Wednesday 22nd May 2024

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New Year's Eve 2014

My earliest recollection of seeing in the New Year was watching the excellent, but sadly now very ill Clive James reprising the events of the previous twelve months with the kind of acerbic wit that had me bellowing loudly with laughter, before we headed off to meet in Sproughton at 11.45pm to ring the next year in. I can't recall how old I was exactly, but I probably wasn't quite as young as Mason, who this evening gave staying up through to 2015 a good go, before finally succumbing to heavy eyelids at about 11pm, his younger brother Alfie already asleep a long time before, oblivious as he was to the occasion.

Ruthie starting her New Year's celebrations at Pete & Susanne's.Pete Faircloth getting into the mood.Ruthie and I saw it through to midnight and a couple of hours beyond though, accompanied most of that time by Ufford ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis who had come round to join in the celebrations, once we'd been round to theirs for a warm-up drink.

The band that rang the final quarter-peal at Pettistree in 2014 this eveningEarlier, my wife had rung in Bill Lloyd's first Plain Bob Minor inside at Pettistree, rounding off another successful year on the ground-floor six so familiar to us - well done Bill! But whilst there was also a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Bardwell, there was sadly no New Year's Eve peal at Grundisburgh, as it was cancelled yesterday due to a lack of interest. A peal of Grandsire on the final day of the year here has been traditional as far back as I remember and further, so it is a great pity that Stephen Pettman has had to call this one off, but it perhaps sums up peal-ringing in the Suffolk Guild in 2014, as we finished on 121 successes ultimately, a disappointing total comparison to last year's 155 and 2012's 147. Even more worryingly though, the 98 different ringers who have rung peals for the SGR this year is an all-time low according to PealBase, perhaps indicating why SDP had such trouble getting a band for today. My personal opinion is that a thriving peal-ringing scene raises the standards of ringing generally in the Guild, so the fact that fewer than a hundred members - some of whom will have been non-resident to boot - from almost eight-hundred is a big concern to me.

That said, quarter-peal ringing is also a vital and effective tool in raising our the ringing zenith and as with today, it has thrived once again since 1st January, and generally the number of youngsters taking an active part in ringing within our borders has been a joy to take in. For all that it is a shame to lose the likes of Robert Beavis, Alex Tatlow and Louis Suggett (twice) to further education and work, it has been encouraging to see them replaced with youngsters like the Salter boys, Neal Dodge and Clare Veal. And ten-year old Richard Stevens' first quarter and peal are undoubted highlights for ringing in the county and along with the Young Ringers success at The Ringing World National Youth Contest in Worcester bodes well for our future, God willing.

It has all given me much positive PR to impart to our local media, though apart from the support that the county's BBC radio station it has to be said their response has been tepid.
However, whilst the cancellation of the North-West District Striking Competition was a poor show, the success of the other Districts' striking competitions more than made up for that and of course the Guild Striking Competitions proved to be too successful! Personally we missed the Guild Social held - by all accounts - so superbly by the South-West District in Hadleigh, but we were present at the Guild AGM at Stowmarket, where we were able to introduce in person to the wider world our new arrival, Alfred John Munnings.

His birth on 10th April has to be pinnacle of 2014 as we look back today, and we were truly overwhelmed by the messages via phone, text and Facebook, the cards, presents, kind words and the many peals and quarters rung not just in Suffolk but beyond for his introduction to the world. And though I was exhausted at the time, my favourite peal that I partook in this year was the 5040 of Munnings Little Delight Major at Ufford eleven days into his life. I can't see the method taking off, but it was a lovely thought...

Mason has also had a largely positive year, though punctuated with necessary pain as he finally had his operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital that will hopefully see some sort of conclusion to the foot problems that have dogged him since his birth. Again, people's messages of goodwill and footnotes have been greatly appreciated.

Tragically at the other spectrum, we have lost ringers through death, with Bardwell's Anthony Mitchell, Benhall's Roger Peters, Debenham's Janet Bufton, St Mary-le-Tower's Simon Griffiths, Reydon's David Moyse, Rougham's Ray Fordham and David Reeve of Wormingford just across the River Stour in Essex amongst others departing this realm. And only this morning, Bevan Wilgress who did much ringing at one time at SMLT and who has been a regular at our spring dinners in recent years passed away. A truly lovely man, gentle in spirit and a very good ringer to have about. Our thoughts go to his family.

It would be a shame to end on these sad notes though, especially as 2014 has by and large been such a good year, one to look back on with much fondness. A sweeping generalisation I know, especially as not all will feel the same on a personal level at least, but for us it has been a positive twelve months of births, Christenings, weddings and a lovely holiday in Yorkshire on the Rambling Ringers tour, as well as a decent year of ringing and amiability for Suffolk ringers as a whole. However it has been for you, I thank you for your good wishes, friendship and support throughout the year and hope you have a very Happy New Year!


Tuesday 30th December 2014

Ufford.Yet more exciting news from the Munnings household, as the bookshelves we purchased yesterday collected this morning. Yes, it twas another thrilling day, though we wouldn't really have it any other way, especially as Alfie has come down with a cold, so we also passed on the opportunity to join the joint Ufford-Pettistree practice at the former, with the latter understandably not holding a session tomorrow night.

Still, it allowed us to prepare for the small gathering we're planning on having for New Year's Eve at ours, with the backdrop provided by commentary on Ipswich Town's 3-0 victory over Charlton Athletic in the final match of an amazing 2014 for us Tractor Boys. Well, amazing by the standards of recent years!

Elsewhere, they were busier, as indeed they had been yesterday, with a 1320 of All Saints Doubles rung at Old Newton remissly unmentioned on my previous blog entry, particularly unforgivable as it was not only Nicola Burnett's debut in the method, but her first quarter altogether for sixteen years. Well done Nicola and congratulations to Josephine Beever on ringing her fiftieth this year.

But today too, there were busy ringers in Suffolk, with 1260's of Doubles rung at two locations, with four methods successfully negotiated at Monewden and five at Brandeston.
At least life was more exciting for others. Those bookshelves do look very nice though...


Monday 29th December 2014

For all the climatic build-up to Christmas Day, the days between then and New Year are a pleasant break from the norm, especially for those of us fortunate enough to have time off work at the moment. A chance to spend a prolonged period of quality time with the family, an opportunity to carry out activities so mundane that they are barely interesting enough to mention them even on this blog, though I shall do anyway, as on a day of almost unprecedented productivity and forward planning on our part, a bigger tree was purchased for - God willing - next year's festivities, whilst more immediately a bookcase to accommodate our burgeoning book collection that increased further with gratefully received presents in the last week was acquired.

St Mary-le-Tower.More significantly, it was the final St Mary-le-Tower practice of 2014 this evening and it was appropriately one of the best of the year. David Potts is to be given considerable credit in a role that I know is far from easy. As I have mentioned on here many times, we don't have the same benefits that places like London, Birmingham and Manchester have in having a larger pool of ringers and twelve-bell towers at their disposal or Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford or even Norwich that get an annual supplementation of students keen to make their mark and willing and able to learn quickly. Yet without any of these benefits, being in a geographical outpost on the way to nowhere and the additional misfortune of a couple of months restricted to just ringing the front eight due to two broken clappers from our back bells in quick succession, David has increased the repertoire and the standard of striking on Suffolk's heaviest twelve, whilst also encouraging those still feeling their way on higher numbers. Tonight highlighted that perfectly as Lucy Williamson rang her first Little Bob Maximus inside superbly, Newgate Surprise Maximus was rung for the first time for months having not been given the chance to get going when we had our mechanical problems back in October and all topped by some really well-rung Stedman Cinques. Frankly, there won't have been many better twelve-bell practices anywhere this week.

Admittedly we were helped by the visit of Guildford ringers Katie Hill and Tom Waterson, the former of whom has strong family links in Suffolk and indeed was visiting her grandparents Dick and Daphne Pegg, but even without them we had more sat out that could've partaken in what we achieved this evening, but their youthful presence among other youngsters will hopefully have given the three non-ringing visitors present a good impression of our art, with a friend of Anne and Paul Bray visiting from Vatican City and an interested couple from Peterborough.

It was a significant and pleasant way to end an insignificant but pleasant day.


Sunday 28th December 2014

Tunstall.When I lived in the little pink cottage of Tunstall many years ago, my typical Sunday morning schedule consisted of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower when we used to ring from 9-9.45am and then meandered back up to the picturesque wilderness I lived amongst for ringing on the lovely 7cwt six of St Michael from 10.30-11am. Even then, when single and only concerned with dragging myself out of bed and prepared for my duties, I struggled to make it on time and occasionally didn't at all.

Roll on nearly a decade and with two children to ready who seem to have inherited my liking for staying snuggled up under the warmth of the duvet, especially on these cold, dark winter mornings, coupled with the earlier 8.45-9.30am ringing at SMLT makes that task even more difficult. Believe it or not, I have got better organised in the intervening years and to give me and the boys some credit, we do usually make ringing in Ipswich when I intend, but in the last few weeks we haven't made it beyond the end of the driveway on a couple of occasions, though one of those times was down to the car battery letting us down.

Our absence from our usual Sabbath circuit this morning was entirely down to our tardiness though, with Alfie needing to be woken to have his substantial breakfast and be changed as he wriggled and giggled with no concept of the urgency of the situation, whilst Mason was as easily distracted as... well, a seven-year-old boy, meaning getting him together was a slow process, so instead we ended up in the house for most of the day instead, apart from a brief trip to Mum and Dad's to drop some stuff off that they'd left at ours on Boxing Day and allow the eldest son the chance to wish his grandparents a Happy New Year.

Still. others were better at getting out, with a quarter-peal of four spliced Surprise Major methods at The Norman Tower and a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal on the back ten at Grundisburgh for the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, a success significant not only for being Maggie Ross' 150th peal, but also Dubai resident Annie Brechin's first peal for five years on a seasonal visit to the area she was once a regular ringer in. Congratulations Maggie and welcome back Annie!

And sorry to those I didn't join this morning!


Saturday 27th December 2014

Mason, Alfie and me at The Dove in new family t-shirts given us at Christmas by Chris and Becky!Alfie watches on as me, Ruthie and Maggie enjoy a drink at The Dove.Congratulations to Maggie Ross and Philip Gorrod on today completing their '100 Pubs to Drink At in 2014'. It may seem a tenuous link to ringing (though no more so than much of what I fill this blog with!), but much has been done in conjunction with ringing and ringers, including the very first one at The Low House in Laxfield, the characteristic hostelry that Brian Whiting and I joined them at following the brain-testing 5024 of 'Horton's Four' at Wilby that so wonderfully kicked-off my peal-ringing for the year at the beginning of January. Having also joined them in March at The Ship in Blaxhall, we were delighted to accompany them to the final inn of my kind of challenge, The Dove in Ipswich. Our only regret was that we couldn't have joined them for more, because there really were a lot of wonderful bars visited across the UK.

Mason playing on his new table-football at ours.It was a pleasant diversion from a quiet day, as we wound down from two days constant feasting, cracker-pulling, socialising and travelling by trying out some of our new presents, with Mason's table-football (thanks Kate!) put up and played upon as episodes from his Dad's Army DVD's played, I wore in my slippers, Alfie played with more of his many newly-received toys and eventually we took in Ruthie's Marple DVD's as we tucked into one of the hampers that we gratefully received.

Partaking in a somewhat busier day ringing-wise, and to be congratulated upon it, was George Salter, who called his first peal of Maximus in the successful 5042 of Yorkshire Surprise at the famous Redcliffe in Bristol. Well done as well to Kieran Downer on ringing his first on twelve and Simon Edwards ringing his first of Maximus altogether, but most of all to Suffolk resident George who is now really making a good name for himself in national ringing circles.

I suspect he's probably making a name for himself in some of the pubs too...


Boxing Day 2014

It may not seem like it when we return to work and take down the decorations on 5th January, but starting today there are eleven more days of Christmas to go, despite waking up at Mum and Dad's this morning with a slightly subdued mind after the weeks of build-up to yesterday's festivities now over. Thank you to Mr and Mrs Munnings Snr for putting us up. Although there were no turtle doves from my true love, the season of goodwill continued well into tonight, as we picked up Mason for another day of present-opening, eating, drinking and catching-up with family.

Aunty Marian & Mason pulling crackers at ours on Boxing 
	Day, with Mum watching onMore present opening at ours on Boxing Day - Mason, Aunty Marian & Ruthie.Alfie after the wrapping paper at ours on Boxing Day.

As with yesterday, we found ourselves at Ruthie's grandparents, with a swap-around of family members but still the same explemplary hospitality, as an abundance of food and even Ipswich Town going top of the league for a few hours after their 4-2 win at fellow promotion-chasers Brentford, meaning we returned home in high spirits and ready to welcome my parents and Aunty Marian to ours for tea for more feasting and gift-exchanging.

There was no ringing for us as you will have noticed, but elsewhere the FNQPC weren't knocked out of their stride by it being Boxing Day as they recorded a 1260 of Doubles at Ashbocking, as ringing picks up again with reassuring familiarity following on from the first day of Christmas. Enjoy!


Christmas Day 2014

Throughout 2014, there have been various commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War. These have primarily and understandably been rather sobering and depressing stories of young lives tragically cut short. However, one hundred years ago today, Allied and German soldiers who had been trying to kill each other for the previous four months, climbed out of the trenches into no man's land and sang carols together, exchanged gifts and played a impromptu games of football. It is the spirit of Christmas in a nutshell, fellow humans showing kindness to each other as we wish they would all year round. Although the fighting resumed afterwards, this seasonal outburst in the most atrocious surroundings offer up the hope that all is not lost for mankind.

The Wolery.Santa's been!Alfie is intrigued.Alfie opens his first ever Christmas present.Alfie in his reindeer suit.

Thank God most of us don't find ourselves in such awful circumstances, but 25th December still offers a rare opportunity for communal celebration, a chance for family and friends to catch their breath and remind themselves of what is really important, and this year didn't disappoint. In fact, bellringing gives us the chance to enjoy this to an extreme. Whilst we didn't go as far as those who rang a peal at The Wolery (though congratulations to David Salter on conducting peals on all 366 calendar days), we still followed up yesterday's busy afternoon with a busy morning on this mass of Christ, ringing for a further three services, each with distinctly different company, after getting up to give Alfie his first experience of opening presents.

Christmas morning ringing at Pettistree.From Pettistree where many of the regulars were joined by Mary Hallett, David Hallett and Molly Waterson, to St Mary-le-Tower where Ruthie's nasty cold meant that she sensibly chose ringing over singing in the choir in Woodbridge, to Sproughton where she led us on a hasty couple of lowers with Ralph Earey on the sidelines ahead of his operation on Monday, we were blessed to spend the first few hours of festive daylight with many friends, punctuated with travelling throughout beautiful sunlit east Suffolk countryside.

But it is family that truly makes this most special of days and we are extremely fortunate that both of ours live nearby, so as is now traditional we began the second part of our Christmas Day at my wife's grandparents, typically a household brimming with relatives and children. However, it was relatively quiet by their standards this year, with Kate and Ron up in Scotland visiting Clare, Kev and Katelynn, Mason spending the day at his mother's and my mother-in-law's brother Moog, his wife and two children not arriving until later, so for lunch there were us three, Mrs Munnings' other uncle, his two children and our hosts. Whilst there were fewer in attendance than usual, the hospitality was typically great, with good food and drink in abundance and a lovely few hours of present opening and catching up, continued as the aforementioned Moog and co arrived, before we made our way on the next step of our busy day.

Ruthie & Alfie at her grandparents on Christmas Day.Mum and Dad breaking open their presents on Christmas Day.

What awaited us was a reassuringly familiar scene, with Mum, Dad and Aunty Marian readying themselves for an evening of feasting and more present-opening, which could get underway once my brother Chris and his fiancee Becky entered the party not long after our arrival. As has been the case for as long as I can remember, the vast spread put on by my parents was splendid, the gift-opening was tremendous fun and having done my driving duties until tomorrow, I was able to help my better half tuck into the beers we have been collecting over the last few weeks for this occasion, as we celebrated late into the night with much laughter.

It was a typically special day, even more so for being Alfred's very first, although he was of course oblivious to its significance, despite the many new toys that continuously popped out of paper, which even he must have thought was strange! But as we normally do after 25/12, we felt blessed to have spent it with family and friends and this year even more so not to have to take up arms tomorrow with those we exchanged gifts with today.


Christmas Eve 2014

This is - as many of you will attest - a busy period for us ringers, rarely demonstrated more than today, as we personally rang for three carol services, there were five quarter-peals within our county and over the border in Norfolk, the sixtieth consecutive Christmas Eve peal was rung at Long Stratton, an incredible achievement and once again achieved by a predominantly Suffolk band.

Hasketon.Our ringing was made possible by John Catt's usual generosity in releasing us from the office for the final time in 2014 at noon, allowing myself, Ruthie and Alfie some quality time together prior to my wife ringing in and indeed (unexpectedly!) conducting a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles on the back five at Hasketon. The l'il chap and I got to listen to the last well-rung 240 changes, but not before we had done some final card deliveries in Wickham Market and Woodbridge, criss-crossing our beautiful local countryside in glorious winter sunshine as we traversed the pretty villages of Bredfield and Dallinghoo, passing colourful cottages as Andy Williams' 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year' swooned from the local BBC radio station. It certainly felt like it this afternoon.

Having carried out her quarter-peal duties, Mrs Munnings passed the conducting baton to me, as Ann Pilgrim stood down and we were joined by David and Gill Twissell for some more Grandsire Doubles, this time on the back six of Grundisburgh's 9cwt twelve. Sadly, our endeavours here were scuppered during just the second extent, as the tenor rope came untucked, and despite MIke Burn's valiant efforts to get his untamed tailend under control, it was clear that we couldn't carry on. Unfortunately, by the time we'd pulled the bell back up and put the rope together again, there wasn't time to get a successful attempt in ahead of the 4.30 service, but that did at least allow my better half and our son to join us as we did some general ringing for the occasion.

With a present drop and quick visit to Ruthie's Nan thrown in along the way, our next destination was St Mary-le-Tower, where despite accusations that all I'd mention was two eminent young ringers' failing to set their bells, I am more than happy to report we accompanied the festive churchgoers in with some very good ringing, before we settled down to a quiet night as we awaited Santa's arrival.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Neal Dodge and Philip Gorrod on their respective landmarks of 75th quarter and 400th as conductor in the Minor at Bardwell and Plain Bob Major at Halesworth and well done to the visiting Laura Davies on her first in hand at the Sugget's abode, whilst a 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung at Offton.

It was indeed a very busy day for ringers.


Tuesday 23rd December 2014

Gently we ease towards Christmas Day, the John Catt office raffle undertaken and posh chocolates won as the workload continues to lighten and although we had planned to see Ruthie's school friends for a seasonal gathering, a cold that my wife was keen not to spread two days before the big day meant we reluctantly passed on that opportunity and instead found ourselves dropping cards off to the mother-in-law's, prior to negotiating the masses in Tesco as we got food in for a Boxing Day get-together at ours and finally did some much needed present wrapping - Santa looks like he'll have a bulging sleigh when he comes to this part of the world!

Offton.Still, elsewhere they were busier, with particular congratulations to Doug Perry on ringing his 300th quarter and very well done to Tim Stanford on ringing his first of eight-spliced Surprise Major methods in the pre-practice 1280 at Offton.

But as usual, today's blog entry is the last that I'll get the chance to put up before the festivities begin, so I hope that over the next few days you enjoy your ringing and remember how important the sound of bells are to so many at this time of year. Thank God for your blessings and have yourselves a very merry little Christmas!


Monday 22nd December 2014

Thus we enter the quiet, slow working 'week' leading up to Christmas Day on Thursday. That final 'panicked' weekend is out of the way and now a good proportion of us just want the festivities to get under way. But first there are these few days in the office to be attended to.

John Catt Educational was eerily low-key today, with only five in the entire building for much of the day, as some succumbed to the illness that is doing its rounds like the Grinch and others took advantage of remaining holiday to make last minute preparations for what will - God willing - be a busy few days, more for some than others, though the directors did come round with a hamper for each and every one of us with a typical act of generosity!

It could be assumed that we are twiddling our thumbs in these days of anticipation, at a business for whom the bulk of its trade is carried out with independent schools, the odd few of whom broke up even before the keenest put their decorations up. But there is the occasional admin member of staff in until almost as late as we are, i's to be dotted and t's to be crossed. And this afternoon we in the sales team turned the dearth of contactable people to our advantage, as we made what has become a useful annual journey to Woodbridge Library, as we not only looked to kill time but take a rare opportunity to assess what we are doing and what we can be doing differently, not something we typically get the chance to do for the rest of year without sacrificing valuable selling time.

The slower than normal pace at work was completely at odds with a busy and packed St Mary-le-Tower practice, itself unlike previous final practices before the festive period. Nearly thirty were in attendance, with a large proportion of youngsters, including Lucy Williamson who was there with her father Jonathan and has clearly benefited from her time ringing in York. And whilst she wasn't helped by a poor team effort in a bob course of Grandsire Cinques that just wouldn't get going, the session did improve immensely, with a very decent half-course of Yorkshire Maximus and climaxing with some well-rung Stedman Cinques and numbers were gathered for forthcoming ringing over this unique period. It is worth noting that whilst there is no ringing at St Lawrence on Wednesday, all being well that evening the bells of SMLT will be rung between six and seven for the Nine Lessons and Carols, with service ringing on the morning of the 25th will be an hour later than it is on a Sunday, on this occasion running from 9.45am-10.30am. And there will be a practice next Monday on the 29th and the Wednesday lunchtime ringing on the ancient five down the road will resume on New Year's Eve. All help would be appreciated if you are able.

After tonight's exertions, Kate, Alfie, Ruthie and myself were joined by Diana Pipe at The Mulberry Tree, where once one of the locals discovered we were bellringers he was keen to let us us know how wonderful he thought the bells were, especially at this time of year. It was a lovely note on which to finish a busy evening and slow day.


Sunday 21st December 2014

If it is essential to name yesterday as 'Panic Saturday', then surely today is 'Carol Service Sunday'. Across the county - and no doubt the country - there were towers trying to gather ringers for this evening's services, but whilst we have many very good ringers among our membership, none - as far as I am aware - are capable of being in more than one place at the same time.

Still, they appear to have been successful at Sproughton, where they are currently hampered by Ralph Earey's ringing restrictions prior to a forthcoming hernia operation, but were particularly keen to ring a quarter not just to mark the hearty singing of 'Hark The Herald Angels Sing' and 'Come All Ye Faithful' at All Saints, but also to commemorate the death of local ringer Jesse Arbon a century ago in the devastating killing fields of the First World War. Along with the other commemorations in 2014 for the reckless and pointless waste of life from 1914, the quarters and peals rung to the memory of ringers who left our ringing chambers to sacrifice their lives for us in foreign lands have been sobering and poignant, but perhaps no more so than at this time of year, where peace and goodwill are typically the words on everyone's lips.

How others such as Bredfield who were also asking round got on, I don't know, but we had enough to make a noise on the front six of the 25cwt eight at Woodbridge, with the help of Alan McBurnie, before Mason, Alfie and I enjoyed the large dollops of festive magic on offer at St Mary-the-Virgin. Familiar carols and bible readings reminding us of the true meaning of the season, with so many in the building that there wasn't enough seating for all present. It was a joy to behold, enhanced by the marvellous performance of Ruthie in the choir, which included a couple of solos, in the presence of her beaming grandparents.

Earlier, we three boys returned to Sabbath-morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for the first time since before my eldest son's operation last month, though having not read my emails properly (surprise, surprise I hear uttered!), a trip out to Grundisburgh was a waste as there was no ringing on this morning. Still, the unexpected gift of time allowed us to pop into Grange Farm Shop to do some more shopping, before we met my wife after church at the end of a morning that had begun with her ringing a quarter at Pettistree for their carol service and then from there we headed out for even further shopping - I think my New Year's resolution is going to be to never set foot in another shop! It is a resolution that the wasters that broke into Boots in the early hours could probably do with making too, though it didn't stop us using their facilities legally - it was a hassle that my wife's boss could quite clearly have done without at this time however.

Elsewhere within our borders, others were using their time more productively, with a 1440 of Plain Bob Minor rung at Reydon and a 1320 of Surprise Minor undertaken on handbells in Bardwell, as the ringers of Suffolk marked Carol Service Sunday in style.


Saturday 20th December 2014

For a sizeable proportion of the masses, Christmas Day will be spent with family, whether that be for better or worse. But the days and even weeks leading up to then offer opportunities aplenty to meet with friends, and today was most certainly a day for that.

Ringing is our primary source of friends of course, and whilst the final Saturday before Santa starts up the reindeer and negotiates his extensive list of good children has now been dubbed 'Panic Saturday' by a media-led society desperate for a headline, for the ringers of Suffolk it springs forth the chance to combine friendship, bells and the seasonal festivities as we gather in Ipswich to ring upon all the full-circle ringable bells in the town, an annual tradition that is as part of proceedings as mince pies, crackers and falling asleep in front of the telly after the turkey dinner.

The interview with Rachel Sloane on Radio Suffolk done, the boys readied and further 'panic' shopping undertaken, I dropped Ruthie off to meet her mother Kate and join other Pettistree ringers to ring at St Clement and abandoned our car in the allotted car-park created for those partaking in this feast of bells in the playground of St Margaret's School. Already familiar faces were in evidence, some three-quarters-of-an-hour prior to kick-off, with the Garners bracing themselves to join my wife and mother-in-law at the aforementioned 15cwt six and Mike Whitby and Pippa Moss driving in whilst we were walking out, immediately followed by Guild Treasurer Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake. Things were warming up, but Mason, Aflie and I still had some more gift-hunting to carry out around the busy centre before we reached our location of St Mary-le-Tower, bumping into Tower ringer Sean Antonioli and his family in the process and encouraging them to join us for refreshment in St Margaret's church afterwards.

Ahead of us enjoying the tea and biscuits generously put on by the local ringers at the 14cwt eight - and particularly John and Shirley Girt and Angela Cable - I had to do my bit at my home tower, as a large crowd filled the ringing chamber to ring call-changes and Little Bob Maximus, though Alfred seemed to object quite vociferously to the latter, despite the best efforts of his older brother!

Ringing duties carried out, we were free to munch and mingle, taking in tales of those who had contributed to ringing out across the county's biggest community, whether it be over Christchurch Park, the shoppers exploring the businesses under SMLT and St Lawrence, the waterfront or the Town fans gathering at Portman Road for what was ultimately another successful afternoon for the now second-placed Tractor Boys. Wonderful too to witness new faces amongst the familiar ones, and whilst the poor state of St Stephen's bells and the renovation occurring at St Mary at the Quay meant these two towers were unavailable to us this time, Jane Harper can be rightly pleased with a highly successful debut as organiser of this highlight of the ringing calendar, especially in the presence of Brian Redgers who was responsible for this unenviable task before he moved beyond our borders earlier this year. Well done Jane, and welcome back Brian!

