, it is impressive that she and her husband Peter are considered part of the furniture in this part of the world after a mere six years, and rightly so. Their invaluable work at a Guild level with the superb Midweek Ringers enjoyed by members across the county, District level with their years of dedication to the Chairman and Secretary roles (jobs that Mary and Ruthie can concur are not the easiest in the world!) and at a local level with their regular support of Ufford, Pettistree and their home tower Hollesley, means that the Harpers are much loved round here, and indeed much missed in Hertfordshire from whence they came, judging by the number of times they are asked after by those who rang with them there back in the day. So for all our doubts about how we would ring this tricky line, we were delighted not only to score, but to score with some of the best ringing I've been involved with this year. Happy Birthday Jane.

The name of the method was appropriate in many ways, not least because the birthday girl herself was one of many away at a practice with a much lower attendance than usual, with people celebrating birthdays, on holiday, boating and walking. But it was still another useful session, with the range still wide, from Call-Changes to Spliced Doubles and Minor, before we reconvened in The Greyhound to raise a glass to Mrs Harper.


Tuesday 14th May 2013

Excited chatter about last night's big awards night, and a lunchtime spent trying to sort Mason's first passport were about the highlights of a typically quiet Tuesday. There were quarters at Offton and Old Newton though, of Plain Bob Major and Doubles respectively, so well done to all involved in those.

Thornham Magna.Gislingham. Of course, it will be very different on Saturday, with the The Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy at Thornham Magna from 2pm, with a 1.45pm draw, and The Rose Trophy at Gislingham from 6.15pm, with a 6pm draw. There is still time to get names for teas, and entries for teams into 01359 221722 and Tel. 01284 700490, Mobile: 07759 267253, respectively, and I would strongly urge you to. In the last few years, this has turned into a real highlight of the Guild calendar, and the beauty of it is that you find a different mix of people to what you find at other Guild and District events. As I've mentioned before, I would like this to be like the National Twelve-Bell Competition in the social sense. At that, ringers from all over converge to not only ring, but support and listen, to mingle and catch up with faces familiar and new, in the churchyard, across the location of the competition, in the pub, and so on, all whilst teams 'battle' it out in the ringing chamber. There is a real sense of occasion to it, and that's what I'd like from our competition day.

And to be fair, that is increasingly what we've had. The first Guild Striking Competitions I had anything to do with as Guild Ringing Master, at Monks Eleigh and Hadleigh in 2007 were a sorry affair. Just seven teams entered the six-bell, all bar one of them from the South-East District, and there were a huge amount of people ringing for two or even three teams, so in reality there was only a handful of people present. The eight-bell wasn't much better. Now we have a day out to be proud of, with a list of entries usually in double figures, and the amount of cross-over kept to a minimum, and discouraged, meaning that we normally have at least sixty-seventy members present, and often more across the day, from across Suffolk, a superb state of affairs, even if it is hard work for the judges!

Despite the controversy surrounding this year's eight-bell, and the potentially poor weather, I have high hopes for the same this year, with lots of youngsters taking part, and the potential of more new teams feeling motivated to take part, particularly with the call-change element of the contest. According to their websites, The Four Horseshoes and The Six Bells will be open (Queen's Head Brandeston take note) whilst dozens of thirsty bellringers maraud the surroundings, both churches can accommodate those ringing from those not ringing if needs be, both are beautiful villages, and the Thornham Walks are close to hand. So whether you're ringing or not, please do come along, and let's make it a day to remember.


Monday 13th May 2013

I could've been at the Bookseller Industry Awards tonight, a swanky black-tie event being held at The Hilton on Park Lane in London. John Catt Educational had rather impressively been nominated for the Independent, Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year award, and so a small group of editors, directors and the like were going down to the awards to represent the company. However, unavoidable circumstances suddenly meant we had a spare space for the event, and an email was sent round the office today asking if anyone would like to fill that space. Everything would be on the company, including travel, drink and even the hire of a suit from Alexanders in town, so I was tempted. However, with the train to the big smoke leaving from Ipswich at 2.30pm and arrival home not likely to be until the early hours of Tuesday morning, I thought it would be a little unfair on Ruthie at such short notice for me to disappear, and so someone else took up the chance to attend.

Besides, after missing last week's practice at St Mary-le-Tower, I felt I ought to attend this evening's, especially as next week will see a slightly curtailed practice from 7 - 8.30 as we hold the tower AGM. Mind you, there were a few there who thought it was tonight, and so a tremendous attendance of twenty-four was present, the majority from an early stage, and most then went on to The Cricketers afterwards.

Thornham Magna.Gislingham.As it happened, JCEL didn't win an award down in the capital, but it is the taking part which counts, and that applies to this Saturday's Guild Striking Competitions at Thornham Magna and Gislingham. This is an exciting occasion, members gathering from across the county to mingle and catch-up, with good ringing overseeing proceedings.

However, some of you will have noticed a lengthy discussion on the Guild's facebook page today in regards to the forthcoming competition, with talks of boycotts, and typical SGR fare of getting bogged down with rules, regulations and wording, the type of thing that has long blighted the organisation. I shan't go into detail here, but suffice to say I hope this gets resolved quickly. After all is said and done, this is just a simple bellringing competition. It's main aim is to encourage ringers, and add another layer of interest to this varied hobby/commitment/duty of ours. It is not professional sport and there's no money at stake, but I rather sense on both sides of the current debate, that things are getting taken a little bit too seriously. Regardless of what the outcome is, it would be a massive blow if ringers - particularly youngsters and/or learners - were denied the chance to take part in the competition and help progress the standard of their ringing and that of those they ring with through bands not being allowed in, or bands and ringers withdrawing, and ringers generally losing sight of what the actual purpose of such competitions are.

On that note, having recently noted Southwold's winning of the Pat Bailey Shield at the North-East District Striking Competition in Rumburgh on Saturday (at the time, it was the only word I had from the event), congratulations to Sweffling who won the Harry Trophy for finishing runners-up, and Rendham on winning the Call-Change Trophy.

And whilst we're at it, congratulations to Edward Elgar Publishing on winning the award for Independent, Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year tonight. Watch out for John Catt next year though!


Sunday 12th May 2013

It was a quiet day from a personal perspective. Ruthie was at work, and Mason quite poorly, so most of it was spent at home watching kids TV.

There was decent ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, and whilst low on numbers, the eight-bell ringing we had at Grundisburgh was some of the best I've enjoyed for some time. Nothing very extraordinary was rung - Bob Major, Stedman Triples and Grandsire Triples - but it was rung very well. Particularly well done to Mike Burns, who rang almost faultlessly in all three pieces.

And once the boy and I had met my wife from Boots, we popped in for a cuppa at Pete and Susanne's as we dropped something off for them. But that was about it.

Thankfully, others elsewhere in Suffolk were busier from a ringing perspective, with particular credit to young Ambrin Williams on ringing her first quarter-peal on eight in the success at Halesworth. Well done Ambrin!

And I can't finish without mention of The Right Reverend Clive Young, who today retired as the Bishop of Dunwich with a farewell service in the cathedral at Bury St Edmunds. I fondly remember his sermons at the dedications of Stradishall and Campsea Ashe, thank him for his support of ringing and ringers in our county, and wish him all the best for his retirement in Wales, where I'm sure he'll enjoy many quiet days as we have today!


Saturday 11th May 2013

We are extremely lucky to live - and ring - in a landscape which somehow manages to remain beautiful and full of charm and character, in pretty much any conditions. Last Saturday, Mason, Ruthie and I were very fortunate to be at Brandeston in - mostly - gorgeous sunshine. God willing, next Saturday we'll be in Thornham Magna and Gislingham enjoying similar conditions. Today, we were blessed to be able to easily get to Aldeburgh, as the weather sporadically veered from chilly wind to sunshine to rain.

The Scallop, with Sizewell Power Station and Thorpeness in the distance.Mason looking particularly pleased to be by The Scallop.Ruthie and Mason having a drawing competition in The Ship, Blaxhall.Despite the unpredictable downpours, we three were able to enjoy this lovely seaside town, initially in The Cross Keys and by Maggie Hambling's famous Scallop sculpture with Nick and Kala who joined us for a while, and then along the beaches and by the fish huts and old boats which give the dwelling it's unique character, as well as The Wentworth and the local Prezzo. Sadly, the main reason we were there didn't work out, as a misunderstanding with James Whitby meant we arrived after his girlfriend Emma's art exhibition at Peter Pear's Gallery had closed. Still, we had a great afternoon, it was nice to catch up with the li'l chap's Godmother and her husband, and we finished the adventure by popping in to see his Godfather Toby as he worked at The Ship in Blaxhall, another fantastic location we are blessed to have on our doorstep. My wife, son and I had an impromptu drawing competition, before drawing a line under a nice day.

It was a day without ringing though, as I'm sure you noted. Not too far away however, there was a considerable amount of ringing, and congratulations have to go to Southwold, as they were made winners of the North-East District Striking Competition by the judges Jeremy and Cherril Spiller at Rumburgh. Let's hope we see them and many others from the North-East District in next week's Guild Striking Competitions!

Meanwhile, a little further afield, but still within our borders, well done to David Howe, Colin Salter, George Salter and Louis Suggett on a rarity (indeed, I imagine it is a first), as they rang quarter-peals on all eight ringable peals in Ipswich in one day. It is a marvelous feat of endurance, but along the way there were notable achievements, with the Salter brothers starting the day with their first of Stedman in the 1260 at home, and then much later, their first of Superlative in the success at St Margaret, whilst Louis rang his 450th in the Bob Minor at St Mary-at-the-Quay. Well done guys. Some may think this kind of thing is bonkers, but it is part of the variety that makes ringing interesting, and the fact that the core of the band was a young one, gives extra cause to encourage projects like this. As lucky as we are to ring in Suffolk, Suffolk is lucky to have ringers liken these.


Friday 10th May 2013

Whilst Ruthie was adding to her quarter-peal records with a successful 1408 of Superlative Major at Rendham, I was busy further updating my peal records, and recalling more memories as my records reached the start of 2006. The peal at St Paul's Cathedral in London (on the same day as my now-wife rang a quarter of Grandsire Triples at Orford, as she will proudly tell you), the superb peal of Bristol Royal I was honoured to ring in at St Paul's in Birmingham on the happy occasion of the marriage of Richard Grimmett and Charlotte Bibilo, the peal, curry and drinks all partaken in to celebrate Stephen Pettman's 50th birthday, all with an already sore head and rough tummy, and my first peal as Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, at the same location as Mrs Munnings' exploits this evening, the day after my election. Little did I know what lay ahead!

However, despite all these fond recollections of past peals, it was others who were ringing peals locally, on this occasion our good neighbours from Norfolk, the NDA, as Simon Rudd, David Brown and friends rang a peal at Pettistree to mark the 100th anniversary of an identical peal rung here by William Sawyer, the grandfather of today's tenor ringer Peter Sawyer.

All part of the rich tapestry of ringing, further added to today.


Thursday 9th May 2013

Disaster was narrowly averted on the railway line next to John Catt's offices today, as the train carrying nuclear waste from Sizewell hurtled by at literally miles per day towards a branch blown onto the line by the the strong winds we experienced today. With the entire office gawping, the train managed to only just stop several yards away, and the driver got out and removed the offending twig.

With Melton avoiding nuclear annihilation, Ruthie was able to attend choir practice as usual and then sing at Woodbridge, St Mary's Ascension Day service, whilst I went on to open up and partake in the latest cosy nostrils practice at Ufford. It was another useful practice, with a course of Superlative particularly well rung and then - once my wife and mother-in-law had joined us - a good three leads of Bristol Major to finish off the evening.

Earlier, I found myself continuing to update my peal records, as I moved into 2004 and 2005, as I returned to the homeland. More memories were ignited, including my first peal with Ruthie, and a peal of Lincolnshire Max at St Mary-le-Tower, memorable for one of the ringers missing the same dodge so many times that the band found ourselves chuckling in the lead-up to said dodge each time, all followed by a good session in The Dove afterwards!

Halesworth.I don't keep quarter-peal records mind - not through any snobbery, but just merely because I wouldn't know where to start - so I'm not sure how many I have rung, but one man who knows how many he has rung is Philip Gorrod. Congratulations to our immediate past-Chairman on ringing his 850th in the 1288 of Grandsire Triples at Halesworth yesterday, richly deserved!

Looking ahead though, I hope teams are getting their entries in for the Guild Striking Competitions at Thornham Magna and Gislingham in just nine days. This really is a superb day out, with an opportunity of silverware available to all, as shown by Otley in last year's Lester Brett Trophy. And with Suffolk narrowly missing out on being enveloped in a nuclear cloud, I hope that teams will seize upon this new lease of life and enter a team!


Wednesday 8th May 2013

The Wolery.After another successful campaign, John Catt were in their generous element today, as they treated us in the sales team to a very nice meal out at The Duke of York in Woodbridge, on the day that Sir Alex Ferguson announced he was retiring as Manchester United manager at the end of the season in a couple of weeks, after twenty-seven years in the job, and Clare Veal rang her first peal of Yorkshire in the 5056 at The Wolery, in which Tom Scase and George Salter also rang their fiftieth together, and David 'is he still Report Editor' Salter rang his 100th of the Major version of the method. Well done guys, particularly Clare.

Ruthie and I sadly had to pull out of this attempt as something else came up this evening, and it's a good job we did, as things took longer than we expected, but we did manage to make it to some of another worthwhile Pettistree practice, before retiring to another pub, this time The Greyhound.


Tuesday 7th May 2013

Ufford.With Kate travelling back from a weekend in Scotland, Ruthie and I were given the task of opening up and then running Ufford practice this evening, as well as getting Pete and Susanne there. It was all a worthwhile exercise, with another well attended practice which saw a good variety rung, from Bob Doubles for Sally on the treble, to Grandsire Triples for John on the treble and Hilary inside, to Superlative for Pete and Jane.


Monday 6th May 2013

Sometimes things don't go to plan.

Our intentions this evening had been to attend the Bank Holiday practice at St Mary-le-Tower, but with an unexpected visit from brother Chris and his girlfriend Becky after their trip to Sutton Hoo, and other plans - such as feeding Mason and returning him to his mother after a lovely weekend - taking longer than expected to carry out, Ruthie and I instead ended up having a meal with them in The Anchor, which was far from a terrible outcome, even if it was a shame to let SMLT down on this occasion. Thank you to Chris and Becky for a lovely evening though!

Ixworth.Still, at least things went to plan elsewhere in Suffolk ringing, most notably at Ixworth, where Lesley Steed deservedly notched up her 1000th quarter. The time that Lesley, her husband David and the other regulars who ring with them, put into quarter-peal ringing may seem extreme to some, but judging by the regular stream of achievements that accompany their efforts, it has helped raise the repertoire - and no doubt the standard - of many ringers across the county, and in the process has got quite a few bells ringing which otherwise would be silent. Congratulations Lesley!

Well done as well to Stephen Dawson, the very latest to achieve something as part of this busy band, ringing his first blows of Pudsey Surprise Major in the 1280 at Gislingham.

It is Gislingham of course which will host the Guild's Eight-Bell Striking Competition for the Rose Trophy in just twelve days, and hopefully towers from across Suffolk are getting their entries in for this and the Six-bell Competitions earlier in the day at nearby Thornham Magna.

Before then though, it is the North-East District's turn to hold their District Striking Competition, with everything happening at Rumburgh. Following Saturday's South-East District Competition, they have a lot to live up to, but hopefully events at Brandeston will give confidence and inspiration to less experienced teams to enter this weekend's competition, as well as the North-West District's at Rickinghall and Redgrave on 8th June, and the South-West's in beautiful Hartest on 22nd June, as well as for the Guild competitions too of course.

The North-East District's has the wonderful innovation of practice ringing beforehand, and as with any striking competition in our part of the world, it is a wonderful chance to hear good ringing, with friends in a fantastic location. Please get your names to Maggie Ross if you haven't already.


Sunday 5th May 2013

Every year, Christchurch Park in Ipswich is filled with hundreds of old, classic vehicles, cars, fire engines, buses, motorbikes – just about anything with wheels and an engine. They’re there for some time to allow interested folk to have a look, before they all head off to Felixstowe seafront to be ogled again.

Mason taking in all the old buses on Felixstowe seafront!With ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh this morning (the latter of which was watched on by some Aussie motorcyclists staying at Stephen’s B&B), Mason and I didn’t get the time to see the spectacle in Suffolk’s county town, but once we’d met Ruthie after her morning’s singing at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather to go to the seaside, to see the cars at the other end of their journey, enjoy some ice cream, and wander on the beach with the huge crowds doing exactly the same. The li’l chap was in his element in every respect!

We returned in time for tea and Evensong at the aforementioned St Mary’s, at the end of another day of Minimus handbell ringing from George and Colin Salter, this time ringing their first Treble Bob on four in the 1296 of Oxford TB Minimus at home. Well done them.


Saturday 4th May 2013

Today is – as most will have noted by now – Star Wars Day, ‘may the force be with you’, etc, etc.

So a band of Jedi ringers from Pettistree gathered in the Kettleburgh Galaxy to celebrate the occasion with a quarter of the awkward Star Wars Surprise Minor, as Princess Suzanne Stevens and Mason Skywalker occupied themselves peacefully on a lower deck, guarding a chocolate cake.

Planet Suffolk saved, we reverted to our day job of Earthly bellringers, and reconvened in The Chequers nearby for some lunch. It was the perfect preparation for our most important mission of the day – partaking in the South-East District Striking Competition at neighbouring Brandeston.

Participants gathered at the start of proceedings. Some of the Pettistree ringers awaiting their turn.Ringers taking over the village. Anne Buswell, Sam Shannon, Jonathan Stevens and Stephen Cheek relaxing in the sunshine.Owen Claxton and Stephen Cheek. We were not alone, as a huge crowd of members and their families met us, the draw already made, and the first of twelve teams about to kick-start what was to be a fantastic afternoon. This is striking competitions as I hope them to be, with ringers from far and wide, mingling and chatting in the sunshine, in a picturesque setting, as their fellow participants provide a superb soundtrack to proceedings. And superb it was. As the judges Chris and Margaret Bulleid (Jenny Scase’s brother-in-law and sister, and of course therefore District Ringing Master Tom’s uncle and aunt) from Northamptonshire said, the standard was one we as a district can be proud of. Having been privileged to listen to pretty much all of it, from the ringing chamber, church, churchyard, across the cow-filled fields, the surrounding pot-holed and hedge-lined lanes, and the wonderful Village Hall, I can concur.

The only downsides were the rain that broke up the idyllic scene and drove everyone indoors towards the end of the contest, and the fact that The Queen’s Head was closed. That’s right, a country pub in such a beautiful and popular walking landscape was closed on the Saturday afternoon of a May Bank Holiday Weekend.

Chris and Margaret Bulleid announcing the results.The winning Hollesley team - l to r; Jane Harper, Jenny Lloyd, Anne Buswell, Fred Stentiford, Peter Harper & Sam Shannon.Still, neither of those negatives were enough to wipe out a hugely positive day, one littered with success stories. The inaugural David Barnard Call-Change Trophy provided an opportunity of silverware for less experienced bands, and I’m glad to say they responded magnificently, with David’s home tower Barking appropriately heading up the new entrants, along with Helmingham and Hollesley, the latter of which became the first to have their name upon the new trophy, something I’m sure will be mentioned to Alan McBurnie, who isn’t the biggest fan of striking competitions!

But there were other good news stories, like the Sproughton call-change team which came third in the CC comp, with a band of five young girls and Ralph Earey, and the debuts of many other individual ringers. And whilst St Mary-le-Tower again won the competition, they were pushed hard by Pettistree and the ever-improving Debenham band, showing that the competition is increasing, and in the process – on the evidence of today’s ringing at least – raising the standard too.

A brilliant tea was organised by Chris McArthur and his merry band of helpers, including that lovely chocolate cake made by my wife and so ably guarded by Mason and Suzanne earlier, and we did finally manage a pint in the aforementioned local pub, a place I find a little too well done out - when I find it open at least - before we three headed home.

Well done to the district’s top-table Mary, Tom and Ruthie on ensuring such a fabulous event went perfectly, an event which seemed to be enjoyed by all that I came across.

Elsewhere in the county, there were other achievements, with the Salter boys ringing their most of Minimus in the handbell quarter at home, the elder one also ringing his first quarter of Surprise Major as conductor in the success at Elveden, which saw Neal Dodge ring his first of Treble Bob on the occasion of his 25th quarter, and Clare Veal ringing her first of Yorkshire. Well done guys!

And congratulations Winston Girling, who marked sixty years of ringing with a peal at Stowmarket.