With Mrs Munnings needed back in Woodbridge for choir practice, we had to make a swift exit after Ralph Earey's speech as he carried out the South-East District Chairman duties and Mr Girt gave his annual warning not to get locked in the car-park, but us three lads had to be home anyway as we were hosting some more friends, with Toby, Amy and their daughter and my Goddaughter Maddie and Nick, Kala and their li'l 'un Robyn descending upon us. Cue a lively afternoon of noisy toys and the youngsters interacting loudly as us adults tried to catch-up. We once met for our pre-Christmas catch-up in the pub, but those days are gone, for now at least! Still a very pleasant afternoon.

Meanwhile, the bells of Ipswich weren't the only ones ringing today, with the regular quarter-pealers from the west of the county in action throughout the Shotley Peninsula, scoring four times, each one representing an achievement of some sort. Well done to all the band on ringing their first blows of Single Cumbria Place Minor at Copdock, of Christmas Pudding Delight Minor at Holbrook and of Double Ashford Chart Leacon Bob Minor at Harkstead. Congratulations as well to Andrea Alderton on ringing her 300th quarter in the latter performance. Well done specifically to Andrea again and to Stephen Dawson on ringing their first blows of Single Canterbury Pleasure Bob Minor in the success at Tattingstone on a productive day of ringing and catching up with friends.


Friday 19th December 2014

'This one time, the Top Gear guys were challenged to a turtle race. First though, they had to select a colour to paint their turtles. Jeremy Clarkson chose red for Ferrari, James May chose grey because he is a little dull and Richard Hammond chose pink, because that is his favourite colour. As they began, Richard got into the lead early, but noticed that Jeremy and James were laughing.

"What?" he asked them.

"Oh nothing, nothing," they replied. They all went a bit further and Richard noticed that Jeremy and James were still laughing.

"What are you laughing at? he asked again.

"Oh, just the colours of our turtles" they replied.

"What's so funny about those?" Richard asked. "Jeremy's got his red turtle like a Ferrari, James has his grey one because he is a little dull, and I've got my pink one because it's my favourite colour."

"It's a bit girly!" Jeremy and James laughed.

"Oh shut up!" Richard said.

The Top Gear tales format that I devised on our Rambling Ringers holiday last year to keep Mason occupied on long car journeys that sees the presenters from one of his TV shows have to use increasingly ridiculous means of transport and reaches a crescendo of Hammond telling the others to 'shut up' is unlikely to win either of us any literary awards, but it served its purpose today as for the first time I accompanied the li'l chap on one of his visits to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Since a wasted trip for a cancelled operation a few months ago, the hospital very kindly provide a taxi for my eldest son from his mother's front door to the entrance of the world famous institution for these occasions, but it's perhaps not as interesting for him, so the tales were a welcome opportunity to pass the time, though our driver also offered us considerable interest. It transpired that he is Mohammed Nurul Hoque, Chairman of community club Helvecia Futsal (Indoor five-a-side football. Ed.) Club and Tower Hamlets Football Club, mixes with stars of the game like Pele and Eric Cantona, listed as one of the most inspirational British Bangladeshis and a generally all-round nice guy, but primarily we were grateful to him getting the boy and me to the centre of London with minimal fuss, which was needed for what lay ahead.

Mason playing table football at Great Ormond Street Hospital whilst waiting for his x-ray.My debut among the myriad of corridors of GOSH was quite daunting, though my companion was nonchalant as a veteran at this venue, with first an x-ray needed in the main hospital and then the purpose of our trip to the capital in The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine next door - the removing of his cast. Warned that he would kick up a stink over the saw that is used to cut open the blue plaster that has covered the bottom half of his left leg since his operation here last month, I nonetheless found myself entirely unprepared for a scene reminiscent of The Exorcist, as the usually cheeky, easy-going seven-year-old literally clung on to doorframes in an attempt to avoid being dragged into the room where the procedure was taking place. This was then followed by a torrent of what passes for abuse from a child who thankfully doesn't use swear words before the deed was done. It was traumatic to witness and though I wouldn't have hesitated if required to take him on previous appointments, I'm glad I haven't had to. If today's exercise which involved no surgery, an absence of needles and no need for drugs was this emotionally draining, I can only imagine what it was like when the aforementioned were used.

His behaviour was entirely understandable in the circumstances, shocking as it was, especially as we had been informed on arrival that this wasn't lined up to be his final appearance within these walls, as we had hoped and indeed expected. Instead, he was measured up for a temporary splint and then immediately returned to plaster, albeit a slightly smaller, lighter one, this time in red, as chosen by the star of the day.

Having used a trip to McDonalds for lunch as a bargaining chip in the negotiations during his earlier hysteria, I wheeled him over to the nearest outlet, taking a call from Radio Suffolk in the process as they sought out some facts and figures ahead of tomorrow morning's interview on Rachel Sloane's show, before we we taxied back to the wide though darkening skies of the homeland, both of us asleep pretty much from the M25 until almost home.

Despite this shut-eye, it was an eye-opening trip. Even through our - and particularly Mason's - traumas and distress, this was a reminder that there are children and parents in much more difficult situations. This is no place for a child to spend Christmas, but sadly many will have to and I have the highest praise for the staff here, particularly those who showed great patience with the li'l chap - this is a place well worth supporting. I am grateful for all they have done to get my son this far.

Still, we were both delighted to eventually make it home to be reunited with Ruthie and Alfie, whilst slightly older youngsters from within our borders were in the county we passed through twice on our travels, ringing a peal of Minor at Layer De La Haye with a band that had an average age of just twenty. And we were grateful for stories of the Top Gear guys.


Thursday 18th December 2014

Grundisburgh.It would be disingenuous to suggest that it is only worthwhile attending Grundisburgh's practice if warmed punch, mince pie and other noteworthy nibbles are produced for those present at the end, but it undoubtedly helped galvanize our aspirations to wind our way to the last session of 2014 upon Suffolk's lightest twelve tonight.

All that said, it has long disappointed me that what was arguably once the county's best practice has gradually been eroded to a point that they stopped altogether a couple of years ago, so I have been pleased to see the efforts that Joanna Crowe has made to raise them from the metaphorical dead. The period of Thursday evening silence from the little wobbly red-brick tower was so prolonged that people that previously manned them have found other activities to occupy themselves on the fourth night of the working week, including us, meaning numbers still aren't substantial, though enough to get things going in the right direction at least. And whilst Ruthie's now well-established commitment to choir practice in Woodbridge and our belief in the effectiveness of the monthly 'Cosy Nostrils' Surprise Major practices at Ufford coupled with Alfie's arrival makes it impractical and difficult to go regularly, but we still feel guilty about not being more supportive of Jo's not inconsiderable and no doubt occasionally thankless endeavours.

Therefore, today seemed as good as any to make our belated entrance, Alfred bedecked in his reindeer suit and the picturesque village green typically resplendent with multi-coloured lights, with the sizeable tree the centrepiece of the seasonal scene outside, as inside we contributed to some ringing - including some very decent Cambridge Surprise Major on the back eight - before tucking into the generously supplied refreshments. It was still some distance from what we once enjoyed here, but it was a pleasant occasion that we would urge others to write into their shiny new 2015 Ringing World Diary, though not more than we would urge those same others to help out at a few more practices here across the year before God willing we return to the last Thursday before Christmas again!

Whilst much merriment was being made in our presence, elsewhere some serious business was undertaken by the Salter family at The Wolery, as a 5088 of Oxford Block Minimus was rung, as much it would appear to make a point as it was to ring the Guild's 9,207th ever peal. I imagine the refreshments afterwards were good too!


Wednesday 17th December 2014

Whether as excited as a small child with the prospect of Santa dropping round, as stubbornly ambivalent as Ebenezer Scrooge at the thought of having to share a confined space with relatives you rarely see because you don't get on, or somewhere in between, the numerically astute of you will have noted that there is just a week until Christmas Eve when God willing the festivities for many - including us - will properly begin. And its beginning to feel a lot like it.

Over lunchtime, Alfie and Ruthie descended upon the Children Centre's seasonal party and had a fun - and tiring - couple of hours, a couple of hours that included Alfred meeting old St Nick for the second time.

Alfie meeting Father Christmas at the Children Centre's Christmas party.Alfie on the dance floor at the Children Centre's Christmas party.Alfie after the Children Centre's Christmas party - it was all a bit much for him!

I meanwhile took the opportunity to attempt to second guess what my sweetheart would desire in her stocking - careful now - in eight days time as I meandered the streets of Woodbridge over my break, in the process bumping into two-thirds of the Whitby siblings, Jimmy and the heavily pregnant Sarah in a predictably busy town centre.

As it happened, we were to unexpectedly but entirely pleasantly come face-to-face with the third of the trio, youngest Ed, who is visiting from Derby and was accompanying his father Mike to Pettistree practice on a bizarrely mild night for an exposed village community in mid-December, with decorative lights producing little festive oases amongst the visual desert of rural blackness, away from the glow of the streetlights you get in more urban areas.

It all contributed to a very enjoyable last practice of 2014 at SS Peter & Paul. That first practice of the year on New Year's Day, as our livers and heads recovered, with bodies and minds slightly subdued, feels a long, long time ago, and I suppose it is. But it has been a successful year for the ringers of this ground-floor six. The ringing has been varied and attendances have held up well, even over the recent months when the church has been an unpleasant place to be, surrounded as we were by scaffolding, tarpaulin and fumes, although all of that has mercifully been removed, with the addition of a carpet in the ringing chamber instantly making this feel a cosier venue than it has been of late. And despite an unusual late loss of the pre-practice quarter which my wife was participating in, there have been sixty five successes (There is one duplicate in the BellBoard list. Ed.) of that length since we left 2013 behind - don't expect the 2012 record of sixty eight (There are two duplicates in the BellBoard list. Ed.) not to be broken before the first dawn of 2015!

The real strength of this mixture of learners and experienced ringers, is the social element, highlighted by the meal at The Froize in Chillesford back in February and the numerous outings undertaken, and of course the regular attendance at The Greyhound immediately afterwards and this evening was no different in a very hot and packed inn, a delight to see in these times of trouble for our locals.

Whilst the attempt here was lost, a 1260 of Double Court Bob Minor at Preston St Mary was successful and well done in particular to Pam Ebsworth on making her debut in the method. This is another place I wouldn't be surprised to see offer up more attempts before the month and year are out, but they'll have to do it in amongst a typically busy time over the festive period.

Benhall.The Helmingham Monthly Practice is due to take place on Friday between 7.30 and 9pm, before the ringing in Ipswich that we should all be aware of by now the following day, with my appearance on Rachel Sloane's Radio Suffolk show pencilled in for just after 7am, booked today by an email and voice message from the lady herself! As is becoming quite the tradition at this time of year, our Young Ringers  will be in action in between celebrating Christ's birth and seeing in the New Year, with the plan being ringing upon the bells of Saxmundham (10-11) and Benhall (11.30-12.30) on the morning of Monday 29th.

But of course members need to be aware of what is going on at their local towers in a week's time, with extra ringing and cancelled practices. On the big day itself, many will be ringing at the same time as they usually would on a Sunday, but not all. St Mary-le-Tower for example plan to be manning the twelve at the later time of between 9.30 and 10.30am, if no clappers drop out in the meantime. Grundisburgh shan't be ringing (either then or on the following Sabbath), but all being well, Burgh shall be between 9 and 9.30am and it is worth asking if they still need help at Clopton to ring for the 11am service there. SMLT and Bredfield would also appreciate help to ring out between 6.30 and 7pm on the 24th and the latter between 9 and 9.30am the following day. There won't be the normal lunchtime ringing at St Lawrence in a week, whilst understandably there will be no practices at Beccles, Gislingham or Pettistree for the next two Wednesdays as is probably the case at most places that practise on the middle day of the week, and I can't imagine anywhere will be holding any sessions next Thursday evening! Though some will probably be itching to get out on New Year's Day! Carol Services, Midnight Mass - the long and the short of it is if you are intending to ring anywhere over the next couple of weeks, it is best to contact the local tower correspondent to see if and when they are ringing.

Whether you like it or not, Christmas is not far away!


Tuesday 16th December 2014

Tune your wireless into Radio Suffolk on Saturday morning (and indeed before that as I can heartily recommend our local BBC station) and you should hear my dulcet tones abusing the airwaves once again, all being well. My moment in the spotlight is due to occur sometime between seven and eight on Rachel Sloane's show and is on the topic of the Christmas Ringing across Ipswich town centre later in the day, with exact times to be confirmed - I'll attempt to let you know as soon as I do. It is via the phone, so I don't expect it'll be a particularly long interview, so immediately my mind has begun thinking what I need to mention, with not just that the bells will be accompanying the thousands of shoppers within earshot to remind them of the true meaning of the season, but that this is a hobby the listenership would benefit from taking up, whatever their age or background. Previous appearances in the media from myself have failed and succeeded to varying degrees to do this, hopefully this weekend will be a positive one for Suffolk ringing.

For now though, the excitement and glamour of my role as the Guild's Public Relations Officer had to be put on hold as more shopping was done, essential and festive, in Tesco and online as the big day approaches with quickening haste, but at least elsewhere ringers were carrying out more meaningful activities, though I don't know what the story is behind the curious pre-practice quarter of Grandsire Doubles at Offton. I hope all is well, but at least the bells were ringing out.

It's got to be a nicer sound than my voice on your radio...


Monday 15th December 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.We have twelve bells available to us at St Mary-le-Tower again!

For the second time in the last couple of months, we threw off the shackles of front-eight ringing and allowed the back four to ring out, their impressive sound reassuringly booming across the chilly town as Kate, Ruthie, Alfie and I arrived for tonight's practice.

With a few away - including Mum who is poorly at the moment, so get well soon Mum - we were still a little restricted on what we could do, but all twelve were rung, whilst a decent repertoire on ten was mustered, with pieces of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Royal reprised. As may be expected, the striking on higher numbers was a little rusty, and sadly they don't seem to have rehung the eleventh whilst they had the ninth and twelfth clappers out, but there was a positive and jovial mood in the ringing chamber, as the receiving and giving of Christmas cards was undertaken from the table that now sits in the middle of the rope circle. It is a healthy sign that it took some time for us to write out our cards for those at SMLT!

As Ron is also seemingly going down with the lurgy - get well soon too Ron - we four had our drink at The Mulberry Tree unaccompanied afterwards, though we were the recipients of a Christmas card from the pub! I suspect the others didn't get that at The Cricketers...

Meanwhile, the seasonal ringing in Ipswich on Saturday is fast approaching, so if you're not entirely sure where you are ringing or you would like to ring and haven't put your name down, please get in touch with Tel. 01394 411355. This will be the first year that Jane has taken on a job that Brian Redgers made look so easy but most certainly isn't, so if in doubt, give her a shout. If previous years are anything to go by, this should be a real highlight of the ringing calendar, and having originally been told we wouldn't be able to have the usual car-park for free, convenient parking at St Margaret's School opposite the church of the same name, it is well worth noting that we do now have that option available to us, although only - as is usual and understandable - from 11am to 1.15pm, still allowing plenty of time to get to your tower for ringing between 11.45am and 12.15pm and refreshments back at St Margaret's church.

And God willing, at least we should be able to ring all twelve at St Mary-le-Tower for the occasion!


Sunday 14th December 2014

There has been interesting discussion on the retrospective changing of method names after they have been rung and named. The crux of the matter is that a band that ring a method for the first time to a quarter can name that method, but if subsequently a band that peal it for the first time, they are within their rights to give it a different name that usurps the previous one.

The current debate on Facebook has been initiated by our very own David Salter, who is annoyed that a peal he had conducted at The Wolery on 23rd July that he had recorded as Cumbria Place Triples - the name it had been given when originally quartered - had been renamed in the official records as Aberdare St Elvan Place Triples, as named by the band at Aberdare, St Elvan in Mid Glamorgan on 1st April (no joking!) 2011 for a significant local peal there.

Strictly speaking, the twice former Suffolk Guild Ringing Master hasn't got a leg to stand on as them's the rules, and the renaming of the method by our Welsh friends appears to have been done in good faith, but it does seem an odd rule that once a method is named and recorded and even quartered several times over many years as Cumbria Place seems to have been, that one band can completely rename it after being prepared to ring a peal of it. There are more pressing issues for ringing to deal with, and it has to said it has a bit of an anoraky feel about it that wouldn't be something you would use to promote ringing to non-ringers, but it has highlighted an area of ruling that I feel needs tidying up.

He seems on safer ground with today's method for the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh, Launceston Surprise Major, which has already been quartered and pealed under this name before, and which marked the 300th SGR peal on bells that have served the Guild extremely well in helping raise standards round here.

At least he was able to get out there, unlike me in my intentions to make it to St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh with the boys this morning. Having not been for weeks due to Mason's restricted mobility and then Alfie's Christening, I was primed and ready to go along and help, but having scraped the ice off the windscreen, I went to start our young car and... nothing. Bizarrely for a car of it's modest years, the battery had failed me. Thankfully, near neighbours Colin and Fred were kindly on hand with some jump leads, so we were able to get Aloysius going, but once I'd dropped Ruthie off for choir practice ahead of the service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, given the car a bit of a runaround to get it charged up and then been to A.C. Autoparts to test the battery and confirm that is was now alright, any plans to join my once usual Sunday-morning circuit had long gone out of the window.

Instead, we joined my wife at the aforementioned church service, albeit a few minutes late, but the recharged car was later able to take Mrs Munnings to a 1260 of Grandsire Triples before the Carol Service at Ufford, one of two quarters in the county today, with the Cinques version of the same method rung at The Norman Tower. Well done to Deborah Blumfield, Abby Antrobus, Tim Shorman and Nathan Colman on ringing their first at that level.

At least we know no one is likely to rename that method!


Saturday 13th December 2014

I never go into a peal not wanting to get it. In fact, I'm not sure why anyone would go through the faff of booking an attempt in their diary, make their way to the location and waste the time of others in the band by entering into such a commitment with an attitude of that kind. But I have to say, I was slightly relieved when this morning's annual mid-December attempt at Pettistree came to a premature end after just under forty minutes.

In almost every regard, it was a pity. This active local band likes to mark the anniversaries of the rededication of this ground-floor six and the first peal on the rehung bells every year at this time and there was some superb ringing in the attempted 5040 of eight-spliced Surprise Minor methods, before a seamless swap saw Mike Whitby set things up. However, I still wasn't feeling entirely chipper, there as the Munnings' representative purely on the basis of not feeling as poorly as my wife, and although mercifully the scaffolding and bright orange tarpaulin that has bedecked the interior of SS Peter & Paul on my visits here over the last couple of months has disappeared, the smells and fumes that still reside in the air throughout the building still gave me a slightly queasy feeling, so I was ultimately glad to be able to get out into some fresh air and to return home to see Ruthie and the boys.

Still, despite the way it finished, we can take heart from this effort, if nothing else because it highlights just how many Surprise Minor methods are in reach of the band. Apart from London (which spiced things up a little!), all the methods were second-place Cambridge-above methods (which means that when bells are in a place above the treble they ring exactly what they would in Cambridge at that point, including a bell making seconds at the lead-end), many of which have sixth-place versions (which means a bell makes sixths at the lead-end, instead of seconds, so has an effect of a sort of big bob on the seconds-place method). With Wells only being London but with only a tiny difference, this band could easily have rung more methods if desired. There's a lot of six-bell towers that would be delighted to attain such a standard.

Elsewhere Suffolk ringers were triumphing, most particularly led by the Salter boys, unsurprisingly. Well done to younger brother Colin on ringing his first of Stedman Triples in the success at my wife's 'favourite' place in Northamptonshire to ring, Titchmarsh. George meanwhile was impressively ringing in the Southwark Cathedral Society's first peal of Zanussi Surprise Maximus in the 5138 at St Magnus the Martyr, whilst also helping Neal Dodge and James Coleman to ring their first of Plain Bob Major inside at another point today. Well done to James, but particularly to local lad Neal.

There was a peal within our borders successfully rung since the sun rose over Lowestoft this morning, with the 5024 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major completed in 3hrs8mins at Stowmarket, but for us there was more time than expected to sort some essentials - which during this season includes Christmas shopping - and sit back and recover.


Friday 12th December 2014

Today should've been a highly enjoyable one.

With first Mason's class' performance at school and then John Catt Educational's Christmas meal, I had been looking forward to today for a while, but still feeling drained and not entirely the full ticket, I couldn't really appreciate either event as much as I would've liked. Not that it stopped me trying.

The eldest son was splendid on stage, remembering quite a lot of lines off by heart as myself and Mum and Dad watched on, whilst the food, drink and company at The Ufford Crown was superb and all - as usual - paid for by my employers, another wonderful act of generosity from them. Normally, I would then carry on with some of the others to Woodbridge to continue the drinking with Ruthie and other partners joining us, but even putting aside the fact that Alfie's presence makes that less practical to the same level as we once did, with neither me or my wife feeling particularly great, I gratefully accepted a lift home from a colleague and we settled down for a quiet night in with the boys.

Meanwhile, the FNQPC was typically successful this time with a 1279 of Doubles at Stonham Aspal, hopefully as enjoyable as they had anticipated.


Thursday 11th December 2014

I wasn't feeling very well today, having been up in the early hours through illness, and though I made it into work it wasn't long before I was back home getting some much needed rest and generally feeling rotten.

It is a scenario that I absolutely hate. Although in my state I couldn't really stay at work, I felt guilty about letting my colleagues down and slightly anxious about the workload I'd left behind, especially with this week being our last opportunity to contact many of our clients before they disappear for Christmas. You can't do a lot as with your energy drained, motivation to even depart the sofa is at a low and even with a multitude of channels, daytime TV is notoriously underwhelming, though favourites like Marple and Lovejoy just about got me through the afternoon whilst Ruthie and Alfie went to baby club. And whilst it was nice to be looked after by my wife and grab an extra couple of hours with Alfred that I wouldn't normally get, in my condition it could hardly be described as quality time spent together!

With Mrs Munnings also worryingly not feeling 100%, our poor states of health meant that neither of us were able to help out with the Surprise Major practice at Ufford, which was also disappointing.

Bildeston.Whilst we were nursing ourselves, others were thankfully better and able to undertake ringing, with handbell peals in Bacton of Surprise Minor in seven and twenty-six methods. But well done in particular to Lucy Dawson on ringing her first of spliced Surprise in the quarter at Bildeston, and to her, David Howe and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first blows in Alnwick and Newcastle. I'm glad you were feeling up to it!


Wednesday 10th December 2014

It was very satisfactory to end the 2014 programme of the St Mary-le-Tower Wednesday night front-eight Surprise Major peal attempts with a success tonight. These aren't always successful, with this year five out of twelve scored, but the successes have been impressive, with most of them spliced and even the losses have been useful practice. It's not always easy to turn up to ring a peal at the end of a day of work, especially on an evening like this which was cold and dark, but David Potts is to be congratulated on continuing this superb initiative. I've always felt that peal-ringing is the best way to progress ones standards, and I feel that the band has improved over the last year because of these attempts.

That said, today's 5024 of Cornwall didn't see any of us at our best, myself especially, but it was scored in respectable fashion, with prolonged periods of excellent ringing, as the newly moved bellringers' Christmas tree from the recent festival downstairs watched on from behind the ninth box, the table that is usually there moved to the centre of the ringing chamber just before we began. It was also a pleasure to ring with Louis Suggett before we are due to lose him again to a new job in Manchester at the start of 2015, and it was lovely of the band to agree to put a footnote to Alfie's Christening of three days ago.

Elsewhere, there was a Suffolk Guild peal rung south of the border in Essex as a band rang four Minor methods at Great Bentley, whilst the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree was - as usual - scored, with 1250 of Bourne Surprise Minor duly notched. I make it that is 123 peals for the Guild and 66 quarters at SS Peter & Paul since 1st January, as 2014 builds to a very satisfactory climax.


Tuesday 9th December 2014

When I said in this blog a few weeks ago that the end of Campanophile appeared sadly imminent, I wasn't speaking as some kind of prophet. The writing has been on the wall probably since its meltdown nearly three years ago when BellBoard was then introduced by The Ringing World to step in as the online recorder of ringing performances. Since then, the two have worked together, but gradually the older site appears to have been used less and less, with many quarters and peals appearing just on the new boy, and the interesting articles on the homepage of Tony Parry's site not having been updated for about a year.

There are many aspects in which I prefer Campers to BB, such as the fact that it is quicker and easier to search through its records, and the articles have given an at times fascinating insight into some of ringing's successes. But the latter is now more comprehensive, seemingly more widely used and the leader board is great fun, frequently offering lots of talking points, including on several occasions in my ramblings!

The main reasons for the decline have been far more tragic than just mere technical problems though, with the founder, owner and webmaster Tony having suffered from Motor Neurone Disease for several years and Pamela Pohling-Brown who was helping having had her own traumas to deal with that have been far more important than updating a bellringing website, and so ultimately it was no surprise and entirely understandable when it was revealed yesterday that Campanophile has - unless something extraordinary happens - just a year left before it closes down.

It will be sad to see it go, and it deserves more respect than it has got in some quarters for introducing us to the ability to almost instantly read about peals and quarters at a time when we were all used to waiting weeks and sometimes months to read about a success in The RW, but quite apart from all the other reasons outlined above, it is perhaps an indication that it is time to wind it down when even a peal called by David Salter - its most vocal supporter - at The Wolery bypasses Campanophile and goes straight onto BellBoard as today's 5040 of fourteen spliced Surprise Minor methods did.

Yesterday's 1320 of Castle Hedingham Surprise Minor at Harkstead is on both, but as is the norm for a Tuesday, neither Ruthie or I had anything to add to either site. Instead, once we'd got round a broken down bus in the middle of Woodbridge that took over five hours to move, we took some Christening cake to my wife's Nan and endured a trip to the increasingly troubled Tesco.

None of which is worthy of a mention on BellBoard or Campanophile.


Monday 8th December 2014

After a weekend of feeding the many, we predictably entered the new week with a degree of surplus food to get through, such is our preference on such occasions to make too much rather than let people go hungry. It is mainly cake, including some of the scrummy Christening cake, which is frankly just too good not to share, though I'm afraid if you've not had a slice yet, you've missed out, as after an afternoon in the offices of John Catt Educational and an evening in the ringing chamber of St Mary-le-Tower, there is just about enough left for Ruthie's Nan and her mother Kate, neither of whom have had any yet, but really ought to.

Kate couldn't help tonight, as following an unexpectedly long and exhausting day, she was unable to come out to SMLT. Unfortunately overnight, her granddaughter and our niece Katelynn was very poorly, and without going into gruesome details it meant a night of looking after her. Then, rather than the original plan to send the poor little mite and her mother Clare back to Scotland on the train, Mrs Eagle drove them all the way to the Scotch Corner services in Yorkshire, where our brother-in-law Kev met his wife and daughter to return them to Perth.