All good news stories, on a great day for Suffolk ringing. In fact, you might say it was out of this world!


Friday 3rd May 2013

The hot, sunny weather saw at least two things happen as a direct consequence. One was that work very generously released us at 2.30 as it was so nice. The second was that I got my shorts on and my legs out!

Mason's New Glasses.Indeed, it was feeling very summer-like today, with blue skies and the Bank Holiday weekend ahead of us, and Mason’s first after-school cricket club of the year, where I picked him up from, complete with his new glasses! So whilst the weather was hot, he was looking cool!


Thursday 2nd May 2013

With Grundisburgh practice cancelled again, Ruthie and I followed her choir practice by continuing our support for Woodbridge's pubs, with a trip to The King's Head and The Angel up on Market Hill, before heading downhill to The Red Lion on the Thoroughfare.

Campsea Ashe.It was an enjoyable evening, but not overly productive, unlike Joanne Sharples' night, as she rang her first quarter of St Martin's and St Simon's Doubles in the success at Campsea Ashe. Well done Joanne!


Wednesday 1st May 2013

Kettleburgh.In a village far, far away, beyond Wickham Market, they were ringing Star Wars Surprise Minor. This Saturday - on Star Wars Day - some of the Pettistree band will attempt a quarter of this alien method at Kettleburgh, on the way to ringing in the South-East District Striking Competition at nearby Brandeston, but it's a tricky little blighter. There was therefore much practice required this evening at SS Peter & Paul, in amongst another useful and lively session, the highlights of which were young Alex's spot-on leading - only the second time he has ever led, following his first attempt earlier this week - and Bill Lloyd ringing his first quarter of Minor beforehand. Well done Alex and Bill!

Chris McArthur was also present, complete with details of arrangements he has superbly made for this Saturday's competition, which promisingly sees roughly sixty names for tea, and twelfe teams. With the weather also expected to be good, it promises to be a great occasion.

The Greyhound beckoned of course, with conversation on football, Mexican food and accents high on the list of topics, before Ruthie and I returned to our galaxy.


Tuesday 30th April 2013

Today is two years to the day that I finished my five-year stint as Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, and began being the SGR's Public Relations Officer. It's actually been tougher and more time-consuming than I imagined, though that can be construed as a very good thing, and it has been most enjoyable!

Brandeston.There are many aspects to the role. Many have got on with things off their own back, such as projects like those at Clopton, Helmingham and Redgrave. In other cases I have found the right person to deal with things, like some possible future coverage of ITTS by Radio Suffolk, if the practicalities work out. That seemed best led by Jed who knows far more about the ins and outs of the scheme and those taking part than I do. Some people have approached me to publicise events, such as the Guild's entry into The Ringing World National Youth Contest in York on Saturday 6th July, the Philip Broke event this October, and Bailey Day. But I have also generated publicity myself, like the recent chat with Lesley Dolphin on the radio, and on the Brandeston village website about this weekend's South-East District Striking Competitions. I also see part of my job being reminding members of what events are on, and what has been achieved by our members. Events like the forthcoming District and Guild striking competitions, Wednesday's 10-Bell Practice at Beccles, Sunday's Surprise Practice at Rougham organised by young George Reynolds, and next Wednesday's Bacton Monthly Practice. And of course last summer was a very busy one! Hopefully I've done a decent job, but any suggestions on what I could be doing better or differently would be appreciated. Keep contacting me about ringing you want publicised.

Ruthie and I marked the anniversary by unusually heading out to Ufford practice, though we shall be back next week to run it. As you would expect from a practice run by my mother-in-law, it was a useful and lively session, and seems to work, as eighteen squeezed into the ringing chamber to ring a range from Bob Triples to Rutland Major.

As enjoyable as that was though, it wasn't the main purpose of our trip out. Rather, it was the start of a typically amusing and interesting evening with Pete Faircloth and his father Maurice, an evening which concluded in The Mariner back in Woodbridge, as we were joined by Kate, Ron and Toby, where the chat turned to death, badgers and reasons why Blaxhall is world famous, including the claim that Percy Ling pressed the first LP in The Ship. Now that's worth publicising.


Monday 29th April 2013

As someone who partakes in, and loves a hobby that non-ringers find quirky, amusing and at times annoying, I try to be very considerate of what others do in their spare time. In fact I actually feel very sorry for those I know, who all they seem to have to recount from outside their working life is the latest happenings in Eastenders, or what's going on in Made in Chelsea. But it is their choice, and what they enjoy, as train-spotters enjoy picking out numbers as trains rush past, morris dancers get great pleasure from dancing, and stamp collectors derive immense satisfaction from their collection.

Bagpipe players at The Lattice Barn.Bagpipe players at The Lattice Barn.Indeed, there seems to be many parallels between most hobbies and ringing, and I saw that this evening as following St Mary-le-Tower practice, Kate, Ruthie and myself found ourselves in The Lattice Barn pub on the way out of Ipswich, listening to and watching Ron's fellow-bagpipers, including incidentally Rod, the guy who played at 'that' wedding at Grundisburgh last month. Now I'm not the biggest fan of bagpipes, but it was an awesome sound, one that instantly transported you to the wild Highlands of Scotland, rather than being in a pub on the Woodbridge Road. And what I saw was what I see when I go ringing - people young and old, collectively enjoying a traditional (and often mocked) hobby and each others company, complete with all the in-jokes that you get with any niche pastime (try joking about dodging off at the start of Little Bob with a non-ringer), familiar tunes being practiced, and the mix of the experienced trying to guide the inexperienced, everyone looking to progress in something they enjoy and love doing.

It is something that was on show at the aforementioned SMLT practice, as another useful practice saw us trying - and by and large succeeding to varying degrees - to progress in our ringing, including a first attempt for some time at Bristol Royal.

There was some interest too in mother's peal and quarter-peal records, which she brought up and included my first quarter - 19th April, 1991, Bob Doubles on the treble of the middle six of Suffolk's heaviest twelve, Mum calling, and funnily enough - after yesterday's blog - Peter Davies ringing the forth! At least there were no mistakes in the reporting of my first attempt, unlike mother's at Cranford in Northamptonshire, which appeared in The Ringing World as the first quarter for a Miss S Drummond, rather than Miss S Diamond!

And there is now much anticipation of Saturday's South-East District Striking Competition at Brandeston, whose superb website imparts much information about the village and its fantastic hall, as well as the fact that it is possible to attend by bus. However, if the impractical notion of leaving on the last one of the day at 4.25 isn't ideally suited to your arrangements, I'm sure if you are car-less (by design or otherwise), there will be plenty of lifts on offer from across the District, from Hollesley to Sproughton, Debenham to Ipswich. There is still a short time to get teams in, and names for tea, which are open to anyone who isn't in a team but wants to cheer on or just take everything in!

Let's put on an impressive show for any non-ringers that might be watching and listening!


Sunday 28th April 2013

Peter Davies is one of those unsung heroes of ringing. Most across the world of campanology won't have heard of him, and even some who have visited Ipswich to ring won't have realised they've rung with him. His quiet, shy demeanour, and his thin frame seem to help him blend into the background. I have heard it commented that perhaps he is ringing's Clark Kent, who disappears occasionally to ring peals of spliced Maximus on handbells. In fact, come to think of it, I've never seen him in the same room as Philip Earis...

Yet for as long as I can remember, he has been a stalwart of ringing in Suffolk's county town, an invaluable member of bands ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, St Margaret and St Lawrence. To an extent, this has been at the expense of his own ringing progress, often overlooked as he comes, turns up, does what he does well and leaves again. However, he rings to a standard that several would envy, as a very competent Surprise Major ringer, and in the last couple of years - as we have finally looked to progress him further - one increasingly comfortable on ten and twelve.

So - with Mason making cupcakes at Kate's - Ruthie and I were delighted to come out to help Peter ring his first quarter on ten, with a decent - and at 51 minutes, relatively brisk, and all the better for it - 1282 of Cambridge Royal on the back ten at SMLT. It was very deserved, well done Peter!

We returned to Woodbridge to join my mother-in-law and son, who had been hard at work in our absence preparing a roast for us and Ron, as well as those cupcakes - thanks guys!

Mason feeding the ducks.And it all came at the end of a day that began with another useful morning's ringing at the aforementioned twelve and its counterpart at Grundisburgh, the latter of which saw the li'l chap doing handstrokes for the first time, and really well too! Though I think the highlight of his morning was watching the ducklings on the green outside St Mary-the-Virgin.

But the best news of the day was that George Pipe has returned to Ipswich Hospital, and there is even discussion of him returning home in the next couple of days, hopefully a sign that his recovery is going well after a worrying few weeks. George is in many respects the exact opposite to Peter. His room-filling presence has been missed, his fame and and association with Ipswich ringing meaning that every time we see ringers from outside the county, they always ask how he is. Both have been vital to local ringing over the last couple of decades (and more of course in GWP's case) though, and it is characters like them - and their differences - that make ringing so interesting. Long may it continue.


Saturday 27th April 2013

Not everything went to plan today, but we still went to bed this evening feeling very satisfied with our efforts over the previous sixteen or seventeen hours, as most things went right.

The negative on an otherwise positive day, was an unfortunate loss of a peal at Pettistree. Even this wasn’t exactly a disaster though, as our attempts to ring another 5040 of Eight-Spliced Surprise Minor was lost after just fifty minutes. It was a shame as there had been some good ringing, and with London thrown into seven Cambridge-above methods we were kept on our toes, especially Kate and me on five and six!

But the early finish allowed a more relaxed morning, as the band reconvened at Thong Hall for biscuits and tea, a viewing of Philip Gorrod and Maggie Ross’ wedding album (including one of the best and most unusual wedding pictures you’ll ever see!), recounting of their wedding night (you’ve gotta ask, though I’m not sure our ex-Chairman will thank you for it!) and viewing of Mary’s new piano.

There was even time for some South-East District business and arrangements to be made by the Chairman and Secretary, with next Saturday’s Striking Competition at Brandeston at the forefront of their minds!

My new trainers. So clean they actually shine! I winder how long that'll last...Ruthie and I then had some time to kill. We had a peal attempt at 2.30 at The Wolery, and with Mason being looked after by his grandparents, fed and then dropped off at Rectory Road, we had a lot more time on our hands then we thought. Unusually, Ruthie didn’t just want to return home to slump, so we shopped for new trainers, beer and food, had sushi in Little Bealings, and even went to Ipswich Cemetery to pay our respects to Uncle Eric and his sister Sheila, before we eventually wound our way to the home of the Salter family and their delightful little eight.

The Wolery.This was part two of three in a day of fun with Maggie, a peal primarily arranged for her to have a grab on the bells of the little blue shed. She had no great trouble fitting in either, as a really nice, brisk 5056 of Yorkshire Major was rung whilst the li’l chap and Henry reacquainted themselves boisterously in the house, all followed by tea and cake, just round the corner from where Ipswich Town were securing their twelfth consecutive season in the Championship. Which this year is something to celebrate!

We couldn’t afford to scoff too much (though I probably did!), as the usual great hospitality here was followed up by an evening back in Woodbridge, as Mason, Ruthie and me met up again with Maggie and this time Philip too, the latter fresh from one of two ITTS events in the county today, with Mr Gorrod going to Helmingham, as others gathered in Mildenhall.

The occasion was to mark P & M’s six month wedding anniversary, a good excuse to have a drink in The Bell & Steelyard and then The Angel (apparently just days from being officially confirmed as having the largest selection of gin in the country), prior to a curry at Saffron.

It was a brilliant way to finish a positive day, which also saw Robert Beavis ring his 100th peal in the success on the other side of the country at Bristol Cathedral. Congratulations Beavis, glad you had a good day too!


Friday 26th April 2013

Haughley.I didn’t know Dennis Frost – long-standing member of the Guild – well, but I was sorry to learn yesterday of his recent passing. Along with his wife Judy who died two years ago, the Frosts were held in great esteem by those who rang at their home tower of Haughley, as well as at Wetherden since 1991, and before that at Drinkstone where they apparently also ran the sadly closed Cherry Tree pub, so the loss of both of them is very sad. However, I was glad to hear that Dennis got a good seeing off yesterday, with the 14cwt five of St Mary the Virgin where they were resident ringers of rung for him.

Ruthie though, was ringing in a very worthwhile quarter this evening, as she partook in the success at Rendham, which saw Nicole Rolph ring her first of Grandsire Triples. Well done Nicole, and indeed to Jason Busby and Maggie Ross on ringing their 100th together.


Thursday 25th April 2013

No Grundisburgh practice again this evening, so whilst Ruthie went to choir practice, I sat out in the garden until nearly eight on a gorgeous, sunny, warm evening, before joining my wife for a brief celebration of fellow chorister Barbara's forthcoming birthday.

It was a quiet evening for us then, but there is plenty going on over the next week and a bit, kicking off with the South-West District Practice at Great Thurlow on Saturday. This will be an immensely useful event, and all help would be gratefully received, especially as many will be at the ITTS Day at Mildenhall.

Beccles.On Wednesday (already the first day of May, where is this year going?), there is a great opportunity to practice your ten-bell ringing at the 10-Bell Practice at Beccles, where support from those more experienced on higher numbers would surely be much appreciated.

And a week on Saturday - Star Wars Day - it will be the start of Striking Competition season, as the South-East District start us off at Brandeston. I love striking competition days, but know why others are cautious, indeed even fearful, expecting embarrassment and criticism. Others feel they are just for the same few 'expert' ringers, spreading themselves over the same handful of teams.

However, when all is boiled down, it is a fun day of ringing, a different way of improving our ringing whilst sharing laughs with friends old and new. Judges who criticise individuals are frowned upon, and so are rare. If anything does need saying, it is usually only said if it is going to help the band going forward. No one is going to belittle and humiliate you. And I have noticed - certainly in the Guild Competitions, but also at a district level - that there are more ringers ringing for a greater number of teams. More youngsters, and more learners are taking part, especially since silverware has been put on offer for call-change bands. The Lester Brett Trophy at a Guild level has been superb, and given new ringers and bands the chance to compete for a trophy, who have consequently given some of the method-ringing bands a run for their money too! Many of you are far better than you give yourselves credit for.

Hopefully the same will happen at the South-East District Competition, as the David Barnard Call-Change Trophy is put on offer for the first time. It would be a fitting tribute for this former District Chairman if the learners of the SE came out in force to make it a good contest on 4th May. However, you only have until 1st May to get names for tea - and therefore reasonably teams too - in for the occasion. Don't be afraid, go for it!


Wednesday 24th April 2013

Good news and bad news in regards to two of the Guild's former Ringing Masters and great servants of Suffolk ringing. George Pipe is to be - if he hasn't already - moved to Ipswich Hospital, after considerable time in intensive care at Papworth following his operation there last week, a move in the right direction after much worry over the last few months.

However, Lawrence Pizzey is now at The West Suffolk Hospital for the next four weeks, being treated for a leaky heart valve that had got infected, That said, he is in the right place, and is apparently very bored and craving visitors! Do get in touch with me for more details if you want to pop in and see him.

Pettistree.A called-off peal this evening did at least allow us the chance to head along to Pettistree practice, another good 'un kick-started by a quarter of Durham Surprise Minor, continuing through with more good call-changes from Alex, really well-rung Plain Hunt on Five by Daphne, various Surprise Minor (Westminster and Surfleet amongst others) and a cracking touch of Spliced Surprise Minor.

As ever, in between chatting and ringing, I found myself engrossed in the tower copy of The Ringing World, reading more about the 'threat' to tax ringers on their wedding fees, classing them as employees of the church. Of course it's nuts (as the article I read tonight pointed out, if we are employees of the church when ringing for weddings, we're being payed below the minimum wage!) and what was a national concern seems to have boiled down to one member of the Chester Diocese misinterpreting where everyone else (including the HMRC) has understood, meaning that as things stand, our poor colleagues in Cheshire are to be taxed on their meagre earnings (especially once the cost of travelling there are taken into account) if the CD don't awaken to common sense.

I also chuckled (though I'm not sure I was supposed to) at the very well-written article about drinking before ringing. It's not something I've ever thought about, and indeed I've often reckoned to ringing better after a couple, though I'm aware that may well be my perception rather than reality! However, whilst I have no aim to get well oiled before I go ringing, I generally feel more relaxed (as you would expect) and go with the flow after a drink. Plenty of New Year's Eve ringing has been unaffected by the band having a few drinks, and part of the enjoyment of ringing outings is the half-time pint in a quaint village pub somewhere, but it is perhaps prudent - as with anything that requires co-ordination - to be careful on your drink-to-ringing ratio!

Our drinking tonight was done afterwards, in The Greyhound, at the end of a day where apparently I have appeared in a paper, somewhere in Suffolk (though no one seemed quite sure where) in regards to learning to ring. So if you do see it, wing a copy my way - I might as well see what I'm being accused of!


Tuesday 23rd April 2013

Stephen Pettman's bi-annual ringing trips to Italy have provided many highlights over the last two decades. Solid mousse flying off tables, Brian Redgers apologising to a tree, huge amounts of food and drink, showing off the Guild Mini-Ring, the most incredible exhibitions of local styles of ringing, coaches trying to get through the narrow and winding lanes of ancient villages, beautiful scenery and amazing hospitality. Every time for the last few years, Stephen has said it is most likely the last one, understandably so as the organisation involved is immense.

However, there is to be another trip this year, from Friday 25th October to Sunday 3rd November (usually half-term), and on the basis that it may be the last one, it is well worth going on, especially if you haven't before. Today, SDP emailed details to those he has email addresses for, but he is keen to hear from others he has no contact for. So, if you are interested, please get in touch with he'd be delighted to hear from you.

Southwold. Sadly, circumstances and practicalities mean we can't go this year, though Ruthie and I have been on previous trips. However, we were able to make it across the road to Toby and Amy's for a catch-up and to see their fine new corner sofa, on a night when Nicole Rolph rang her first of Treble Bob Major and Caroline Bass rang her first of Major altogether, in the successes at Southwold and Offton respectively. Well done Nicole and Caroline! Now would you be interested in a ringing trip to Italy...?


Monday 22nd April 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.Tonight's St Mary-le-Tower practice was unusual in places. Ron brought myself, Ruthie and Kate - thanks Ron! George Salter decided to call a 5040 of Cambridge Minor as we waited on the stairs - well done Sean! And Mike Burns had blue hair, presumably an attempt to morph into Marge Simpson.

But as is the norm, there was a good variety of ringing, with most going well, and the occasional tripping up, all contributing to another useful session. Though please note that on 20th May, we shall be holding the SMLT AGM, so practice will start earlier at 7pm, and finish earlier, at 8.30pm.

St Philip's Cathedral.Meanwhile, well done to the band who rang tonight's peal at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, of spliced Surprise Maximus, in the Orion-above methods I recalled ringing with such fondness in Friday's blog. I'm sure Rod would've approved.

I know exactly what the band there would've done straight afterwards, and we did the same tonight in Ipswich, as we headed to the pub - The Cricketers in our case of course - for a drink. Not everything about this evening was unusual.


Sunday 21st April 2013

The west front of Lincoln Cathedral - the bells are in the right hand tower.When in Lincolnshire, we like to pop into Lincoln. It is a beautiful city in a stunning location, full of quaint buildings and impressive stone structures, including the Cathedral of course, where if we are in town on a Sunday morning, we like to join the local ringers in meeting in the Ringers Chapel, climb the hundreds of steps to the ringing chamber, and ring upon this lovely twelve. So it was today. As ever, there were familiar faces, with Les Townsend still leading them, and experienced peal ringers Paul and Ruth Curtis (who - to pick up Friday's theme - rang with Ruthie and me in a peal of Swindon Max at Redcliffe in Bristol back in 2007) contributing to a productive session of Grandsire and Stedman of the Cinques variety, and Yorkshire Max, with Mason and Aunty Janet watching on.

Les led us out onto the roof for a spectacular view across Lincolnshire, before we left them to their tower quarterly meeting, having a quick and interesting explore around Lincoln Museum, in between climbing down and then back up the infamous Steep Hill, and prior to returning to base where Uncle Mick had spent the morning preparing a wonderful roast turkey dinner, gobbled up enthusiastically by us all, especially after our climbing exertions this morning!

A fantastic weekend had to come to an end though, so after a cuppa, more catching up and then a quick check that we hadn't left anything behind, we were winding our way back to Woodbridge, tired, but with lots of happy memories of our couple of days in Lincolnshire.


Saturday 20th April 2013

Lincolnshire is a strange place geographically. On one side it borders the far edge of the industrial Midlands, a region that stretches right into the heart of the country and almost to Wales. To another side it meets our neighbours, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and the East Anglian region we know well and love so much. Yet at the other end it kisses Yorkshire and the north. As such, it doesn't seem to belong to any region, or at least any one region, instead feeling like bits of other places amalgamated, a bit like Belgium. High praise indeed.

Mason and me getting wet at Sundown Adventureland.I should've had one of these when I was Guild Ringing Master!Ruthie and Mason playing the piano with the Three Little Pigs.It seems to be overlooked and underestimated, which is a shame, as it offers so much. The beautiful city of Lincoln, the lovely town of Stamford, the huge tower of Boston, the fun of the seaside at Skegness, their portion of The Wash. And Sundown Adventureland. This is the superb theme-park for young children which Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick very kindly took us to on our last stay at theirs, and Mason enjoyed it immensely. Three years older, he enjoyed it even more today, dashing down the yellow brick road, playing piano with Ruthie in the house of The Three Little Pigs, raced around in a pedal car, dodged spurts of water whilst on a barrel boat and drove a tractor, all whilst us 'grown ups' tried to keep up. A really superb place, and anyone with kids under-ten ought to pay a visit.

Such prolonged activity made for hunger, so we diverted to Papa's Fish & Chips in nearby Gainsborough for some great grub, before returning to our host's abode to recover from keeping pace with an excited six-year old!

No such problem for the Salter men today, with George, David and Colin partaking in a quarter of Bob Doubles on handbells at home, it being the two sons' first of Doubles in hand. Well done guys, glad to see achievements still continuing whilst we explore the lost county of Lincolnshire!


Friday 19th April 2013

For the last week, we have had a crate of Ringing Worlds sat in our living room, part of a transfer from Mum and Dad to a chap in Lincolnshire. After years of neglecting my peal-records, and motivated by the endlessly interesting stats from PealBase, it was too good an opportunity not to update some of my peal-records from pre-Campanophile days.

So many an hour since last weekend has been spent copying records from comic to computer, though such was my activity during the period in question, that thus far I have only been able to log my peals from 2000, and the end of 1999 and beginning of 2001. It has been understandably annoying for Ruthie, but it has been nice for me to look back and recount some of the stories attached to the peals I rung at the time. Like the boozy weekend in Towcester (one of many in this delightful Northamptonshire town) when I rung peals on the superb local twelve and the next day on the ten (as they were until very recently) at the Bellfoundry in Loughborough. Or a hazy Bank Holiday in the company of Tom Griffiths ringing peals at Cambridge, Great St Mary and then Peterborough Cathedral, with me managing to get lost coming out of both belfries. Me and the conductor Robin Hall being the only two left in a Shrewsbury pub following a peal of Stedman Cinques at nearby St Chad, watching England lose 1-0 against Germany on the TV, the last game at the old Wembley and famous for Kevin Keegan just resigning on the spot. A peal of 8-Spliced Surprise Maximus at Amersham having been awake all night celebrating the end of term. The faultless peal of Stedman Triples at Kingsbury which was David Pipe's comeback peal on tower-bells, after injury had prevented him ringing one for two years. Anglia Surprise Royal at Staplehurst in Kent, which was to be the last time I would see the great Peter Border, and one of the very last peals of his distinguished ringing career, as he died just four days later whilst attempting a peal at Tanworth-in-Arden. And the series of Orion-above Surprise Maximus peals at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, such as Alnilam and Alnitak, a project that Rod Pipe was particularly keen on and was very enjoyable. I enjoy my ringing now more than ever before, with my input far more constructive, and the joy of being able to ring with Ruthie and introducing - if somewhat slowly - Mason to the art being immense, but the ringing I was doing around the turn of the century was the most interesting and exciting of my life.

Sadly - though much to my wife's relief - these meanderings down ringing's memory lane came to an end today, as the RW's were finally delivered to their next drop-off point, as we three headed up to Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick's in the depths of the Lincolnshire countryside, on the way passing Grantham, home of the world's newest twelve. Having grabbed a bite to eat along the way, this evening was about settling into our accommodation for the next couple of days, and catching up with my mother's sister and her other half.

Whilst we were doing that, back in Suffolk, well done to Kevin Ward on ringing his first quarter of Buxton Bob Minor in the 1260 at Edwardstone. Maybe Kevin will have a story attached to this success that he will recall when he comes across a record of it in ten or fifteen years time.


Thursday 18th April 2013

The George.It was a shame to hear that The George in Wickham Market was completely destroyed by fire in the early hours of this morning. The only pub in this sizeable village, it has often been frequented after Monday night practices by the ringers from nearby All Saints, and is one I have been in quite a few times, certainly in my days when I lived in nearby Tunstall and with friends in the village, so it is sad to see the burnt out shell of this community hub on the news, one which will almost certainly need demolishing. This is a settlement with a good number of amenities for its size, but for those who used the hostelry to meet for a drink, there is now not really anywhere to gather unless they're prepared to walk to neighbouring Pettistree.

Not that Ruthie and I had any trouble finding somewhere to meet up with Jimmy and Emma - with no Grundisburgh practice on tonight - for a lovely evening out. We chose the now familiar haunt of Zunaki, one of three Indian restaurants in Woodbridge, before moving onto the Bell & Steelyard, now being run by Chris and Tom who were at The Mariners until recently, and one of ten pubs within walking distance of home. It is something we are very grateful for as we consider the pub-going residents of Wickham Market right now.


Wednesday 17th April 2013

Today, it was noticeable for the first time this year, the new leaves coming out around me as I wandered in pleasant conditions between work and home. I remember once reading someone's opinion that this was their favourite time of the year, and I can see where they're coming from. Everything is so fresh, the colours vibrant and bright, and it all looks brand new. Come the end of summer, those same leaves seem worn out, before autumn kills them off and winter clears them out in that wonderful cycle of the seasons that we can see up close and so vividly in our predominantly rural surroundings. But this time of year is the start of it really, new life, new beginnings and new opportunities.

The same could be said for ringing, as the nicer weather, longer days and warmer ringing chambers offer more motivation to travel the county and visit practices and events, ring quarters and peals at some of those towers perhaps less hospitable in the cold winter months.

Of course, the really dedicated continue whatever the weather and whatever the conditions, something highlighted by the likes of Lesley and David Steed, Mike Whitby and Mary Garner amongst many other Suffolk ringers who made it into 2012's leading quarter-pealers in the latest Ringing World. Well done to all our local ringers in the list, I hope to see you - and many more - in the list next year!

Mike and Mary won't have done their chances any harm this evening, with the pre-practice quarter of Bourne Surprise Minor at Pettistree, another one notched up towards the total of fifty needed to appear, and another useful exercise for Tim Stanford, whose repertoire continues to expand quickly.

The repertoire of the band for this evening's peal-band at The Wolery was also expanding, with the 5104 of Goldhanger Bob Major being the first for all the band and indeed the Guild. Well done guys!

As that was being rung, and following on from the earlier quarter on the bells, Ruthie and I joined another varied and lively practice at SS Peter & Paul, as the boy Stanford followed Bourne with Hull, Alex continued his progress with call-changes, Hilary Stern partook in some of the best ringing of the evening with a faultless 120 of Winchendon Place Doubles, and there was some marvellously rung spliced Surprise Minor before the majority of us retired to The Greyhound for a drink, to book a place at the forthcoming Mexican night and to get excited about Bill appearing as Fagin in Come and Sing Oliver! at Snape Maltings! As I said, it is the time for new opportunities!


Tuesday 16th April 2013

For Ruthie and me, it was an mundane but pleasant enough evening of taking phone calls and carrying out domestic duties as we listened to Ipswich Town batter Crystal Palace 3-0 on the radio.

There are busier times ahead though, including Striking Competition time, one of the most exciting periods of the year for me, from a ringing perspective at least. Most immediately come the South-East District and North-East District Striking Competitions on Saturday 4th May and Saturday 11th May respectively.

Brandeston.Both are being held in beautiful locations, the former at Brandeston with The Queens Head and good facilities, and Rumburgh with The Rumburgh Buck and it's unusual looking tower and easy-going ring of six quaintly huddled up one end of that aforementioned, vast tower. Hopefully there will be good turnouts at these valuable and worthwhile events, and then we will see them and many others at Thornham Magna and Gislingham on 18th May for the Guild Striking Competitions. Get your entries in!


Monday 15th April 2013

It was like old times at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, as with David away, I was charged with running the practice. As happy as I was to do so, it was a reminder - if I ever needed it - of how hard this role is. Even with a moderately low attendance of eighteen, it was still a tricky balancing act to ensure everyone got a good go, and that we fitted everything in. Hopefully we managed it tonight, with Sean Antonioli accomplished on the treble to Cambridge Major, and Little Bob of the Royal and Maximus varieties, Mike Burn doing well in Bob Major, Colin Salter partaking in possibly the best piece of the evening with a course of Bristol Major and calling the LB Royal, Mandy Shedden successfully negotiating Cambridge Royal, Ian Culham handling London Royal brilliantly, and Craig Gradidge holding his nerve superbly in ringing LB Max, despite me forgetting to put someone behind him as he had requested! And Alex Tatlow has had a new haircut.

There was also time for a really well rung few leads of Yorkshire Max before we retired to The Cricketers, where on this occasion we took advantage of a lift from Kate to have a couple of pints. Thanks Kate! It was very much like old times.


Sunday 14th April 2013

When I reported on what I knew about George Pipe's operation last week, I was aware that it had gone well, but he was still in quite a bad way. However, having spoken to Di this morning, it seems that's an understatement. Poor George is in intensive care at Papworth, and she is keen that people are aware of his plight so that we can hold him in our prayers and thoughts, which I'm sure we will.

St Mary-le-Tower.God willing we'll see GWP back up St Mary-le-Tower in the near future, even if he is just in the corner tutting, and shaking his head, whilst interjecting excitedly 'adjacent pairs dodging' and 'Plain Bob coursing order', but for now we have to continue without his expertise. To be fair, we did OK this morning, a very well struck touch of Little Bob Royal with Sean on the treble bellowing out on mine and Mason's arrival, and as we played a game of 'it' in the churchyard.

The good ringing continued on to Grundisburgh, as we welcomed occasional visitor Peter Emery, an eminent ringer from London who some will notice in the quarter and peal columns, and in photographs of most SRCY events.

No doubt he appears in numerous editions of The Ringing World too, and as it happens, Ruthie and I currently have a boxful of copies from my mother, to be passed to a chap in Lincolnshire, via my Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick. Some of them date back to 1973, and in between racing bikes with the li'l chap, I found it far too hard to resist having a quick read of them. Of course, that quick read became a longer read, as I was consumed by ringing history, all viewed through hindsight. Recent thousand-pealer Adam Crocker's first peal is in there, just thirteen years ago. Reports on the building of the now well-established Swan Tower in Perth, Australia, home to one of only three peals of sixteen. The extensive programme for the 2000 Suffolk Guild AGM at Boxford. The birth of Abel. Complaints that it took nearly two weeks to publish the results of the National Twelve-Bell eliminators in 'the comic', when it was the only way of finding out the 'latest' ringing news for many, in the days before social media made it possible to find out as it happens. It is - especially in these days of instant communication - the RW at it's best, a historical journal that it would be preferable to keep going for future generations not prepared to trawl the bulk of nonsense on the internet, when looking through ringing history being made at the moment.

Aldeburgh.That history was indeed being made this afternoon, with Peter Harper ringing his 100th peal for the Guild in the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh (a familiar theme running through the RW over the years), as 5184 changes of Facula Surprise Major was rung in 2hr 47min. Congratulations Peter.

We meanwhile took advantage of the first really warm day of 2013, as Kate very kindly invited us round for the maiden BBQ of the season, just ten days after the last snowfall. Thank you Kate, it was very pleasant. Not that I expect that will interest any ringing historians in forty years time!


Saturday 13th April 2013

As a general rule, I avoid peal-ringing at the weekend as much as I used to, so that I can spend more time with Mason and Ruthie, when she’s not at work. If I do ring one, I try not to ring them on Saturdays, as if my wife is working on a Sunday, it is the only day that I get to spend all day with her, at least if I’m at work during the week, which I usually am. But if I do have to ring a peal on the first day of the weekend, then I don’t like to ring it in the afternoon. They tend to take over the whole day, unlike morning or evening peals. Saturday peals often also mean having to miss other ringing events, such as today’s Pettistree mini-outing to Essex.

So it took a very good cause to get Mrs Munnings and me out for this afternoon’s peal at Grundisburgh. I’ve said before about how Jason Busby is one the good eggs of the Suffolk Guild, both as a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of all our activities (apart from when his brother has his wedding/funeral on AGM day!), but also as one of the nicest chaps around, an opinion only strengthened by his superb organ-playing at our wedding, and brilliantly amusing singing at the recent 90th Anniversary Dinner with Peter Harper and Philip Gorrod. We were therefore delighted to come out to help him achieve his first peal on twelve for his forthcoming thirtieth birthday. Despite – or perhaps because of – their weight, this 10cwt twelve isn’t the easiest place to ring your first on such numbers, and yet he managed it wonderfully, as did Philip Moyse who was also ringing his first on this number. It was however, the first and last peal of Little Bob Maximus for the majority of the band!

Campsea Ashe.We weren’t the only ones peal-ringing in the county though. Congratulations to Cherril Spiller on ringing her 900th peal in the success at Campsea Ash, and David Howe on ringing his 250th quarter in the 1260 of Minor at Tostock. And well done to the entire band of the latter effort on ringing their first blows of both methods, Kemerton Bob and Corse Bob, as the tremendously successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week came to a very satisfactory end. It has been great to see something happening on every day, and many firsts along the way. Well done to all concerned!

However, it was well beyond our borders that a Suffolk ringer was achieving most notably, as Louis Suggett strapped the second-heaviest bell in the world rung full-circle, with recent thousand-pealer Adam Crocker, to a peal of Stedman Cinques at Exeter Cathedral, a phenomenal effort. Well done to him in particular, but also to all the young band, including Rosemary Hill who has strong family links to Suffolk, and is well known to many here.

If my experience of just ringing the ninth to a peal on this 72cwt twelve is anything to go by, I have absolutely no doubt that they went straight to the pub afterwards, and that’s what we did after our peal, with a pint at The Turk’s Head in nearby Hasketon, before collecting the li’l chap from his grandparents, where he’d spent much of the day watching model trains. I’m not sure he minded our rare Saturday afternoon peal on this occasion!


Friday 12th April 2013

As Fridays usually are, it was quite a quiet ‘un for Ruthie and me, though Mason was treated to a trip to the circus with his Nana, and we three popped round to see Toby and Amy.

Rendham.However, it was a different story in the ringing chambers of Suffolk. Well done to Josephine Beever and David Steed on ringing their first of Morning Star Treble Bob Minor in the success at Buxhall as part of the hugely successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week, and to Ian Wright on ringing his first of Major in the 1344 of Plain Bob at Rendham. And though rung for other ringing organisations, credit is still very much due to our very own George Salter on ringing his first peal of Rutland Major in the 2hrs57mins worth of ringing at Ufford for the Oxford Diocesan Guild, and Andrew Davey on ringing his 600th peal in the 5040 at Great Barton for the Lancashire Association, as part of Kevin Price’s annual peal week in Suffolk.

There were also quarters rung at Eye, Tannington and Thornham Magna, the latter of which is of course the picturesque location for this year’s Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions on the afternoon of Saturday 18th May, before the Eight-Bell Striking Competition at Gislingham in the evening. Due to the greater number of ringers needed, and the fewer opportunities available, it is always difficult to get bands from every district for the Rose Trophy, but I know there is enough talent in all corners of the county for every district to have representation in the Mitson Shield and especially the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy, so let’s have a big effort from everyone please, and a very enjoyable and pleasant day on easy-going bells. I’m hoping it won’t be such a quiet ‘un for Mason, Ruthie and me on that day!


Thursday 11th April 2013

Ufford.It was our 'cosy nostrils' practice at Ufford this evening, another useful focus on Surprise Major that many present simply wouldn't get anywhere else in the local area, and vindication of the nature of the practices. Ruthie and I were a little late, as with her usual lift unable to ring due to her bad back, I was responsible for getting my wife from choir practice to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but we were still able to partake in two courses of Superlative (the latter of which was a fine climax to the session), a course of Yorkshire, and three leads of Bristol.

Elsewhere, the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week spread beyond it's (still very defined, even after Saturday's vote) borders, and notched up another success, with Richard Brewster and Andrea Alderton ringing and David Howe calling their most Doubles methods, in the 1260 rung at Preston St Mary. Much like our efforts, a very useful exercise I'm sure.


Wednesday 10th April 2013

1974 AGM.Some readers may recall that a few months ago, my mother found a photo taken at a Guild AGM from some time between 1969 and 1974, assumed as Howard Egglestone was Ringing Master. As it happens, it was from his final AGM as Master, in 1974 at Bury St Edmunds, and that picture is now on this very website, and Brian Whiting has very kindly named as many of them as he has been able. It was from before I was born, but some I had spotted already, who looked almost identical on the picture as they do today (bar a change/loss of hair and addition of a few pounds in some cases!) or when I remember them. Dad (it was still a few months before he and Mum met, so she's not there), Aunty Marian, Nana and Grandad, George and Di Pipe, Trevor and Pat Bailey, David Salter (who looks exactly like a certain two boys related to him who are of a similar age now!), Stephen Pettman, the Bedford brothers Stephen and Vernon, and the ever loyal and seemingly never changing Jimmy Wightman, to name just a few. But Bunny has identified many more, some of which I wasn't sure of, but others I hadn't spotted at all, such as himself, Adrian Knights, John Loveless and an extremely young Simon Girt. It is a fascinating insight, so if you can add names to the faces not yet recognised, that would be fantastic.

It is some time since we last had one of these group shots done at a Guild AGM, and perhaps whilst it would've been appropriate to have one at Saturday's big day of fun to mark the SGR's 90th Anniversary, it may be nice to have one taken at Stowmarket on Saturday 26th April for the 2014 AGM, forty years on from the 1974 pic.

Along with another interesting photo of the 1998 Suffolk Guild Ringing Master's peal at Ashbocking (look out for a very young George Salter clinging to his father's legs!) that picture from Howard's final AGM as Master, was in the latest edition of The Ringing World, as part of the extensive and extremely interesting tribute to the man himself. Copies had been knocking about on Saturday at Stradbroke, but I didn't get the opportunity to do anymore than look at the many images from HWG's varied and interesting life, so when a copy turned up at Pettistree practice this evening, I was engrossed in it. Sadly, in many ways, you don't truly appreciate what a person does until they're gone and their achievements are summed up, and whilst we in Suffolk have never forgotten the amazing impact he had here, it wasn't until I read the story of his life in the RW that I fully appreciated the immense importance he had to ringing generally, as much as I was aware of his reputation. We as ringers should be forever grateful for people like Howard.

It was very interesting to read, in between ringing and chatting at another useful practice, with Tim progressing with Surprise Minor, young Alex doing really well, and Derek ringing changes the best I can ever recall, working his way confidently through a well-struck touch of Grandsire Doubles.

Beforehand, we rang a quarter of Cambridge Minor to a composition by Glenn Taylor, that showed that whilst you obviously can't expand upon the music in Minor from any (true) 720, the ways in which you can get it can be varied and even exciting, with this one featuring roll-ups at hand and across changes, and barely a plain lead to be seen. Good stuff.

We had intended to ring spliced in anticipation of a forthcoming peal attempt, but Kate managed to injure her back fighting lions, or picking up cranes, or something like that, so she was reduced to nursing soft drinks in The Greyhound, where Ruthie and I met her afterwards for another convivial session.

Horringer.Meanwhile, the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continues, with Peter Davidson ringing his first quarter inside (i.e., not on the treble) to Bob Minor in the 1320 at Wickham Skeith, whilst Colin and George Salter rang their first of Lincolnshire Major in the Oxford Diocesan Guild's success at Horringer, the former ringing his fiftieth in the process. Congratulations Colin, and well done him, George and Peter on your achievements today. Maybe we shall look back on these achievements in forty years time with as much interest as we are currently looking at that now famous photo.


Tuesday 9th April 2013

Bacton.It was a quiet day for Ruthie and me, but there is a busy week-and-a-half for Suffolk ringing coming up, starting with Bacton Monthly Practice on Wednesday, before we move onto the South-West District and their invaluable Learners' Practice at the easy-going, ground-floor ring of Edwardstone, whose picturesque surroundings should be further enhanced this Saturday evening if the weather forecasts are to be believed.

Then next week, it is a busy but hopefully productive week for the North-East District, as they hold the successful Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham from 7.30-9pm on Tuesday, and Ten-Bell Method Practice from 7-9pm a couple of days later, before the week is topped off by the Monthly Helmingham Practice on Friday evening, and the Young Ringers Practice at Stowmarket from 3-4.30pm on Saturday, where all ringing youngsters and their older chauffeurs will be welcomed!