The mother-in-law's absence from the practice at Ipswich's civic church wasn't the only one on a bitterly cold night, with only the front eight to offer those willing to brave the conditions, many of whom would typically travel many miles across the county and indeed borders to get to our twelve-bell sessions, but we still had the company of Ron beforehand as we took him to bagpipes school and afterwards in The Mulberry Tree for a drink.

Wilby.Meanwhile, a rather menacing looking band were following up the first ringing on Ingham bells for seven years yesterday, with the first quarter on them for at least eight years, whilst some of the band also rang in a peal of Superlative Surprise Major at Wilby.

A number of those ringers would also have noted with interest that this evening Ipswich Town were drawn to play Southampton in the famous third round of the FA Cup next month, prompting what may be weeks of online banter amongst the many Tractor Boys and Saints in the ringing fraternity.

I'd offer Maggie Ross some cake as a gesture of peace before our teams do battle, but we've run out I'm afraid!


Sunday 7th December 2014

It has been a busy and highly enjoyable weekend, but today was the most significant day of the lot, as nearly eight months after his birth, Alfred John Munnings was Christened at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, surrounded by family and friends. Thank God we have been blessed with a lovely little boy, cheery in disposition, who regularly flashes a smile at anyone who will take notice of him (which is many!) and as with his big brother Mason when he was that age, it has been a joy to spend so much time with someone who enjoys life so much, discovering and learning new things, and who still gets incredibly excited when either Ruthie or I walk into the room. To us, it was very important to get him Christened, especially in a building that means so much, and although it wasn't our plan to have it during the morning service originally, we're glad that we did, as so many of the large congregation here have got to know Alfie in his short life thus far.

Teeth have begun poking through, which seems to have had the effect of encouraging his vocal chords further, so as with during yesterday's South-East District ADM across the churchyard he certainly made his presence known, but of course no one minded as he grinned away and took in every detail with a mixture of amusement and bemusement. The actual Christening was special as hundreds watched on as he got his second bath of the day and we and his Godparents took our vows in front of Kev the Rev to watch over and guide the li'l chap as he grows up, and we feel he is in good hands, with his Godfathers being Nick (the husband of one of Mason's Godparents Kala) and my brother Chris, and his Godmothers being my wife's best friend and sister, Fergie and Clare, all of whom we are extremely pleased and grateful to have in the roles.

Alfie admires his Christening cake.Afterwards, it was back up to the Church Centre where after the warm-up twenty-four hours earlier, we had another fantastic tea, this time put on by Chloe and Becky who had done the evening food for our wedding so brilliantly and topped off by a magnificent cake made by Wendy, who had made our lovely cake for that same occasion. It was a lovely day, with AJM's older sibling doing a fine job greeting people coming into the church and the other children - including my own Goddaughter Maddie - behaving impeccably.

Alfie on the train at the East Anglian Railway Museum.Mason meets Father Christmas.With much relief that it all went well and particularly from Mrs Munnings that she had got the two big occasions she had so splendidly arranged out of the way, we were able to relax. And how! Typically at this time of year, we like to go away for a weekend to ride on trains and see Father Christmas, but with both Ron and Mason having undergone big operations in recent weeks, and of course with this weekend being so packed, sensibly for this year it was felt best not to arrange a big trip away. But we were determined the children weren't going to go without, and so this afternoon we made a shorter trip than normal to the East Anglian Railway Museum at Wakes Colne, where along with our niece Katelynn who is still down with her mother, the two boys were able to not only meet Santa, but ride with Thomas the Tank Engine and his pals, as well as chat with The Fat Controller!

Time marching on, we completed proceedings with a meal back in Melton at The Coach & Horses. Such good fun, and many, many thanks to Kate for treating us!

Ingham.Elsewhere on a significant day for the youngest son, there was some significant ringing upon the 12cwt five of Ingham, as the bells there were rung for the first time for seven years. Hopefully this will be the start of more regular ringing at St Bartholomew.

Meanwhile, thank you to the band at Pettistree for their kind footnote to their quarter today, rounding off a wonderful day, for all the family, but especially Alfred John Munnings.


Saturday 6th December 2014

I realise it isn't a universally held view, but for a Guild like ours, ADMs are still a very important aspect of our ringing. Emails, social media, the website, even occasionally this blog are superb for interacting and getting information across immediately, but not everyone has internet access and ringing thrives from face-to-face interaction, the chance for those issues that do need discussing to be discussed, the year gone by reflected upon, and provisional plans for taking the District into the next twelve months revealed and digested.

Clopton.In recent weeks, the North-West, North-East and South-West Districts have held their showpiece events, with a new Ringing Master for the NW and apparently a new Chairman for the SW being elected, and whilst I wasn't present at any of them, I'm sure much else was imparted and debated in an attempt to make sure that there is the right support for ringing across Suffolk. Today's South-East District ADM in Woodbridge was certainly very useful and run brilliantly and with humour by District Chairman Ralph Earey, with some amendments to the 2015/16 tour-list made after suggestions from the floor, and officers voted in, though we were sadly unable to find a Treasurer today to replace Anne Buswell after five years of sterling work in the role. It will be difficult to find a replacement as the Guild also needs to replace Gordon Slack as Treasurer and Mandy Shedden as Secretary at April's AGM in Felixstowe, with the same pool of talent being explored for all three roles. The wheels have been set in motion amongst those present today though. Janet Bufton and Simon Griffiths were both remembered too. Whilst one was a local lady who took up the art because of her family and had to juggle it in amongst other commitments, the other was originally from Birmingham, a name known nationally in the higher echelons of the art who rang in the first peal of Orion Surprise Maximus amongst much else, but both were in our thoughts this afternoon as those present stood in silence to their memory. On a happier note there were a number of new members, including some youngsters like Ben Williamson whose moment it was to shine today as his sister Lucy has done so often in York in the last couple of months. Well done to the large number from Clopton elected today, a tribute to all the hard work David Stanford has - and continues to - put in to teach them.

However, it is always as a social occasion that I enjoy these events most and today's didn't disappoint, with representation from across the District, from the Stutton in the south to Debenham in the north, Offton in the west and Hollesley in the east, as about fifty took advantage of the day overall, including the welcome visits of Paul Stannard and Guild Chairman Alan Stanley.

Ringing at Hasketon for the 2014 South-East District ADM.And although one of the understandable objections that those who aren't keen on these occasions is that they'd rather be ringing than sat around talking about ringing, today - as it usually does - saw much ringing too, though not as much as we'd hoped as the hour's long ringing that had been booked at Hasketon for the start of proceedings was somewhat curtailed by the key holder forgetting to unlock this ground-floor six beforehand as arranged and confirmed only earlier this week. However, after my Mum and Dad had kindly nipped over to his farm to remind him and collect the key, we did get some ringing and these things do happen. He did send a very apologetic email to Ruthie!

Gathered for the 2014 South-East District ADM at St Mary's Church Centre in Woodbridge.Gathered for the 2014 South-East District ADM at St Mary's Church Centre in Woodbridge.After the 2014 South-East District ADM at St Mary's Church Centre in Woodbridge.Evening ringing at Woodbridge after the 2014 South-East District ADM.

Despite that slight glitch, the day as a whole was a triumph of organisation from the SE District Secretary, on a very busy weekend of organising for her. The service back in our town of residence was run brilliantly by Kev the Rev and was notable for its brevity, whilst the tea was wonderfully put together by my wife, mother-in-law and others, whilst District Ringing Master Tom Scase did a great job of running the earlier shortened ringing in the round tower of St Andrew and the evening ringing on the 25cwt eight of St Mary-the-Virgin, where we peaked at some decent Superlative Surprise Major, before most crossed the road to The King's Head for refreshment, whilst we four joined Pete and Susanne in The Red Lion.

Kelsale.It was a satisfying day all round, with the first peal on Kelsale bells since 1990 rung to celebrate the restoration of the distinctive lych gate outside St Mary and St Peter, as well as marking Stephen Pettman's 200th of Yorkshire. It is nice to see that the ringing that our ADMs aim to support is able to thrive in such ways.


Friday 5th December 2014

The first Friday of December is now a date that we very much look forward to, as it now represents the annual St Mary-le-Tower Curry Night and as last year saw an unfortunate experience at A Passage to India, this year we returned to a previous venue we'd enjoyed, The Dhaka.

It was a good decision too, as although there was a mix-up with the times the twenty of us were due to arrive, we were treated to some splendid food, good service and even a little glass of warming port on a cold night. Beforehand - as tradition now dictates - we all met at The Cricketers for pre-meal drinks, with Ruthie and me being the first there on a rare visit for us to the Wetherspoons pub, following a brisk walk into town from Mum and Dad's north Ipswich abode. The conversation ranged from Catweazle to The Ringing World contacting Rowan about her and Jed's cycle and ring round the Diocese to ringers teas, before we continued on across the town centre for that lively meal. Many thanks to David Potts for organising it, though as he was travelling back from a business trip in Budapest, he was unable to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Edwardstone.Earl Stonham.Enjoying the fruits of their labours elsewhere though, were the band who rang a 1320 of Bourne Surprise Minor at Edwardstone and the FNQPC who rang 1260 changes of Plain Bob Minor at Earl Stonham, which saw brother and sister and long-serving members of the Suffolk Guild Bernard Pipe and Muriel Page ring their first quarters since July 2009 and May this year respectively. Well done to them both, particularly Bernard!

Much later on tonight, we eventually made it back to Mum and Dad, who had not only kindly looked after Mason and Alfie whilst we were out, but put us up for the night. Happy First Friday of December!


Thursday 4th December 2014

With Alfie's Christening all set for Sunday, we received a visit from a far off foreign land, though one not as foreign as some of its inhabitants would've wished, as Ruthie's sister Clare and her daughter Katelynn arrived from Scotland. We all met immediately after work at my mother-in-law's house, before my sister-in-law, our host Kate and Ron grabbed a bite to eat and headed out to the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich to watch the latest performance from the superb Eastern Angles, leaving my wife, Alfie and myself to carry out our main reason for being in Edwin Avenue tonight, which was to look after our niece.

Despite dire warnings from her mother, the two-year old was no trouble at all, whilst her cousin watched in excitement before sleep overcame him, so the evening flew by until the theatregoers returned and we went home to rest ahead of what will God willing be a busy few days.


Wednesday 3rd December 2014

Everything conspired against Ruthie this afternoon. She is very busy at the moment making arrangements for what is planned to be a hectic weekend. In her capacity as South-East District Secretary organising this Saturday's ADM at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge - the church that we attend and she sings at - she has been responsible for making sure the bells are available to ring both here and at Hasketon, that there is a vicar and organist for the service, that all the correct forms are filled in and returned for the hall, there is going to be enough food for everyone and that everything is in place for the meeting itself, that officers are prepared to stand and helping source replacements for any that aren't, which this year includes the Treasurer if anyone knows of anyone that could fill that position.

Then, in readiness for the next day, she has been busy trying to arrange Alfie's Christening at the same venue, anxiously checking that there will be a cake, food, invites and any other aspect that needs thinking about, all whilst attending to the regular needs of a teething seven-month-old all day whilst I swan off to work. And today, whilst feeling quite poorly. So when I came home at lunchtime, to find a shattered wife with a bouncy, excited son, it became clear that she needed a break. So I called work who were typically understanding, gathered Alfred under my arms and took him out and about, partly to run some errands that Mrs Munnings needed undertaking, but mainly to give her a rest.

It seemed to do the trick, as by the evening she was renewed and well enough for us to go about our respective evenings, though even then, these didn't go entirely to plan.

The Wolery.Whilst I was ultimately successful at The Wolery in ringing the first peal of Tintagel Castle Surprise Major for the band and the Suffolk Guild, it probably wasn't our best effort this year, with two false starts not helped by young Colin having to climb up into the bells to adjust the third clapper which initially wasn't ringing at handstroke. It was still a decent performance, especially in the circumstances, and as it has to be at that speed, but the late finish meant that I reluctantly passed on the usual post-peal tea and biscuits to meet my perkier wife in The Greyhound in Pettistree, where she and AJM had been for longer than usual as the paint fumes in the neighbouring church had got a bit much for the li'l chap.

Even here though, the practice had successfully been kicked-off with a 1272 of Ash-Bashers Treble Place Minor, whilst elsewhere, Andrea Alderton was ringing her first spliced Surprise Minor in the quarter at Preston St Mary. Well done Andrea!

It had been a long day though, so we left the pub relatively early with Alfie asleep so we could all have some rest!


Tuesday 2nd December 2014

It may seem I spend all my time listening to Lesley Dolphin's BBC Radio Suffolk show, but it is the soundtrack to my lunchtimes and a tremendous platform to promote and celebrate all that is local, including ringing of course. Last week saw the bells of East Bergholt get a mention through 'Dolphin's Dart', the competition where clues are handed out across the airwaves for listeners to guess a mystery place within our borders, but in an extension to that, there is a focus across an entire week, each week on a community in the county. Day by day, a different person from said village or town is interviewed and an aspect of their location explored, but whilst Peter Lucas made a brief mention of the bells of Gislingham a few weeks back when Lesley went there, it strikes me that a thriving band would make a superb topic in its own right. So if you're a ringer with clout in your village, it would be a brilliant PR opportunity for ringing here. All you need is five people to be available for interview on a Wednesday teatime and to get in touch with the radio presenter who is a great fan of ringing and is looking for more places to feature in the New Year. It strikes me that our local Beeb-run station is a good place to promote what we do, as the audience is likely to be more receptive to bell ringing than perhaps Town 102 or Kiss FM for example.

Ringing isn't going to feature this week with Shottley or next week with Mellis, but there are plenty of places where their towers are alive with the sound of bells, few more so than Offton where the practice was preceded as it so often is with a successful quarter. For Alfie, Ruthie and me though, it was a much quieter night with no ringing. However, it would be great to hear about some on our local radio station!


Monday 1st December 2014

With Molly Waterson becoming the latest former Suffolk ringer to ring Norman Smith's famous 5152 of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods when she rang it at Winford in Somerset yesterday, it is perhaps a good time to note what ringers from within our borders have been up to out and about. Very well done to Gill's daughter Molly on her tremendous success, along with Alex Tatlow who was already ringing his second peal of the twenty-three just weeks after his first, but also to Alex Rolph on ringing her first quarter of Stedman Triples in the 1260 at St Clement Danes in Westminster back on 9th November. Meanwhile, having received the news that he has got a job in Manchester, Louis Suggett returned to Birmingham to ring in this evening's 5100 of Stedman Cinques at St Philip's Cathedral, and Joan Garrett rang in a 5021 of Grandsire Caters at Whitby on Saturday, whilst the Salter family were busy again this weekend, as George complimented his efforts at Stonham Aspal on Saturday with 3hrs10mins worth of ringing on the lovely twelve at St Mary's in Hitchin on the same day. All this whilst his parents were ringing peals of Surprise Major up north, with Bristol and Lessness rung at Radcliffe and Ramsbottom in Greater Manchester on Saturday and Yorkshire at Todmorden in West Yorkshire on Sunday, before David and Colin popped down to London today for a peal of Surprise Minor at Harefield. And Philip Moyse and Robert Beavis continue to pop up in their now local area, with their latest peals being on the treble to peals of Surprise Major, with peals of Superlative and Rutland at Awbridge in Hampshire and St Stephen the Martyr in Bristol respectively.

It all highlights how expansive the ringing family is, how varied the ringing on offer is, the places to go, methods to ring, and people to ring with, and this is just what is recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile. It is great to see those from here contributing so positively to ringing across the country.

There is much going on closer to home of course, as highlighted by yesterday's blog, but even just in individual towers, things are primed to get busy over the next few weeks. If all goes to plan at St Mary-le-Tower, there will be ringing on Wednesday and Thursday for the Christmas Tree Festival and late night shoppers, plus further ringing next Tuesday for a carol service, and of course the bells should hopefully be in use for the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich on Saturday 20th December. In regards to that, it would help 01394 411355, immensely if you could let her know if you would like to ring in the county town for this highlight of the calendar, as she takes on the daunting task of continuing the superb work Brian Redgers did in organising this for so many years.

For tonight though, things were a little quieter, as our continued and now very familiar restriction to front-eight ringing at SMLT saw a very low crowd in Ringing Master David Potts' absence, and though Stephen Cheek rang things superbly, it was a bit of a slog on this occasion, with a peak of fourteen plus Alfie meaning our repertoire was limited. The sooner we get our clappers sorted, the better, as it is a truly depressing set of circumstances at the moment.

Although they saw to it that we were locked in for the second week running meaning that Felicity couldn't get out when she left early, downstairs things were cheerier as the masses set up for the aforementioned Christmas Tree Festival, which as usual includes a ringers' tree at the bottom of the tower stairs. This year there is a Diocesan theme to our effort as we approach the end of 2014 which has seen the centenary of the Diocese celebrated. The tree is bedecked with pictures of towers representing our deaneries, such as Eye for the Hartismere Deanery, with other towers represented with details of the bells, such as Bildeston, Buxhall, Rushmere St Andrew and Wetherden. It is a well worth having a look if you get the chance once the festival is up and running later this week.

Kate, Alfie, Ruthie and I continued on to The Mulberry Tree, where we were joined by Diana Pipe as she surprised her son Stephen who works there, as we awaited Ron's return from his bagpipers AGM, which neatly brings me onto another reminder for the South-East District's ADM this Saturday. Please do get your names in for tea to my (01394 548441, Mobile: 07704 556032) by Wednesday and enjoy the variety of ringing on your doorstep, or at least without having to travel the country for it!


Sunday 30th November 2014

Mason next to our Christmas tree.December came a day early in our household, as our Christmas tree was put up for the first time in this house and we indulged in watching A Christmas Carol on the TV, the occasional festive ditty making its way over the airwaves within our walls this afternoon.

Of course, it is also Advent Sunday, which from a Christian perspective marks the beginning of the countdown to the church's most celebrated festival, lending a degree of legitimacy to our seemingly premature activities, with Mason popping out to Sunday school and returning with a superb Christingle, and the quarter at Pakenham was rung for the start of Advent, as well as being Ruth Suggett and Stephen Dawson's first of Netherseale Surprise Minor. Well done Ruth and Stephen!

With the eldest son more mobile now, we boys were able to climb the steps up to the ringing chamber at Woodbridge prior to service, six days before it is due to be the scene of the South-East District ADM, with ringing at Hasketon from 3-4pm before a service led by Kev the Rev in the church beneath the 25cwt eight, tea and meeting in the Church Centre directly opposite and then evening ringing upstairs. Please do get your names in for tea, as ever it would be great to see as many as possible in a town that is easily accessible by road and rail, with plenty of pubs to choose from for post-ringing beer!

Beyond that though, the Second Tuesday ringing will take retirees and others able to attend to Henley and Offton, with lunch at The Sorrel Horse in Barham in between on the 9th, with the North-East District Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham that evening and the Bacton Monthly Practice the following night, before we get to the North-West District Practice and Christmas Social at Rougham on the morning of Saturday 13th and the South-West District Carol Service at Kersey at 3pm later that day.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...


Saturday 29th November 2014

As big a fan as I am of football and Ipswich Town in particular, I like to think that I keep it in perspective, increasingly so as I get older. I am always disappointed to see the Tractor Boys lose, but I try to shrug my shoulders and not let it get in the way of my weekend and I believe I have generally succeeded, which is lucky as there have been a lot of losses to cope with over the last few years. However, when they win, it certainly helps add a positive spin to my time off at the end of the week, rarely more so than today as ITFC became the first team to win at Charlton Athletic this season, with a 1-0 win secured by a goal in the fifth minute of injury time to put the Superblues second in the table, all of which we were able to watch live on TV.

Mason & Alfie.We don't have Sky Sports, so we were grateful to Kate and the recovering Ron for not only putting up with us for the duration of the match, but then for the rest of the afternoon as they very kindly fed us tea as well.

All good stuff, but this is a ringing blog, so I am more than happy to note a busy day on the bells of Suffolk. Well done to Stephen Cheek on ringing his first peal of Stedman Caters in the 5076 well-earned changes on Stonham Aspal, as well as to George Salter on 'completing the family', which essentially means he has rung peals of Stedman in Doubles, Triples, Caters and Cinques, though some may say that he hasn't completed that family until he has rung peals in the principle in Septuples and Sextuples|! To be fair, there aren't many opportunities to do that in these parts!

However, it was the quarter-peal ringers in the county that were busiest, with one band ringing three quarters of Surprise Major, as Pudsey was scored at Bardwell, Uxbridge successful at Hopton and Superlative notched up at Ixworth. Meanwhile, a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Stowmarket and our neighbours from the Ely Diocesan Association rang the same number of changes at Exning as part of their quarter-peal event. Well done to Catherine Richardson on ringing her first of Buxton Bob Minor in that.

All of which when combined with another good footy result made for a very positive day!


Friday 28th November 2014

It is apparently Black Friday today. From what I can make out, it is a clever marketing ploy from big retailers to flog unwanted items that have been marked down from massively marked up prices to gullible American desperados thinking they're getting a bargain, exported here for big retailers to flog unwanted items that have been marked down from massively marked up prices to gullible British desperados thinking they're getting a bargain, not at all fussed at looking like five-years old squabbling over a ball. Happy Christmas everyone.

Ashbocking.Whilst such people were up in the cold queuing up at supermarkets that couldn't quite believe they'd convinced people to fall for all of this, the more sane of us were spending our day productively, as I went to work, Ruthie cared for Alfie and Mason went to school, now out of his wheelchair and walking on a boot that fits around his cast, whilst the FNQPC was doing what they do best by ringing a quarter-peal, on this occasion a 1260 of St Clement's College Bob Minor at Ashbocking.

You can keep your Black Friday.


Thursday 27th November 2014

Over my lunch break, I get to hear substantial amounts of Lesley Dolphin's BBC Radio Suffolk show, the main feature of which is 'Dolphin's Dart', a competition that offers up periodic clues to the identity of a village somewhere within our borders. It always starts with a cryptic clue, which today was 'a point on the compass you might stop at after eating half of your burger.' I was stumped until the next pointer, which announced the bells in this mystery community are hung in a cage in the churchyard...

East Bergholt.Once the answer is revealed, the show usually continues with people getting in touch with further details about the place, and once today's was shown to be East Bergholt ("really"? I hear you utter in startled amazement), good friend of local ringing Lesley was keen to hear from anyone who had rung on the bells which are not only entirely unique in the way they are rung, but are also the heaviest change-ringing five in the world. I had to return to work before the show moved swiftly into the next hour, so I didn't hear if anyone did get in touch with tales of ringing the 25cwt peal and I haven't had a chance to listen again, but it would be interesting to know if the bells and their cage did get much of a mention after I departed the listenership.

There are stories to be regaled, such as when Stephen Pettman was injured quite badly whilst ringing them, and boards within the belfry point to 120's being rung if I remember rightly. Not just anyone can ring them now, and indeed for some time at the start of the millennium they couldn't be rung at all, but judging by their website, there is a thriving band at this South-East District 'tower', with ringing from 9.30-10am on Sundays all through the year and on Wednesday evenings between eight and nine, though understandably only during the summer time! They are well worth a visit to watch!

For us more traditional ringers, it was a silent night in terms of bells, but a little noisier in Mason's bedroom as mother-in-law Kate and her neighbour Nigel very kindly popping round to construct a new bed for the eldest son, the latter very generously supplying it. Otherwise, our day didn't get much more exciting than my lunch break.


Wednesday 26th November 2014

Over the summer, we got on a bit of a roll with the highly enjoyable monthly fourth(usually)-Wednesday peal attempts on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower, with peals of ten spliced Surprise Major methods scored in impressive style in May and June, and then a top notch effort from all - but particularly Tim Stanford - in July as Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire were rung.

Since then though, success has been thin on the ground. Due to my late shifts at work, I was unable to partake in the August and September attempts, so I'm not entirely sure why they aren't in the annals of ringing history, but I know that we were unfortunate to lose last month's go at eleven Surprise Major methods, with Ashtead, Lindum and Uxbridge added to the standard eight. Sadly, tonight's wanderings along the same path led to an identical outcome, once George Salter had ascertained whether he'd rung the fifth to a peal before or not. The carnage that ultimately led to the premature cessation was initially my fault actually, as I momentarily forgot to run in at a bob from the tenor as we changed into London, which of course caused all sorts of confusion, but we'd appeared to settle down before it became apparent that six and seven had swapped over. My bad.

Young Mr Salter had done well to fit in his trip to Ipswich if you believed the peal of Stedman Septuples in Birmingham was actually rung, but there was genuine success involving his relatives, as his brother Colin, mother Katharine and father David partook in a 5040 of Plain Bob Major at The Wolery, with Mrs Salter ringing her 250th on the bells, Mick Edwards celebrating sixty years of peal-ringing and Clare Veal marking her one hundredth peal. Congratulations to all three.

Pettistree.Congratulations as well to Mike Whitby on conducting a quarter-peal for the 1300th time, as he guided the appropriate length of 1300 changes of Plain Bob Doubles at (where else?) Pettistree before this evening's practice. It was fitting for a ringer who has done so much to help the learners of this area that his landmark coincided with Bill Lloyd's first inside. Well done to Bill, who has put in so much effort to his ringing, despite work and parenthood meaning he hasn't always been able to come along as much as he would like. It is a well deserved achievement. At least they are still on a roll at SS Peter & Paul!


Tuesday 25th November 2014

Well done again to Richard Gates and Sue Freeman on another superb edition of Awl a'huld, with the latter travelling all the way over to the east coast to deliver the winter variant of this popular magazine, along the way dropping some off at ours for Ruthie and me in our respective capacities as South-East District Secretary and Guild Public Relations Officer.

Vale, Guernsey.It is well worth a read whether in the ringing chamber, at home, on your lunch break or indeed any other point, taking us on a literary journey of Suffolk and even beyond. George Pipe gives a tremendous and fascinating insight into the historic trip fifty years ago for the dedication of Washington Cathedral, teaching of their first ringers and the ringing of the debut peal on the bells. Ed Hynard has been resident in Guernsey for several years now, but was tower captain at Polstead for over forty years before that, so it is delightful to read about the celebrations for his recent ninetieth birthday, including a quarter of Doubles at his now local tower of Vale that incorporated 120 changes named after his old local tower! But this fifteenth edition is packed with news from closer to home, including the Pegg's Diamond wedding celebrations, the ring and cycle tour of the county in August, the project to restore Rattlesden's bells and frame, the story behind the chiming of the tenor at Little Cornard for the first time for more than half a century, the Vestey Ring's adventures in Ipswich and Rendlesham, the North-East District's 'Week of Firsts' and why Hadleigh's ringers featured in Last Orders, the magazine for the Suffolk and Norfolk branches of CAMRA, amongst much else. Remember though, it is also meant as a way of reaching out to non-ringers, offering a way for them to find out more about what we're doing, and maybe even encouraging them to try our art out. So please do get copies to your local clergyman, into your church, pub, doctors waiting room and anywhere else you can get them - don't just let them gather dust in a dark corner of your ringing chamber.

I read it from cover to cover this evening, on a quiet night for us, bar a visit to Ruthie's nan, whose health seems to be improving thank God, but there were others ringing elsewhere, with a pre-practice quarter of Surprise Minor rung at Offton. And as Awl a'huld highlights, there is much going on across our beautiful part of the world.