As with always, do support these if you can, regardless of whether it is your district, but especially if it is your district. Ultimately, they may encourage current learners to reach the heights that others have done today, such as David Steed who rang his most methods in the Doubles at Old Newton as the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continues, and Ruth Young who rang her first of five-spliced Surprise Major methods in the 1280 before Offton practice. Well done David and Ruth.

Meanwhile, according to a message posted by his niece-in-law Cecelia on Facebook, George Pipe's operation on Monday went as well as could be expected, though he is obviously still very unwell. However, at least it is some good news as he marks his birthday today. Happy Birthday George, and get well soon.


Monday 8th April 2013

When does a newsworthy occurrence cease to become so?

Well, in the case of Margaret Thatcher's death, just after they'd announced an 87-year old lady who was Prime Minister a quarter-of-a-century ago, had died peacefully and without mystery this morning. After that, the rolling news channels turned into the History Channel, interspersed with predictable tributes that went pretty much along party lines, all to the backdrop of the same stock footage being run on a loop. And I was slightly uncomfortable with the BBC coverage complete with presenters in mourning black, with even Look East given over to covering her passing owing to some rather tenuous links to the region. Though I felt equally uncomfortable with those seemingly celebrating the passing of a fellow human-being.

St Mary-le-Tower.As sad as it all was, we were thankful to be able to escape the coverage through the use of an off button on our televisual box, and the opportunity to head off for my first St Mary-le-Tower practice for three weeks, and Ruthie's first for five, where we had the pleasant surprise of my mother-in-law's presence, as she had dropped Ron off nearby.

It was a night of pleasant surprises, with young Craig Gradidge - now a fully-fledged driver - also attending for the first time for a while, and Sonia receiving her membership certificate from the Guild, as her progress continues apace. And it was all topped off with a superbly rung few leads of London Royal (No.3), before the vast majority of those present reconvened in The Cricketers.

Meanwhile, the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continued, with Lesley Steed calling her first, and Stephen Dawson and David Howe ringing their first quarter on a mini-ring, in the success on The Millbeck Ring at Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake's in Shelland. Well done guys!

And congratulations to our young peal-ringers from Sunday, whose 5040 of Great Barton at Great Barton has become the most liked performance on BellBoard, taking pride of place on the front-page! Now that's newsworthy!


Sunday 7th April 2013

As long as I can remember, and - as some of you will recall, and others will have heard - well before then, there have always been ringers who disagree with and have opinions on other ringers and what certain ringing organisations say and do. It isn't something peculiar to the Suffolk Guild, or indeed even to ringing, and to an extent you wouldn't want to discourage it. In the SGR for example, we have hundreds of different members, with different expertise, different experiences, different backgrounds and different degrees of sensitivity. There is no single 'right' way to run a guild that covers such a membership, so we as a Guild will always encourage constructive criticism through the right channels. If you want to change something, then put it to the GMC, and - within reason - it'll end up being voted on either by the GMC whose members have been elected by district members, or voted for by members themselves at the AGM. If more members vote for something to be changed then vote for it to remain, then things will be changed.

However, such differences can have a detrimental effect on ringing. It often sees some ringers refusing to ring with other ringers, or even for the Guild at all, though that is something that we just have to put up with. However, what we don't have to put up with, is personal insults or snide comments. At least, we don't have to put up with it on the Guild Facebook page, which I have noticed over the last few weeks has fallen outside its general remit, which is essentially to keep ringers in the loop of what's going on, whether that is events, special performances, general goings on, or even light-hearted banter. Unlike when we say something about someone or the Suffolk Guild in the ringing chamber, or the pub, everything said here is seen instantly by those who are members of the group, which includes non-ringers and some only just starting out on their ringing life. For example, I have made Lesley Dolphin and Mark Murphy of BBC Radio Suffolk members, as it helps keep us in touch with the media and put an impression across. I - and I assume I'm in the majority here - don't want that impression to be that the Suffolk Guild and indeed ringing in general is full of unfriendly people quite happy to openly abuse/make snide comments about and to other ringers and the organisation that is ultimately there to help in whatever way it can. If stuff that offends people keeps getting posted on there, I shall reluctantly remove those who post them, not for any political or personal reasons, but just to ensure that the Facebook page is somewhere ringers of every ilk are comfortable with going to, and that it puts out the best image of the Suffolk Guild and ringing generally to new ringers and potential ringers. So please think before you put anything up there.

On an entirely different note, I felt I was very remiss not to mention yesterday the sterling work that Ruth Suggett has put into producing our brilliant Annual Report over the years, as she stands down from the role. Although she has a small number of others helping, it can't be a very easy job at all, even these days, to put such an extensive publication together for a membership of eight hundred, all within quite a tight timescale, so thank you Ruth.

And thank you David Salter on your hour-and-half period of being Report Editor before resigning to allow the GMC time to find a replacement, in one of the most amusing moments I've seen at an AGM! (Has David actually resigned? Ed.)

Disappointingly, we can't promise such comedy gold at next year's Guild AGM, but it is still worth noting the date and keeping it clear, as if it's even half as good a day out as yesterday, you'll have a tremendous time! As always, it will be held on the Saturday after Easter, which in 2014 is on 26th April, and provisionally will be held by the North-West District at Stowmarket. We had an attendance of over a hundred yesterday, which was very pleasing - let's see if we can get an even bigger attendance in this central and easily accessible location.

Thornham Magna.Gislingham.More immediately than that, now the AGM has passed for this year, thoughts turn to the Guild Striking Competitions on Saturday 18th May. I've always stated how much I'd like to see this become our version of the National Twelve-Bell Competition, with good quality ringing, a sense of occasion, and lots of socialising. I like the notion of ringers invading a place and taking advantage of all it has to offer, the bells ringing out as ringers and non-ringers, 'competitors' and those coming along to support or take an interest, listen and keep up with things in the local pub, teashop, park, the churchyard or just whilst wandering around. This year, both locations hold those opportunities. Thornham Magna will be the scene of the afternoon's ringing for The Mitson Shield and The Lester Brett Trophy, whilst the evening will see The Rose Trophy competed for at Gislingham. The former has The Four Horseshoes and the nearby Thornham Walks, the latter The Six Bells Inn (which surely needs an updated name!), and both are picturesque villages in beautiful countryside. A meteorologist on the radio today was saying how May is likely to be good month weather-wise, so what better way to enjoy the sunshine?

It is but the showpiece competition in amongst the District ones too, with the South-East District holding theirs at Brandeston on 4th May, the North-East the following Saturday at Rumburgh, the North-West on 8th June at Rickinghall and Redgrave and the South-West holding theirs at Hartest on 22nd June. Please do take part if you get the chance!

God willing, some of those events will see George Pipe's much-missed presence, but as I write this, he is at Papworth and due to have further heart surgery on Monday, so please hold him, Di and their family in your thoughts and prayers. For now though - and sadly as with much of 2013 thus far - we were of course without him at St Mary-le-Tower for ringing this morning, though Mrs Pipe did come up. However, we did have the unusual but wonderful presence of Ruthie, as it was her Sunday off from work, and after a busy Easter weekend, the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge had been given time off too.

That meant she could join Mason and me not just for ringing at Suffolk's heaviest twelve, but also at St Lawrence (where we competed with my mother who was vacuuming the mats as we rang up) and then Grundisburgh, before we took the opportunity of the warmer, sunnier weather to mow the lawn for the first time this year, and then to wander round to Kate's where we were generously fed a lovely roast dinner. Thanks Kate!

All this, whilst others across the county were achieving, as the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week got going with successes at Thrandeston, Redgrave and Rickinghall, the latter seeing Andrea Alderton ring her first spliced Minor, and her first of Pinehurst. Well done Andrea.

However, the most notable performance today, came at Great Barton, as Great Barton Doubles was pealed for the first time by the band and for the Guild, impressively rung by six ringers that collectively have an average age of just seventeen years and eight days. On top of that, Simon Veal was ringing his first peal away from cover. Well done Simon, and well done to the youngsters on a great effort. Now that's the kind of thing I'd like to see on the Guild facebook page.


Saturday 6th April 2013

This has been a good week for the Suffolk Guild of Ringers. Its 90th Anniversary on Tuesday marked another landmark in its illustrious life, and yesterday’s interview I had with Lesley Dolphin bodes well for the future of the organisation. And today, it was all topped off marvelously with a superb AGM day.

From the fringe meeting, What Are Church Bells For? at Stradbroke Community Centre, to a welcome pint in The White Hart at the end of the day, it was an interesting, and mostly enjoyable occasion.

The latter was a great event, well organised by Jonathan Stevens, with interesting and amusing speakers, speaking to a decent audience of over thirty, which would represent a good attendance at most district practices! Tamsin – a ringer who has done much research into the attitudes of ringers and non-ringers towards bells from a heritage perspective – and Basil are to be thanked for taking the time to come out to speak and give us such a good start to proceedings.

Those proceedings then naturally carried on round the corner on the ten at All Saints, and whilst the vast majority then stopped for the traditional service, some headed to The Queen’s Head, whilst we returned to the Community Centre so Mason could play with Richard Stevens in the adjoining play area, as North-East members prepared a wonderful spread.

Ready for the meeting.Ready for the meeting.That spread was soon devoured by the returning worshippers, before the actual AGM itself got underway. In the main it was a fast-moving meeting, officers reports already read, officers themselves already proposed and seconded. It was in the main taken up by the proposed constitutional and GMC representation changes, which whilst understandably debated, seemed to hold unfounded fears for some. In the end, it was ratified overwhelmingly, the meeting doing its job.

There were other notable moments. His five years as Guild Chairman up, we were sorry to let Philip Gorrod go, but delighted to vote Alan Stanley from Gislingham in. Yesterday in my interview on Radio Suffolk, I had waxed lyrical about Philip’s Chairmanship, in the process earning myself a pint from him, but that – for once – wasn’t my motivation for my words about him. Mr Gorrod has been absolutely magnificent for the Guild, and it has flourished under his leadership. In fact, we have him to thanks for our more streamlined AGM. Whilst today’s did get a bit stretched, pre-Philip it may have lasted an extra half-hour at least. I was delighted to work with him so closely as Ringing Master, and hope we will still have the benefit of his expertise as the Guild moves into a new era. But in Alan, we have a great replacement, a man whom I am sure will carry on PJG’s good work whilst also putting his own stamp on things. Thank you Philip, and good luck Alan!

Another change in personnel saw David Salter step down as one of the Guild’s Central Council Reps after eighteen years, along with Alan McBurnie after his three years. Having been a CC Rep myself, I believe we should be very grateful to anyone who agrees to represent us in this less than perfect organisation, but in particular David’s work on various committees on our behalf and reporting back to us – as he did today - has been invaluable. Thank you David. There will still be a Salter involved though, as his eldest son George steps up to the plate and instantly brings the average age of the CC down by several decades! Along with our other new CC Rep Peter Harper, and our current ones Stephen Pettman and Veronica Downing, we wish them the best of luck for the next three years.

But the biggest cheer of the afternoon went to Helen Price as she was enthusiastically made a Life Honorary Member of the Guild. The work Helen has put in to Reydon and Southwold in particular, but the Guild generally has been immense, and there are few people more deserving of this honour. Well done Helen!

Ringing at Stradbroke.The meeting completed, we returned to the church to ring. These aren’t easy bells, but in many respects this is the beauty of ringing. This 20cwt ten is very different to Tostock, which in turn are nothing like St Mary-le-Tower, which are very different to Theberton which are very different to Stradishall. Nonetheless, I thought the membership that didn’t just go straight to the pub and came ringing managed very well, and full credit to Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters on his running of all the ringing today. I know from experience that this is a tough job. As much as you try to keep in touch with members across the county, when this number of ringers – some of whom you don’t know, let alone what they ring – descend upon the ringing chamber, it is a challenge to ensure everyone gets a good go. Well done Jed.

Enjoying that pint at the end of the day!Ruthie and Mason playing games in the pub!We did eventually end up enjoying that pint supplied by the former Guild Chairman, a great way to end a great day spent in the company of names well known to Suffolk ringing. Names such as Knight, Girt, Hughes, Rapior, Rose, Stanford, Pye and Scase. And ones that will hopefully become associated readily with the Guild, like Tatlow and Reynolds. Ringers of all ages from towers across the county, like Pakenham, Aldeburgh, Pettistree, Polstead, West Stow, Halesworth, Hollesley and Poslingford, all mingling, socialising and ringing together, as it should be.

A good way to end a good week.


Friday 5th April 2013

If a bit of PR for the Guild makes people aware of what we do, when they otherwise wouldn’t have been, then I feel it’s done a decent job. If we get someone enquire about how to learn, that’s great. If we get even a single, actual learner, then it’s been a success. If we get lots of people learning to ring on the back of it then that’s absolutely superb.

On that basis, my interview with Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon, letting the county know about the SGR’s 90th Anniversary, tomorrow’s AGM and the need for learners so we can continue the successful start that ITTS has had within our borders, can be said to have been great. Just minutes after our chat and replaying of when Lesley learnt to ring for the Big Skill a few years back, I received a phone call from someone who wanted to know how to learn and where to go. So I pointed them in the right direction, and reflected on a great afternoon’s PR for ringing here.


Thursday 4th April 2013

Ruthie got a nasty shock when she went into work this morning. No, not the snow that fell days into April, Easter already out of the way and just forty-eight hours or so before the start of the AGM, the traditional curtain-raiser to the Guild's spring and summer ringing.

Rather, when she went in, she discovered her place of work had been quite brutally broken into in the early hours. The feckless wasters had left a right mess, of course completely unconcerned that others would have to clear up afterwards and deal with the consequences of their selfish nature. It was a shocking sight as I found out myself, having dropped something off to her. There was a substantial amount of glass laying about, and about two-thirds of the store was cordoned off with police tape.

It was surprisingly distressing for Mrs Munnings, who compared it metaphorically to seeing someone you were acquainted to being beaten up, and once Suffolk Police had done what they needed to do, she and her colleagues spent most of the day clearing the mess up, even putting in extra time to achieve this, a concept I'm sure is foreign to the perpetrators of the crime.

Not unexpectedly, it was the main topic of conversation as I took my wife and two of her workmates Carol and Becky to Ipswich for a pre-planned but aptly timed night out at Gala Bingo, where they won nothing, but had a good time by the point I picked them up.

By then, I'd been to another Grundisburgh practice, but not before I'd been gently accosted by one of the residents living in the old school house next door to the church. Her main issue was the amount of ringing at St Mary-the-Virgin this week, which had kept the young children of her neighbours up last night.

Now, I was tempted to bring up my usual beef with such people, which is if you don't like church bells, don't move in next door to a church. Do some research beforehand - for example, you'll easily find out that there are regular periods of lengthy ringing on these bells if you actually do a little homework. You wouldn't move next door to a builders yard and be surprised that you will spend all day every day all week listening to banging, shouting and reversing lorries. Likewise, you wouldn't purchase a property next to a football stadium and then be caught out that every other Saturday for nine months of the year, several thousand very noisy and often slightly drunk fans arrive at the bottom of your garden. Or live next door to a pub and not expect there to be at least a little bit of noise every weekend.

I was also tempted to ask that seeing as Mason had spent most of his early months asleep IN ringing chambers, why the children were seemingly unable to nod off a hundred yards away in a separate building with the bells sound-proofed as they always are for peals here...

But I didn't. Partly it was that to an extent she had a point. There has been an unusual amount of ringing there this week, with the peals on Monday and last night (though I was a little puzzled by her assertion that the bells had been ringing from three in the afternoon until nine yesterday!), and when she saw more ringers arriving tonight, she was understandably concerned!

Also, they had approached us, rather than running to the authorities, and she wasn't complaining as such, more enquiring if this was to become the norm. In fact she even commented on how nice her daughter up the road found the bells! So I gladly placated her, reassuring her that that there won't be that much ringing every week.

I will defend ringing vehemently. It is a wonderful social outlet, a test of mind and body for all ages, such as Tim Stanford, who yesterday rang his first of spliced in the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree. Well done Tim. It annoys me when people will rather moan that they can't hear their TV above the sound of bells instead of getting out there and seeing what happens in a tower, or even take it up. When there are people vandalising and stealing from shops, and kids apparently having nothing to do, this is something for them to do, if they could be bothered. In fact, I shall be extolling ringing's virtues on BBC Radio Suffolk tomorrow afternoon at 2.30pm on Lesley Dolphin's show, rather appropriately, as I discuss the Guild's 90th Anniversary, the AGM and ITTS.

However, I am aware that we need to be mindful of local residents, rather than merely dismissing them as a nuisance. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to invite the neighbours up to see us ring on the county's lightest twelve?

The practice itself was a useful one, with enough to ring various Surprise Major methods, Bob Major for Adrian on the treble, and even to have a crack at Stedman Caters. Three cracks to be precise. It was a nice reminder that we don't just do this to be a nuisance, this a genuinely enjoyable exercise for people of all ages to partake in, as they were tonight, learning, chatting and laughing.

Eventually I met up with Ruthie again, and having dropped her friends off, we popped into The Red Lion, the first time she had been in since it's extensive refurb. It was a nice way to end a particularly long day for her.


Wednesday 3rd April 2013

She’s been training for months, joining a gym, lifting weights and going for ten-mile runs. Indeed recently, she has survived purely on a diet of meat pies and beer, all in an effort to get in shape for the task ahead of her.

It was all worth it, as tonight, Ruthie pulled in the great bell of Old Stoke to a peal of Monks Kirby Surprise Major, whilst this mere weakling here pinged on the treble. In the process, we both simultaneously circled the tower (for those not in the know, that means we’ve rung at least one peal on every bell in the ‘tower’), and Mrs Munnings rang her fiftieth on the bells on a very enjoyable evening of good ringing. It is sometimes nice to watch others put in all the hard work and then take in the music!

Blythburgh.We weren’t the only ones with footnotes today, and congratulations to Joan Garrett on ringing her 350th peal, Robert Beavis on ringing his fiftieth for the Guild, and well done to Clare Veal on scoring her first of Lincolnshire, all achieved in the success at Grundisburgh. Meanwhile, well done to Ambrin Williams on ringing her first quarter inside in the 1260 of Bob Doubles Blythburgh, and to the entire band who rang their first quarter of variable-hunt treble (where – again for those not yet in the know, whilst I’m feeling in an explanatory mood is when at least one other – and usually every - bell becomes the treble at some point) in the Bob Minor at Reydon. And Happy Birthday Mary Garner for today, and whilst I’m at it, Brian Whiting for yesterday!

Stradbroke.Our efforts were all topped off with ample cake and biscuit of course (thank you again to the Salters for their hospitality), where arrangements for next month’s peal attempt when hopefully it’ll be much warmer were made, and this Saturday’s eagerly anticipated AGM was brought up. This has the potential to be one of the most interesting for a while, with a new Chairman to be elected, and possible other votes, and there will be at least one change to our representation on the Central Council, with Alan McBurnie stepping down. On top of that, the matter of who replaces Ruth Suggett as Report Editor should be of interest to all who have been taking in their sparkling new editions in the last few days. And indeed those who would like to but haven’t yet! Plus, it should be nicer weather than I recently anticipated, though I wouldn’t turn up to Stradbroke in your shorts and t-shirt this weekend, unless you’re very brave or very daft! Whatever you wear, please just turn-up and help make the efforts of the North-East District to host us worthwhile.

Whilst you’re at it, you can get tips from my wife on how to ring big bells!


Tuesday 2nd April 2013

Happy 90th Birthday to the Suffolk Guild of Ringers! It is a significant landmark for a more significant ringing organisation than we often give ourselves credit for. Some important ringing has occurred under the name of the Guild, and some well-esteemed and well-known ringing locations help and are helped by the SGR, such as St Mary-le-Tower, The Norman Tower, Grundisburgh, Beccles, Lavenham, Aldeburgh. It has given and been home to some of the world's best ringers, such as Jim, Rod and George Pipe, Lester Brett, Howard Egglestone, Martin Thorley, Trevor and Pat Bailey, Brian Whiting, John Loveless, Simon Rudd, Adrian Knights, Stephen Pettman, James Smith, Barry Pickup, Alan Mayle, David and Katharine Salter, right up to Louis Suggett in the modern day and hopefully in the future, to name just a few. This is a Guild to truly be celebrated.

That said, there wasn't much ringing going on to mark the actual anniversary of the Guild's formation at Lavenham in 1923, though of course 2013 in general should be seen as a year of celebration for the Guild.