Monday 24th November 2014

Broken tenor at St Mary-le-Tower.With part of the tenor clapper sat inside the east window of the ringing chamber, we got on with the increasingly familiar drill of manning the front eight for this evening's practice at St Mary-le-Tower. It meant a return to Double Norwich Court Bob and Bristol Surprise Major spliced, as well as the splicing of the standard eight Surprise Major methods amongst much else.

There was a surprisingly decent turnout too in the circumstances. Abby Antrobus made a rare but welcome appearance as she joined Mandy Shedden, Rowan Wilson and Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters in a visitation from Bury St Edmunds. George Salter, no doubt bouncing from ringing his 300th peal in the 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Ardleigh on Friday, hadn't realised we were restricted and so had learnt a touch of Stedman Cinques in vain. And Owen Claxton got his daily exercise in by hauling boxes of new ropes up the stairs, though his endeavours were temporarily disrupted when someone locked the churchyard gate, locking him and my parents out!

The uncertainty of when exactly we'll get the tenor clapper sorted (though in a bit of smart thinking the ninth clapper will also be sent for re-bushing to avoid that enduring the same fate as its companions on the top level!) means that we can't be sure if we'll have all twelve available to us over the approaching busy festive season, but plans were laid out and names taken for a hectic few days next week, which will hopefully see the bells rung on Wednesday and Thursday evening for the Christmas Tree Festival preview evening and to accompany the late night shoppers in Ipswich respectively, before we all then take a breather with the annual SMLT curry night!

God willing, for us, all that then precedes an even busier weekend of ADM's, teas, ringing, Christenings and trains, but for tonight we made our way to The Mulberry Tree for our post-practice drinks, joined only by Ron on this occasion as Kate was otherwise engaged.

It was a good night, even with missing clappers and missing mother-in-laws, but fingers crossed we'll back to normal soon!


Sunday 23rd November 2014


Just a month after getting the clapper back in the tenth at St Mary-le-Tower, the one in the tenor has now gone, crashing out during ringing this morning. Now I'm no technical expert and I believe this one has been in the bell since it was first put in the then brand new 34cwt bell back in 1976, so it isn't bad going in its own right. But hot on the heels of one clapper coming out and being the fourth or fifth clapper loss that I can recall here in the last five or six years, it seems that something isn't quite right and it needs sorting out. Building a high standard of ringing on twelve in a provincial town out on a limb with no established high-ranking university to attract enthusiastic and young students, or huge influx of people coming here to work as many other places benefit from is hard enough, without these regular lengthy periods when we are unable to ring on all the bells.

I wasn't a witness to events at SMLT, as of course it is impractical to get Mason up church tower steps generally at the moment, but we probably wouldn't have made it in any case, as us three boys were so on the drag that we didn't even make it to church at St Mary's in Woodbridge, leaving Ruthie to carry out her duties in the choir on her own.

Not that it was an overly pleasant day to venture outdoors anyway, as it persisted down with rain pretty much from dawn to dusk and beyond, so apart from a quick journey out for some essentials, we occupied ourselves at home. We could've done with an interesting read, and indeed we may get one soon, as when the BBC Music magazine goes on sale on Wednesday, it will apparently be carrying a four page article on ringing at St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, which may feature some familiar faces.

Meanwhile, back here, Ruthie was picked up by her mother for the Pettistree ringers' AGM at Chris and Mary Garner's abode, which is typically an informal and social occasion, and good opportunity to look back over the last year, as well as to the near future, with plans laid down for the annual anniversary peal, Christmas and New Year ringing and 2015's outings, which if all goes to plan should see another successful few months for this vibrant tower. I used to go along myself once, but even if we were confident of Alfie happily occupying himself throughout proceedings, it goes on too late the night before school for his older brother, so we had a lads night in that was over by eight when both of them had gone to bed. Some folk just can't hack the pace!

Great Thurlow.Others were more energetic though, with quarters of Grandsire Doubles at Great Thurlow and Chester Surprise Minor at Kedington. Well done to Jackie Latham and Anne Bridge on ringing their first in the method in the latter. I'm glad the clappers stayed in!


Saturday 22nd November 2014

W&PDGl Bristol S. Major band.The meaning and purpose of life is far beyond me, but without getting too deep, I'd like to leave my mark on the world in a positive way. I'm unlikely to do that in a way particularly meaningful to humankind as a whole, unless I develop a talent I'm currently unaware that I have, but I'd like to think I have made a difference even in a small way to ringing, at least at a local level. Even then, my place is not as significant as many who have done far more for Suffolk ringing than me, and certainly many on a wider scale when even today you can note the impressive achievements of those who rang peals of spliced Maximus in three methods at Crediton, eight methods at St Magnus the Martyr in London and ten methods at Great St Mary in Cambridge, the spliced Surprise Major in eight methods on the heaviest change-ringing eight in the world at Sherborne Abbey and the record-breaking peal in Awbridge which saw a band ring the longest peal of Bristol Surprise Major yet, at 28,512 changes the fourth longest tower-bell peal ever rung. Congratulations and well done to them all.

No, the main way I can reasonably leave a positive mark on the world is through what I do for my family and friends, so I was delighted today to become Godfather to our good friends Toby and Amy's daughter Maddison. Well supporter more precisely, as this was a naming day ceremony rather than a Christening, but the sentiment was exactly the same, and I feel honoured to be in the role, which is a first for me! I hope I can do her and her parents justice.

Alfie and me at The Plough & Sail for Maddie's Naming Day party.The actual ceremony was a lovely one, held at the registry office in Melton, before I then picked up Ruthie, Mason and Alfie for the post-ceremony celebration at The Plough and Sail at Snape Maltings, where we were also able to catch up with fellow Godparent Kala and her adorable three-month old girl Robyn, as well as some old friends not seen for a while. It was a lovely day.

Meanwhile, it was lovely to read a tweet via our Guild's Twitter feed that Simon Gore was enjoying the bells in his village on Tuesday, which judging by the website for Simon Gore Events is probably Oakley and was presumably in reference to the quarter of Darton Exercise Delight Minor rung on the 10cwt ground-floor six on that day, which ties in rather nicely with my words on the quarter-peal band in yesterday's blog. Nice to see them leaving their mark in a positive way!


Friday 21st November 2014

It was nice to see the peal at Barrow was scored yesterday for St Edmund's Day, whilst the quarter-peal band that has been so busy this week continued yesterday with four quarters in Norfolk - well done to David Webb on ringing his first of Wearmouth Surprise Minor as conductor in the 1320 at Yaxham. Some of them carried their winning streak into today too, with Kevin Ward ringing his first of Primrose Surprise Minor in the success at Edwardstone, Bedford Surprise Minor scored at Rickinghall for the arrival of the new Bishop, twelve spliced-Surprise Minor methods at Wickham Skeith and the usefully named I Don't Mind Bob Minor at Thornham Magna. Well done Kevin and why has no one ever thought to name a method that before! It may appear to some that such intensive quarter-peal ringing with the occasional daft method name may seem quite frivolous, but to my mind such activities can only have a positive effect on the standards of those taking part and hopefully to those they then go and ring with locally, so well done to them on their efforts all this week.

Their enthusiasm and motivation has certainly put us to shame on a quiet ringing week for Ruthie and me, but there have been mitigating circumstances for our slackness. Alfie is getting to the age when we are having to consider whether our regular practices are too late for him anyway, but his feeling poorly has put paid to much activity for the last few days. And with Mason in his wheelchair, his arrival this evening meant it was impractical to do anything tonight, even if we did usually do something on a Friday in the first place, though I am happy to report that other ringing colleagues were busier with the 1280 of Pudsey Surprise Major at Rendham.

Still, the eldest had had an enjoyable day with his grandparents, to whom we are grateful for looking after him as his teachers had a training day, though he did go to a primary school as my Mum and Dad took him to the Christmas Fair at my old seat of learning, Dale Hall School! I wasn't that busy back then either...


Thursday 20th November 2014

Revd Canon Martin Seeley.Welcome to The Reverend Canon Martin Seeley, who it was today announced has been chosen as the next Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, due to begin his role in the New Year and officially welcomed after Easter at Bury St Edmund's Cathedral. If the normal order of things is followed, that also means he will become the next President of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, and hopefully he will be happy to fulfil that role. He has a big act to follow in the form of Nigel Stock and his wife Carolyne who were great supporters of the SGR, but I'm sure I'm not speaking out of turn to say that our members wish Martin and his wife Jutta all the best for their time in our beautiful county, and look forward to hopefully welcoming him to ringing within our borders and the Guild Dinner!

It was appropriate that his arrival coincided with St Edmund's Day, a day as usual marked - as was the new appointment - by our ringers, most particularly the Norman Tower, who reported two performances, one a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor, the other 840 changes of Grandsire Triples. Though not related to us, it was also interesting to hear bells in the background of the BBC Look East news report from Castor Church of England Primary School in Cambridgeshire, presumably the sound of the 10cwt eight of the uniquely named St Kyneburgha nearby.

Sadly a still poorly Alfie and Ruthie's choir practice made it impractical for me to do anything myself for St Edmund today, so I can't really complain that not much else was done to celebrate the county's patron saint, but it is a pity more couldn't have been achieved. However, as the head honcho of the organisation that is the basis of our Guild and the ringing we enjoy, the new Bishop's arrival will hopefully be something that is marked by bells over the coming weeks and months.


Wednesday 19th November 2014

In Alfie, we have been blessed with a baby who since he was just a few weeks old has constantly slept through the night, something we are fortunate with considering others we know have often been getting up as frequently as every three hours as late as ten months in! I might just have pulled what is left of my hair completely out if that had been the case for us.

Last night though, was a bad night. At some point after we'd put him to bed, young Alfred seems to have a developed a runny nose, an uncomfortable and unpleasant enough experience for anyone, but particularly a seven-month old with no concept of what is going on or how to deal with it. It thrust us back in time to six months ago, when shut-eye was a luxury punctuated by attempting to comfort an unhappy child in our sleep-deprived and dozy state. Once an episode was dealt with, you get back in bed more in hope than expectation of any significant dozing and lay there listening to him restlessly squirm and mumble, waiting for the next outburst and call for your attention. It pays to ignore them for a while of course, so they don't get used to the idea that every time they call you'll come running, but sometimes it is necessary to climb out of your warm, cozy position under the duvet and see to the helpless mite. And so it was from about 2.30am this morning, until I made my way bleary-eyed into work, leaving poor Ruthie to deal with our poorly son on her own.

His ill-health meant we decided not to take him out to Pettistree this evening, but we had committed one of us the pre-practice quarter, so I headed out as our representative for the first quarter of Watneys Red Barrel Delight Minor, the type of fiddly point-seconds-from-the-back-three-blows-at-lead method that I dislike, but at least with the guideline of it being sixths-place London above the treble (so like London when you go above the treble, but with a bell making sixths at the lead-end rather than someone making seconds), which gave us something to hold on to. It didn't look a likely score when it was set up before even a course had been rung, but after a brief regroup, a slight reshuffle of the band, and jumpers put on and taken off, we proceeded to negotiate a pretty decent 1320, before we rang a plain course of it to give Mary a go at it inside and then Mike and myself left early, Mr Whitby with a cold himself, and me to relieve my put-upon wife with a generally cheery but still very poorly AJM.

That success at SS Peter & Paul wasn't the only one in the county since I 'woke up' this morning, with a 1250 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced at Ixworth, whilst the band that were straddling the Suffolk-Norfolk border yesterday, were busy again today further south. Well done to David and Lesley Steed, Ann and David Webb and Katie Wright on ringing their first of London Delight Minor in the performance at Easton, to the Steeds again for their first of Lightfoot Surprise Minor in the thirty-eight minutes worth of ringing at Kettleburgh, and also to the Webbs and Katie once more on ringing their first of Kirkstall Delight Minor in the 1296 at Monewden, in addition to their impressive spliced Surprise Minor in twelve methods at Campsea Ashe.

Who knows what they may do tomorrow, which is St Edmund's Day, as you should all know by now! Unfortunately (although I still enjoy listening to his successor Etholle George), Mark Murphy - the main catalyst behind the celebrations of the county's patron saint and who is always keen to hear what the Guild is doing to mark the 20th November - now broadcasts at a later time, and so I was unable to accept BBC Radio Suffolk's kind invitation to speak with him at 9.50am when I shall be working hard for John Catt Educational, with him also being unavailable to pre-record anything beforehand. However, we are due to get a mention, which will still be some positive PR for ringing within our borders, so listen out or listen again for that!

Mind you, as we put the boy to bed tonight with a few prayers for sleep, I can't guarantee I'd be in any fit state to talk on the radio in the morning, so it may be for the best!


Tuesday 18th November 2014

On a typically quiet Tuesday night for us, the main highlight was watching Scotland play England, a metaphorical clash between St Andrew and St George.

Barrow.Of course if Suffolk had it's way, it would be a duel between St Andrew and St Edmund, but with just two days to go until his big day, there's not quite as much as I would've hoped being done from the Guild's members on Thursday, though I'm also aware that I may not be able to do anything myself! Still, it would be nice to have more going on if possible and there is due to be a peal attempt at Barrow and the plan is for multiple quarter attempts at The Norman Tower at the epicentre of the saint's domain. Other than that though, it seems a little quiet, though I have still emailed Radio Suffolk to make them aware that there will be some additional ringing going on.

Rattlesden.That said, the county's ringers are already busy. I've only just noticed the good news story that was the first quarter at Rattlesden on Saturday since the bells were restored - happy birthday to Pat Ward, a lovely lady. And today too, there was more ringing recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile, with an impressive quarter of spliced Surprise Major in the standard eight (the second in two weeks there) prior to the practice at Offton and well done to Ann and David Webb on ringing their first of Darton Exercise Delight Minor at Oakley, on a day that also saw the band ring north of the border over a busy few hours, with York Surprise Minor at Dickleburgh, six Surprise Minor methods spliced at Long Stratton and Hull Surprise Minor at Scole.

For us though, it was just the footy and a cheering victory for those of us of an English persuasion, whether our allegiance is with St George or St Edmund.


Monday 17th November 2014

Good luck to Ian Culham as he disappears to Kenya for the next few months on work. Although from south of the Suffolk/Essex border, he is an example of how the two counties' ringers are able to help each other. At St Mary-le-Tower and through peals and quarters on both sides of the River Stour and beyond, he has aided ringers from here, whilst also being able to raise his own standards through the help of SGR residents. Not being able to get out to many of the huge lists of peal invites he usually sends out, the place I have observed this most is at the aforementioned SMLT, and tonight saw his last practice here before he sets off for Africa.

He'd brought his wife Claire along for the occasion, which helped on a night where we were missing a few, including Ringing Master David Potts, which meant that Amanda Richmond was in charge. An energetic session followed, with Stedman Triples attempted on the back eight and then the front eight (once we'd got the correct second!), call-changes rung on eight and twelve, treble-bob on ten and two half-courses of Yorkshire Surprise Royal, amongst much else. It was exhausting but useful, especially for the substantial proportion of those there this evening who are feeling their way onto higher numbers.

As Mr Culham headed off for a deserved farewell pint at The Cricketers, Kate, Alfie, Ruthie and I headed off to our place of exile as we waited at The Mulberry Tree for Ron to finish bagpipe school. This pleasant pub where we get served immediately by George and Diana Pipe's son Stephen, the prices are still reasonable and the beers varied (and actually on!) was busier than it typically is, adding to an already friendly atmosphere and I prefer it to the Wetherspoons down the road, so we had a drink for Ian here instead!

Elsewhere, there was a peal of Plain Bob Major on handbells in Bacton, and a quarter at Blythburgh, conducted by Maggie Ross, who still finds herself and her female colleagues well at the top of BellBoard's Performance Board for her conducting exploits yesterday!

Meanwhile, best of luck to Ian for his exploits over the next few months.


Sunday 16th November 2014

Two peals caught the attention of the wider ringing world today, and quite rightly so. One was the impressive 5088 of Zanussi Surprise Maximus at the Ringing Centre in Tulloch, the first on twelve for one of the ringers and the first in the method not just for eleven of the band, but for the Scottish Association, which by its geographical nature is scattered in terms of ringers and towers. It ought to offer motivation and encouragement for all ringing organisations, not least ours, which covers a far smaller area, has more members - a decent proportion of whom have experienced peal-ringing on twelve - and three twelves within an hour of each other. Well done to all concerned in Scotland!

Grundidburgh Peal Band.However, well done also to the Suffolk Cumberland girlies on a notable all-female 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at Grundisburgh, the second peal on the back ten there in two days. It's not so much that they got it, that would be more than a little patronising, especially with the vast array of talent that rang and could've rung something more complicated than Yorkshire if they had desired. But even as a College Youth, I recognise it is a testament to the strength in depth in not just our Guild but the SRCY's presence in the county, especially when one considers there was a boys peal being rung at Ufford, and that other areas in East Anglia struggled to even get one band together. There were others - my wife included - that could've rung if needed and it was apparently a very good peal on bells that aren't the easiest these days. Apart from anything else, very well done to Maggie Ross on her first on ten as conductor! Deservedly the performance sits well out in front on the BellBoard leader board as I write.

Not aided by my status as a member of the ASCY on SRCY peal weekend, but still unusually, I - and indeed my Cumberland wife Ruthie - did no ringing at all today. This was primarily due to it being impractical to carry Mason up the stairs to the ringing chambers of the aforementioned busy little wobbly red brick tower, St Mary-le-Tower or Woodbridge, so we had a more leisurely start to the Sabbath by getting to the latter for the 10am service there.

We had considered popping along to the the Christmas light 'switch-on' in Ipswich, but a combination of the constant rain and the Borough Council seemingly desperate for people not to go, plus just simply not wanting to battle the myriad of monotonous and road-clogging traffic lights and find a parking space that didn't cost a fortune, meant that an afternoon at home with a seven-month old and a wheelchair-bound youngster was the more pleasant and practical option on this occasion!

Thank goodness others - be it north of the border or down here - were able and prepared to be more adventurous!


Saturday 15th November 2014

There was a role reversal from the norm this morning, as Ruthie rang in a peal whilst I looked after the boys. Well, for most of the time just Alfie, as after a busy few days I gave Mason until past midday before I picked him up, giving him a little bit of time to settle somewhere! However, having collected him and his wheelchair from his mother's in Hasketon, we then headed straight to neighbouring Grundisburgh to catch the end of Mrs Munnings' bit for the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths' Peal Weekend, as their 5039 of Grandsire Caters came round in bang on three hours.

From there and with Stephen Pettman still not keen on The Dog pub across the green for something that I can't remember many years ago, those after a post-peal pint and a few chips travelled out to The White Hart at Otley.

It wasn't the end of our socialising today though, as after a brief rest and a cuppa and home, we delved into the deepest darkest depths of the countryside between Halesworth and Beccles, as we had been invited to a housewarming gathering at my wife's schoolfriend Vicky and her fiancé Gavin's new home, a delightfully quaint cottage in isolated Sotherton. A night of chilli, games, drink and chat followed for the next few hours, before we all reluctantly left for the long journey back to Woodbridge, with my better half in particular feeling very satisfied with her efforts!


Friday 14th November 2014

Tannington.It may not have been in quite the same league as yesterday's handbell peal in Birmingham, but the FNQPC's silent and non-conducted 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Tannington would've still taken a lot of concentration and good ringing. No falling back on someone picking you up if you drift off whilst dreaming about your holidays or realise you need to put the bins out. It is what it says it is, no one is calling the bobs and no one will save you if you get hopelessly lost, so  well done to the band.

There was no such concentration required from us this evening, with a typically quiet Friday night in. Mason travelled back from London today, just two days after going down there and just the day after his operation at Great Ormond Street, which is hopefully a sign that those in the know feel that all went well. It also meant that we were unusually without him tonight, so we relaxed whilst others in the county concentrated hard!


Thursday 13th November 2014

Mason waiting to go for his operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital.Appropriately enough for the eve of Children in Need, our very own child in need Mason came through his operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital safely, with everything apparently going well. It has been acknowledged for a while that his left foot is never going be quite as good as his right one, but when I look back to when he was born and how bad his feet were then, it's incredible to think how good they have turned out after all the operations, casts and frames. He's a growing lad and we don't discount further work in the future, but God willing this is the last major surgery that the poor little lad will have to endure, and we are grateful to the efforts of GOSH and - although mistakes were made - Ipswich Hospital over the last seven years.

I was eventually able to have a chat with him on the phone, but his turn came quite late in the afternoon, which meant much anxious waiting as we went about our usual business back up here in Suffolk. I was in work, Ruthie and Alfie enjoyed baby club, before my wife attended choir practice. Being the second Thursday of the month, Alfred and I then picked Mrs Munnings up outside St Mary's Church Centre in Woodbridge and popped along to Ufford for the Surprise Major Practice. Although we got there quite late, we were able to contribute to some Cambridge, Superlative and Bristol, though the latter crashed to a halt on two occasions after good starts. Still, another useful session run by Mike Whitby.

Also useful I'm sure, were the quarters of Norwich Surprise Minor on handbells in Rectory Road and three Surprise Minor methods spliced at Tostock. Well done to the Salter brothers Colin and George on ringing their first Surprise in hand in the former, with wise old head Louis Suggett conducting!

It was also nice to see the impressive silent and non-conducted handbell peal of Stedman Triples at St Chad's in his native Birmingham dedicated to Simon Griffiths. Following his sudden and premature death last month, some have asked about Simon's funeral, which was apparently held last week for family only, but it must be reassuring to them that he has been remembered by ringers here and in the West Midlands.

Meanwhile, it may be of interest to some to know that Taylor's Bellfoundry will be on TV again, this time on the drama Ripper Street, with filming taking place in Loughborough back in May. The episode in question will be on Friday night, so watch out for it. If you're not watching Children in Need that is.


Wednesday 12th November 2014

The plan today was for Mason and me to go down to the capital. The li'l chap with his mother in preparation for his operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital tomorrow (fingers crossed!), me with my boss Alex for a meeting with a company in Hammersmith. My son made it, even getting to see the incredible scene of poppies at the Tower of London that have quite rightly captivated the nation in recent months, but were beginning to be taken away. We got ten miles.

The crucial difference was that after two cancelled operations and a wasted journey a couple of months ago, my son was provided with a taxi by GOSH, whereas we two representatives from John Catt Educational were going by train, and those of you who keep abreast of local news will know that this was an unfortunate selection of travel today. Damage to the overhead cables near Colchester meant that there were severe delays on the way into the big smoke, if there were trains going at all, so having made a straightforward trip down the East Suffolk line, we arrived at Ipswich to find a chaotic station crammed full of thousands of commuters chomping at the bit to get the next available train that may get them to work. The first one arrived, and after a mad rush from those in front to claim a standing spot on board, it was obvious we weren't going to fit on - they were literally squeezing them in! With the next train to Liverpool Street not due in for another three-quarters of an hour and likely to take a lot longer than usual to reach its destination, my Managing Director and I pondered what to do next, before being told a few minutes later that that train was going to terminate at Colchester anyway, making up our minds for us. So we jumped into a taxi (having waited a while for that too as they were understandably busy!) and just headed back into the office.

On the day when mankind was able to land a spacecraft on a moving comet for the first time, there were predictable and amusing comparisons made between that momentous achievement and Abellio Greater Anglia's inability to work round an owl flying into a line, but I have to admit to feeling some sympathy for the operator. The freak incident that put out the lines happened at the worst possible time, and to fix it would've required closing the route through Essex completely, so they are perhaps to be credited with getting some services through. We were told as soon as we got on the train back in Woodbridge that there were considerable hold-ups and what the reason was, and were kept updated on expected travel times, whilst apparently their website and social media sites gave any new information as soon as they got it from Network Rail.

The Wolery.Still, at least I was spared having to go through the same chaos on the return journey and potential mad dash to make it back in time for this evening's peal of Deddington Surprise Major at The Wolery, especially as it was a particularly enjoyable one. The method and composition brought up much interesting music, at times brilliantly executed by the band, and it was a real joy to ring in. Congratulations to Tom Scase on ringing his 500th peal too. Tom has been a reassuring presence in many of my peals since I rang my first one with him back in a 5056 of Bristol Surprise Major at Orford way back in 2006, which was his first of Bristol and only his eleventh peal in total! It is a well deserved landmark.

Beforehand we met the Salters' new cats Catchpole and Lindoff (named after the famous conductors and composers of course!) and afterwards we were greeted by Colin who was laden with awards following a ceremony at school that prevented his inclusion in tonight's success in the little blue shed, before I made my way to The Greyhound at Pettistree to meet up with Ruthie and Alfie again. Their presence there had concluded an evening at SS Peter & Paul which had started for some with a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor, so there was an upbeat mood in the hostelry of choice for the local ringers.

It was an upbeat day generally for ringing as it saw itself featured in a couple of good bits of PR, firstly as a segment on Escape to the Country (36.16 in) that saw the programme taken around Taylor's Bell foundry in Loughborough and then as a brief cameo on The One Show (about 6.08 in), with Pudsey Bear (aka ringer Andrew Alldrick) ringing alongside Mike Chester at Coventry Cathedral as the BBC build up to Children in Need on Friday.

I bet Abellio Greater Anglia wish they could've had publicity as positive as that today!


Tuesday 11th November 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

It was a day of close shaves.

With his operation booked in at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Thursday, today wasn't the best day for Mason to jump off the top bunk in his bedroom at his mothers, land on the foot and ankle they're planning on operating on and for it then to swell up! Thank God an X-ray at Ipswich Hospital showed there was no serious damage, so we're hopefully still on track for two days time.

Meanwhile, I had to get our car over to Champkins as we realised it quite urgently needed its MOT, which meant that for this evening we were without a a vehicle. Thankfully, with it being the second Tuesday of the month and no practice at Ufford (as is typical due to the WI meeting in the hall opposite), mother-in-law Kate was able to take us to Tesco for the weekly shop so that we didn't starve! Thank you Kate.

Before having whisked our means of transport off for its hastily arranged appointment, Ruthie had been able to make use of it by dropping Alfie off at and picking him up from his great-grandparents either side of her ringing a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Pettistree to mark Armistice Day, as the ringers of Suffolk quite rightly marked the day. There was also a half-muffled quarter at Offton, where Fiona Lankester was ringing her first of Double Norwich Court Bob Major (well done 'Fidget'!), whilst the ringers of Woodbridge rang half-muffled for the Remembrance Day service on the adjoining Market Hill, as well as before Sunday's service there, with Peter Mayer tolling the tenor one hundred times at the end of today's ringing.

As ever, we will remember them.


Monday 10th November 2014

We once rang all sixteen down in peal at the Bullring. I can't remember why they needed the bells down, but it was a steady, controlled and mesmerising experience, though we decided we wouldn't do it again. After trying to ring down all twelve in peal at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, I think we came to the same conclusion as we did in Birmingham all those years ago! That said, the lower started well, and in the main bells stayed together in their little groups, but those groups began to separate towards the end, leading to a free-for-all at the climax, though it was easier from the tenors than it seemed to be in the middle!