BSE Cathedral.I marked it with a return to John Catt Educational after the long weekend, whilst Ruthie continued a busy few days for her, as she joined Mary Garner in going to sing at the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds, and experiencing one of those small world moments. For who should she bump into singing in the same choir, in li'l old BSE on a Tuesday afternoon, but Philip Ramsbottom and Liz Bowsher, fellow Rambling Ringers who live in Lichfield and were staying with Phil's brother John, who many of you will know is a ringer at Elveden. It was an extraordinary coincidence, and will no doubt lead to much singing on the campsite on this year's Ramblers' tour! Perhaps we could have a rendition of 'Happy Birthday'!


Easter Monday 1st April 2013

With Mason returned to his mother's for stock car racing, it was a quiet afternoon for me, having survived the morning without being fooled by smelling apps and the like, though primarily this was because I slept through most of it.

However, Ruthie was back at work today, at the end of a four-day weekend where we actually haven't seen much of each other, and at the start of a busy week, so we ended up staying at home zonked out a little, rather than messing up St Mary-le-Tower's practice night.

Grundisburgh.That busy week includes a definite practice at Grundisburgh on Thursday, again in Stephen's absence, so all help would be appreciated. And of course, that comes just two days before the 2013 Suffolk Guild AGM at Stradbroke. The deadline for teas has passed, so if you want one you will have to negotiate with but even if you don't have a tea, members' attendance at the meeting and for ringing afterwards would be much appreciated. Many ringers pay a subscription each year for which we are always grateful, and the more who do so means that we can continue freezing subscription rates as we have done again this year. It seems a shame that having very generously paid money into the Guild accounts, that many won't have a say in what gets discussed at the AGM. We would love to see you there.

Meanwhile, well done to Ian Culham, George Salter, David Salter, Christina Brewster and Jon Waters on ringing four peals today at four of our towers, starting at Burgh, then moving on to Ashbocking, then Otley, before finishing at Grundisburgh. Though all rung for our good neighbours and friends at The Essex Association, Ian does a lot of his ringing up our way and I know first hand how much organisation has gone into these attempts, so it is good to see four successes shown for his efforts, including some achievements along the way. Well done to George on calling his first seven-Surprise Minor, and to the organiser himself on ringing his fiftieth peal for his resident association.

If I was completely footloose and fancy-free, I would've been awfully tempted to take Mr Culham up on his kind offer to partake, having rung two-in-a-day on numerous occasions and three-in-a-day once, but on this occasion, I was happy to enjoy that quiet day with Mason and evening with Ruthie!


Easter Sunday 31st March 2013

It felt like today was a little confused. It was Easter Sunday, but the Boat Race was on. The first day of British Summer Time, but in some spots there was still some snow left lying around. Indeed, there was a prolonged flurry of the white stuff as recently as yesterday lunchtime. It’s was Ruthie’s Sunday to work, but she wasn’t at Boots as they were closed of course.

Mason's Easter egg collection.One thing that did seem to fit right was the packed house at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge for the morning service on the biggest day of the church calendar. By the time Mason and I had climbed down from the ringing chamber high above proceedings, there was floor space only, even after numerous extra seating had been dragged in. It is a marvelous sight, but daunting for my wife who had to sing a solo for the occasion. Of course she did a superb job – as the li’l chap told her, she sang ‘beautifully’!

It all came after I had partaken in ringing on seven on this grand eight, which whilst I’m not a big fan of, did at least see the back two booming out, which is always a wonderful sound. And it was nice for Simon, a previous resident of the town and who has family here, but who now rings at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire to partake in.

But although Mrs Munnings returned to the church for evensong, the rest of the day was a quiet one for us and the rest of Suffolk ringing, bar a 5040 of Sandiacre Minor at The Wolery (which must be worn out by now!) and a quarter of Plain Bob Triples at Bardwell. There were lots of Easter eggs though, so it wasn’t an entirely confusing day!


Holy Saturday 30th March 2013

On Saturday 21st November 1987, Ipswich Town beat Oldham Athletic 2-0 at Portman Road in the second level of English football, in those days known as – rather bizarrely – the Second Division. There were just 11,007 in attendance, and the goals were scored by Mark Brennan and David Lowe, two players since thrust into footballing obscurity. It was a singularly insignificant match between two teams that would finish eighth and tenth at the end of the season. Except – having been to a friendly – this was the first ‘proper’ meaningful ITFC game that I ever went to, taken along by Uncle Eric as part of a scheme to encourage pupils from Dale Hall School - where I was in education at the time – along to Town fixtures.

Mason before kick-off of his first proper Ipswich Town match.Mason before kick-off of his first proper Ipswich Town match.Today, Mason went one better, as I took him along to his first proper Tractor Boys match, and we witnessed them beat Leeds United 3-0, with nearly twice as many - 20,402 – watching. He even saw his first sending off, with our northern visitors’ reduction to ten men helping us greatly on this occasion. And incidentally, the two players who scored the three goals between them, weren’t even born on my first visit to the home of East Anglia’s most successful football team (Naaaridge’s nondescript and mediocre stay in the top flight currently has yet to change that thus far), with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas born in 1990 and David McGoldrick coming into the world just eight days after my triumphant debut.

Hopefully it will be the start of a life of supporting the ‘Superblues’ for the li’l chap, with hopefully as many happy memories as I have from following them, and the signs were good today, with him enthralled by a lot of it – though also typically distracted by flags and beach balls – and singing along with many of the chants. And all being well and God willing, in twenty-five years he’ll look back on this day with as much fondness as I look back on 21/11/1987.

Who knows what George and Colin Salter will have achieved in ringing by then, but today well done to them on both ringing their most spliced Surprise Minor in the peal at The Wolery. It’s unlikely to, but maybe it’ll push Adam Crocker’s recent phenomenal achievement of becoming the youngest thousand-pealer off the top of BellBoard’s most popular performances. To be fair, it is an amazing landmark to reach at just twenty-three years old, and eleven of those have been rung for the Suffolk Guild. Congratulations Adam, though it is incredible to think that there is a thousand-pealer out there who wasn’t even born when I watched my first Ipswich Town game!


Good Friday 29th April 2013

Mine and Ruthie’s first peal together was appropriately enough rung at Woodbridge, three days after what would become our wedding anniversary, for the sixtieth anniversary of VJ Day in 2005. It was that infamous 5040 of Grandsire Triples, rung in a record 2hrs54mins on a roasting day (remember when we used to have those?) with me on the seventh nearly destroying my shorts.

We rang regular peals together, but for some years, my wife-to-be rang very few, partly through lack of enthusiasm, partly because a time-consuming timetable of travelling to Colchester Institute and back during the week and working at Boots over the weekend didn’t actually leave much time for peals!

The Wolery.Thankfully though, she’s picked up the pace again since, and we are now each other’s leading peal-ringers. However, we had been stuck on 149 together for several weeks, as loss after loss was racked up, including an unusual one at The Wolery last week, where we returned today for the annual Good Friday double-header in the little-blue shed in Old Stoke, and finally got our 150th peal together, with a decent 5088 of Norden Surprise Major.

It was lucky we did score that, as Mrs Munnings then had to leave proceedings for the next leg of a busy weekend of ringing and singing for her, as David very kindly returned her to our town of residence for a service at St Mary-the-Virgin.

We meanwhile enjoyed a superb lunch before than taking part in another good peal, this time a 5120 of Windsor Treble Bob Major, which is Kent with the places in 5-6 instead of 3-4, meaning we had to concentrate on a very simple line, and producing some wonderful ringing.

There was more food afterwards with delicious cakes, enjoyed by Mason and Henry who had been enjoying a fun day of play whilst we were ringing. It was a great day, and many thanks to the Salters for their typically great hospitality.

There was one final job for the li’l chap and me before we left Ipswich though, as we popped round to Mum and Dad’s to collect piles of the latest edition of Awl a’huld for distribution in our area. Yet again, it is a brilliant bit of work, and a fantastic way of catching up with what is happening around the districts, including reports on the young ringers, and positive news from places like Nayland and Boxford. The latter is home to a family of learners, and is sharing their practices with Hadleigh, something I would encourage. Far too many bands struggle along just miles from each other, when joining forces can help strengthen them both.

As good as the magazine is though – and it is very good – it will all be in vain if we don’t get it out to towers and then to the public. As always, make sure your incumbent has one, there is a copy in the church, and anywhere else you can get one, like the local pub, village hall, shop, doctor’s surgery – any place that a non-ringer might pick it up, read, and think that they might like to try ringing. Who knows, after a 150 peals with them, we may be very grateful for them coming across it!


Maundy Thursday 28th March 2013

As is usual, the Easter weekend was started with an earlier, 4.30pm finish at work, though having not received the round-robin email informing us all of this, I got a bit of a surprise when everyone got up to leave half-an-hour before I was expecting!

Stradbroke.It looks like being a cold one though, and apparently there is no sign of it warming up anytime soon, which suggests that the Guild AGM at Stradbroke in just nine days time will be a lot chillier than normal. However, with only until this Saturday (30th) to book teas for the big day of fun, I really hope that isn’t used as an excuse for members to stay away. There are a couple of pubs in this sizeable village, a shop, lots of beautiful countryside surrounding if you’re feeling up to a bracing walk, and the facilities at Stradbroke Community Centre where the Fringe Meeting, tea and AGM will be held, are apparently modern and comfortable. Besides, a ring on the ten at All Saints round the corner will keep you warm!

For this evening though, it was a quiet night in for Mason and me, whilst Ruthie went to St Mary’s down the hill to sing for the choir in the Maundy service, the heating most definitely on!


Wednesday 27th March 2013

More interesting ringing reading today, both online and in print.

One was via Bellringing in the News, a website which records and links to ringing stories that make it into the general press, and is quite an interesting site. An article that caught my eye over the course of this Holy Week Wednesday, was from The Guernsey Press and related to the augmentation from six to twelve of the bells at St Anne's Church. As part of the project, a thirteenth, Sanctus Bell from the fifteenth century will be hung there, coming over from St Helen's in Ipswich, and originally cast by Reginald Churche of Bury St Edmunds. Great to see good old Suffolk workmanship being taken beyond these shores!

But my attention was also caught by the 15th March edition of The Ringing World, essentially the 'Roger Bailey Edition', marking the passing of this true giant of the exercise in January. It was full of pictures from the celebration of his life held last month, incredibly interesting, poignant and amusing tributes to him, and numerous peals and quarters rung in his memory, including a number from within our borders. It really rammed home how fortunate many of us were to have known him, however well.

I took in the pages and pages dedicated to RDB at another cold (when will it warm up?) but useful Pettistree practice, which started with a quarter in a method we have named Suffolk Delight Minor, and reached a crescendo with three very rhythmical and well struck leads of Norwich Minor before we retired to The Greyhound.

All very interesting!


Tuesday 26th March 2013

A quiet night in of watching the big England game, which was both entertaining and frustrating in equal measure.

The Wolery.Meanwhile, well done to Colin and George Salter on ringing their first of spliced and first of spliced Surprise Minor respectively, in the success at the top of their garden!


Monday 25th March 2013

Being Holy Week (I know it looks like Christmas out there, but it really is!), there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower tonight, and whilst there was the traditional spring-clean (again, it really is spring!) of the ringing chamber in its place, we had other duties lined up this evening, as we had agreed to babysit Ruthie's young cousin Lucy, whilst her parents attended the E.B.Button 'Christmas' meal. Sadly, with li'l 'un feeling poorly, her mother decided to stay back to look after her, and so we decided to have our own much-needed spring-clean of our abode, with cupboards emptied. Tis the season.


Sunday 24th March 2013

The internet is a wonderful thing, allowing us to find out about peals, quarters and many general ringing performances and other news, sometimes just minutes after they've happened. They were able to instantly convey things like the results in yesterday's eliminators of the National Twelve-Bell Competition at Kettering, Leicester Cathedral and Towcester. Congratulations to York, Bristol (especially Molly Waterson, once of this county), the College Youths, Cumberlands, Leeds, Melbourne, Towcester, Cambridge and my old team Birmingham, on reaching the final at Ripon on Saturday 22nd June, hopefully when they shan't have to battle so much snow to get to the host tower!

But I still enjoy reading the printed word. For my birthday, Ruthie got me a copy of a book called Tales from the Suffolk Sandlings, an interesting insight into the history of the area between Woodbridge and Orford and particularly focused on Butley, complete with picture of the McBurnie's old house on the back. It has given me far more pleasure than trawling Facebook, as useful as that can be sometimes. Though we don't subscribe to it, we enjoy catching snippets of recent Ringing Worlds (somebody mentioned something about a page three girl in the latest one, so I'm intrigued to see what beauty they've got lined up…) at the towers we visit.

Today though, two publications took my interest. One was Ruthie's copy of the annual Cumberland's magazine, complete with picture of David and Gillian Sparling, close friends of the Guild (indeed, they were at last week's Guild dinner) and many Suffolk ringers. It may seem strange that I should take an interest as a College Youth, but I like reading about what ringers and ringing is doing, and of course many from the SRCY are good friends of mine. One in particular, is my wife, so I have nothing against them. Apart from reading about Philip Moyse, Tom Scase and the aforementioned Molly joining the society, I was sorry to read that the Eastern practices are struggling, with thought even being given to abandoning them. Putting 'rivalries' aside, this would be a great shame, as the practices offer an opportunity for many local Cumberlands to advance their ringing, particularly on higher numbers, and gives them the chance to meet ringers beyond our borders, and experience the wider world of ringing. If you are a Cumberland, and feel you can attend, then let Simon Rudd know!

However, the second publication was the one I was most anticipating - the Suffolk Guild Annual Report! It's never going to be exciting, and most of the information is easily picked up through Campanophile, BellBoard, Pealbase and the Guild website, but I always find this an interesting read, a snapshot of everything that happened in Suffolk ringing over the previous year. The latest one - in eye-catching yellow - is no different, and Ruth Suggett and her band of helpers are to be congratulated on another superb edition. It is fascinating to read through the individual reports and see other people's takes on how 2012 went, the district blurbs, particularly now that I rarely get out to other districts. How many towers were pealed, what the leading methods were, where quarters were rung. It is all information that is out there, but it is a painstaking task putting it all together under one report, and I for one am grateful that someone is willing to do that on our behalf so we can take in some interesting stats at a glance. Like just how far ahead Pettistree was on the quarter-peal numbers, and the increase in regular, resident peal-conductors.

SMLT Dinner. Of course, as mentioned earlier in the week, we need to get these gems of information out to as many different members as possible, at a time when actually a lot are away, or towers aren't ringing. So no matter how contrived, if there is any way that you can get reports to someone who isn't going to get them otherwise, then please take that opportunity.

I got mine from the gleaming looking, large pile up St Mary-le-Tower, on a decent morning's ringing there and at Grundisburgh, before I took a break from reading, picked my wife up from St Mary's Church Centre in Woodbridge, and took her and Mason along to Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, for the annual SMLT Dinner, the last of a long list of dinners over the last few weeks.

This is a superb location, brilliant service, with lovely food, but we're having bad luck with the weather when coming here. Last year we were greeted by near-monsoon weather, and this year of course saw us negotiate the snow covered landscape of the peninsula to get to the club's lovely but bracing position over-looking a choppy North Sea.

Nonetheless, we had a great time, not least because Ruthie was able to attend this one after years of being unable to due to work, We sat on a lively table which consisted of us three, Ian Culham, Claire Turner, Paul & Anne Bray and Diana Pipe, who brought us word on a still-hospitalized George, as he awaits further action. His absence, and Sean's misfortune as the elements defeated his attempts to get here, were the only downers on a cheerful and enjoyable occasion, before we returned home to see Toby and Amy after their trip away, and to take a wonderful call from Fred Bailey's great-grandson, who on doing a bit of family tree research had got a surprise when finding out about his world famous ancestors!

It was a chilly, snowy, but cracking day, and for all that I've enjoyed the printed word today, I'm glad you can read about it all so soon on this blog.


Saturday 23rd March 2013

Grundisburgh. Well done to the band which rang what is believed to be the first peal of St Clement's College Bob on twelve, in the 5016 of Maximus at Grundisburgh today. As historic as that was though, the peal was primarily arranged as the 1500th for Stephen Pettman. This was indeed a worthy landmark, as his 1500 peals do not just include spectacular and complex peals - not least through his conducting - but many that have helped learners. Numerous people - Ruthie included - had their first peal conducted by SDP, and a lot have achieved peal-ringing firsts under his guidance, so it was appropriate that George Salter had the opportunity to ring his first on twelve on this special occasion. Well done George, and thank you Stephen for all the peal-ringing over the last few years - here's to the next 1500!

Sadly, neither my wife or I could ring in the peal, mainly because Mrs Munnings was rehearsing for and then singing in the performance of the St Matthew Passion at St Mary-le-Tower for most of the day. It meant the morning was the only time we had to see each other today, and with the arrangements needed to get her down to Ipswich, ringing a peal at Grundisburgh and arranging Mason-sitting was impractical.

As it happened, the heavy snow which fell would've made that task even more difficult, but the li'l chap and I were able to make it round to Kate's to see to her cats as she is away this weekend, though it was also a good excuse for the boy to get his train set out there too! And they aren't the only cats we were looking after, as with Toby and Amy away, we were looking after theirs too, though as with last time, it was hard work, even in the freezing conditions!

Hopton. Still, whilst Ruthie was singing, and we were cat-herding, others were ringing, and well to Gudrun Warren on ringing his first of Little Bob Major in the success at Hopton, Daniel Denton on ringing his first of Superlative Major in the 1280 at Gislingham, and Alison Daniels on ringing her first of Surprise Major in the quarter of Cambridge at Bardwell. What a day of achievement in Suffolk ringing!


Friday 22nd March 2013

With all the unseasonably late snow hitting a lot of the country and apparently coming our way tomorrow, it’s hard to believe we are just over two weeks away from the Guild AGM. Hopefully by that point we may see some sign of spring, though if we are to wait as long for it as we had to for summer last year, I wouldn't hold your breath!

Nonetheless, rain or shine, show or heat wave, it promises to be an interesting, entertaining and social day, and I really hope as many of you who can possibly attend do. For those who are supportive of what the Guild does, this is a chance to tell those who work so hard to make it happen, aware of that. For those who don’t agree with what the Guild does, or how it does it, then equally this is the opportunity to do something about it, advice those at the top your views on how it should be done, or even put forward people you feel would do a better job. That is democracy, though it is worth considering that for all the differences there may be on how we should go about things, we are all volunteers with a love of ringing, and ultimately aiming towards the same goal – good ringing in Suffolk.

Whatever your reasons for going to Stradbroke on Saturday 6th April, you will need to book your tea with Julie Rapior by 30th March. Those with an awareness of time and space will have realised that that is just eight days time.

Edwardstone.We have already done that thankfully, so instead we could relax this evening, much like the England football team, who we watched thrash San Marino 8-0 on the TV, whilst Kevin Ward rang his first quarter of Kent Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 at Edwardstone. Well done Kevin – we could do with your sort at the AGM!


Thursday 21st March 2013

It was service day for Emily the car, so she spent a day up at the Champkins for a routine appointment, and I had a pleasant walk from there to work and back.

No Grundisburgh sadly after that recent burst of enthusiasm, so back to the Thursday norm.


Wednesday 20th March 2013

‘Bring Lovely Ruthie Little Red Rose’. Or, Bristol London Rutland London Rutland Rutland if you will.

Brian Whiting’s way of remembering this particular block in amongst a seven-part Rob Lee composition for a peal attempt of eight-spliced Surprise Major at St Mary-le-Tower was nice, but sadly in vain, as another peal came to a premature end.

It means that Ruthie and I will have to wait a little longer if we are to ring our 150th peal together, but it did at least give us the chance to grab some food sooner, as we popped over to The Cricketers for a burger, before we headed over to participate in the end of Pettistree practice, and then join in the celebrations for Gill Waterson’s 65th birthday yesterday at The Greyhound, complete with cake!

Whilst it was a shame we couldn’t score a peal to mark the occasion, just round the corner, Katharine Salter, Clare Veal, George Salter and Colin Salter were ringing their first peal of St Clement’s College Bob Major at The Wolery. Well done guys!

Meanwhile, it is that time of year where Annual Reports need distributing as quickly as possible, ideally so every member gets to read it before the AGM at Stradbroke on Saturday 6th April. It may seem odd in this day and age that we still need a printed Annual Report, but for many, and especially for an occasion like the Guild AGM, this is a useful and handy reference, and so it is still important they reach Guild members before the big day. With Holy Week and Easter seeing several towers not ringing with the same regularity, and ringers going away, if you get the opportunity to get an Annual Report to a member then please do!