It was worth a punt, a good exercise in bell control and quite good fun, and will enable the muffles to be taken off following a decent night of half-muffled ringing helped by the visit of Simon who is a ringing friend of Amanda Richmond's, George Vant who was fresh from his multi-county quarter-peal exploits on Friday and Jonathan Williamson who was quite rightly beaming about the ringing exploits of his daughter Lucy up in York and was most amusing on the topic of vague ringing instructions!

Gislingham.With Ron having made his first trip to bagpipe practice since his operation, Kate, Alfie, Ruthie and I followed an enjoyable session at SMLT with a drink in The Mulberry Tree as we awaited his arrival, at the end of a day that saw a bellringer on Radio Suffolk. Yes, well done to Peter Lucas of Gislingham, who did a superb interview with Lesley Dolphin, who was of course briefly a ringer herself when she tried it out as part of a feature a few years ago. The subject was the village itself, but it was an in depth and interesting conversation, and the bells did get a mention!

Brandeston.Elsewhere, having bumped into Mike Whitby this evening on his way out to Brandeston for a quarter-peal attempt of Woodbine Delight Minor, I was delighted to see he was ultimately successful and chuffed for Hilary Stearn and Chris McArthur who have been building up for several months to what is their first in the method - well done Hilary and Chris! Nice to see local ringer Horace Bedingfield remembered, one of the millions who lost their lives in World War One, and a reminder as we sit between Remembrance Sunday yesterday and Armistice Day tomorrow of how even the most remote communities were affected by the dreadful conflict a century ago.

Debenham.The conductor Tom Scase was a busy man too, having already rung a peal at his home tower of Debenham, which marked the ninetieth anniversary of the Suffolk Guild's first peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major, a peal that - like today's - also remembered those whose lives were cut short in the name of war.

Hopefully the bellringers of the county will be remembering those fallen tomorrow.


Sunday 9th November 2014

This year, there has been a big focus on it being the centenary of World War One, and quite rightly so. This week we've been engrossed in The Passing Bells, a TV series which is a watered down but nonetheless difficult reminder of the futility of events between 1914 and 1918, and the human cost of that war and is the latest of months of dramas, documentaries and exhibitions that have tried to take us from our comfortable modern lives into what those walking the same ground one hundred years ago as we do now had to go through.

It is understandable therefore, that even with troops leaving Afghanistan only recently, it was that century-old conflict that has been foremost in people's minds as we approached Remembrance Sunday today. After all, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month has its roots in the cessation of fighting back then, many war memorials were constructed on the back of a need to remember those lost over that gruesome four-year period and the wearing of a poppy relates to the poppies that grew from the ground churned up by the graves of soldiers who had lost their lives in battle in Flanders.

Grundisburgh.But of course, as we stood in silence at the war memorial on the green in Grundisburgh at the appropriate hour, the 9cwt tenor having just been chimed eleven times by Stephen Pettman, we were remembering those who have died in wars since the 'war to end all wars'. Mason and Alfie behaved impeccably as the country stopped to remember, and I'm glad to report that bells where I was did their bit movingly. Whilst the tenor of our lightest twelve was as usual pivotal to the commemorations in the village it rings out over, I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at St Mary-le-Tower to find all the twelve ringing muffled at backstroke, having only expected the front eight.

It was great then that we had a large crowd to take advantage and produce some very good ringing befitting of the occasion, including the visit of George Salter's girlfriend Rebecca Meyer, with a couple of courses of well-rung Little Bob Maximus a highlight of the morning, whilst Ruthie had been able to help out at Pettistree with her mother.

And across Suffolk, half-muffled ringing was carried out to mark this most important day, from three hundred rounds and call-changes at Great Barton, to a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on the back six at Halesworth, a 1259 of Grandsire Caters on the back ten at The Norman Tower and a quarter of New Cambridge Surprise Major, which presumably followed on from an unusually lost second-Sunday peal attempt at Aldeburgh. There were also 1320's of Primrose Surprise Minor and Norfolk Surprise Minor at Bardwell and Buxhall respectively, which represented the first in method for Neal Dodge at the former and Ruth Suggett and David Howe at the latter. Well done Neal, Ruth and David!

There were large crowds in Haughley too, many of them stood in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin as we arrived at The King's Arms opposite. It was the end of the service, so we didn't hear the 14cwt five in action, but we were there to meet ringers in the form of my brother Chris and his fiancée Becky, themselves fresh from ringing at the aforementioned twelve in Bury St Edmunds. We were meeting for no other reason than we had been saying for ages that we ought to get together, and so after much trying to find a suitable date that fitted in around work and ringing, we were able to finally meet today. And very nice it was too, with babies and wedding arrangements the main topics of conversation, which wasn't surprising considering our respective current circumstances.

After a superb meal in a very busy tavern, the six of us then descended upon mine and Chris' poor unsuspecting parents who had earlier been ringing at Sproughton, before we four then had to return to Woodbridge for my wife to sing for evensong at St Mary the Virgin, which topped off a lovely afternoon, the type of which was made possible by those who have and continue to put their life at risk on our behalf. We should be eternally grateful. I know I am.


Saturday 8th November 2014

This Thursday, Mason is due to have his next - and God willing his last - operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital, so on his last weekend before he hopefully returns to London, it was nice for him to be able to go to a school friend's birthday party at Northgate Sports Centre, which had a football theme and saw him being able to indulge in nearly two hours of running around lots!

The Norman Tower.Alfie, Ruthie and I left him to it for the excitement of B&Q to find a new tube for our kitchen light, but elsewhere there were mixed fortunes at The Norman Tower where an attempt of 5800 of St Edmund's Abbey Surprise Royal on the back ten to mark the 800th anniversary of the Barons meeting at St Edmunds Abbey Church. It was nice to see the event being marked however, and after their loss the band did well to get an 1800 of the method, so at least something came of the gathering.

And at least Mason was able to enjoy his Saturday before another daunting week for him.


Friday 7th November 2014

As is typical for us on a Friday, there was no ringing, but atypically we were enjoying ringing-related socialising as we met Ufford ringer Pete Faircloth and his ringing father Maurice who is up from East Sussex visiting his son. The venue for our meal out was The Red Lion, and we were pleasantly surprised. I've often lamented the refurbishment of this place from the best place to drink for the sake of drinking and somewhere to watch the footy, to yet another posh foody place in Woodbridge, but it is hard to argue against what they have done to the place, and the guys that started here in July have got good food and good beer, which makes this a thoroughly pleasant tavern and somewhere we could consider taking the boys on a Friday night.

It was a great night out, with Susanne Eddis also joining us, whilst also having a great night on Wednesday was Suffolk youngster Lucy Williamson, who has just started studying in York and who on said night rang her first of Surprise in the quarter at the city's St Lawrence church. Well done Lucy.

Earl Stonham.Seeing her achieving is becoming increasing typically, as is the FNQPC succeeding on the last night of the working week, on this occasion with a 1280 of Doubles at Earl Stonham. For us though, it was an atypical - but highly enjoyable - evening.


Thursday 6th November 2014

Chediston.Very well done to Nick Evans on ringing his first quarter-peal, ringing behind to the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Chediston today. It is always a delight to see new names in the county's ringing records.

As the footnote mentions, it was rung half-muffled for Remembrance, a very moving sound, with Remembrance Sunday this weekend and then the 11th November itself on Tuesday, and across Suffolk the sound of handstrokes shouting out and backstrokes echoing softly in reply (or vice versa in some places) will be the soundtrack to many people's commemorations. Even if they're not muffled, this is an important time to get bells rung, so please help out where you can, especially on Sunday, but also be aware that the normal ringing times at a lot of places will change as towers and churches quite rightly work around the 11am silence.

One such place is Grundisburgh, where the usual 10-11am Sabbath ringing is to be curtailed at 10.50am and the tenor will be tolled, and it was there that Alfie and I found ourselves this evening, as I helped out at the practice whilst Ruthie was singing at the All Souls Service at St Mary's in Woodbridge, where unlike at St Mary-le-Tower they don't feel obliged to hold this service on a Monday night and instead are happy to use one of the many days of the week that doesn't clash with when something is going on in the church.

The fall of the once very successful practice on our lightest twelve has been well documented here and elsewhere, but thanks primarily to the efforts and enthusiasm of Joanna Crowe, there is some regularity in the little wobbly red brick tower again. They are only typically held on the first and third Thursday of the month, and compared to the dozens that once came and rang in almost everything from Plain Bob Doubles to Surprise Major, Royal (including Bristol) and Maximus and Stedman Cinques, the numbers attending and repertoire and standard achieved is quite a bit lower, but they are a step in the right direction, and it is once again proving a useful venue for the progression of ringers of many levels. Tonight saw Mike Burn trebling to some Yorkshire Surprise Major, which in turn was good experience for Joanna Crowe whilst Adrian Craddock was experiencing the treble to Plain Bob Minor. Apart from anything else, it was good to see Bruce Wakefield out and about again following his operation, though he is still not allowed to partake in any ringing.

I left a little early with Alfred to meet up with his mother, but I departed feeling satisfied that I had helped a little, on a good day for the Guild's improvers. Well done again Nick!


Wednesday 5th November 2014

After a three-week absence, Alfie, Ruthie and I returned to the Wednesday night practice at Pettistree, in a church still infested with scaffolding and bright orange tarpaulin, as work continues apace to renovate the inside of this ancient site. It didn't detract from another useful session, as preparations for a quarter-peal attempt of Woodbine Delight Minor next week continued in amongst a couple of pieces of London Surprise Minor, as well as some Plain Bob Minor for Bill and Derek and a successful 1272 of Single Oxford Bob Minor to kick things off.

It preceded a trip to The Greyhound where Ron was making his first appearance since his operation, and followed on from a visit to my wife's Nan, but the headline act today was the band who were ringing their first of Canterbury Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Preston St Mary - well done to them all!

Meanwhile, we are just a couple of weeks away from St Edmunds Day on 20th November, and as ever it would be nice to get a little publicity through our friends at Radio Suffolk for the occasion, but it will of course require some ringing to tell them about! Whilst in the pub, the idea for a quarter on the day was mooted, but if you have any plans for any ringing of any length on the day then please let me know as soon as possible.

Hopefully we will have been to Pettistree again by that point!


Tuesday 4th November 2014

It is of course that time of year when fireworks appear above garden fences and bonfires are lit in parks across the land, which means that this Friday evening sees the annual Sproughton Bonfire Night. This is a hugely popular event, attracting over 3,000 one year, and is almost entirely arranged, organised and run by the local bellringers. However, with those ringers busy taking entry fees at the gate, manning the BBQ, serving drinks, lighting bonfires and setting off fireworks, there has never been ringing for the occasion, as far as I know anyway. Until this year, when - if all goes to plan - The Young Ringers will be ringing on the 8cwt gallery ring six at All Saints, which overlooks proceedings on the Millennium Green, meaning that between 5.30 and 6.45pm the sound of bells should hopefully greet the thousands arriving for the show. So as ever, if you are a young ringer get on down there if you can, and if you know a young ringer, encourage and/or help them to get to this village literally just off the A14, and then enjoy the fireworks afterwards!

There is much else going on this week already, for which help is sure to be appreciated, beginning with the Wednesday night Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles, before a busy Saturday. In the morning the North-West District is holding a practice at Walsham-le-Willows, whilst in the afternoon you have a choice between going along to the South-District Training & Teaching Programme at Stratford St Mary, or to the North-East District ADM many miles further up the A12 at Theberton. All three are important events, with the latter being the second of the four District ADM's that are so important to the Districts in terms of communicating with members and laying out a plan to improve ringing in their corner of the Guild, as well as being tremendous social occasions. The NW District one was held last month, and was hopefully well attended, though I haven't heard anything about it, apart from seeing that Rowan Wilson is now the District Ringing Master, so NE members, please make sure you turn out in abundance to support your officers and fellow ringers!

All that is planned for the future, but there was ringing being carried out within our borders in the here and now, with an impressive 1280 of the standard eight Surprise Major methods (Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, London, Pudsey, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire for those not yet aware!) spliced before Offton practice night. Happy 80th Birthday to John Malster, until last year a regular ringer of quarters on this ground-floor eight and Harkstead in particular, and generally a very nice chap.

As per the norm for a Tuesday night though, it was a quiet night in for Alfie, Ruthie and myself, as Ipswich Town finally leapfrogged Naaaaaridge after weeks of threatening to, thus restoring what was the normal order of things up until just three or four years ago, following our pleasing defeat of my one-time local club Wolverhampton Wanderers and our feathered friends from Norfolk getting battered 4-0 by Middlesbrough. Recent history suggests that won't last long, but judging by Facebook tonight, it is enough for many Tractor Boys to get the fireworks out!


Monday 3rd November 2014

According to Radio Suffolk today, the first ever Jacobite rebellion emanated from St Mary-le-Tower in March 1689, something that will be the subject of a talk (Mutiny and Rebellion: the Jacobite Cause) by historian John Sutton on Saturday morning at the Ipswich Record Office.

I'm pretty sure there were no such frightening shenanigans at SMLT this evening, but we stayed clear just in case, primarily because there was no practice of course, and with just the front eight muffled and therefore ringable and a number already saying they could make the ringing before the All Souls Service tonight, it was more practical not to rush around, changing bag on one shoulder, feeding Alfie his tea over the other!

Instead, whilst, a peal on handbells in Bacton was being rung, our night in hit fever pitch with the discovery/invention of the BellBoard 'game'. Have a look at the site, and click on Random, and see how soon it is before a performance featuring yourself comes up. Go on, try it. Essentially - as the title of the section suggestions - each time you click on it, it brings an entirely random performance from anywhere at anytime from the BB archives. I turned up quite early, with the peal of Cunecastre Surprise Minor at The Wolery back in 2010, but much to my wife's annoyance, she took a while to appear, with her participation in a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree to mark the opening of the village's first open gardens weekend in the summer of 2009 being the one to bring her name up. In between, there were lots of interesting flashbacks, some as far back as 1996, including Colin Turner's early ringing days when he rang only his 5,000th peal and George Salter's first quarter on a working bell, but it was a little more addictive than we had bargained for!

Still, we're hoping to be back at St Mary-le-Tower next Monday, rebellion or no rebellion!


Sunday 2nd November 2014

Last night, the 377th annual Anniversary Dinner of the Ancient Society of College Youths was held at the Guoman Tower Hotel. Ruthie and I went to the 374th three years ago at the same location and had a hugely enjoyable afternoon, evening and even morning after, as we were generously put up (with) by Jonathan Slack. We weren't there yesterday though, as we simply can't justify going every year, with the cost of tickets and getting down there being very pricy, plus the practicalities of what to do with the boys whilst we're away. At least it means that we are usually able to make the South-East District Outing, which is also always held on the first Saturday of November.

Maybe we'll go along to the 378th Anniversary Dinner in a year's time, but for now it was good to see ringers from here taking part in the many peals in the morning to mark the occasion, with Louis Suggett to be found ringing the ninth at St Mary-le-Bow for the 5021 of the Stedman Cinques, and the aforementioned Mr Slack Junior taking part in the 3hrs1min of Cambridge Surprise Royal at All Hallows in Twickenham. We were also able to sample the wonderful atmosphere through the many (occasionally unflattering depending on what stage of the proceedings they were taken!) photos put on Facebook by some of the hundreds that were there, as well as the videos of the superb handbell ringing half-way through, and hear about it all first hand from Diana Pipe who had attended, as we met for this morning's ringing at St Mary-le-Tower.

That ringing was the start of a busy pre-noon schedule, as once we had lowered the front eight of the county's heaviest twelve for muffling in readiness for tomorrow's ringing between 6 and 6.30pm ahead of the All Souls Service here (remember, no practice!), many of us walked around the corner to ring at St Lawrence, before Mason, Alfie and I were greeted by the sight of Molly Waterson at Grundisburgh, who was visiting her mother Gill. Like Iain and Jayne Mitchell who returned to their old stomping ground earlier this week, Molly was a regular and talented feature of my early ringing days, but has since done very well for herself since moving to the Bath area, becoming a fixture in the successful Bristol National Twelve-Bell team and getting herself a good name.

She sent her regards with me to my wife, as we then picked up Mrs Munnings for what was then also a reasonably busy afternoon and early evening, as we popped round to Kate's to see the still recovering Ron, I dropped the eldest off for a birthday party at The Burness Parish Rooms in Melton and picked him up afterwards, called a quarter at Pettistree and then collected the children from the Church Centre alongside St Mary's back in Woodbridge, where my long-suffering better half was deep into choir practice prior to the evensong to be held across the churchyard.

The 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was a decent effort, with Bill Lloyd in particular ringing very well, despite a late arrival from Ray Lewis after an afternoon with artist Maggie Hambling at Alderton church and an early false start, and I dedicated it to the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, which after a very slow start and despite not being as busy as 2013's extremely successful Quarter-Peal Fortnight, has picked up in recent days. I make it that there have been eleven (I make it 12. Ed.) quarters rung for it, though that doesn't include the Yorkshire Surprise Maximus we rang at SMLT exactly a week ago. On the surface it may appear to have fallen a little flat, but from my experience of arranging the Guild Peal Weeks, I know how much activity goes into these that doesn't necessarily get seen or heard about, and there have been losses as well. For the second day running then, well done and thank you to SE District Ringing Master Tom Scase for leading things.

There were other quarters within our borders today, as in the north Pam Ebsworth rang her first spliced Minor along with Paul in the success at Rickinghall Superior, before she then rang her first spliced Treble Bob Minor at Redgrave. Well done to Pam and Paul, as Suffolk benefitted from - in the main - not having as big a hangover as many will have had down in London!


Saturday 1st November 2014

To me, a good ringing outing sees a number of different new towers in a beautiful setting, lots of friends familiar and new, and a varied range of methods, with a rural pub at the halfway point and indeed afterwards too if possible, all carried out in nice weather.

Today's South-East District Outing to Norfolk had enough of those aspects to make it a success. Whilst not hitting the record-breaking temperatures of yesterday, we explored the picturesque county of our northern neighbours on a lovely autumnal day, with about twenty-five chums from across the SE District, with Debenham, Hollesley, Ipswich St Mary-le-Tower and St Margaret, Otley, Pettistree, Sproughton and Stutton amongst the ringing chambers of our corner of the Guild represented on our travels, boosted by the help of Neal Dodge, Rowan Wilson and SGR Ringing Master Jed Flatters. We could've done with a few more experienced ringers, as we were a little limited by what we could ring, although in the circumstances there was still a decent repertoire from Surprise Minor and Major to a well-struck touch of Grandsire Caters.

Ringing on the South-East District Outing at Saxlingham Nethergate.Of course from our part of the world, the options of destinations that will see a whole day of entirely new peals are limited to three directions, until we're brave enough to go to Dordrecht at least, but we visited an interesting selection of towers on this occasion. Saxlingham Nethergate were of particular interest to us as when we rang a quarter there in 2010 they were a truly dreadful experience, an opinion shared by the locals as at the time they were in the process of raising £140,000 to replace them with a brand new eight. At the start of our adventures this morning, we were able to enjoy the fruits of their labour as we rang on the bells cast by Whitechapel last year, and what a difference! Though space is still tight, the sound is now - as you would hope - a vast improvement on what we endured four years ago - well done to all concerned! It is also one of the few places where Alfie's name preceded his visit, as the first peal on the new bells also very kindly marked Alfred's arrival back in April, a footnote recorded in the ringers book that we signed on this visit.

Ringing on the South-East District Outing at Intwood.Intwood which followed, had a notable entrance and a notable name on the peal boards of Jennifer E Barnard too. Thirty years on, Jennifer E Scase returned to her old stomping ground to run the ringing on this five, though sadly - despite the blue lines on the wall - there hasn't been a regular band here for fifteen years.

The ducks at Mulbarton.Ringing on the South-East District Outing at Mulbarton.Lunch at The Worlds End in Mulbarton.

Pretty Mulbarton was the location for both the last tower before lunch and lunch itself, as St Mary Magdalene provided the scene for some decent ringing, whilst The Worlds End across the common, ponds and numerous ducks in between served us sustenance afterwards, before we headed onto Ketteringham where the ringer of the third has to do so at the risk of falling through the floor and the second is so slow at backstroke that you have to ring it before the bell it's following. Such is the variety that helps makes our art so interesting.

Ringing on the South-East District Outing at Tacolneston.Ringing on the South-East District Outing at Wymondham Abbey.I was in charge at the anti-clockwise gallery six of Talcolneston, before our day was finished at Wymondham Abbey with some decent ten-bell ringing and a very reasonable half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Major on the back eight to top a superb day out, though we did stop off at the Queen's Head in Long Stanton on the way home, with AJM needing his tea. Despite my moaning last weekend, I'm aware that this really can be a difficult event to commit to. Unlike most District events, by it's nature it is held some distance from members' homes and is an all day thing, though people are more than welcome to come and go as they wish, as indeed some did today. However, it was a pity not to get a few more helping out and/or making the most of this wonderful opportunity to progress one's ringing. Still, we enjoyed ourselves, so thank you and well done to District Ringing Master Tom Scase on arranging it all.

Back in the homeland, there were three peals rung, two for the St Blaise Society, with 2hrs46mins of Surprise Minor at Chediston and 2hrs43mins of the same at Worlingham, but it was the Suffolk Guild peal at Monewden that was the most significant. Very well done to Richard Stevens on ringing his first peal, at the age of just ten surely one of the youngest in the Guild's history, and hopefully the first of many, many more, if he chooses.

All of which succeeded in making this a very good day!


Friday 31st October 2014

I don't care much for Halloween. However, it is something that Mason has grown up with, and he has been excitedly awaiting its arrival for several weeks, so whilst we weren't going to take him out on the streets trick or treating, we did decide to have an evening at home themed around the occasion, with party food and ghoulish cakes, as we sat with a box of sweets for anyone that may pass by. Except no one did, so maybe it's not as all encompassing as the media would have you believe. My eldest son was slightly disappointed, but we still had a nice night.

Other ringers were making better use of the day however. Well done to Kevin Ward on ringing his first of Beverley Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Edwardstone, and to Nicole Rolph who rang her first blows of Surprise Minor as she made the most of the cancelled Surprise Major Practice at Halesworth. Meanwhile, another success was added to the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight as the FNQPC rang a 1299 of Grandsire Doubles at Brandeston, whilst a 5040 of Minor was rung on the back six at Ixworth after the band met short for Major.

None of which - I am glad to say - was rung for Halloween!


Thursday 30th October 2014

Another busy day of ringing in Suffolk whilst we did none. After a quiet first week-and-a-half, the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight burst into life today with four quarters. Two of Plain Bob Minor were rung, with a 1260 at Ashbocking and 1272 at Barking, whilst the other two were of St Clement's College Bob Minor, with Eric and Carol Brown ringing their first in the method for about thirty years in the success at Clopton, and Eric then following it up with his first inside to the method 'for a long time' in the 1320 at Otley. Well done to Carol and Eric!

Whilst this was all happening in these various rural idylls, not that far away, the county's young ringers were on their outing around Ipswich in good numbers judging by the photos already on facebook. Sadly there was no publicity that came with it as far as I know, as despite my best efforts I heard nothing back from Radio Suffolk, Look East or the East Anglian Daily Times, which was a pity, but the main thing was that they seemed to enjoy their day, and were even able to man all twelve at St Mary-le-Tower, capably by all accounts.

Meanwhile, if you are planning on going to the Surprise Major Practice at Halesworth on Friday evening, it would be best to check with Michelle Williams first, as the event seems in a little doubt as I write this. It would be a shame for this opportunity to be lost, and it may be people are hoping to attend but hadn't mentioned that to Michelle. Fingers crossed it still goes ahead.

Alfie in his costume for his baby club Halloween party.As alluded to, we did no ringing on an unusually quiet week for us in the art that usually occupies more days than not in our household, but it wasn't completely without note, as Alfie went to his baby club's Halloween party dressed as a skeleton and with it being half-term, Mason was dropped off at ours after a day with my Mum and Dad. At least others are making this blog interesting by keeping busy!


Wednesday 29th October 2014

Despite my rant in Sunday's blog, it is necessary occasionally to miss ringing for non-ringing reasons, something I've always recognised even in my most incomprehensible ramblings, and this evening was one such time. With Ruthie's friend from school Lizzie - and after eight years of being with my wife, my friend too - and her husband Roderick up from Kent to visit her mother for tonight only, we and others were invited to come round and catch up. It was their wedding that we went down to Maidstone for, back at the end of May earlier this year, but we hadn't actually seen the newlyweds since then, so it was a superb opportunity to meet with them.

It is interesting to note how circumstances have changed since I first met this group, when they were all coming out of their A-Levels, the topic of conversation usually being contemporary gossip and discussion on celebrities, TV and films, and indeed I was a lot younger and more immature myself. The best part of a decade on, it was a very mature and sensible - but still jovial and enjoyable - few hours, with two married couples, a dog and of course Alfie, as talk surrounded new homes, jobs and babies.

Lovely as that all was, it meant missing Pettistree practice for the second Wednesday running, which was regrettable, especially as it appears we missed the visit of Iain and Jayne Mitchell. Now based in the Midlands for several years and now responsible parents as well, this couple were - as two very good ringers - a big part of the ringing scene in the Woodbridge and Wickham Market area when I first started ringing, and I then also rang a fair bit with Iain when I was in the Midlands myself. I think I can safely say I've never met anyone quite like Mitch - certainly in ringing circles - with his heavy metal look, shiny head and goatee beard, so we're sorry to have missed them and the chance to exchange football banter and put the world to rights in irreverent style.

Earlier, the pre-practice quarter at SS Peter & Paul had been successful, on a busy day for ringing in Suffolk. Very well done to Aileen O'Hara and Stephen Wells on ringing their first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Southwold, and Happy 70th Birthday to them, Mike Sage and Christine Love on a red letter day for the ringers in this seaside town.

Well done as well to Tim Stanford on ringing his first peal for the Ancient Society of College Youths following his recent election, with the 5040 at St Lawrence in Ipswich, but that was just 2hrs55mins of the 8hrs23mins of peal-ringing involving members of the Salter family today, with peals of Surprise Minor, Plain Minor and Egret Bob Triples all rung upon the bells of The Wolery on the family estate. It was a shame not to be available to take part in any ringing on this busy day of ringing, but occasionally it becomes necessary to miss out.


Tuesday 28th October 2014

Halesworth.In amongst the glut of ringing outings that need supporting, there is also Friday's North-East District Surprise Major Practice at Halesworth that is to be recommended, particularly if that is the stage you are up to or if you are experienced at that level and able to make it out to this ground-floor eight  past the trick or treaters, ghouls and ghosts. That's not to say you have to support all of the events over the next few days, as we can't, but even if you can go along to just one, it would be so appreciated by those who have gone to the time and effort to organise them.