‘Reports Needed Soon People’! Or maybe, Rutland Lincolnshire Superlative Pudsey.


Tuesday 19th March 2013

When I started at John Catt Educational on Monday 12th May 2008 (a date I remember as it was significant, but also because my blog says that's when I started!), I stepped into the quaint, but slightly dilapidated, higgledy-piggeldy and old school house at Great Glemham, and joined a sales team that was made up of Peter, Michael and Rhian. I was daunted, and was completely new to all that I had just been presented with, so these were the guys that guided me through it all and kick-started my life at this lovely company.

Much has changed in that time of course. JCEL has long since moved to shiny, sleek, new offices ten minutes walk from home in Melton, we now have a new website (complete with entertaining bobbing pictures when you 'Meet the Team'!) and many have come and gone. Today though, in a real end-of-era moment, the final member of that experienced sales team which greeted me on that sunny, late-spring day nearly five years ago left, as Pete was seen off on an exciting new chapter for him, clutching a remote control monster truck and Halfords voucher, which the li'l chap and I had shopped around for on Sunday.

It is a testament to the company that in a role so demanding as sales, it has taken this long for that original line-up to pass through, but it's sad to see him go. Not only have I sat feet from him for all my time at John Catt, but he's been a good mate. He generously passed his old (and now sadly dead) TV and stand for free to us, he and his boy Jacob attended one of Mason's birthday parties, he was at my stag do and at our wedding. Hopefully we'll stay in touch, but the most immediate effect was that the new boy from 12/05/08 is now the longest serving member of our sales team!

Come the end of s significant day in my little corner of the world, it was a quiet evening of shopping, and popping round Toby and Amy's, allowing them to try our homemade wine, which is unbelievably still going!

But on this day of lasts, it was good to see a couple of firsts, unsurprisingly involving Colin and George Salter, who this evening rang their first blows of Pudsey Major in the pre-practice quarter at Offton. Well done lads!


Monday 18th March 2013

On the face of it, this evening’s practice at St Mary-le-Tower was an inconsistent one. Some really quite good ringing was mixed in with some inexplicably bad. But this is a practice, so it is to be expected to an extent, and we considered afterwards on how far we have actually come.

It is the last normal practice for three weeks or so. Next week is Holy Week of course, so there is no ringing at SMLT, though if you fancy helping with the spring cleaning, I’m sure that would be appreciated! And in exactly a fortnight, it is Easter Monday (already, where is this year going?!), when there WILL be a practice at Suffolk’s heaviest twelve. The bank holiday Monday practices here, often take on a very different dimension, with some regulars away, and others who would normally be elsewhere on a Monday coming along for the opportunity to improve their higher number ringing – all are welcome.

There will be a lot of places not ringing next week, or changing venues or doing something else as a collective, so it is worth checking what – if anything – will be happening at your local tower.

Stradbroke.And as sure as day follows night, the Suffolk Guild AGM follows Easter, with this year’s occasion being held at Stradbroke on Saturday 6th April. It promises to be a very interesting event, with a potentially lively discussion at The Fringe Meeting, a new Chairman to be elected, and potential votes, as well as all the social aspects that always make AGM day so enjoyable. Saturday’s Guild Dinner highlighted the number and variety of ringers we have within our borders, and how great it is when as many as possible get together to catch-up and laugh together. It would be nice to see as many in the North-East District in nineteen days.

By that point, Ruthie will still not have been to a ‘typical’ St Mary-le-Tower Monday night practice for some weeks, as she was again downstairs whilst we were all upstairs, practicing for the last time until the day, for the choir’s performance of the St Matthew Passion this Saturday evening. As usual – though later than normal – she was able to join us for a swift one in The Cricketers afterwards, as we recovered from that up and down, but useful practice.


Sunday 17th March 2013

After all the fun and frivolity of last night, it was back to the reason we were all in Woolpit Village Hall last night – ringing.

And how!

Tostock.Exactly a fortnight after his eightieth birthday, congratulations and well done to John Taylor on ringing his first peal, achieved in the 2hrs32mins of Doubles at Tostock today. John has earned his shot at this, one of those members who always supports District and Guild events and who of course was there last night, so it is well deserved!

Beccles.He isn’t the only member deserving of praise today either. Well done to Alex Rolph on ringing her first of Treble Bob Major in the quarter of Cambridge at Southwold, and Rona Sporle who rang her first on ten in the 1260 of Bob Royal at Beccles, rung half-muffled in memory of Barry Pickup who was tower captain for thirty-three years at this landmark tower which stands proudly looking over the beautiful countryside along the Suffolk and Norfolk border.

John, Alex and Rona’s achievements came at the end of a weekend that started with Ian Wright ringing his first blows of Grandsire Triples in the success at Rendham on Friday. Well done Ian!

Whilst my day of ringing was busy, it wasn’t nearly as impressive as the aforementioned, though it was still a good day. In the morning, we were low on numbers at St Mary-le-Tower, but high on quality, and even in Stephen’s absence we had a decent number in attendance at Grundisburgh, allowing us to ring on all twelve.

Come the evening, with Ruthie singing back in Woodbridge, we had a very useful special practice at SMLT, where a decent job was being made of spliced Cambridge and Yorkshire Royal whilst Nigel Newton and I listened from downstairs, before we joined them for some decently rung Superlative Royal (No.2), Yorkshire Max and spliced London, Cambridge and Yorkshire Royal. And though London Royal (No.3) collapsed in an undignified heap, Ian Culham did incredibly well in ringing his first blows in the method.

It was all a nice reminder of what we were celebrating last night. More of the same please!


Saturday 16th March 2013

Does life get much better than this?

Just minutes after Ipswich Town scored a last minute winner, Mason, Ruthie and I were winding our way to Woolpit Village Hall courtesy of a generous lift from Kate, for one of the most anticipated SGR events for a long time – the Suffolk Guild 90th Anniversary Dinner.

This was a superb celebration of ringing in this county, with members – resident or otherwise – and non-ringing partners, relatives and friends gathered from every corner of this beautiful county we are so fortunate to ring in, and beyond – Haverhill, Bures, Great Barton, West Stow, Southwold, Halesworth, Hollesley, Debenham, Essex, Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and London amongst so many others. All ages from six upwards.

Mason looking shifty, but smart.Handbell Ringing (l to r, David Sparling, James Smith, Ian Holland & Drew Craddock).Sat down for dinner.Jason Busby, Peter Harper & Philip Gorrod singing.Young ringers enjoying the occasion.Guild Ringing Master Jed, Chairman Philip, and Secretary Mandy deserve so much praise for such a superb night, though they will no doubt also point to others deserving of credit for making the occasion so successful. The food was great, as was the drink and company, kick-started by some wonderful handbell ringing from James Smith, David Sparling, Ian Holland and guest speaker Andrew Craddock. We were also treated to the dulcet tones of Jason Busby, Peter Harper and the aforementioned Mr Gorrod, as they wrapped their voices around an amusing ditty, and we all enjoyed the regular ‘I would like to take wine with’, which varied from requests to take wine with past masters (for which Ruthie had to stand in as I was in the facilities with the li’l chap at the time in a spectacular piece of timing!) to young ringers, to those who had been Guild members for an incredible fifty and sixty years, to the one which got the biggest cheer of the night, ‘those here seven years and under’, to which Mason stood on his chair, smiled, waved to his adoring fans, and generally milked the moment! Quite frankly hilarious!

Mason gives flowers to Carolyne Stock.That wasn’t his only starring role of the night though, as he was charged with handing out bouquets of flowers to the respective wives of Bishop Nigel Stock and Drew Craddock, Carolyne and Sue, which he – just about – carried out with great aplomb.

It was brilliant to have Nigel (the only person I know to talk to that has a page on Wikipedia, though it is surely only a matter of time before Robert Beavis has one) and Carolyne in attendance again, as they were five years ago at the 85th Anniversary Dinner. It never ceases to amaze me that despite meeting and talking with what must be thousands of people a year, they always remember many of us ringers, and what we are up to, and their enthusiastic support for what we do is appreciated immensely.

As was Mr Craddock’s interesting insight into Pealbase, the hugely popular and invaluable website that he runs and which enables peal ringers – and indeed anyone else – to view records of peals all the way back to the 1950s, and soon – I’m sure – even earlier. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know I am a big fan of the site, as I am of Drew, who is always an interesting chap to speak with. And his kind words about my blog and indeed the Guild’s brilliant website were also much appreciated.

So there it was. Despite absent friends, and an unfortunate lost peal of Yorkshire Max at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, a night looked forward to by so many for so long, lived up to expectations. In fact, I think I was looking forward to this one since the last one finished, and whilst I have no intentions of wishing my life away, I’m already looking forward to the 95th anniversary and (whisper it!) the 100th anniversary dinner which is sure to be very special, and which I pray I’ll be about to attend!

For now though, hundreds of people left Woolpit having had a lovely evening. Indeed, life doesn’t get much better than this.


Friday 15th March 2013

When Stephen Pettman arranged ringers for this afternoon’s wedding at Grundisburgh - which he would be absent from - he promised us some surprises. He was as good as his word, though not entirely in the way I think he had hoped or expected.

Being Red Nose Day, we imagined clowns, custard pies and red noses, but whilst we got the latter, that didn’t quite materialise. Instead, those of us booked to ring met one short, without a key, and without a definite time for when everything was happening. And when – having rung the bride in on a day when she and most of her guests looked absolutely frozen – we sat up in the ringing chamber during the ceremony a man dressed in full traditional Scottish dress entered and said he’d been told to speak with Stephen, there were a few rolled eyes and shaking heads around the room.

Our friend the bagpiper.Our friend the bagpiper.Luckily for Mr P though, Molly Waterson had accompanied her mother, over for tomorrow’s much anticipated Suffolk Guild Dinner, which meant that we could still ring six. Having anticipated there may not be a key, I popped into Woodbridge’s finest funeral directors, E.B.Button to borrow the mother-in-law’s key to the bells earlier in the day, meaning we could ring at all. Ruthie had checked with her friend at work who was attending the reception what time everything was happening, and combined with others checking and guessing to varying degrees, meant that five-sixths of the band turned up at the correct time. And our visitor to the ringing chamber was a genuine, designed surprise, a bagpiper who was to play the newly married couple out, unbeknown to the groom, and wanted to arrange gaps in ringing so he could play, a request to which we were happy to oblige.

So despite all the surprises, it all worked out in the end!


Thursday 14th March 2013

One thing I’ve noticed on the 6am starts I’ve had at work thus far this week, is that it is – just about – light as I awake and make the short distance into John Catt, admittedly aided by the bright and sunny – if a little chilly – days we’ve had over the last few days. But after this morning, I can vouch that it is still most definitely dark at 4am!

Ufford.It again meant I was deeply dozy by the special Surprise Major ‘cosa nostra’ practice (as one eminent Suffolk ringer Christened it recently) at Ufford. Still, despite absences through illness, the late arrival of Ruthie and Kate due to their other Thursday evening commitments, and having to compete with the choir and organ just below us for the first half-an-hour (there will be various horses heads put on pillows later, supplied by the supermarkets of the UK), I was able to contribute to another useful session.

It was all very enjoyable, but for me it was an early night once more, with another dark 4am start tomorrow.


Wednesday 13th March 2013

The Wolery.It’s easy to view peal attempts at The Wolery as a sure score, due to their frequency and the general professionalism and quality of the peal-ringing that goes on there. So when they go up in smoke like this evening’s attempt of Monks Kirby Surprise Major, it is a surprise, but a reminder that when we get these peals, they are very much an achievement.

Covehithe.Quite what colour smoke tonight’s attempt went up in, can be speculated. Judging by David’s mood immediately after the loss, I would hazard at black, in complete contrast to that rising above the Vatican City a couple of hours earlier. Still, after plumes of smoke of the cigarette nature, and a walk back down his long garden, he seemed better. And at least the early finish allowed more time to chat afterwards, as we took a verbal journey around the rings of Suffolk, where we discussed the news (to me at least) that a dispute makes Covehithe ungettable at the moment, the seventh from Helmingham has been sent to Whitechapel, there is mystery over when Orford will be up and running again, and we had a hypothetical ‘fantasy’ conversation about what could happen at Framsden, if anyone other than the small group of members who always do anything, were to deal with the fragile flooring under the front two which effectively restricts ringing there to the back six, if at all. Otherwise, conversation veered from the interesting sounding AGM to this weekend’s Guild Dinner, as we got over our loss earlier, and looked ahead.

Normally in these circumstances, we would probably have tagged onto the end of the Pettistree practice and joined them for a beer in The Greyhound, but with a 4am start at work tomorrow, tonight’s lost peal seemed to be Pope Francis I’s boss’ way of telling me I really ought to get an early night, so we returned straight home for just that.

God moves in mysterious ways…


Tuesday 12th March 2013

These are a busy couple of days for birthdays. Tomorrow sees mine and Chris’ Aunty Marian’s, whilst today is the big day for a certain David Salter, our cousin Emma, and Ruthie’s Nan, so we took advantage of my early shift and Mrs Munnings’ day off to pop along to see the latter this afternoon. We weren’t the only ones, with visitors earlier today, and more due later apparently, and we shared our visit with another relative, Mary. It was a typically interesting couple of hours, as we basked in the cosy warmth inside from the bitter cold.

Stradbroke.Meanwhile, with Guild Dinner Day fast approaching, and many ready and eager with their tickets, it is worth perhaps just fast forwarding a mere three weeks later to the Guild AGM, this year held by the North-East District at Stradbroke. Last year the attendance was poor for an event as big and important as this, so I hope we will see many more this time round, especially as this is even bigger and more important than usual. We shall be sadly (for us, if not for him) losing Philip Gorrod as our inspirational and determined Chairman after five years superb service, and so it is vital that not only we show our appreciation at his final hurrah, but show our support for his successor, and turn up to vote as there may – if as has been rumoured – be a choice, not just for this position, but for other positions too. There is also the matter of changes to District representation on the GMC, which whilst dry sounding is important to get across to all members.

That’s not to say the meeting will be long and boring. If there is one thing that PJG has shown, it is that he knows how to cut out the waffling, and whatever can be streamlined and made quicker will be.

Besides, there is so much more to the day than just the meeting, which actually makes up a relatively small part of the day in this beautiful part of the world. There will be the Fringe Meeting kick-starting things at 2pm, which is always fascinating, and perhaps no more so than this year, where lively debate is sure to ensue on What are Church Bells For?! But there is so much more. There will of course be ringing, a fantastic opportunity for many to practice on ten, as well as the tea, and chances to make new friends, and reacquaint yourself with familiar faces, and either pick up some tips and useful advice, or be able to help someone else – or both! A lot of time, effort and expense will have gone into providing the facilities and opportunity for members to have an enjoyable day and to connect with the Guild that they generously pay a subscription to each year. Please don’t let it be in vain – get in touch with and book your tea!

For now though, it was an early night, and a raised cuppa to David, Emma, Ruthie’s Nan, and Aunty Marian – Happy Birthday to them and indeed anyone with a birthday over the next day or two.


Monday 11th March 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.Sometimes when you get a lower than usual attendance at a ringing practice, it can be a great opportunity for those learning, those who may normally have to bide their time as a greater, more complex variety is squeezed in. So it was at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, as with a rare sub-twenty crowd in on a sub-zero night, there was a chance for those feeling their way on higher numbers to do more than the limited timeframe usually permits on a Monday.

As you would expect from a practice night, it was up and down, with a half-course of Cambridge Royal and touch of Stedman Caters collapsing in a heap, but both were followed up with successful re-runs, and in the case of the latter another touch too. The best piece of the evening in my opinion was some well-rung Yorkshire Royal. Like most big bells, the back ones at SMLT go a heck of a lot easier when moved along, rather than when they’re rung slowly and every stroke has to be hauled up to the balance, and this half-course we kept things going, resulting in easier control of the back bells, and allowing the whole piece to flow.

Apparently it was the coldest March day in twenty-seven years today, and the snow may have had an effect on numbers, though we still had a good contingent from Essex, as regulars Stephen Cheek and Ian Culham were joined by Tom Sharpe and Neil Avis, the latter of whom was a regular in the band here in it’s modern-day heyday of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. And to an extent the conditions helped us, as the cancelled quarter at Harkstead meant we unexpectedly had the presence of George and Colin Salter, both recovering from their exploits here yesterday, with the elder brother heard to say “I was fine until I realized what I was doing.”

Ruthie missed out on all of this, as she continued practice for March 23rd’s performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion down in the church, but she had time beforehand to have some tea in McDonalds, with me and the drunken/drugged oddballs of Ipswich’s nightlife, including a mad old-man keen to convert everyone to Liverpool supporters and a couple of vaguely coherent chaps who became such a nuisance that the police had to be called. She also had time to join us in The Cricketers afterwards, as we reflected on low numbers and big opportunities.


Sunday 10th March 2013

Still stuffed from last night, we were glad of a lay-in this morning, with no obligations to ring anywhere in Brighton, even if we felt able! Instead, we had what breakfast we could fit in, had a good old catch-up, and tucked into some beer-can chicken marvelously rustled up by the girls, before it was time to hit the road, where, despite big problems on the anti-clockwise stretch of the M25 round Dartford which saw us diverted the long way round London, we made it back to the homeland in time to partake in a Mothering Sunday tea at Ruthie’s grandparents.

Whilst we enjoyed all of that, the elder Salter boys were busy achieving, not only ringing their fastest quarter-peal to date in the seventeen minute 1272 of Bob Minimus on handbells, but more impressively partaking in their first of Royal in the success at St Mary-le-Tower, along with Clare Veal. Clare was also ringing her first blows in the method, whilst George added first Royal as conductor, and 75th quarter to his roll-call. Well done to all three of these youngsters.

Chuffed as we were at their success, we three were very happy with the ample food that Ruthie’s grandparents had served up to us, so thank you to them for their superb hospitality, and to Fergie for hers too. We left both locations well fed!


Saturday 9th March 2013

Mason isn’t perfect. As many other parents of six-year olds up and down the land will surely testify, he has a short attention span, is easily distracted and doesn’t listen very attentively, though all that is improving to his credit. However, he is still an extremely kind-hearted lad, an attribute we hope remains with him no matter what he achieves in academic, ringing or sporting circles.

This evening, as we wandered along Brighton seafront, we passed several unshaved and disheveled men, wrapped up warm and huddled together, but generally looking understandably sorry for themselves on a chilly March night, with nothing but choppy waters between them and the coast of France. The li’l chap was curious as to why they were sat on the pavement, and so I told him they were homeless, highlighting how sad it was.

He then went off on what I thought was a typical Mason tangent that so often comes from the aforementioned traits of his, as he explained that when he grows up, he wants to be a builder. I presumed he would want to build a nice big house for himself, and said as much.

“No,” he protested, pointing to the cold-looking chaps lining the front of the Thistle Hotel. “One for them.”

It was a heart-melting moment, on a lovely day on the south coast.

Ruthie’s best mate and one of our bridesmaids Fergie, has for some years studied, worked and lived in Brighton, and for some years we have been saying we ought to come down and visit. Today, we finally made it, hence our presence in the popular seaside resort on the same weekend as the Liberal Democrats ‘Spring’ Conference and most of the country’s police.

Mason on Brighton Pier.Ruthie and Mason getting into the seaside spirit.Ruthie and part of her meal at the diner...Mason popping bubbles.Despite sitting through two lots of the 19,000 different sets of roadworks which apparently engulf Britain currently, we made it down to the flat our host shares with her friend Linda for lunch and then an explore of her town of residence, which of course took in a trip to the famous pier and the funfair at it’s tip, as well, the beach, various seafront shops and a man making giant bubbles, and in the process passing St Peter’s which houses an apparently fine 25cwt ten. We briefly returned to Fergie’s for a cuppa, before a trip back into town for that encounter with Mason’s new charitable cause, and a meal at JB’s American Diner. And I mean a meal! Anyone who has ever watched Man Vs Food, will understand what I mean when I say I felt a little like Adam Richman, who hosts the mammoth food-eating show, as we were faced with huge burgers (and even the li’l chap had a ‘little’ dog that was almost half as long as him!), a pile of fries and huge milkshake each, topped with whipped cream and other goodies, and accompanied by ‘the rest’ of the milkshake, which actually amounted to an extra two glassfuls of ice-cream-filled, sugar-laden liquid! We were in heaven, especially the boy, who was able to munch on his feast whilst watching Tom and Jerry cartoons on a constant loop! All well deserved by the Good L’il Samaritan.


Friday 8th March 2013

The extreme shifts at work can work perfectly on some days, no more so than on days like today, as an 11am start at John Catt allowed me to take in Mason’s class’ assembly, as they revealed to the school lots of interesting facts about Brazil, including Mason’s nugget that ‘the main language in Brazil is Porkercheese, and some people speak English’, delivered with typical enthusiasm and sweetness!