The editors of Awl a'huld are also looking for articles to go into the next edition of this superb magazine, so anyone with anything of interest please send it into or your District magazine correspondent, this week. Having got Alfie to bed, Ruthie and I spent the evening constructing a report on St Mary-le-Tower's recent Open Tower Day on an otherwise quiet day for us.

Not so at Offton, as the practice there was preceded by 1312 changes of Bristol Surprise Major, something that can no doubt be practiced at Halesworth on Friday!


Monday 27th October 2014

There is no practice at St Mary-le-Tower next Monday due to the All Souls service at 6.30pm, but it is planned to ring for half-an-hour beforehand, and all help would be appreciated, so do come along if you are able.

This week though, a useful session was had, with all the bells now available to us, as a slightly lower than usual attendance rang a range from Little Bob Royal to London Surprise Royal (of the No.3 version of course) to some Rounds on the Twelve for Chris, a ringer who has recently moved to Ipswich from Beccles and came along to our Tower Open Day a fortnight ago, but on this occasion only just made it before we finished this evening, whilst my habit of preferring the boxes on the back bells pushed back gave one band member a shock when they couldn't reach the sally when it came back down from the first backstroke!

St Lawrence, Ipswich.We were also grateful to Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin, who came up and led us in prayer and silence to remember Simon Griffiths, as we still get used to the idea that this significant part of our band won't be coming back. Life goes on though, as he would've pointed out, and this evening it was mentioned that help at St Lawrence for the Wednesday lunchtime ringing between 12.30 and 1pm is needed, most particular for the forthcoming mid-week, but generally for the next few weeks too, as Bruce Wakefield - a regular at these soirees - continues to recover from his heart surgery. There is also the Young Ringers Outing to the county town on Thursday for which all support would be appreciated, but more importantly the presence of as many young ringers as possible would be superb. This is a great opportunity for many of them to ring with other youngsters, something that from my experience really helps to enthuse them, so if you have a young ringer in your midst, then find a way of getting them into town on the 30th!

On the subject of outings, hopefully all South-East District members are aware of Saturday's District Outing to Norfolk, and hopefully all those who can make it will make it, though I appreciate that an entire day isn't always possible. Even if you can just make part of it though, I'm sure District Ringing Master Tom Scase would be delighted to hear from you, and we'd all be very pleased to see you! Make sure you get your menu choices for lunch in too!

Without the company of Kate or Ron, we came straight home after the practice, but we did pop into Edwin Avenue before going out, where the former is looking after the latter following his knee operation last week, with both in good spirits as they took a night off from the normal Monday night proceedings. As we shall have to do next week.


Sunday 26th October 2014

At the beginning of the month there was a South-East District Practice at Tuddenham St Martin, which was by all accounts shamefully only attended by eight, despite being held at a tower we haven't been to for some time, and in the scheme of this vast rural county of ours is in a fairly easily accessible location, just to the north of Ipswich on one of the main routes out of town and at a fairly central spot in the District. Now, those of you who pay attention to this blog (a dwindling number if such a number exists I'm sure!) will have noticed that Kate, Ruthie and myself were not amongst those in attendance as we were up in Yorkshire celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday, and so therefore I seem to be being particularly hypocritical in this instance. However, I have never suggested that anyone drops everything for ringing. Members will be involved in ringing for weddings, quarters, peals, have family commitments that prevent them taking part (even more so if they are from a non-ringing family), unexpected circumstances, other hobbies, work or - as in our case three weeks ago - a holiday. We are all busy people, ringing isn't the most important aspect of anyone's life I imagine.

However, what does grate a little is that there will probably have been a large number of SE District members who had no such issues preventing them attending at the 6cwt six on the hill in such a picturesque setting, and wouldn't have given going along a second thought, and if asked, some - as I have experienced in the past - will have openly mocked the notion of helping out or being helped out at such a practice. They will include the same ones who bemoan the fact that they're not progressing or are finding it frustrating or even boring yet won't go along to these events that are aimed at giving them opportunities that would aide them. Or at the other spectrum will grumble that the standard of ringing is falling, yet won't pave the way for learners to improve their standard of ringing. I have no desire to demand members attendance, even if I could and even if it was my place. But it would be nice if more would make the effort, and as Guild PR Officer I find it difficult to sell our art to the general public when most of us can't be bothered. Even more so, as someone who wants to see ringing here and beyond thrive, and as one who has seen how much joy, satisfaction and mental stimulation the art can offer for a lifetime, it is frustrating to see such apathy. The places you can go, people you can meet, the infinite number of methods and compositions to be conquered, quality of striking that can be aimed for and achieved, the social side of it all - it all needs as many people as possible to make the most of it where they can!

I only mention this as this evening and into tonight, Ruthie spent over two hours in her capacity as SE District Secretary at the District Committee meeting, the majority of which was tied up with planning the programme in this corner of Suffolk for 2015/16. So much thought and discussion is put into  selecting towers that will interest members, and take our events to every part of the District, then followed by my wife spending much of her spare time getting in touch with those towers and any facilities that might accompany them for meetings, in amongst the other aspects of her role, looking after Alfie and in the not too distant future returning to work, only for the majority of the District's membership to turn their nose up at her efforts. It's perhaps a sad indication of where ringing is going wrong that a young, talented ringer who has been prepared to take up one of the these important roles is beginning to feel quite disillusioned by it all. She isn't unique either, as quite a few officers past and present in this Guild and beyond have imparted similar feelings - please let's support all our officers' efforts wherever we can.

Much else was apparently discussed whilst myself, Mason and Alfred waited at my Mum and Dad's for her to finish at the Earey's, including the SGR AGM, which is being hosted by ourselves on Saturday 11th April - probably at Felixstowe, though that isn't 100% confirmed yet - whilst the District ADM at Woodbridge on Saturday 6th December, and Recruitment & Training also came up.

St Mary-le-Tower.It was a long session that followed on from a near hour's worth of ringing for a 1346 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at St Mary-le-Tower. As nice as it was to be able to ring on all twelve again, the reason we were gathered in the 5pm darkness that putting the clocks back has brought, was for a more sombre cause, as we rang to the memory of Simon P Griffiths on the bells he rang the most, with some of his ringing friends taking part. The ringing was reasonable too, as although we started off in quite a rusty manner, the quality improved and it was a very enjoyable experience by the time it came round. Hopefully Simon would've approved.

Though the tenth was up and running this morning, the ringing for evensong was my first experience of hearing the back bells since their enforced break, as earlier I had been to church at St Mary the Virgin in our town of residence, preceding that with joining a large crowd upstairs, although because Pete, Susanne, myself and the boys didn't arrive until they were already into their first piece, seven and eight had not been pulled up and so ringing was restricted to the front six. But importantly, we were there, helping!


Saturday 25th October 2014

Since I started this blog seven years ago today, much has been covered. Births, deaths, weddings, Christenings, quarters, peals, outings, holidays, meetings, parties, and so much more. But today was a remarkably quiet and mundane Saturday, as we took the chance to tidy the house a little and pop to Tesco. It is perhaps an indication of how much quieter life has got on the ringing front for us since 25th October 2007, when Mason was just a few months old and it was more practical to take him out and about with us, when we had him at all. And of course I was Suffolk Guild Ringing Master then, and getting out and about to as many District and Guild events and local practices, whereas now I have no such obligation (not that it ever felt like an obligation!) and it is generally harder to get out and about, with my eldest's schooling and friendships to be taken into account and six-month-old Alfie a twenty-four-seven responsibility, though a lovely one!

Richy.My role as SGR RM was the original motive for starting the blog eighty-four months ago, to give people an insight into what the role entailed on an everyday basis, so now some three years after finishing my five-year term in the job, I have often questioned its purpose, but although I've never pretended it has a huge following, so many different people still come up to me regularly and say how much they enjoy it and/or comment on something I've said and in the case of the late Mike Daniels it kept him feeling a part of ringing when he was unable to partake due to his illness, so I continue to feel motivated to write. Besides, I really enjoy writing it and I like to think it still offers a peek into how an active and enthusiastic ringer such as myself fits it all into a life beyond ringing, as well as informing people of what's going on in ringing across the county, country and world.

Bardwell.Ixworth.Thurston.The Norman Tower.Helmingham.Clopton.St Lawrence, Ipswich.Wissett.

In addition, I find looking back at ringing in the past through Guild Reports, newsletters, and copies of The Ringing World fascinating, as I know many others do, so I hope that in some small way my meanderings on ringing here and elsewhere will be a source of interest when others in a few years are looking back on ringing in the early part of the twenty-first century. I already find it incredibly interesting to note the subjects of my early jottings - the people and places I once rang with and at, the things we used to do, and the changes that occurred in that period. Some are no longer on the Suffolk ringing scene through death, illness, moving away or simply disappearing, as others have emerged. Whilst I think back to people like Barry Rice, Annie Brechin, Susan Schurr and Barry Pickup, I'm also reminded of how my musings have tracked the progress of the likes of Louis Suggett, Alex Tatlow, the Salter brothers, the Rolph sisters, Philip Moyse and Clare Veal, amongst others, all of whom are now established ringers both here and in the ringing scene generally, but on 25/10/07 were only at the beginning of their ringing career, if they had begun at all. And over those 2,557 days, towers like Bardwell, Ixworth, Thurston and The Norman Tower have undergone augmentations, whilst Helmingham, Clopton, St Lawrence and Wissett have been among those brought back to life. I hope that God willing I shall be able to impart more positive news from the area in the future.

As if to underline how far two of those youngsters who have come since I began writing, today saw Mr Tatlow call his own composition in the 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Bristol Cathedral and the elder Salter brother George partook in a peal brought round to a 1346 of the Maximus version of the aforementioned method at Pier Head in Liverpool. Well done to both, though also commiserations to the latter!

The present already offers tantalising glimpses of what may become increasingly familiar themes in the Guild's ringing. Having only been three when I started the blog, Richard Stevens continues to achieve on the end of a rope, and well done to him on ringing his most methods in the quarter of Doubles at Sweffling, and hopefully the peal at Gislingham indicates that the superb eight there will be open to a few more after several years of understandably being used first and foremost for the local ringers for local events, though for very sensible reasons I suspect they're not about to become a peal factory! The tremendous progress of the ringers at St Mary the Virgin has been one of the most positive things that I have noted over the years on here, and I hope that continues. There was also a 5088 of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Boxford under the name of our dear neighbours the Essex Association, both performances dedicated to Simon Griffiths, as was a 5080 rung at Inveraray.

So despite a quiet day for us, I hope this blog can carry on informing people of such notable performances, as well as hopefully interest and entertain people. Thank you for reading over the last seven years!


Friday 24th October 2014

With half-term beginning, there was the usual 'what are you going to do with the kids' discussion on Radio Suffolk. Many who can afford to, appear to be taking the family on holiday, but for the majority it is an issue of what to do whilst here at home. For a lot of them, cost is a big factor and of course the great myth came up. 'There's nothing for children to do,' which is normally code for 'there's nothing for children that they can be bothered to do.' That was instantly debunked by a list of the many activities put on especially for the school break-up, but as ever it can also be disputed by the fact that huge swathes of these 'bored' youngsters in the county will be within earshot of a ring of bells, and even taking into account the unringable peals and those without a regular band, there are plenty of ringing chambers that would benefit from them taking up ringing and if they were prepared to embrace it, it would benefit them too.

Publicising this in a way that might catch people's attention is not always easy. I could go onto the radio or speak to the papers simply saying that ringing is great, take it up at a tower near you, but that doesn't seem awfully tangible. I would always encourage each band to reach out to their local communities, particularly the congregation, but also through newspapers, magazines and websites in the area, so that residents in your parish know who exactly to speak to and precisely where and when they can go for ringing.

The Suffolk Young Ringers team outside Old St Martins in the Cornmarket, Worcester.However, from a Guild-wide perspective, my job is made easier by our Young Ringers, a group that piques the interest of the media within our borders, and they are due to be in action on Thursday with an outing to Ipswich. Despite the authority's desperation to put people off coming into the county town by making parking practically impossible and very expensive, traffic lights after traffic lights choking the centre up where traffic once flowed freely round roundabouts and bizarre daytime Christmas light switch-ons that they have to go back on, there will still be a fair number of families about when our youngsters invade the belfries of the town. It would be great to encourage some of those families to come along and see first hand that ringing is something they can do, and not just for old men and eccentrics, so I am in the process of speaking to the media to see if we can get some publicity for this superb event.

Bells and a ringer were already on TV this evening, as Frank King was interviewed on The One Show amongst the bells of Great St Mary in Cambridge that he rings on, as part of a feature on the Westminster Chimes, which originate from this famous East Anglian tower, which was very interesting, but there was ringing going on this side of the Cambridgeshire border too, as South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight picked up a little more with a 1260 of Doubles at Ashbocking. Congratulations to Phil and Tig Sweet on the birth of their granddaughter, but also to Robert Scase on reaching his 400th quarter and well done to Tig on ringing her most methods. Well done as well to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of Surfleet Surprise Minor in the 1296 at Tostock, but for us it was a quiet night in as we contemplate what to do over the weekend. There is plenty to do!


Thursday 23rd October 2014

After yesterday's terrible news, today brought more positive news.

Although we've known for some time ourselves, Ruthie's Scottish-based sister Clare announced to the world that she is due to make my wife and me an aunty and uncle again, whilst Alfie watched on as Mason got a positive school report from parents evening tonight.

Tostock.From a ringing perspective it was good news too. Well done to David Howe, Lesley Steed, David Steed and Stephen Dawson on ringing their most spliced in the quarter in twelve Surprise Minor methods at Tostock, and to the Salter brothers Colin and George on ringing their first of Double Canterbury and Double Court Place Minimus, but adding to the SE District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, as they got their handbells out at home.

A welcome good news day all round then.


Wednesday 22nd October 2014

In three days, I will have been writing this blog for seven years. In that time I have had cause to mention the passing of many ringers, locally and nationally, sometimes because they were known across the ringing world, more often because they were well known in Suffolk ringing circles. They have all been a loss to us and sad too, but the majority of them have not been entirely unexpected, either because they were ill or because - as you might expect for a life-long hobby such as ours - they had reached an old age.

The death of Simon P Griffiths from a brain haemorrhage on Monday is a shock on every level. Although we hadn't seen him at St Mary-le-Tower for a couple of months or so, that wasn't unusual as he often did disappear for a few months at a time to then reappear for a few months, so I'm not aware that he was unwell. And at the age of just 56, we would've hoped to have enjoyed his presence for a few decades yet. Having come to us in the early 1990's from the incredible Birmingham ringing scene, he wasn't only familiar here within our borders, but across the country, so this news has had a significant impact. His sudden passing is a reminder that our moment can come at anytime, and rather than being fearful of that, we should live life to the full. In his own way, I think Simon did. He seemed to enjoy his work at BT, he had a lovely family in the shape of his wife Lynda and son James who we send our condolences to, made as much of his ringing as he wanted and certainly appreciated his beer!

He wasn't everyone's cup of tea, his manner sometimes getting people offside, and at times he was infuriatingly stubborn, but he was tremendous company. Always the first one sat down with a pint after SMLT, he was central to a lot of my early formative drinking when we used to go to The Greyhound on Henley Road on Monday nights, and he was a regular companion at the Ipswich Beer Festival when Ruthie and I were in a position to go! I'll miss his sense of humour that often saw conversations go off on ridiculous tangents that had us in stitches. I'll also miss his seemingly endless supply of stripy T-shirts.There is plenty to remember. I enjoyed the cycle outings he arranged in the rural surroundings that he had grown to love in his time here, the latest of which was back in July. There was also a peal of Lincolnshire Max on the county's heaviest twelve in 2005 that I still chuckle at when I recall it. One of the ringers seemed to have particular trouble at exactly the same spot every course, missing the same dodge each time. After a couple of times, as that same point approached, Simon and I started giggling in anticipation, which would put off said ringer who would then make the same mistake! And then there was the time we ended up trawling across darkest Northamptonshire many, many miles out of our way to get back home following a peal attempt at the Bullring, after he had missed the turning off the M6 and onto the A14!

He wasn't a particularly keen peal-ringer, though he did ring one hundred and forty-five in total, forty-five of them for the Suffolk Guild, including some very notable achievements. I was speaking to Richard Grimmett, and he highlighted that Simon rang a peal of Scientific Triples just a year after ringing his first peal in 1978 and that he had travelled over to Kingsbury twenty-five years later for a re-run and rung faultlessly. But Pealbase also reveals the large numbers of peals of Surprise Maximus, many of them spliced, Belfast, Glasgow, peals on fourteen and sixteen, the list goes on until his final peal, one of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at his home tower for the last twenty years or so, just before the end of 2006. That happened to be my first of Maximus as conductor, and his presence in the band that day was a reassuring one. Of course it ended in Mannings, when that was the Tower ringers' hostelry of choice.

His name is also on a couple of the many peal boards hanging in the famous ringing chamber, underlining his significant contribution to ringing here, and it was beneath these boards that eight of us found ourselves this evening, in a slightly subdued atmosphere. We were there for a long arranged peal attempt of spliced Surprise Major in eleven methods, with Ashtead, Lindum and Uxbridge added to the standard eight, but of course it became an attempt to ring something to Simon's memory in the room and on the bells he was so familiar with. In the end, we lost the peal, a change of method coming slightly late and causing far more trouble than it really should've done, but I  can't help thinking that SPG would've quite liked the fact we lost it and the band ended up in the pub early.

We finished too late to fit in a quarter attempt, but there was at least one rung for him, with the 1296 at Pettistree. That wasn't the only performance in the county today overall though, with a 1260 rung at Preston St Mary too. Well done to Andrea Alderton and Kevin Ward on ringing their most Minor methods and Stephen Dawson on his most Plain Minor methods in that attempt.

I didn't go to our usual Wednesday evening haunt of SS Peter & Paul and the inn next door, nor did I join some of the others in The Cricketers following our loss, mainly because I hadn't seen my wife and Alfie all day, bar a quick change between work and peal attempt, but also because I had already had a drink, as in order to thank us for our work over the last few weeks with coming in early and stopping in late, John Catt Educational had taken us in the sales team out for lunch at The Coach and Horses. Simon would've approved I'm sure.


Tuesday 21st October 2014

Now I'm back on 9-5's, the evenings are taking a more normal feeling. There was no rushing about last night for St Mary-le-Tower practice, nor a sense of heading out there on empty. And this evening we were able to pop in to see Ruthie's Nan and visit Ron in the Nuffield Hospital following his successful knee operation yesterday, and still had the time and energy to grab something to eat and have a relaxed evening in.

The Wolery.Unless anything unforeseen happens, my normal shifts should allow me to get to a peal attempt tomorrow night, but others were partaking today, with a 5040 of twenty-two Surprise Minor methods at The Wolery, the 101st peal in the Suffolk Guild's name in 2014. Interestingly, according to PealBase that is quite a bit later than last year when we reached the same stage with a success at Barking on 29th August, and the year before when four-spliced Surprise Major methods were scored at Elveden on 1st September, with both years seeing us up to around the 150 mark. 2011 however, saw us get to number 101 with the Bailey Day peal of Plain Bob Major we rang at Leiston on 22nd October, which suggests we may be falling back to that year's level of 128. Quite why numbers have dropped quite so drastically this year is unclear to me, but hopefully it isn't a sign of a downward trend, as I truly believe that not only is a healthy peal total within the Guild a good outward sign of a healthy ringing scene generally within the county, but it also helps to feed that ringing scene. And of course the peal fees help the Restoration Fund considerably! Still, it is a vast improvement on the early years of the Millennium, when the 101st peal for the SGR in 2002 was on 5th July the following year!

Whilst on the subject of peals, well done to our very own Brian Whiting on partaking in the peal of Brians' Delight Royal at St Paul in Birmingham on Saturday, a band that of course featured only those with the name Brian! I enjoy seeing such efforts, and I'd be delighted to ring a Richard's one if only I could find enough time and Richards to organise one!

For all the ups and downs of peal-ringing, themed or otherwise, quarter-peals have continued to thrive, generally being easier to accommodate and being less daunting for more people, but so far the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight seems to have been a bit slow on the uptake. Apart from Sunday's two losses at SMLT and successful 1260 at Hollesley, there has been nothing as far as I'm aware, but of course things may pick up next week when it is half-term.

Indeed, the school-break seems to be the cue for a busy week of ringing outings, starting with this Saturday afternoon's South-West District Mini Tour of North Essex (complete with meal at the Bird In Hand in Halstead afterwards!), the Young Ringers' Outing to Ipswich on the Thursday and then the SE District Outing to Norfolk on the first day of November. All should be useful and fun occasions if previous experiences are anything to go by, but only if they get support, so if you are in a position to go along to help and/or be helped, then please do get in touch with the respective organisers, or just turn up on the day. If your work shifts allow you that is!


Monday 20th October 2014

Well Alfie got through his first night in his own bedroom, Mason made it to school dressed as a gladiator without harming anyone, I survived my first day working downstairs in the office and we coped this evening without the company of Ron, as he recovered from his long awaited and much needed knee-operation.

Amanda putting Neil through his paces on the downed tenth at St Mary-le-Tower practice.Some things haven't changed, and we are now used to getting by without the tenth clapper at St Mary-le-Tower, with a wide range of Surprise Major rung to varying standards on the front eight at tonight's practice, with the highlights being Peter Davies ringing Superlative very well, and the night being climaxed by a decent course of Glasgow, with Cambridge, London and three leads of Bristol also rung, plus Little Bob and some spliced Double Norwich and Bristol. Neil and his son Sammy also returned and did well with some rounds, as well as making use of our downed, clapperless bell by practicing the handstroke transfer! For all that we were making the best of the situation, we were relieved to hear that God willing we should have all our bells available to us by next week's session.

Afterwards, despite the absence of our usual bagpiping drinking buddy, Kate, Ruthie, Alfred and myself continued our normal post-practice Monday routine by popping along to The Mulberry Tree, where we were joined by Diana Pipe who also came in to see her son Stephen behind the bar.

All this was happening on a day when quarters were being rung within our county by visitors, with our friends from Norfolk ringing Rutland Surprise Major at Helmingham and spliced Surprise Major in four methods at Rendham, and the day after the opposite happened as Suffolk ringers were ringing - and achieving notably - outside of our borders. Admittedly Alex Tatlow could be considered local to the part of the world he was ringing in, but the Great Barton youngster's achievement in ringing his first peal in twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods in Norman Smith's 5152 at Barrow Gurney in Somerset definitely deserves a mention. Well done too to Matthew Dawson, a friend from Rambling Ringers tours past who was not only emulating AWT, but was calling it into the bargain. One of ringing's major achievements, and certainly one I'd like to do one day, so big congratulations Alex and Matthew.

Loughborough Bell Foundry Campanile.Well done as well to George Salter on finally ringing his first peal of Surprise Maximus in the 5042 of Cambridge at Taylor's Loughborough Bell Foundry, and congratulations to his younger brother Colin on ringing his 250th peal in the same success. Many congratulations to Donald Carter on ringing his 150th peal on an October day too. Not sure how I would've got through today not knowing that...


Sunday 19th October 2014

When my Mum and Dad left to go on Australia on holiday a month ago, St Mary-le-Tower had thirteen fully-functioning bells. Since then of course, the tenth clapper has broken, leaving us with only the front-eight to use today and for tomorrow night's practice, and welcomed back our Antipodean travellers to ringing in the UK this morning.

It was nice to catch up with them and their adventures as we chatted here and then later back at theirs, when we popped into Ipswich so that Ruthie could partake in a quarter-peal attempt at SMLT of the standard-eight Surprise Major methods spliced. Sadly that attempt came a cropper three parts into a five-part composition, and followed immediately on from a lost attempt of Cambridge Surprise Major on an unlucky afternoon at the town's civic church. Hopefully it isn't an indication of how the just-begun South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight is going to be over the next couple of weeks, but at least it has one success under its belt with the 1260 of Doubles at Hollesley.

In between our meetings with ma and pa, the boys and I went along to Grundisburgh, and we moved Alfie's cot into his own room on another landmark occasion in his  young life, but otherwise it was a quiet afternoon before my wife's adventures at Suffolk's heaviest twelve.

Welcome back Mum and Dad!


Saturday 18th October 2014

For the five years I was Guild Ringing Master, I attended fourteen GMC meetings, missing only one (ironically my first), with Ruthie stuck at home, usually having to keep an eye on Mason for several hours. This morning the roles were reversed, as my wife headed out to Stowupland Church Hall for her début meeting, whilst I stayed in Woodbridge with the boys on a sunny, autumnal day. She was there in an unofficial capacity, merely to observe, but with the Secretary Mandy Shedden unable to make it (along with the Ringing Master Jed Flatters and Treasurer Gordon Slack!),the lonely Chairman Alan Stanley was in need of a minute-taker. Silence followed his request at the beginning of proceedings, before the South-East District Secretary stepped forward and took on the daunting task of minuting two hours worth of varied and useful discussion.

Perhaps surprisingly, I fondly recollect these meetings. They can't be sexed up, so I'll never pretend they were the highlight of a weekend, but they are so infrequent - with just three a year in February, June and October - and such a social occasion that I actually looked forward to them. Friends were caught up with over a cup of tea and biscuits and everything was usually light hearted, depending on what we were discussing. And I always found it a fascinating insight into how much the Guild actually covers, succinctly highlighting the many different aspects of Suffolk ringing. Today was by all accounts no different, with topics ranging from the Striking Competitions which look set to be held over a morning and afternoon, young ringers, funding for training, the Bell Advisory and Recruitment & Training Committee reports, the protection of bells left sat on church floors following the theft of two bells from Little Saxham earlier in the week, the need to find replacements for the current Secretary and Treasurer before their full-terms come to an end in the spring, and the 2015 AGM which is due to be held on Saturday 11th April in the South-East District, though an exact venue is yet to be confirmed for various reasons.

Whilst my wife was taking all this in alongside the A1120, Alfie was not a happy bunny, still troubled by his teething, so I put him in his buggy and dragged his initially reluctant brother out for a walk to settle the six-month old down. It seemed to work on all fronts, as Alfred went to sleep and my eldest and I enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine on the footpaths around Martlesham Creek, which offered the perfect location for some extreme buggying. We are very fortunate to have such places just minutes away.

Kersey.Once my better half had returned, it was a quiet afternoon and evening in for us four, but I'm sure it was livelier for Kate Banks on her birthday today, an event she marked with a quarter at Kersey on Thursday. Indeed, that is one of three performances I seemed to have missed over the last couple of days, with a peal on handbells in Bacton yesterday, as well as a 1260 of Stedman Doubles at Blythburgh, which was Nicole Rolph's first in the principle. Well done Nicole, and to her sister Alex who happily seems to be continuing her ringing down in London where she is studying, with a 1312 of Cambridge Surprise Major at St Clement Danes in Westminster a couple of weeks ago.

For us back in the homeland though, it is GMC meetings and all that the SGR does locally, however much you may or may not enjoy that!


Friday 17th October 2014

A notable day at work, as the ten-week international campaign that has seen me in the office as early as four in the morning and before, and as late as seven in the evening and beyond for the last two months and more, finally came to an exhausting end today. Come Monday, it will be back to the nine-to-five, which will play less havoc with my body clock, make it easier to get stuff done, more practical to commit to ringing and reassuringly familiar. What will be less familiar after the weekend will be my place in the two-storey building that houses John Catt Educational, as having been in the same area upstairs overlooking an empty field that has been earmarked for further offices since we first came here over six years ago, I and the entire sales team are being moved downstairs. It sounds like the proverbial demotion, but it will make a nice change, and means fewer stairs to climb in the mornings!

The move around was beginning as I finished what is hopefully my final early shift of the year, and instantly took advantage of that final early finish to join Ruthie and Alfie in meeting Fergie off the train at Woodbridge Railway Station as she returned to her home town for yet another wedding. What followed was lunch at The Duke of York (no celebrities today) and a pick-up of Mason from school, before we dropped our bridesmaid off at her parent's, and returned home for the eldest boy to try out his gladiator costume in anticipation of 'Roman Day' kicking off the next school week.

From there, my wife headed to Rendham to attempt a quarter of Lessness Surprise Major, whilst I got the boys ready for bed but in amongst all of that and Mrs Munnings' premature return from the lost attempt on the 10cwt ground-floor eight, I was able to take in the latest new aspect on the superb PealBase. For some time it has been possible to view the 'Crystal Ball', which tries to predict when those peal-ringers who are due to reach their next thousandth peal in the next five years at their current peal-ringing rate are potentially going to reach that landmark, based on how many peals they have rung over the last twelve months. Now it is possible - if you have rung at least a peal in the last 365 days - to see when you would get to every thousand peals if you continue ringing peals at the rate you have done in the last year. Having rung 21 peals since 17th October 2013, and if I was to keep ringing them at that rate, I am apparently due to ring my 1000th peal on 22nd July 2036 when I would be fifty-seven (so God willing doable), 2000th on 5th March 2084 (one hundred-and-five so less so), 3000th on 19th October 2131 (just after my 153rd birthday so even if I was still about I expect I wouldn't be up to any peal-ringing), 4000th on 2nd June 2179, 5000th on 14th January 2227, 6000th on 28th August 2274 and would ring my 7000th peal on 12th April 2322 at the grand age of 344, by which point I'd be making more than peal-ringing history. I don't think Colin Turner has anything to worry about as - at his current rate of 224 peals a year - he is pencilled in to reach that record-breaking landmark in three years and one day. That would be a notable day indeed.


Thursday 16th October 2014

Once my early shifts are (hopefully!) completed for the year tomorrow, I shan't miss getting in the office in the middle of the night. However, I shall miss the afternoons, and in particular joining Ruthie and Alfie for the latter's baby club at Woodbridge's invaluable Children's Centre. This has become a pleasant and relaxing fortnightly routine for me over the last two months, and there was more fun today as the children did foot-prints with paint and boxfuls of secondhand clothes were delved through, whilst we caught up with Amy who as usual had brought Maddison along.

The earlier finishes have also allowed us to visit and help out Aunty Marian whilst Mum and Dad - who usually attend to her needs as they only live round the corner - have been travelling around Australia, and we made one last trip laden with bits and pieces for my father's relatively immobile sister after our couple of hours with Alfred's contemporaries. As ever, it was unexciting, but still a laid-back hour or so and nice to chat with her about ringing and ringers, which she still retains a keen interest in even twenty years after last touching a rope.

Ufford.She duly noted that we were going to Ufford for the Surprise Major practice, which although quite thin on numbers was eventually topped off by a decent course of Bristol Surprise Major, with Don Price getting the star-of-the-night award for even getting here, having got around a closure on the A12 so chaotic and disorganised that he had assumed it was a major accident that had just occurred, but was actually a planned closure for overnight roadworks!

Definitely not getting any awards unless it's for selfish so-and-so's of the week, are those who vandalised two doors in Dalham's tower in the process of trying unsuccessfully to nick something and the reprobates who stole two bells from the entrance of Little Saxham church overnight on Tuesday. Whilst there are far worse atrocities being committed across the world and closer to home, I find it staggering and dispiriting that the considerable organisational skills and effort that must have gone into stealing the best part of a tonne of bell metal can't be put to achieving in a legal activity that may give the culprits more satisfaction and who knows - if they could be bothered to find out - more money too, but we're used to having to share our air with folk of this disappointing nature, so it is a shame that the bells weren't perhaps better protected. Sadly, I presume the stolen artefacts are two of the 11cwt three that are listed on this website, which means at least one of the stolen bells could date from as far back as 1424, and having survived nearly six hundred years through all sorts of trials and tribulations will no doubt simply be melted down for the short-term gain of someone who will not care in the least about the community they have thieved from. It should act as a warning to other churches where bells are left on church floors, and perhaps we as a Guild could do more to help in such situations.

On a more positive note, Saturday sees the beginning of the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight. These sorts of events have proved very successful throughout the Districts in recent years, introducing ringers to quarter-peal ringing, giving many opportunities they might not otherwise have got and allowing others to hone their skills at something they may have been struggling with. So SE members, get organising or if you are unable to, then get in touch with District Ringing Master Tom Scase on 07756 796 950 or who would be delighted to arrange something for you! I hope to be able help out in the next couple of weeks, even if I shan't be available in the afternoons!


Wednesday 15th October 2014

I wasn't expecting a huge amount from this birthday. Midweek, insignificant age and during the increasingly sapping early shifts at work, which combined with the uplifting presence of Alfie meant this wasn't one for wild parties or letting my hair down! But as it turned out, this was one of my most memorable 15th Octobers!

Me in my new T-shirt.Whilst it did start with getting up in darkness for a 6am stint at John Catt Educational, the 1pm finish gave me an afternoon to spend the occasion with Ruthie and Alfred, beginning with a ferocious present opening session. One of the gifts I gratefully received was from my mother-in-law and Ron, a Dad's Army T-shirt with the caption 'you stupid boy' blazoned across it in bold writing, dedicated to the character of Private Frank Pike played brilliantly by Ian Lavender all those years ago in the extremely enjoyable sitcom that is even older than me, complete with a picture of him and some of his co-stars, so I instantly put that on and with the autumn sunshine shining brightly I suggested we go on a trip out to The Ramsholt Arms for lunch. After a tasty meal - thank you Mrs Munnings - overlooking the River Deben in this most isolated of spots down the end of a long and winding lane to nowhere, who should walk into this delightful outpost but Ian Lavender who played Private Frank Pike! Cue much giggling and nudging, as I contemplated approaching him.

Sadly my wife restrained me from going up to him, thrusting my T-shirt bedecked chest in his face and uttering the famous catchphrase uttered so often at his alter ego by Captain Mainwaring, and when his friend asked him what he wanted to drink, I resisted the temptation to shout across the bar "don't tell him Pike," which I'm convinced he would've found hilarious, but it was an amazing coincidence that helped create a day to remember.

Me getting my card from the Pettistree practice as Alfie watches on.Following a lovely phone call from Mason as he sang Happy Birthday to me, that day continued on later to Pettistree, the first time since the church had been filled with scaffolding and everything indoors covered in tarpaulin and cardboard, and with the only lighting being that coming from the ringing chamber and a couple of floodlights, it created a very strange atmosphere. That didn't stop the chocolate cake I'd brought along getting devoured, another rousing chorus of Happy Birthday sung at me and a card being thrust into my hands. Thanks guys, and for the footnote to the pre-practice quarter! The celebratory mood was further enhanced by Mike Whitby announcing he is due to become a granddad in April. Congratulations Sarah!

Across the border into Cambridgeshire, the feel-good factor was continuing with an impressive effort on the 31cwt tenor at Our Lady & the English Martyrs in Cambridge from George Salter. Ringing a bell over 30cwt to a peal is a real physical effort on higher numbers, but this is multiplied when rung on eight or six bells as you generally go backwards and forwards more often and you don't have the respite of waiting for another nine, eleven, thirteen or even fifteen bells to ring before your next go, though too much of a wait then makes it harder again, at least for me! Such a performance as tonight's is only really possible with good technique, so well done George!

I am almost certain that the 5088 of Bristol Surprise Major would have been followed with a trip to a pub, and of course our evening at SS Peter & Paul was topped off by a drink in The Greyhound, particularly today. Thank God for the family, friends, surroundings and celebrities that made even the most insignificant birthday memorable!


Tuesday 14th October 2014

Congratulations to Tim Stanford, who this evening was elected a member of The Ancient Society of College Youths, the latest of an encouraging number of Suffolk's ringers to have been elected to either the ASCY or their 'rivals' the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths. It is vindication of the talent that we have in this county, as despite the jokes that are exchanged between members of the two societies (and indeed within our household!), neither just let anyone in. Each application is scrutinised by some of the best ringers in the world, the abilities of said ringer evaluated, through recommendations, what they have achieved in ringing and through actually seeing them ring, and they are refused if not considered up to standard. It doesn't surprise me that Tim has passed muster, as he has been a joy to watch since he returned to the art that - like so many that we despair of - he had taken up as a child and then given up when things more interesting to teenagers took precedence, in the last couple of years taking in advice and grasping new things quickly through hard work and dedication. This is an election well deserved, and we're delighted to have him on board!

In an additional good bit of news, George Pipe - who along with David Potts put young Mr Stanford forward for election - is now home and recovering after a bad week last week, and will no doubt have been chuffed to bits about the news emanating from the big smoke.

In theory, my early shift allowed me to pop down to London to support him, but the reality is that more than two months of (occasionally extreme!) shift work is catching up on this old man who gets closer to forty than thirty tomorrow. Thankfully this is the last week of this campaign and its early starts and late finishes, but after my (hopefully!) final 4am start this year, I was shattered this evening.

That said, my tiredness could also be put down to a draining afternoon of visiting Ruthie's Nan. Usually this is a pleasant trip, a laid-back and often fascinating hour or two listening to her reminisce of times past, but sadly she's been a little unwell over the last week or so, and wasn't fully with it today. Instead, the main focus was the visit of some carers as they look to keep a close eye on her, helped further by her nephew Richard and his wife Mary, though Alfie's presence cheered our host up no end.

Beyond that and a quick trip to E.B. Buttons see Kate and Ron, things wound down considerably for me, whilst events got going in the capital. Welcome Tim!


Monday 13th October 2014

Despite the restriction of only being able to ring the front eight this evening and almost certainly into next week, there were many positives tonight, as more opportunities availed themselves to those still more at home on lower numbers at the moment, some decent eight-bell ringing was achieved and we welcomed Neil and his son Sammy, who are learning to ring at Rushmere St Andrew on Friday nights, but were encouraged to come up here as well by Saturday's Tower Open Day. And having spent last week in York, York came to us this week, in the form of Peter Sanderson at least, a very accomplished Minster ringer whose wife Tina was once a regular here.

It was good to see him, and his help was invaluable as we tried to test our brains (some more than others!) to spliced Double Norwich Court Bob and Bristol Surprise, as well as some Glasgow Surprise, with numbers low as the lack of higher number ringing understandably put many off who travel considerable distances, at the end of a day of filthy weather.

Not that that stopped Kate, Ruthie, Alfie and me from returning to The Mulberry Tree for our now traditional post-practice wait for Ron, as we also made the best of being restricted by not being allowed in The Cricketers!


Sunday 12th October 2014

God willing there will be a functioning clapper back in the tenth at St Mary-le-Tower during the forthcoming week, but for now we are having to make do with being restricted to ringing on the front eight. Nonetheless we were delighted to see Ralph Earey accompanied by his wife Tessa and daughter Eleanor, and also to welcome Rebecca Meyer who came up with George Salter.

I had the pleasure of the company of this young couple on the way to Grundisburgh, as the daughter of Simon, the current Ringing Master of The Ancient Society of College Youths wanted to grab the finest twelve in the village, though with Stephen Pettman among others away, she was unable to sample all twelve being rung here either.

The Norman Tower.She did however later ring her first quarter of Doubles in hand at her boyfriend's guesthouse, so well done to her and also to Clare Veal, Deborah Blumfield and Nathan Colman who rang their first of Erin Caters in the 1295 on the back ten at The Norman Tower, whilst the second-Sunday Aldeburgh peal band were successful with a 5056 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at the usual venue.

With the start of the last of the early shifts for this year at John Catt tomorrow, this afternoon duly wound-down somewhat for me at least, with Mason returned early to his mother, and sensations of immense tiredness washing over me just at the thought of the 4am start in the morning, but we were at least able to host a visit from bridesmaid and best friend of Ruthie's, Fergie, who was up from Brighton having yesterday attended a wedding, one of four in five weeks for the popular girl! England's 1-0 win in Estonia as they aim to qualify for the 2016 European Championships kept us occupied later, another win before they continue with their fixtures next month, by which time we hope to have all twelve bells available to us at SMLT!


Saturday 11th October 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.What constitutes and makes a successful open tower day has been discussed on here before. My personal view is that the very least you should be hoping for is raising the public's awareness and understanding of what we do, but if you can get at least one recruit than it is certainly worthwhile. I have had different experiences of such occasions, some where hardly anyone has come but new ringers have been recruited, some where lots of new ringers have been recruited but for elsewhere, and some where loads of people have climbed the tower but none have shown any interest in taking up this wonderful hobby. Today's at St Mary-le-Tower can be considered a success on many fronts, though quite how much only time will tell.

The Vestey Ring outside St Mary-le-Tower for the Tower Open Day.The Vestey Ring outside St Mary-le-Tower for the Tower Open Day.The Vestey Ring outside St Mary-le-Tower for the Tower Open Day.Amanda Richmond giving a talk to visitors in St Mary-le-Tower ringing chamber at the Tower Open Day.Tower bell-ringing demonstration in St Mary-le-Tower ringing chamber at the Tower Open Day.Handbell demonstration in St Mary-le-Tower at Tower Open Day.

The day involved a lost quarter of Grandsire Triples on the front eight, but then three tower tours that involved an explanation of ringing and Q & A session led superbly by Amanda Richmond, a demonstration of ringing on the middle-six (all we could ring on once we'd found room for all the visitors!), an exhibition of handbell ringing and an interesting talk by Owen Claxton up amongst the bells. Downstairs in the churchyard, The Vestey Ring was doing precisely what it was designed to do by attracting the attention of the many shoppers passing by and bringing them within the mysterious walls of the big church that a large proportion of those that came in wouldn't have otherwise have considered penetrating - I would urge all those planning on having an open tower day to hire this invaluable PR tool to get people's attention! The result was young and old asking about when practice night was and how to go about learning, and a mixture of learners from elsewhere, ringers who have moved into Ipswich and former ringers being inspired to possibly come up. Well done to Amanda and Owen on enthralling so many, and to David Potts, Stephen Cheek and Diana Pipe on organising it all.

Whilst our day was a massive success, sadly the same couldn't be said for the attempt to break the record for the most changes of Surprise Maximus ever rung, as the 21,216 of Cambridge at South Petherton was apparently lost about four hours into what would've been a fourteen hour peal as bells had got out of course, though they did succeed with a 5376 afterwards!

More successfully, a Suffolk band dared to go north of the border to ring a quarter at Surlingham in Norfolk, but otherwise it was a quiet day that saw us visit Aunty Marian on an afternoon that also saw the North-West District kick-off the 2014 ADM season that is planned to continue with the North-East District's big day at the delightful Theberton on 8th November, the South-West District meeting at St Gregory in Sudbury two weeks later, before the South-East District hold theirs at St Mary's Church Centre in Woodbridge, with ringing at Hasketon in the afternoon and then evening ringing on the 25cwt eight in our town of residence on 6th December. Hopefully we'll have some successful ADM's to accompany some successful tower open days.


Friday 10th October 2014

It was time to return home today, after a marvellous week in Yorkshire, as Ron very kindly drove Ruthie, Alfie and myself home, whilst the mother-in-law dropped Clare and Katelynn off at the station. Thank you Kate for inviting us, I hope you had a good fiftieth birthday week.

Someone else celebrating a fiftieth birthday is Tig Sweet, who marked it by ringing in the success at Helmingham with the FNQPC, a part of another busy day of ringing in the county. Happy Birthday Tig, and well done Kevin Ward and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Surfleet Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Edwardstone, whilst there was also a 1296 of Stedman Triples at Rendham.

However, there was also a notable performance from a young Suffolk ringer, ironically in the county we departed today, and city we have spent much time in over the last few days, as Lucy Williamson rang her first quarter on eight at St Lawrence in York, just a couple of weeks after arriving there to study at the local university. Well done Lucy, I can categorically say you've gone to a very nice place - we're sorry to be leaving!


Thursday 9th October 2014

Yesterday it was planes, today it was trains, as we headed to Pickering to jump on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a line that takes you across some stunning countryside, through Goathland, which is used as Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter Films and as Aidensfield in Heartbeat, and ultimately onto Whitby. We didn't go all the way to the coast, instead stopping at Grosmont, where we enjoyed lunch in the station rather than The Station Tavern across the track which sadly didn't do sandwiches, but nonetheless is in a lovely spot by the level crossing, before we headed off to explore the engine sheds via what was reputedly the first tunnel to be built for trains.

Tomorrow, their 'Railway in Wartime' weekend begins, and it seems it is a hugely popular occasion. Indeed, the scene was already set, with wartime props adorning the stations along the line, including taped up windows, and some were even in costume, all making for a tremendous atmosphere on a lovely sunny autumnal day, that topped off a fantastic week of trips out.

Back in Suffolk, an impressive quarter of six-spliced Surprise Minor was rung at Tostock, but after a couple of days of planes and trains, the seven of us returned to The Owl Hotel in automobiles.


Wednesday 8th October 2014

Only a week until my insignificant 36th birthday, but this week is all about marking my mother-in-law Kate's more significant 50th, and we continued doing just that with a trip to the Yorkshire Air Museum, based at what was once RAF Elvington just outside York, and another fascinating day out, which on this occasion we shared with the police training their dogs to find explosives!

Whilst we were exploring the history of flight and looking round the huge gathering of planes, before then returning to our home for the week at The Owl Hotel in Hambleton, there was another busy day of ringing back in Suffolk. Well done to Colin and George Salter on ringing their most methods in hand in the success at home with their house-guest, and to Andrea Alderton, Richard Brewster and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first quarter of Beverley Surprise Minor in the 1296 at Preston St Mary, whilst a significant length at Pettistree also marked Mrs Eagle's birthday, as celebrations continued down south as well as up north.


Tuesday 7th October 2014

My preference to travel by car rather than public transport wherever possible and practical is not something I make a secret of. The ability to just jump in the car and go, rather than hanging around for buses or trains, having the control - most of the time at least - to go around hold-ups rather than just spend hours helplessly waiting for such hold-ups to be dealt with - I could go on, but you'll be glad I'm not going to.

However, travelling by rail does have its benefits, at least on long journeys like the one I undertook today to get back to Yorkshire. Whilst such a trip by road takes you along bypasses understandably hiding you away from the communities along the way, the train takes you straight through the communities of the UK without the hold-ups associated with taking your car through the traffic lights that most centres are mystifyingly obsessed with. As a result, and without needing to concentrate on driving, you see far more along the way, and personally I like to try and identify church towers with bells, incredibly nerdy and trainspotteresque I know, but something that passed the time on the three-hours-plus I spent trundling the tracks this morning. In Suffolk it is fairly easy to spot such towers, starting of course with the dominant structure that holds the 25cwt eight of St Mary the Virgin at Woodbridge, the many of Ipswich - most noticeably St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence - before Stowmarket's dainty spire dances across the rooftops as you pull in and out of the town's station, the village sixes of Thurston and Great Barton are passed, and Bury St Edmunds Cathedral can be spied, though not The Norman Tower admittedly.

Travelling out beyond our borders and into Cambridgeshire and northwards, my geography and knowledge of towers with ringable bells is hazier, though the various stops allow me to get my bearings a little, with St Mary in Ely in the shadow of the instantly distinguishable Cathedral the first recognisable peal outside of the homeland, prior to the eights at St Andrew and St Mary both in view as you leave Whittlesey station, before the next change of train at Peterborough is carried out in sight of the eight at St John the Baptist and twelve at the third cathedral of today's travels. The last leg took in the scaffold-clad and slender but still imposing tower in Grantham which houses one the newest twelves in ringing, and further down the line I passed the 30cwt eight at St George's in Doncaster, before the granddaddy of them all, The Minster loomed large as I entered York to be reunited with the others I had left behind only yesterday.

It was great to see Ruthie and Alfie in particular, but generally to be back on the birthday adventures of the mother-in-law, which this afternoon took us to Eden Camp, a fascinating museum on the Second World War in a former prisoner of war camp. This is a period that has always intrigued me, perhaps because of the stories of my grandparents who lived through it in different ways, with one grandfather finding himself in Iceland and then the beaches of Dunkirk, the other needed back in the UK for his skills. I've always enjoyed 'Allo 'Allo and Dad's Army, and I have fond childhood memories of visits to places and people directly involved in the 1939-45 conflict, like Belgium, Holland and Normandy. For all the rose-tinted views of the time, it clearly isn't one that I would've wanted to live through. As we explored the twenty or so huts that each brought a different element of the war to life, it served to remind me - not that I really needed it - that these were tough times, without the hindsight that we now have of when and how it would all finish. Rationing, constant bombing, blackouts, loved ones disappearing for months at a time and often not coming back, children removed from their parents through evacuation, pubs limiting customers to sometimes as little as a half-a-pint per night and of course the cessation of bellringing amongst much, much else all contributed to what must have been a hellish six years. However, the spirit (though not as universal as the romantic view of the time would have you believe) of togetherness and selflessness is something I do wish we had more of these days, and this was encapsulated perfectly in a location that I could've spent many more hours exploring. Well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area - just leave yourself all day!

We returned to The Owl stuffed with information, whilst back home a quarter was rung pre-practice on the back six at Offton, a tower I can safely say I definitely didn't see from the train!


Monday 6th October 2014

I think it's fair to say, St Mary-le-Tower practice didn't exactly go to plan this evening. The attendance was still relatively low this evening, though better than it has been in recent weeks, helped by the visit of Margaret Chapman with Katharine Salter, the owner of Pig-le-Tower currently stopping with the owners of The Wolery, and even enough gathered to have a shot at Newgate Surprise Maximus.

Sadly, that wasn't to happen, as during the announcements, George Pipe - who has been steadily improving over the last few months but is still quite frail - was taken ill, and meant that with Amanda Richmond helping him magnificently and his wife Di supporting him, we didn't have enough to ring Newgate, and so with GWP keen for us to get on with things as he recovered, we grabbed hold for some London (No.3) Surprise Royal, which was going well until an all too familiar thud and crash from two floors above, and Paul Bray was without sound on the tenth of the twelve. The clapper shaft had snapped, with the slider smashed in the fallout, and although this is usually a fate to befall the eleventh's clapper, we have got used in the last few years to at least one of our back bells being out of order for a period of time, and so we know the drill for the time being, although hopefully Plan B will only be needed for a short while.

The premature finish allowed Mike Whitby and Amanda to gently take George down the stairs and help Di return him home where he had thankfully improved quite considerably, some to go upstairs to inspect the damage, and others to accompany the visiting Margaret in ringing the SMLT handbells. Many of us eventually ended up in The Cricketers, a rare visit for myself, as I was back in Suffolk merely for the night whilst Ruthie and Alfie remained in Yorkshire.

After a trip to the National Railway Museum, today's journey down on the train was another long one that again involved a change at Peterborough and taxi to Woodbridge, but also a chance meeting with Guild Annual Report Editor George Reynolds on his way back from work at Ely Cathedral, a surreal day that ended with that surreal evening.


Sunday 5th October 2014

Happy 50th Birthday Kate Eagle, former South-East District Ringing Master, once a regular in the hugely successful second-Sunday Aldeburgh peals and still a loyal supporter of Suffolk ringing generally, despite also being very busy through her considerable involvement as District Commissioner for the Guides, Brownies and Rainbows, not to mention the nature of her work that essentially sees her on call twenty-four-seven most of the time. She is of course all that and more to us and we will be forever grateful for her generous support in terms of time, advice and money over the years, and her patience with us at times, so we were delighted to be able to share her big day, as we again headed into York for another fun day out.

This time we were off to the famous Jorvik Viking Centre, a place that most will know is incredibly interesting and kept the children enthralled to varying degrees and for varying reasons! A leisurely breakfast meant that we didn't get to the city centre and this fascinating attraction until almost half the day had gone, and so having been taken back to the York of a millennia ago and grabbed a cuppa and a bite to eat, we were back on the park 'n' ride and returning to Hambleton for the celebrations back at The Owl Hotel.

Those celebrations were kicked-off in Clare and Katelynn's room with a game of pass-the-parcel with something for everyone, and the opening of many cards, including one from the Pettistree ringers complete with the obligatory sprinkles supplied by Hazel Judge, which accompanied the 1260 of Doubles rung by them today dedicated to my mother-in-law's significant landmark! The evening was begun spectacularly by Ron, who - dressed in full Scottish dress - surprised the birthday girl with a rendition of Happy Birthday on the bagpipes as she entered the pub for her birthday meal.

The aforementioned quarter at SS Peter & Paul wasn't the only performance from the homeland today, with another 1260 of Doubles rung at Sweffling, spliced Surprise Major in five methods at Bardwell and Surprise Minor at St Margaret in Ipswich, but unusually for a Sunday there was no ringing for us - we were too busy celebrating!


Saturday 4th October 2014

After a day of travelling yesterday, today saw the real start of our breakaway to celebrate Kate's significant birthday tomorrow. The natural port of call was nearby York, a city laden with places of interest to visit, and which we only scraped the tip of the iceberg of when we came to this fine city at the end of July. That said, we returned to one of the places we went to back then, the Castle Museum. Even having been round this once recently, there was still plenty to see that we'd missed the first time around, and lots to reacquaint ourselves with. And last time we toured this fantastic institution, we had rather been rushed out as we were there at the end of the day, so it was nice to go round at a more leisurely pace.

Earlier we had been to a location completely new to us, and very exciting for the youngsters and adults alike - York's Chocolate Story! This is a fascinating guided tour through the history of chocolate making in the city, beginning with a description that included the sound of the Minster's bells, and ended with us making our own chocolate lollies.

It was a lovely day out topped off with a meal back at our base at The Owl Hotel in Hambleton, whilst in Suffolk there was a busy day of ringing, with three peals rung under three different names. Well done to Craig Homewood on ringing his first Bristol Surprise Major in the Non Association 5184 at Wilby, and congratulations to Jeremy Spiller for ringing his 1600th peal, whilst a band with the average age of just seventeen rang their first of Plain Bob Doubles at The Wolery for the Young Ringers Association, and congratulations to Colin Salter on ringing his one hundredth this year in the one peal rung for our local Guild at Halesworth. Meanwhile, it was nice to see Stephen Bedford back in the county in our absence and ringing a quarter at Rendham to celebrate his and his wife Penny's Silver Wedding Anniversary, whilst Alex Brett-Holt was ringing her most methods and Andrea Alderton her first as cover in the 1260 of Doubles at Woolpit - well done Alex and Andrea! I hope you were having as much fun as we were!