Plonk d'Munnings.The next time I saw him was at Play 2 Day at Martlesham after work, by which time he’d enjoyed an energetic birthday party typical of this venue. It meant he was ready for bed by the time I’d got him home, leaving us time and space to finally fill nearly six bottles with our new wine, giving us something akin to a wine collection for the first time in our lives. A combination of an early start tomorrow and that late shift from work meant there wasn’t quite the time to start emptying them! It doesn’t always work out perfectly!


Thursday 7th February 2013

Hopton.Whisper it, but Grundisburgh practice may be becoming a regular fixture of sorts once more. For the first time for the best part of two years, we have had practices on consecutive weeks on Suffolk’s lightest twelve. Stephen wasn’t there again, apparently packing for a holiday that starts in a few days, and presumably making up for the time ringing a peal of Little Bob Major at St Mary-the-Virgin earlier in the day, that could have been spent squeezing his mankini into a suitcase. Happy 80th Birthday to John for last Sunday though, I hope it went well. There also wasn’t quite as many in attendance as last Thursday, but it was another useful session run superbly by David Stanford, primarily benefitting Jo who rang spliced Yorkshire and Cambridge Major well, and Adrian from an apparently lively Bredfield, where many learners are revitalizing things in that corner of the world.

Having arrived late with Ruthie hastily eating her meals on wheels after my late shift at work and her stint at choir, we felt we ought to participate in a pint across the green at The Dog, and a jovial evening with David followed, conversation veering from customer service, to baby weights, to The Queen’s Tower where the bells of Imperial College are rung with much(!) movement, to good and bad memories of drinking, all of which was very entertaining!

Meanwhile, arrangements for Barry Pickup’s funeral have been announced, with it appropriately taking place in Beccles, at 10.30am on Monday 18th March. Hopefully a big turn-out will help Chrissie, Catherine and Sarah at this sad time.


Wednesday 6th March 2013

A few years ago, George Pipe commented how depressing it was that he ended up writing so many obituaries. I never doubted it, but I’m beginning to appreciate what he meant. In recent weeks alone, ringing has lost Roger Bailey and Howard Egglestone, and yesterday we lost a stalwart of Suffolk ringing with the passing of J Barry Pickup.

Aldeburgh.The fact that he is the latest of an extraordinary list of missed ringers, and that he had been ill for some time, doesn’t diminish the sadness of his death. His typically northern manner may have sometimes got people offside, but he was well liked and loved in his adopted homeland, and a very good ringer, a mainstay of the superb second Sunday peals at Aldeburgh. And I’m sure many have fond and amusing memories of him. Mike Whitby recalled a peal where Barry attempted to remove his jumper whilst ringing, only for him to get it stuck half-way through the process!

Mike imparted this story during quite a quiet Pettistree practice this evening, nonetheless pre-empted with a quarter dedicated to Mr Pickup’s memory which I couldn’t partake in as I was working until seven.

That late shift and Ruthie’s early start at SS Peter & Paul meant we needed to pop out to the nearby Co-op for food as the session continued, but we still managed to contribute to a useful night, especially for young Alex, who under my wife’s supervision is coming along nicely now, as he rang in some great rounds on three and then on four.

It was all topped off by a drink at The Greyhound of course, before we returned home to hope I don’t have to write about another sad passing.


Tuesday 5th March 2013

First drinking, day 7. Ruthie and I like wine, and we like pub quizzes. So tonight was a good night, as we tested the wine we started making a week ago (it’s very nice!) and joined Jimmy and Emma for the monthly quiz at The Mariners. A pint to hand, good company, and cheerful competition, even if I rarely find myself on the winning team – it’s great fun!

I had even gone to the extent of swotting up on Greek gods – there’s always something on gods – and though the one question on the subject didn’t bear any relation to the revision I’d done, we did get it right, and came an apparently respectable joint last, considering the questions were tailored to the slightly more mature participants they usually get. We did enjoy ourselves immensely though, with Mr Vick – former teacher to my wife and young Mr Whitby – leading things entertainingly.

It is going to be the last one held by him at this venue however, as next week Chris and Tom - who run things here currently - are moving up the hill to The Bell & Steelyard. For a short while there was a worry that our favourite pub in Woodbridge was going to close and become a house, which frankly would’ve been a disgrace, but by all accounts that won’t be happening, and we’re glad the boys won’t be far away.

Whilst we were testing our brains to questions on news events, chemical elements (another one that always comes up) and rivers of Wales, others were testing their brains on a 1282 of Pudsey Major at Offton, as Ruth Suggett rang her 500th quarter. Congratulations Ruth, and Happy Birthday when it comes round.

And congratulations to Colin Turner who this evening incredibly became the first person ever to reach their 6000th peal, with the 5120 of Bristol Major at his home tower at Milton in Oxfordshire, and featuring our very own David Salter. It’s fair to say that most think he’s mad, and whilst I enjoy peal-ringing, I couldn’t ever take up the immense dedication he needs to ring around two hundred peals a year at locations across the country and indeed the world. But he obviously enjoys it, so it is an impressive achievement and his records on Pealbase make for interesting reading!

I’m not sure how much time he gets for wine and pub quizzes though.


Monday 4th March 2013

Back to late starts and finishes at work this week, so it was a bit of a rush to get fed and out to St Mary-le-Tower practice, but we made it for a session perhaps most notable for being able to congratulate Ian Culham in person on his engagement to Claire, coupled with the news that she may even attempt another peal! It was a so-so evening of ringing, where a half-course of Yorkshire Max collapsed when people allowed themselves to be distracted by the entrance of a stranger, but it was of course topped by another enjoyable evening in The Cricketers as the possibility of ringing at East Bergholt was raised, and Diana Pipe gave us an update of George’s condition, which appears largely unchanging, but unpleasant and with no satisfactory solution in the near future forthcoming. Happily, he is home, but our thoughts are with him and Di, and he is certainly much missed up SMLT, and at events like the South-East District Quarterly Meeting a couple of days ago.

That event – even in George and Di’s sad absence – was a superb success, and brilliantly attended, and it’s now up to the members of the Guild’s other three districts to respond in a similar fashion, as they all have events on this Saturday. It seems a dreadful shame that the North-West District Practice at Wickham Skeith, North-East District Practice at Reydon and South-West District Learner’s Practice at St Gregory’s in Sudbury are all on the same day, and I’m not sure how or why that’s happened, other than perhaps it is something to do with the early Easter we have this year. However, in theory there are more than enough members in each district to make each of these events a success, and the threat of members being thinly spread should motivate those who have nothing else on, and who might otherwise simply not bother, to turn up and help. These events are set-up at much expense in time, effort and even money of those organizing them, so if you can make it, please, please do go and support your fellow ringers.

Wine making, day 6. Wine making, day 6. There is a North-East District Ten-Bell Practice on Wednesday evening too, where I know support will also be appreciated. Unfortunately, my late shifts will prevent Ruthie and me from making it ourselves, but tomorrow’s late start was helpful tonight, as we carried on with the next stage of our wine-making adventure after returning from this evening’s activities, a lengthy process with lots of waiting around that took us into the early hours of the following morning. Thank goodness I’m not on earlies!


Sunday 3rd March 2013

Unusually for a Sunday – or indeed any day of the week actually – I spent a large proportion of it on my lonesome. Mason was dispatched to his mother first thing for a special occasion, and Ruthie was at work, and then not only singing at St Mary’s in Woodbridge for evensong, but also at St Mary-le-Tower for a rehearsal in anticipation of the concert there on Saturday 23rd March.

As much as I love my two favourite people to bits, occasionally it is nice to have some time to get stuff done without feeling like I’m abandoning them, and of course to watch what I like on tele!

Grundisburgh.I wasn’t entirely on my own for the whole day. I joined enough to ring on the twelve at SMLT, but where we only had the front eight available as there hadn’t been an opportunity to raise back four yet. And there was almost enough to ring all the bells at Grundisburgh where we did ring all the bells up – though not completely to Mr Pettman’s satisfaction – and ringing was ‘topped off’ by bashing through an ultimately unsuccessful touch of Grandsire Caters. Nonetheless, it was good to see a good number there.

And I did accompany my wife to evensong, though in contrast to typical morning attendances here, I was one of just seven. Perhaps people were glued to the rolling news channels on TV that were desperately trying whip up excitement over the Queen getting the runs, reporting on it with such zeal and urgency that you if you didn’t know any better you would be excused for thinking she was about to pop her clogs rather than being an old lady having a rest.

Still, the small crowd in the vast building we got married in a few months ago, actually added to a very relaxed and calming atmosphere, before I saw Mrs Munnings off with Mrs Garner to Ipswich, and spent some more of my day on my own. And watched more tele.


Saturday 2nd March 2013

In many respects, these are exciting times for the Suffolk Guild. The big ninetieth anniversary dinner is just around the corner with only a handful of tickets left, we have an increasing number of active youngsters amongst our membership, and there is at least one and possibly even two nominations to replace Philip Gorrod as Guild Chairman at The AGM at Stradbroke on Saturday 6th April, as well as competition for other positions.

And things seem to be looking up in the South-East District, which for some time has been in the doldrums, at least judging by today’s Extraordinary and Quarterly Meetings at Debenham. Not only was the shameful vacancy of District Chairman finally filled officially and unanimously by Mary Garner, thus meaning that the new-look top table chaired a District meeting for the first time, but it was part of an event which saw almost sixty in attendance over the course of the afternoon and evening, including a number of new and young members, particularly from Bredfield and Helmingham. Following on from sizeable gatherings at Stutton and Harkstead last month, and Framlingham in January, it is all very encouraging.

Ringing at Debenham.The ringing at St Mary Magdalene to kick-off proceedings took advantage of the large numbers of members present, with much rung from Call-Changes to Yorkshire to a superb three leads of Bristol and lower as a climax, all marshalled brilliantly by Ringing Master, Thundering Tom Scase.

As the sun came out and shone through the windows to light the church up in a vision almost as celestial as Jimmy Wightman’s entrance to the ringing chamber earlier, the service proved to be the perfect ringer’s service - short, but with enough of a nod to remind us why ultimately we ring the bells.

Tucking into tea at Dove Cottage.It was the perfect precursor to a wonderful tea, the Extraordinary Meeting which saw Mrs Garner elected unopposed, and then the main meeting itself, all held in the cosy L-shaped meeting room in Dove Cottage, the quaint building in the shadow of the sturdy tower which houses the fine 21cwt eight here. This was mainly just formalities, with the various brief officers’ reports imparted, future dates and locations revealed, and the intention to award a separate Call-Change trophy at the District Striking Competition at Brandeston on Saturday 4th May, to be named after former District Chairman David Barnard, who died tragically young ten years ago this year.

But two issues did lengthen the meeting slightly, though I’m not aware that anyone minded. Being the first District event since former Guild Ringing Master Howard Egglestone’s recent death, there were heartfelt, interesting and amusing memories told by Jenny Scase, John Girt and Muriel Page. If I had been Lester Brett, I would’ve been very wary about being taken into a lay-by by Muriel... It was all very appropriate just the day after his funeral down in Crediton, from where some great Bristol Max was recorded, and on the same day as peals of Bristol Major and Maximus respectively were rung in his memory at Henley and The Norman Tower.

Gathered for the meetings at Dove Cottage.The other longer than normal item on the agenda, was District Representation on the GMC. This is something close to my heart as I was the District’s representative on the committee formed to discuss this, but it was Mary Garner and Philip Gorrod who presented the proposal to be presented at the Guild AGM in the North-East District in just five weeks time. Under the proposal, districts will be able to select up to five representatives to sit on the GMC, entirely on the basis of whether they want to be on the committee, rather than the current system which dictates that each deanery in a district needs a rep, which if one is even found, is often someone reluctant and/or not even from the deanery. It is yet another reason out of many to attend next month’s big day of fun, reasons I shall probably drip-feed into this blog in the lead-up to the occasion.

In the end, Ruthie did magnificently at her first major event as Secretary – despite Mike Warren signing the wrong page in the book - as did Mary as Chairman, and the local ringers were – as usual - marvelous hosts, and it was great to see the District come out to support such an important occasion.

Helmingham.Apparently, the large crowds moved onto Helmingham, where at least some ringing was achieved before the seventh clapper broke! According to my mother, it was an act of God for her being made to ring the Stedman Triples they were ringing when it went under the supervision of the District Ringing Master! With plenty of ringers, and after a late night for Mason last night, we three decided to pass on the otherwise tempting chance to ring on this also fine eight, to return home to bask in a perfect day which even saw the rare occurrence of Ipswich winning and Naaaaridge getting thrashed. Exciting times indeed.


Friday 1st March 2013

Mum with Mason at her birthday meal.Ruthie and me (taken by Mason).Tonight, I had a tart and got crabs. All topped off by a chocolate and toffee sundae. The food at The Mill Inn at Market Weston is indeed to be recommended, at least judging by the superb food and large portions we had there this evening for a meal to celebrate Mum’s recent significant birthday, as Mason, Ruthie and I had a lovely night in the company of the birthday girl, Dad, Aunty Marian, Chris and Becky.


Thursday 28th February 2013

These early starts are killers in the morning when all is dark and cold, especially at four when it feels that my John Catt colleagues and I are the only people awake, let alone up and about, for miles. But the free afternoons can be useful. Just this week I’ve got a birthday present for Mum, we’ve made wine, and yesterday, Ruthie and I had a sort-through of Mason’s toys. It’s been a couple of years since we last had a purge on these, and with Christmas and his birthday over the last few weeks, his room has recently resembled a branch of Toys R Us, so this afternoon we headed out to Kidz Kupboard at Rendlesham Mews with those which didn’t make the cut.

Grundisburgh.A brief snooze later, Ruthie picked up from choir, and it was off to Grundisburgh for a rare practice, though this is already the third practice of 2013, a big improvement on the last couple of years. With Stephen not present, David Stanford again ran the practice superbly, with a crowd of seventeen including Beryl Hines, Tim Stanford the night after ringing his first quarter of Norwich Minor at Pettistree (well done Tim!) and Stephen ‘Podge’ Christian, who had caught the sound of bells ringing on the wind and was drawn to the practice like some sort of religious experience. Well, he had nothing better to do anyway. And in the half hour or so that my wife and I were there, Double Norwich Major, Stedman Caters and Little Bob Maximus were rung, the latter with my rope coming untucked and getting rapidly longer. When I regularly partook in the superb Monday night peals at St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham, I once had to ring the majority of a success with my rope untucked, so a few minutes didn’t bother me overly, but it was a little distracting! Still, it was great to see a packed ringing chamber in the little red-brick tower.

And it was great to see people going over to The Dog afterwards, with the absent Mr P the only one with fierce objections to drinking here. However, after a long day, Ruthie and I decided against joining them, tempting as it was. I have another one of those killer mornings tomorrow…


Wednesday 27th February 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.Half-muffled ringing can be difficult, and not always satisfactory. Of course, the muffles are usually on for a very good reason, but if you are ringing a composition where most of the music is at backstroke – such as roll-ups – then that music will be obscured slightly. Before we started this evening’s half-muffled peal attempt of Cornwall Surprise Major on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower, David Rothera imparted the tale of when he and a band turned up for a peal of Bristol Maximus at Winchester Cathedral, to unexpectedly find them muffled at backstroke. So they decided to start at backstroke, meaning that all the roll-ups that would’ve been hidden underneath the muffles, were instead clearly heard at handstroke, though it wasn’t the easy option and was apparently scored after a false start!

We didn’t go as far as that, and so most of the music in Robert Brown’s 5120 was muffled, but once we’d rung the bells up after today’s uneventful inspection from Taylors which revealed nothing more than that the lower frame needs a repaint, we did enjoy some extremely good ringing until the peal came to grief at the end of the third part of five, and just over an hour and a half in, with the ringing almost hypnotic, as the handstrokes shouted out and the backstrokes softly replied. It was very enjoyable, though a shame we lost it, as not only were we ringing it in memory of SMLT churchgoer Sylvia Hollis – whose funeral tomorrow the bells were muffled – but we had also planned to dedicate it to Howard Egglestone, two days ahead of his funeral down in Devon.

With me having a 4am start at work tomorrow, Ruthie and I would’ve had to shoot straight off if we’d been successful, so at least the early finish allowed us a pint in The Cricketers, where the conversation swung from name-themed peals to excited chatter about the fast approaching Guild Dinner. There was even time for another RJM key incident, as before the wife and I left I realized I had left my keys in the ringing chamber, meaning a quick dash back to the tower to rescue them.

Peal or no peal, muffles or no muffles, it was a very enjoyable evening.


Tuesday 26th February 2013

Happy Significant Birthday Mum!

For all that I roll my eyes and cringe occasionally – as most sons are liable to do once they reach a certain age – Chris and I wouldn’t want any other mother, and Mason wouldn’t want any other nanna. She’s always looked out for what’s best for us, keeping us in check, and generally level-headed, and along with our father will help us if she can, and sometimes when she really can’t, and we’ll be forever grateful for that.

Sproughton.As a member of the small band of members that nearly always seem to be the ones who end up doing everything, she is also the kind of member that the Guild could do with more of, willing to put herself forward to help, whether that is in an official position such as being Secretary of the South-East District, being on the committee or representing the district on the GMC, or through teaching and guiding many learners (myself and my brother included), or supporting ringing at various towers for several years, including Sproughton, St Mary-le-Tower, Debenham, Offton and – when there is a practice to attend – Grundisburgh. All being well, she’ll be at Debenham and Helmingham on Saturday, as she and Dad have been at pretty much every district event over the decades.

Starting the wine making process!Starting the wine making process!Having given present, card and wishes to her last night, and a celebratory family meal booked in for later in the week God willing, we didn’t actually see the birthday girl today, though I understand Dad was taking her to The Brook Inn at Washbrook for a meal, which I hope was enjoyable. Rather, we took advantage of Ruthie’s day off and my free afternoon after another early start at work, by starting the process of making our own wine with a kit kindly given to us as a Christmas present. It won’t be ready for at least a week, so instead we raised a cup of tea to the significant birthday of Sally K Munnings!


Monday 25th February 2013

St Mary-le-Tower.Following last night’s special practice, this evening’s usual practice at St Mary-le-Tower was another very productive occasion.

The repertoire was not quite as advanced as yesterday’s, but there was still an impressive range, from a superb bit of ringing by Sean on the treble to Cambridge Minor, to Mike Burn trebling well to Grandsire Caters, to Peter Davies partaking in a decent half-course of Cambridge Royal, to a very good five leads of London Royal and half-course of Yorkshire Max, all topped off by a lower of the back ten in readiness for an inspection from Taylors on Wednesday. I couldn’t cope with ringing a 35cwt twelve up and down every time we needed to ring, but the sound of the falling tenor’s hum resonating as a backdrop to the lower is a spectacular sound.

What was most satisfying about the ringing though, was the quality. Even in the best bits, concentration slipped, though only occasional, and mainly momentarily, and as can often be the case on large peals of bells where you have to hold up, there were a few too many dropped backstrokes for my liking. However, this was a practice night, and there are a lot of people learning on these higher numbers, and they can be rightly chuffed with their efforts this evening as they progress.

As with all ringing, we need as much help as ringers can afford to offer, and this extends to forthcoming events as we head into another month, starting with Thursday afternoon’s Surprise Minor Practice at Buxhall, followed by this Saturday’s very important South-East District Extraordinary and Quarterly Meetings at Debenham and Helmingham, the North-East District 10-Bell Practice at Beccles next Wednesday, and then a busy Saturday on the 9th, with the North-West and North-East districts running practices simultaneously from 10am-noon at Wickham Skeith and Reydon respectively, followed on by the South-West District’s Learners Practice at St Gregory in Sudbury from 3-4.30pm. There are issues that need sorting for the SE this weekend, and it would be nice to think that members will come out to make sure that these issues are sorted satisfactorily, but even putting that aside, I hope as many ringers as possible, will attend as many of the above events as possible, to benefit not only themselves, but others too. They will not all see perfect ringing, and at times it could be quite rough, but good ringing takes lots of practice, perseverance and help.

Such qualities result in practices like we had at SMLT tonight, though Ruthie may have got a complex about it, as – apart from a quick ring at the beginning of the night – she wasn’t present at the successful session, as she was practicing with the choir down in the church, in readiness for their performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the same location on Saturday 23rd March. However, she made it out in time to get to The Cricketers to join a merry band of ringers, heartened by a good night’s work and the presentation of a card to my mother in anticipation of a significant birthday tomorrow.

It all came at the end of a day that started at 6am, as I start on another week of early shifts at work, which did at least allow me an afternoon to hunt out a present for the aforementioned birthday in the garden centres of Woodbridge, a visit to Toby to collect the chairs we’d leant for Friday’s dinner party, and some spring cleaning at ours, a productive afternoon before that productive practice night.


Sunday 24th February 2013

For me, the limitless possibilities to progress are amongst the many reasons that I still enjoy ringing some twenty-five years after I started. Throughout my ringing ‘career’, I have been very fortunate to have opportunities to progress, from learning at a very lively and active Sproughton, to advanced quarters and practices at Offton, from the fantastic band we had at St Mary-le-Tower when I was first ringing on twelve, to the ringing I was able to undertake when I was at uni, and since my return to the county in 2005, the ten-spliced and half-lead spliced Surprise Major quarters we used to do at Hollesley and Ufford, the 41-Spliced Surprise Minor and most recently that chance to call a peal of Bristol Max within our own borders for the Suffolk Guild.

Admittedly though - for various reasons that will take patience to fix - when it comes to progressing and practicing beyond a certain level on high numbers in this area, the opportunities become more difficult to come by, and I have mentioned on this blog before how as individual bands, we at SMLT and our friends at Chelmsford Cathedral are able to reach certain levels, providing everyone is available. Together though, we get the chance to ring more and that which we know better, so it was great to welcome our Essex companions to our heaviest twelve this evening for this month’s Special Practice, shifted from the usual third Sunday to allow for the visit of Colin & Vicky Chapman, Cecile Cross and David Rothera, as well as that of Philip Wilding.

It meant that our repertoire was widened, and in many respects it reminded me of higher number practices during those earlier days in Ipswich, when we would ring Barford, Newgate, and Bristol amongst much else, and indeed Bullring practices when you had to come prepared to ring any number of unfamiliar and complicated methods at the drop of a hat, with the added caveat that it could be on any number from Minor to Sixteen, depending on numbers. On this occasion, we rang Stedman Cinques, Bristol Max, Yorkshire Max (definitely NOT brought round by four leads of Bristol!), and had a handful of tries at Jubilee Max, a method which we shall – God willing and if all goes to plan – going for a peal attempt of in June. It can’t be said the striking was altogether great, but that is understandable to an extent, as there was a lot of unfamiliar stuff being rung, and the Jubilee didn’t go as well as it should have, but it was a useful opportunity to practice and progress, especially for Ian Culham who had a good go at Yorkshire Max, and George Salter who rang his first blows ever of Bristol Max, both doing brilliantly.

Ixworth.And whilst mine, Ruthie and Mason’s day started with a morning at St Mary’s in Woodbridge – with my wife trying her recovering voice out to great success in the choir, and the li’l chap and me climbing the numerous stairs to the ringing chamber for me to ring on the bells half-muffled for Lent – the theme of opportunity and progress was continued elsewhere this weekend, with Abby Antrobus ringing her first of Pudsey Major in the quarter at Ixworth yesterday, and Neal Dodge ringing his first peal on tower bells – or at least his first not on a mini-ring – in the 5040 of Minor at Great Barton. Well done to Abby and Neal, the latter achievement coming as the last hurrah for Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2013, a week that seems to have had its fair share of bad luck according to the Guild Ringing Master, which I can certainly relate to! Apparently, seven of the band were involved in spins on the ice on the way to an attempt at Grundisburgh on Tuesday, an attempt of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was lost eleven parts and 2hrs10mins into a twelve-part on Wednesday, when the treble ‘severely attacked’ its ringer, and on Friday, John Holt’s original defeated the conductor of an attempt at Grandsire Triples. To top all that off, Jed himself travelled to Lincolnshire to ring for an attempt of Surprise Minor in memory of Roger Bailey, only to lose an apparently superb peal in the last lead of the sixth extent (of seven), when the organist turned the lights out on them!

Still, as with when I arranged SGPW, the main thing is that people tried stuff, and had a go – sometimes it goes, sometimes it doesn’t, but hopefully there is always something to be taken from a peal attempt, lost or scored. And if nothing else, SGPW2013 will have offered those valuable opportunities to progress.


Saturday 23rd February 2013

It was quite a quiet, mainly mundane, though at times odd day today.

If all had gone to plan, it would’ve started with a peal of 8-Spliced Surprise Minor at Pettistree, which would’ve been mine and Ruthie’s first and only contribution to Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2013. Unfortunately, our conductor Mike Whitby was still a little under the weather, and so it was sadly called off.

Instead, our morning consisted of seeing Mason’s Godmother Kala in Places & Faces - a countywide magazine that we’ve never requested, but which we enjoy reading when it pops through our door every month – and then seeing a repeat of Bedfordshire ringer Andrew Keech’s appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire from a few years back, complete with a call to his ‘phone-a-friend’ John Thurman, another ringer I have shared much ringing and ale with down the years. The celebrities we mingle with eh?

All this was set to a backdrop of a stray dog wandering our neighbourhood, which wouldn’t allow me anywhere near it, and which – bizarrely in my opinion – no one from the RSPCA, Suffolk Coastal District Council or the police were interested in seeing to until Monday. Moral of the story? If you lose your dog, don’t do it over a weekend!

It was gone by the time we popped out with bridesmaid Fergie (hopefully it was taken in, rather than run over) for a cuppa and cake, leaving to a random performance of Les Misérables in the Thoroughfare, before we settled in the warm for a quiet remainder of the day, with even Ipswich Town appropriately drawing 0-0 in an apparently very dull match.

At least elsewhere, members were more active, even if it was done in a Norwich Diocesan Association tower for the NDA. However, the peal at Lowestoft was significant for regular young Suffolk Guilders, Craig Leach, Colin Salter and George Salter, who were ringing their first of Surprise Major, first of Cambridge and 100th peal respectively. Well done all three of you on your less than mundane day!


Friday 22nd February 2013

Edwardstone.Well done to Kevin Ward on ringing his first quarter of St Clements Bob Minor in the 1260 at Edwardstone today.

It was all in keeping with a week where a lot has been achieved on the end of a rope in Suffolk, whilst we have had a quiet, subdued and sober few days. However, this evening, with Ruthie’s voice returning of sorts, and Mason in tow, we were finally able to let our hair down for the first time in what feels like ages, as we made the very short distance to neighbour’s Toby and Amy to join them, Nick and Kala for our latest ‘Come Dine With Me’ experience. As is usual when we get together, the evening was a hoot, with much (and I mean much!) good food, drink and company enjoyed late into the evening, with the li’l chap doing well!

Apart from ringing a quarter-peal of St Clements, I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening.


Thursday 21st February 2013

Monewden.Nothing to report on Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2013 today, but there was a bit of quarter-peal ringing from the young ringers and associates, and well done to Simon Veal and Neal Dodge on ringing their first of Minor and first of Minor inside respectively, in the success at Monewden.

Neither Ruthie nor I were in a position to partake though. I was on another late shift at John Catt, whilst my wife is still voiceless, and still far from 100%, though she did somehow make it into work at ridiculous o’clock this morning. Sensibly though, she refrained from choir practice this evening.

We did briefly pop out – though not far – as we combined a mission to get a birthday card to Sarah Whitby with our first peek at her brother James and his girlfriend Emma’s new flat, a lovely pad with superb views over Woodbridge, including of St Mary-the-Virgin.

Still, bar grabbing something to eat, Mrs Munnings really needed to get back in the warm, as this otherwise busy week of ringing continues to be a subdued and quiet one for us.


Wednesday 20th February 2013

If they haven’t already seen on BellBoard and/or Campanophile, many within the Guild will be interested to know that Howard Egglestone’s funeral will take place on Friday 1st March at 2pm, down at Holy Cross, Crediton. Hopefully there will be a good representation from Suffolk for this man who did so much for ringing within our borders, though time, distance and practicalities will make it impossible for most, myself included. However, those who can’t make it will still be able to make a donation to Operation Hernia, as requested. Those who can attend, are politely requested to contact Peter Bennett on 01633 663 717 or 07774 854 163.

Clopton.The former Guild Ringing Master would have been pleased at the good news flying around Suffolk ringing today, though one piece is actually something I heard on Sunday, and got rather overlooked with everything that happened. For whilst I was taking a huge detour through it’s parish on the way to morning ringing, Radio Suffolk ran a report on how the project to restore and rehang the anti-clockwise six at Clopton, had received a grant of £50,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, meaning that the bells should hopefully be ringing out from the summer. Great news, good PR and well done to all concerned.

And well done to those involved in the other good news stories, two-thirds of which involve Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2013, which is building up a head of steam. The headline story is Nicole Rolph’s first ever peal, successfully rung at Reydon today in 2hrs33mins. Happy Birthday to her older sister Alex, and congratulations to Maggie Ross on ringing her fiftieth for the Guild, but most of all, well done Nicole!

Well done too, to Colin Salter, Clare Veal and young George Thoday, on ringing their first peal of Double Oxford Bob Major in the 5152 at The Wolery, and beyond SGPW2013, well done to the entire band who rang their first quarter of Morning Star Treble Bob Minor in the success at Preston St Mary.

There was a quarter scored at Pettistree too, but it wasn’t quite what had been planned. It was hoped to practice for a peal attempt of 8-spliced Surprise Minor at the same location on Saturday, though I was unavailable this evening being on a late shift at work. However, illness took it’s toll, with both Mike Whitby and Pippa Moss too unwell to ring, so David Stanford and Peter Harper very kindly stood in, and a quarter of Bourne Surprise Minor was rung instead.

In hindsight, going to the football last night perhaps wasn’t the best thing for Ruthie. At the time she felt better than she had done for days, returned to work, and was ready and keen to get back into the swing of things. But since last night, she has lost her voice and isn’t feeling great, so having valiantly battled through the pre-practice quarter, when I arrived to a well-struck touch of Norwich Minor, she was just about ready to return home to the warm. So after a couple of rings, that’s what we did, and for the second week running my attendance at the practice was curtailed.

Still, it was an otherwise very successful day for Suffolk ringing, a day I’m sure Howard would’ve approved of in fact.


Tuesday 19th February 2013

It’s been a long time since Ruthie and I went to an actual Ipswich Town match. I took Mason along to a friendly back in August, but otherwise, it was our trip down to Southampton last March since we last watched the boys in blue ‘live’, and over a year since we attended a meaningful match at Portman Road. The truth of the matter is, that at £30 a ticket, and with the extortionate price of food, drink and parking, as well as the extra petrol for going into Ipswich and sitting needlessly at traffic lights after traffic lights, we simply haven’t been able to justify the cost of watching the Tractor Boyz in ‘action’, when we have much more important and enjoyable things to spend our money on, even if the fare on offer came anywhere near being value for money. Which it doesn’t, and hasn’t done so for several years.

I’d like to take the li’l chap along to another Town game before the end of the season, especially as for reason he’s expressed a liking for Liverpool, but otherwise, the only way we are going to see ITFC for the time being is if someone pays us to go, or at least it is for free. So when Pete at work mentioned to me that his friend Julian was involved in the Company of Four production of Jack and the Beanstalk at The Riverside Theatre (running up until the 23rd February whilst I’m getting the deserved plug in!), and therefore couldn’t use the pair of complimentary tickets for tonight’s game against Watford and was therefore giving them away, I was round his house at lunchtime like a shot! I am a Munnings after all. Many thanks Julian!

Being at work until seven, time was tight, so Ruthie met me at work, and after a quick change we were straight out, though an issue with a parking meter which wouldn’t take all my coins, meant we missed the first couple of minutes after kick-off.

This was the first Ipswich game we’d seen at all since Mick McCarthy became manager at the beginning of November, and knowing that results had improved under him, I was intrigued to see what – if any - difference we’d notice since the last game we’d watched on the tele earlier in the season, when the disastrous Paul Jewell had been in charge. And to be fair, it was better in many respects. Without getting too footbally on a ringing blog, the style of play was easier on the eye, and there seems more sturdiness to the defence and a busier work rate from the team as a whole. But our opponents are third in the table, and simply a superior team. Their passing was more precise, and the skill almost their entire team had is something we can only dream of seeing from the not-so-Superblues.

Offton.It will take time to progress, which football has in common with ringing. There was plenty of that on show on our bells today, as the first peals of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2013 were scored. Very well done to Clare Veal on not only ringing her first of Surprise inside in the 5120 of Superlative Major at Grundisburgh, but also on ringing her first blows in the method. Whilst round the corner from our depressing evening at the footy, well done as well to Colin and George Salter on ringing their most methods in the success at The Wolery. And not to be outdone by peals, quarters also threw up a success, and well done to Tim Stanford on ringing his first of Surprise Major in the 1250 of Cambridge at Offton.

The encouraging thing about all these achievements, is the youthful element. Giving youngsters opportunity and responsibility in ringing is the only way that they – and ringing generally – will progress. It was a policy Ipswich Town seemed to abandon many years ago, and Town fans are now paying for it. Well, except Ruthie and me...


Monday 18th February 2013

Today is the start of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2013, but sadly – as far as I can see – it has started as many do, with not a peal in sight. More to come I’m sure.

I haven’t helped things with a spectacular bit of bad planning at work, as I am on late shifts from 11am-7pm all this week, not overly conducive to fitting three hours of ringing in!

A combination of these hours, and Ruthie feeling so poorly she took just her third day off ill from over five years of working at Boots, meant that getting to St Mary-le-Tower was sadly unfeasible.

Still, at least others were ringing today, most notably the elder Salter brothers Colin and George, who rang two handbell quarters of Bob Minimus at home, one of which was their fastest ever, at just nineteen minutes. We just need them to ring some peals now...


Sunday 17th February 2013

As we celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the Suffolk Guild this year, many names will be bandied around of people who have contributed significantly to the organization over those nine decades. I shan’t embarrass/offend folk by naming some of them, bar to say that Howard W Egglestone will undoubtedly and quite rightly be named in that list. Which makes his passing this morning, a very sad one for the SGR.

Henley.It’s not just that he was Guild Ringing Master from 1969-1974. As I showed, any Tom, Dick or Harry can be elected to the post, but he made a real difference in the role. What sets him apart further though, was the amount he did beyond that, the teaching and guidance he did on conducting in particular. As another former Guild Ringing Master, David Salter said on the Guild Facebook page, “Howard did an incredible amount for Suffolk ringing in his time here. From Guides & Scouts ringing handbells on the Suffolk Show ground to teaching basic conducting on the green at Horringer. His timely advice was always right yet encouraging…” David is one of many inspired and helped by Howard within our borders, and his leadership at Henley can still be noted by the pictures and boards recording the activities and achievements of the enthusiastic and lively band of the sixties and seventies there.

And unsurprisingly his influence went further than Exning, Sudbury, Beccles or Stratford St Mary, especially when he moved down to Crediton, where he was the driving force behind turning them into an apparently very nice twelve, though I am yet to ring on them. And he was Chairman of the Ringing World Committee/Board for fifteen years from 1982-1997.

His time in Suffolk was before my time at all, so I didn’t know him well, though I recall a very enjoyable visit to his home down in Devon, and a delightful pub by the river nearby, when the Munnings family were on a Ramblers tour down that way many years ago. He was also the first person that Mr Salter and I bumped into in Worcester when we travelled over for the 2009 Central Council Meeting, a familiar face in a strange land.

My favourite story attributed to him was on an occasion that I wasn’t present, though it also highlights the hit that ringing has taken in the last couple of years. And apologies ahead of the tale to the reference to mildly bad language! For Rod Pipe was running some course/class/seminar that Howard was present at, when RWP wrote the row 134567890ET2 on a blackboard, apparently to provoke a reaction on its musical merits, or something similar. Mr Egglestone sat there, and almost without hesitation quipped, “I’ve rung with the ringer on the second, and he’s cr*p!”

RIP Howard, and thank you for all you’ve done for Suffolk ringing.

Before I had heard this sad news, I’d thought this particular ex-Guild Ringing Master’s day had begun badly.

As usual, Mason and I were running a few minutes late for Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, but were heading through the country lanes which offer the most direct and quickest way between Woodbridge and Ipswich, on track to get there at a reasonable time. Until we reached the turning to Tuddenham St Martin, to find the road closed. Presumably it was unexpected, as there had been no signs in the last few days and weeks warning of the closure, so in that respect it was unfortunate, though from either end of the blockage I couldn’t see anything going on. However, a few signs a little earlier would have saved us having to go back on ourselves, and having to take a huge detour which saw a stretch of journey that would normally take thirty seconds, take fifteen minutes.

When we did arrive, a nice bit of eight-bell ringing belting out, the li’l chap decided he needed the toilet, so we headed for Church House, making the mistake of going round the east end of the church, which I’d forgotten was blocked off due to falling masonry that has nothing to do with the bellringers. It meant another detour, all around the church, and by the time we’d done that, and Mason had achieved what he needed to do, we just about climbed to the ringing chamber in time for me to ring in a course of Little Bob Royal, before then taking the long way round to Grundisburgh for some duck-watching in the winter sunshine, various bits of ringing on the back eight, and rounds and call-changes on four, for the six-year old.

Having then popped into Boots to see a very, very poorly Ruthie, who had had an even worse morning than me, the boy and I headed out to a foggy Kingston Fields to meet Pete, Susanne and her uni friend Eleanor, before then popping into the newly refurbished Red Lion for the first time. What a transformation! From a dark, dingy drinking hole where the one redeeming factor was being able to watch the footy on TV, to a bright, open establishment I can now recommend to people I know! Well worth a visit now.

Our companions then very generously offered us lunch at theirs, accompanied by a bit of piano playing from Mason, as the day wound down, an ill Mrs Munnings was returned home, and we took in the very sad news from the South-West of England.

Meanwhile, on a lighter and happier note, very well done to Adam Redgrave and Peter Barron on both ringing their first quarter in the 1260 of Bob Doubles at Great Barton. I’m sure Howard would’ve approved.


Saturday 16th February 2013

Ringing is something to test the mind, whether it is getting to grips with call-changes or attempting a peal of multi-spliced Surprise Sixteen. But – if you allow – it is also a tremendously fulfilling social outlet, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the social side of our art, is the ringer’s dinner. You’re not going to be called upon to stretch your aching mind on ringing Bob Doubles inside, calling a touch of Grandsire or heaving a heavy/difficult bell around in daunting circumstances. Rather, it’s relaxation all the way, the chance to chat with ringers – and often non-ringers - of all abilities, all with a drink and good food.

The grandest of these occasions that I have been to, is the College Youth’s Anniversary Dinner, an event that Ruthie and I attended last the year before, and where 352 were present, including some of the finest ringers ever known to man, and the Dean of Westminster Abbey, who earlier in the year had led the marriage ceremony of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The one I have attended more than any other is the Henry Johnson Dinner, a meal usually held in grand surroundings, by and for the members of the St Martin’s Guild, but also attracting the presence of some phenomenal ringers, and featuring – like the ASCY meal – amazing handbell ringing.

They’re not all as grand though. Depending on the status of their mother institution, the dinners of university societies are usually quite formal affairs which disintegrate delightfully into quite raucous ones. I remember attending a Birmingham University Society of Change-Ringers Dinner at Villa Park where a dance-floor and disco was present, and seeing some really quite intelligent people vigorously dancing and singing along to Barbie Girl by Aqua, a song from the popular hit parade of the time boys and girls.

Towcester Dinners in Northamptonshire, which are – or at least were – held twice a year (once in the summer, once at Christmas), were boozy and lively affairs, but immensely enjoyable for it.

Our own Suffolk Guild Dinner is to be held exactly a month today, and there is still a small chance of getting tickets for an event that – whilst not involving a disco – promises to be another superb event at a superb location.

Towers have their own dinners too, and though less formal, are just as enjoyable, such as last week’s Pettistree Dinner and the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner, and I’m sure many readers of this blog will be able to recount wonderful experiences of dinners for the Cumberlands, Essex Association and Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild. By the way, well done to our very own Philip Moyse on ringing his first peal of Superlative for the latter, in the 5056 on the famous Royal Jubilee Bells in their new home at Garlickhythe.

Members sit down for the Rambling Ringer's Reunion Meal.Tonight though, it was the Rambling Ringers Reunion, a less stuffy event then some dinners can be. This is usually a good one, a chance to catch-up with many ringers we don’t see at any other time bar the annual tour, and on this occasion closer to home than normal, as members from across the country gathered at the Suffolk Golf & Spa Hotel in Fornham St Genevieve, just outside Bury St Edmunds.

These days, there is more of an East Anglian presence on this traditionally Midlands-centric society, with the likes of the Brays and Stephen Cheek, joining the Munnings, a social Mason, and Becky, who was taking in her first experience of the organisation, but it was great seeing some of the familiar faces I have known since