Friday 3rd October 2014

A day that started early in the morning at John Catt Educational with darkness outside, finished in a hotel in Yorkshire late in the evening with darkness outside. In between, a race against time saw me jump into a taxi with Mason straight after school to get to Ipswich Railway Station in time to begin a train journey to York via Peterborough, as we aimed to get up to England's largest county for the start of my mother-in-law Kate's weekend of celebration for her fiftieth birthday on Sunday.

The destination was chosen partly because it is a superb location for a break away, as we discovered a couple of months ago on the Rambling Ringers' Tour, but also because it is a nice halfway point to meet up with my wife's sister and niece, Clare and Katelynn who were travelling down for the celebrations from Scotland, and along with Ruthie, Alfie, and Ron were already at The Owl Hotel in Hambleton awaiting our arrival, once the star of the weekend had picked myself and the boy up from York Railway Station.

Back in the homeland we left behind, bells were still turned, with a peal at Haughley and a quarter at Earl Stonham from the FNQPC - get well soon Clive!

No ringing for us though, as we caught our breath after a long day on many counts, from darkness to darkness!


Thursday 2nd October 2014

This afternoon I found myself shaking a tambourine along to Old MacDonald and trying to work out what sound a giraffe makes. Such are the situations a once sane person (honestly, I was once sane!) finds themselves in the name of parenthood. Yes, it was Thursday afternoon at baby club and my bi-weekly accompaniment of Ruthie and Alfie as I am on early shifts at work, and as usual it was good fun, as Mrs Munnings put together Alfred's scrapbook whilst he played with the array of toys available and interacted with his contemporaries.

Martlesham.By the evening, my wife was at choir practice, and it was as I was putting AJM into the car to go and collect his mother that I heard an unusual sound - bells. Not entirely unusual per se of course. I've heard a few. But whilst we occasionally hear the 25cwt eight of Woodbridge through the forest and over the hill that separates us from the town's parish church, these were definitely not emanating from there. Having taken a moment to consider my geography, I ascertained that it was almost certainly the 6cwt three of St Mary in nearby Martlesham being chimed, their ancient tones wafting through the darkness from across the creek. I've never heard them before, and assumed their use tonight was connected to an eight 'o' clock service as it was about five to, but they were still going when I returned with my beloved ten or fifteen minutes later, so quite why they were in action on this occasion and who they were, I don't know.

Not that I would expect it to be, but I can categorically say that the haphazard chiming wasn't down to those who partook in the quarter at Barrow, or those who were helping George Vant ring his first peal inside in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at The Wolery, as they all have an alibi. Well done George!

Beccles.Meanwhile, support is needed at two venues on Saturday. One is to help the ringers at Beccles ring from about 4.15pm onwards for a choir festival, and if you can, please get in touch with either 01502 715472, or 01502 711318, so that they can ensure more than six are rung, and hopefully all ten!

Tuddenham St Martin.The other is the South-East District Practice at Tuddenham St Martin from 10am to noon, a tower not often visited by the District or Guild, and often just 'that church on the hill you pass on the way in and out of Ipswich', so this is an opportunity to ring somewhere different, and as a learner to practice with a greater number of experienced ringers than you may normally be used to and for experienced ringers to guide ringers that may potentially be able to help you in your aims in the future, whether that is manning a twelve-bell tower or ringing peals of as high a quality as possible.

We shall be away this weekend, but along with the SE District Ringing Master, the Secretary has been doing all she can to ensure that the rope that was broken during a recent peal attempt is fixed at a tower with no band and no correspondent that rings, so please don't let her and Tom Scase's efforts go to waste. But leave your tambourine at home please.


Wednesday 1st October 2014

Only one day into October, and the Guild already has three peals to its name this month, as indeed does David Salter and his two eldest sons George and Colin.

Wissett.Having rung his 700th different Suffolk bell to a peal in the morning's success at Wissett, DGS then also called a 5040 at Clopton, before the three males of the family completed the hat-trick at home with a 5024 of Overstone Surprise Major, which is essentially Rutland messed about on the front. I should know, as I was ringing in the latter, my first in the little blue shed since March.

Pettistree.My wife meanwhile was at Pettistree, where significant birthdays were the order of the day, with Mrs Munnings partaking in a quarter of Double Grandsire Doubles to celebrate the fortieth birthday of Ben Waterson - son of Gill, brother of Molly and once a regular ringer in these parts - as Ron very kindly looked after Alfie, before a practice at the apparently heavily-scaffolded SS Peter & Paul and session in The Greyhound saw fizzy, sandwiches and cakes generously laid on for my mother-in-law's forthcoming fiftieth, the end of which I was able to join having already enjoyed the Salter's typically wonderful hospitality back in Old Stoke, where I heard all about GMS's run of bad-luck on the peal-ringing front. His three over the previous few hours followed on from four-in-a-row lost, including one of Bristol Surprise Maximus at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham on Monday night due to the wrist of one of the band giving up forty minutes in, and one at Aldgate in London yesterday, lost after 2hrs41mins! Bad luck George!

Earlier, it had been an exciting day for Alfred as we gave him a go in his new, forward-facing car seat, his old one now a very cramped space for the fast growing 'little' chap, as we took advantage of my early shift at work to get stuff done. October has already been quite busy.


Tuesday 30th September 2014

Mason's rearranged operation planned for 9th October at Great Ormond Street Hospital was today postponed for the second time, frustrating and annoying in equal measure, but in the circumstances of a world-renowned busy hospital like this, understandable. At least he didn't get all the way down there this time before he discovered! Still, it will probably mean more potential rearranging at an unspecified date some time in the near (hopefully!) future, and drags things out for the li'l chap, who it has to be said has taken everything thus far in his stride magnificently.

The news followed on from another early shift, which allowed us a trip over to Felixstowe to get some bits and pieces, and our second visit to my father's sister Aunty Marian in as many afternoons, but no ringing.

Wickham Skeith.Others were elsewhere, with another peal at Wickham Skeith, just two days after the last one. On this occasion, the 5040 saw David Salter ring his 1600th peal for the Suffolk Guild, another deserved landmark for this former two-time Ringing Master of the SGR. Congratulations David!

It was at least a less frustrating day for him than it was for us.


Monday 29th September 2014

Tonight at St Mary-le-Tower was the type that when I was Ringing Master here my heart would sink. On a wet and miserable evening outside, darkness now set in as we arrived, so few were there initially that Amanda Richmond - who was running things until current Ringing Master David Potts could get in - was guiding Peter Davies through ringing down on five. More did turn up thankfully, but only just enough to ring all twelve, which with Alfie in need of attention limited our options.

Still, David did well to weave something out of the restrictive circumstances, and although Grandsire Triples was halted before it had even started when the second ringer - and conductor - forgot to lead, and Yorkshire Surprise Royal took far more attempts than it should have to ring, there was a good half-course of Cambridge Surprise Royal, some fun with Double Norwich Court Bob (or Double Court as the conductor tried on more than one occasion to get us to ring!) and Bristol Surprise Major spliced, and a climax of some superb eight-spliced Surprise Major, which any practice would be chuffed with.

Whilst a smaller than normal crowd went on to The Cricketers, our usual small family group went on to The Mulberry Tree as usual for a drink as we awaited Ron's return from his bagpipe practice nearby.

Wickham Skeith.However, there seems there were enough at Ixworth for today's 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major, and indeed yesterday for the peal of Norwich Surprise Minor at Wickham Skeith to raise money for an additional odd-struckness meter. And whilst it was outside of the Guild, it is worth noting Liz Sutherland's 500th quarter in the success on Sunday within Suffolk's borders at Lowestoft. Congratulations Liz!

Hollesley.Meanwhile, there was notable news coming from Hollesley, where Alan McBurnie has stepped down from being Ringing Master there, after many, many years. For a long time he has essentially been Mr Hollesley, and what he has achieved in this geographically isolated spot has been phenomenal, with not only an active band, but one which has been capable of ringing Surprise Major, with learners continuing to come through. As Saturday's outing showed, he has created a social atmosphere that has no doubt contributed to this success, as has the simulator that he has been a real champion of, and when I lived in the village I really enjoyed the Friday night practices there. He has left things in good hands mind, with Peter Harper now the Ringing Master and Micky McBurnie the Deputy Ringing Master, but it is certainly worth congratulating Alan on all he has achieved at the 16cwt eight on the coast and thanking him for his work there. At least he hasn't got to preside over nights like tonight anymore!


Sunday 28th September 2014

Normally I'd drag him out of bed, but in the circumstances it seemed kinder - and better for him - to let Mason lay-in this morning, as he slept until 10.30, meaning of course that we missed ringing. A Sunday morning in the house isn't my idea of fun, the TV companies admirably doing their bit to boost church attendances by putting a simply awful array of programming on, and with Alfie adorable but ratty and his mummy and daddy slightly tired from spending an hour or so settling him down after he awoke at 5.30am, motivation to do anything useful around the place was thin on the ground. But it was far more important that the li'l chap gets his energy levels back up and fights off his illness, especially with his already rearranged operation booked in for just eleven days time.

Twatt, ShetlandRuthie did pop out to sing in the choir at a service for the Masons at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge this afternoon, with an eye-catching collection of dress on show, but otherwise it was a very quiet day for us, though my wife still managed to get indirectly and unintentionally embroiled in the scandal of the disappearing quarter. For the last few days, the 1260 of Twatt Bob Minor that Mrs Munnings partook in prior to Pettistree practice eleven days ago has been dodging with Alan Regin's 5000th peal at the top of the BellBoard Featured Performance leaderboard, unusual for a routine quarter in Suffolk. However, today it was mysteriously taken off said leaderboard altogether. Has someone had a sense-of-humour bypass? Are they unaware that it is the name of two remote settlements in the Shetland Islands, and not what they may be thinking it is? Perhaps the Birmingham/Bristol/Cambridge/London mafia, unhappy at this li'l ol' performance infiltrating their spectacular peals of spliced have put a hit on it. Or has the Foreign Office asserted their powers? Has anyone actually seen or heard Alex Tatlow since it was removed?

It's not important of course, but it is odd. I don't know if it is unprecedented to have something leading the board removed, but we have had some truly ridiculous and dubious performances get to the top that I can't recall being taken down, though my memory may be failing me here. Handbell quarters in fields whilst people were laying in cow-pats, and in the toilets at a Northern University Associations' weekend spring to mind! Whether this is comparable to when 'Relax' by Frankie Goes to Hollywood was banned by the BBC which then promptly gave the song the kind of PR it could only have dreamed off, and the 17th September local success gets more coverage because of this strange move, I don't know, but the chances are it would've been knocked-off the top legitimately by the impressive spliced 147 Treble-Dodging methods in 6480 changes at St John-on-the-Wall in Bristol anyway. Slightly more energetic than our day!


Saturday 27th September 2014

Before I picked up a poorly Mason this morning, our plan to go on the Hollesley outing to south Norfolk was a little uncertain. If he was still really ill, we would have reluctantly have pulled out of the adventures north of the border. However, with a subdued but still active seven-year-old collected, we were set to give him a bit of fresh air on a gorgeously sunny and warm day, and join our ringing friends from the coast as they explored the other side of the Waveney.

Ringing at Kenninghall.Ringing at Kenninghall.Carleton Rode.Gathered at The Gamekeeper in Old Buckenham.Bressingham.

With the change of plans first thing this morning, we got up there too late to make it to the first tower of North Lopham, but we were able to contribute to the remaining two towers of the morning, the gallery ring of eight at Kenninghall, and the ground-floor six at Carleton Rode, enjoy a superb meal in the grand hall in The Gamekeeper on the picturesque green at Old Buckenham (complete with piano playing by Micky McBurnie!), and then I was able to help out for a short while on the pretty GF six at Bressingham. By then though, everything had caught up with the eldest son, and whereas usually he'd be bounding around the church and/or churchyard, he was asleep in the back of the car alongside Alfie, Ruthie keeping an eye on them. Whilst it would've been preferable in the ideal world to help the the sizeable but mixed-abilities band on the 22cwt eight at Diss, it wouldn't be practical for, nor fair on the patient, so we made the journey back to Woodbridge early.

Still, we had an enjoyable day out. Despite the warm temperatures for the time of year, autumn has begun taking effect, with the many shades of orange, red, yellow and brown leaves making for a beautiful sight as we made our way through the beautiful landscape of East Anglia. And it was nice to meet the new learners from the 16cwt eight of our hosts, with Emma and her mother Clare, and Trish all coming along nicely, in no small part due to the additional Thursday evening practice that the simulator at All Saints offers them. Importantly, they are doing it with a smile. It's always nice to see newcomers enjoying their ringing, and it was further proof of the value of getting learners out and using as many of the mediums that ringing gives us rather just turning up out of duty on the practice night and Sunday morning. Today was useful for them, and offered much range from call-changes to Cambridge, London, Norwich and Sandiacre Surprise Minor and Yorkshire Surprise Major.

So thank you Alan McBurnie for organising it all, I'm just sorry that Mason wasn't well enough to enjoy it as much as he normally would.


Friday 26th September 2014

When he was about Alfie's age, I remember taking Mason out in the car to try and settle him down when he was inexplicably inconsolable, usually late at night or even in the early hours when we were keenest for him to go to sleep, as the movement of the car quickly sent him off, even when he was at his worst. At the time, I was living in Shottisham, so my trips in darkness were usually down to Bawdsey Manor and back, and it seemed to work.

His younger brother also seems to be soothed easily by a trip in the car, so after a long, late day, after a long, late week at work, and with Alfred suffering from his teething and exhaustingly upset, I decided to take him out up the A12 to Wickham Market and back. It didn't immediately pay-off, but it calmed him down, and seemed to hasten his night's sleep on, so in that respect it did the trick.

As it happened, tonight was a rare Friday night without AJM's elder sibling, as the poor li'l chap has come down with a rather nasty chest infection. Having been to the doctor's yesterday, he has had the last couple of days off school and was apparently extremely unwell today, so it was thought prudent to wait until tomorrow morning to collect him, hopefully when he'll be a bit more alert.

So an unusual last night of the working week for us, but as usual for the start of the weekend, FNQPC were successful, on this occasion with a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Ashbocking. Hopefully no one fell asleep...


Thursday 25th September 2014

When I'm on late shifts at work on a Thursday, the family tends to be scattered around in the evening. Now that we're back into term-time, Mason is at his mother's in Hasketon, Ruthie is at choir and with me at the office until well after the start of my wife's singing sessions, something has to be done with Alfie. Last time he accompanied his mummy, but it wasn't entirely practical, so this time his gran very kindly picked him up to take him on the Woodbridge Trail, a treasure hunt with chocolate, before joining her and the Brownie's senior section to celebrate her forthcoming significant birthday.

With both his parents finished with their activities, we picked him up in one of the timber-framed rooms in Church House, surrounded by cooing women, food, drink and decorations - he wasn't overly happy to be leaving! Unfortunately for him, it's back to early shifts next week, so he'll probably have to spend Thursday evening with daddy!


Wednesday 24th September 2014

These days we often ponder how we ever coped without certain aspects of society. Meeting people out and about without mobile phones must have been extremely difficult. Now if you want to know more on Tudor England or the geography of Africa, you merely write such phrases into the internet and discover your answer instantly, rather than painstakingly looking for and then poring over books. Rather than having to take your holiday snaps into town to be developed, you can now see them and show them off to the world immediately. Peal bands can often be organised at the click of a button via email, Facebook or Twitter instead of hours of phone-calls and letters. And many of us remember waiting weeks to first see their ringing performances and those of others in The Ringing World before Campanophile came along and enabled peals and quarters to be revealed to ringers across the globe  before most of the band has even got home!

Yes, this superb ringing institution now seems part of the furniture, but for some while it has been noticed that the articles on the front page haven't been updated since the end of last year, and that Tony and Pamela, the dedicated pair behind it have been ill, the former very seriously so unfortunately. With no apparent plan of how to keep it going if a similar disaster as befell it a few years back happens again, ringing social media has in the last few days been awash with speculation on its future, and its days sadly seem numbered.

Preston St Mary.We do of course now have BellBoard, which has elements that I like, such as the most popular performances section, but I find it harder and slower to navigate than it's elder counterpart, which I would be sad to see go, though not as much so as a certain ringer from Old Stoke! Either way, both sites report the usual successful Wednesday quarters at Preston St Mary and Pettistree from today. Well done to Stephen Dawson, Richard Brewster and David Howe on ringing their first blows of York Surprise Minor in the former, with David conducting it into the bargain.

The latter success preempted another good and varied practice at the ground-floor six of SS Peter & Paul, with the social element carried over into The Greyhound, which was much quieter than normal, but still a welcome port of call after an evening's ringing. I'm not sure how we coped without it before!


Tuesday 23rd September 2014

Half-way through another late shift at work, I had lunch with Ruthie's best friend Fergie, back in her home town from Brighton for a few days. However, my wife was also there, despite the assertion by Robert Beavis via facebook that he had bumped into her in Cumbria.

It wasn't the only place on the internet that Mrs Munnings featured, as the quarter of Twatt Bob Minor at Pettistree that she partook in last week had briefly became the featured performance on the front page of BellBoard, impressively taking over from Alan Regin's 5000th peal and leading a pack that includes the recent 5055 of Stedman Caters at Grundisburgh. Heady days indeed for Suffolk ringing!

Taking a break from looking back, there are events to look ahead to, all being well, with the South-West District Practice at St Peter's in Sudbury on Saturday evening, the Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on the first day of October, the South-East District Practice at Tuddenham St Martin three days later and then the Monthly Practice at Bacton on Wednesday 8th. Please do support events when and where you can.

Alongside lunch with our bridesmaid however, my beloved's online shenanigans were the highlight of an otherwise quiet day.


Monday 22nd September 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.St Mary-le-Tower practice being on a Monday has its disadvantages. Such as the fact that many of the centres of twelve-bell ringing in East Anglia, like Cambridge Great St Mary, Chelmsford Cathedral and Norwich St Peter Mancroft all have their weekly sessions on the same night. When I was Ringing Master at SMLT a few years back, I explored the possibility of moving ours to a different night as a way of enabling experienced higher-number ringers from those towers to come here to help us and to allow those who wished to go to our neighbours on the first evening of the working week to further their Cinques and Maximus ringing to do so without missing ringing in Ipswich. It very quickly became evident it was a non-starter, as it would probably see us lose a lot of our regulars, who are often booked up on most and if not all of the other evenings available to us, which would totally defeat the purpose of such a move. Still, in the ideal world it would be great to have all the practices on separate days - now incorporating The Norman Tower of course - and thus giving the region's twelve-bell ringers the freedom to ring together in larger numbers and ultimately achieve more. Don't ask me where Grundisburgh fits into it all!

There are other downsides too, like it clashing with choir practice whenever they have one of their big concerts coming up, thus making it difficult to find space to park, though I'm not convinced they don't put their practice on a Monday because that's when we practice! I shan't go down the conspiracy route again though...

On the plus side, it is usually a good way to kickstart the week, and does fit in with the plans of many of the ringers who do come along and benefit us considerably. And it rarely clashes with me keeping up with how Ipswich Town are getting on, that typically being the domain of Saturdays, Tuesdays and occasionally Sundays. Not on this occasion though, as Sky TV very recently decreed that they were going to show the Tractor Boys fixture at Wigan Athletic tonight, a decision not entirely met with enthusiasm from those from Suffolk who had already bought tickets and made plans to travel up to the North-West for the weekend. I went to watch Town play there nearly ten-years ago, and it is not the most inspiring place to go on autumnal Monday night! And although watching the match on the televisual box wasn't the only reason for not going to the county's heaviest twelve this evening - Kate's absence seeing Dawn French (not for work reasons, but to watch her perform you understand!) and a late shift at work also made it impractical to get along this week - it was slightly annoying that it clashed with our usual plans.

That said, this was the most fun I've had watching ITFC for a long time. We were brilliant for the first seventy-five minutes, going 2-0 up at a venue we'd never even scored at let alone won at before this match, and which is home to a team who were relegated from the Premier League and won the FA Cup only just over a year ago and one of the favourites for promotion this time round. Although we threatened to undo all that good work in the last fifteen minutes and conceded a goal, we hung on for our third victory in a row. It was a very satisfactory evening, but I'm looking forward to getting back to St Mary-le-Tower next Monday!


Sunday 21st September 2014

There was a treat for Mason today, as he attended the seventh birthday party of his partner in crime, Henry Salter. A lively afternoon in Rectory Road saw the contemporaries dashing around and partaking in pass-the-parcel and musical statues, as well as devouring much party food. My eldest definitely enjoyed it, and more importantly so did the star of the show.

Whilst he was awake, Alfie was generally bemused by all that was going on around him, but it was a pleasant afternoon for us adults. Normally if we spend three hours in the company of the Salters it is during a peal, so it was actually quite nice to sit down over a couple of cuppas and chat at length with them. Interesting too, as David is researching references to Suffolk ringing in The Ringing World's predecessor, Bell News. Amongst many gems was the report of the Norwich Diocesan Association AGM in the late nineteenth century, many years before the SGR was formed and at a time when ringing in our county came under the jurisdiction of our northern neighbours or the Ely Diocesan Association to the west. They wanted to ring at Rendham, now an eight, but then just recently augmented to six, but apparently the vicar would only allow the bells to be used on the proviso that none of the ringers went to the pub before, during or after the ringing! So instead, they went to nearby Sweffling, whilst still using The White Horse in the village they'd originally intended to go to!

He has also been exploring who are the longest-serving members of the Guild, and many of the predictable names are on the list, such as Trevor Hughes, John and Shirley Girt and even my father and Aunty Marian, though where to draw the line when people have been away for whatever reason - whether through stopping ringing or moving away - is a difficult one. However, congratulations to the one with the most years membership on DGS' list, which is Frank Bloomfield of Felixstowe at sixty-nine years! Fascinating stuff.

It all added to some absorbing reading in recent weeks of the many Guild Reports that have been scanned and put on the website by Neal Dodge. It's not all of them, but there are twenty-six including the very first one in 1923, and giving an intriguing insight into ringing here, especially during the years around the Second World War, and hopefully there will be more to come! Thank you Neal!

Proceedings livened further with the return from The Cricketers of their eldest son George, sadly a lot earlier than he had intended as the College Youths peal attempt of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at St Mary-le-Tower had come to a premature end after about an hour, but it did mean we were treated to some handbell ringing, primarily from him and his brother Colin, but also featuring some six-bell ringing as Papa S joined in.

The aforementioned SMLT had been mine and the boys' first location after leaving the house this morning, with the initial results of Monday's photoshoot on show, and some Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung on the back eight, before we then made our way from the heaviest twelve within our borders, to the lightest, via Grundisburgh park. With Stephen Pettman away today, I found myself running the ringing here, with a limited number in attendance and restricted abilities as a collective, but we still managed a brilliant course of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six.

Barsham.I'm sure the ringing was excellent too in the four quarters rung in our midst today, with a 1260 of Doubles at the round ground-floor ringing chamber at Barsham, whilst the North-West District/Norfolk quarter-peal band were busy again, with spliced Surprise Minor rung at Ashbocking, and a couple of 1320's scored of Luton Surprise Minor and Annable's London Surprise Minor at Barking and Otley respectively, the middle success being the first blows in the method for Lesley Steed, Katie Wright and Stephen Dawson - well done guys!

And Happy Birthday Henry. Thank you for inviting Mason to your party!


Saturday 20th September 2014

Nearly two months after my previous peal, that spliced Surprise Major on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower just before we went on holiday (which feels a long time ago already|!), I returned to the peal columns this morning with a 5088 and 2hrs43mins of Bristol Surprise Major in Kirby-le-Soken, where Essex appears to rapidly runs towards the North Sea, a sensation enhanced by the huge thunderstorm and minor flooding that I drove through to get there. It was a decent effort on nice bells, prevented from being brilliant by too many silly small mistakes, but still featuring some prolonged periods of highly enjoyable ringing.

Not only was it nice to be back peal-ringing, it was nice to be back peal-peal ringing for the Ancient Society of College Youths, all a part of their 2014 peal weekend, which featured even more impressive successes than ours, such as the spliced Variable Cover Stedman Caters and Bristol Surprise Royal at Kingston, Swindon Surprise Maximus at St Chad in Shrewsbury, Bristol Surprise Maximus at Wimborne Minster and spliced Treble Dodging Maximus in nine methods at Amersham. Since my first peal for the ASCY of Bristiol Max at Solihull way back in 2001, I have hardly been prolific. Today's effort was just my fifteenth in that thirteen year period, and my first since the 5300 of Stedman Cinques at Saffron Walden last November to mark the 300th anniversary of the burial of Fabian Stedman, so I was ever so pleased to have scored this one. Good too to ring my first peal with Jon Waters and his father Steve.

St Leonard at the Hythe.Ardleigh.That said, I was also pleased not to be going on to St Peter's in Colchester afterwards for over three hours of Double Norwich Court Bob Major as five of the band did, with four of them having rung one at Mistley yesterday as well! Instead, I was heading to a different part of the ancient town to join my wife, two sons and mother-in-law at The Leather Bottle in Shrub End, the half-time interval in the Pettistree outing, once I'd negotiated the unnecessarily complicated junctions and vague road signs of this area. Having earlier been to the 4cwt six directly opposite the pub and before that the 10cwt six at Layer de la Haye, the afternoon saw the trip make its why over to St Leonard at the Hythe and then the only eight of the adventure, Ardleigh. I hadn't been to the former since the funeral of Bernard Fairhead six years ago, a good friend of the Suffolk Guild and much missed, and I was pleased to see he is still very much remembered at this ground-floor six where he was tower captain. It was also nice to see Steven Clarke who let us in here, and to have Stephen Cheek letting us in at the latter. Ringing, as ever, showing it's power as a social entity.

The whole occasion was topped off with refreshments at the Dedham Art & Craft Centre on the way back into the homeland, just round the corner from the Sir Alfred Munnings Museum (hopefully we'll get the opportunity to take his namesake there another time), and the perfect climax to a day wonderfully orchestrated by Mary Garner - thanks Mary!

North of the border that this picturesque tourist spot straddles, there was a 5040 of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods on handbells in Bardwell, as ever, for all that it is now rung regularly, still a great achievement, especially in-hand. It is way above what I imagined earlier, but I'm pleased to be back in the peals!


Friday 19th September 2014

I'm almost beginning to like the early shifts. Not the getting up in the dark, that becomes increasingly difficult each time. But now that I'm managing to hold off on the afternoon sleeping, there is more opportunity to spend time with the family. Today I was able to pick Mason up from school, after a couple of hours in the church hall at St Andrew's in Melton for a new monthly baby club, which saw Alfie watching on in bemusement as a group of adults sang and danced in an effort to encourage their children to do the same. For all that, it was good fun, and more importantly a chance for Alfred to interact with contemporaries.

Another benefit of being up early on this particular Friday morning, was that I was one of the first - bar those who had been up all night covering and watching events unfurl - to discover the result of the much anticipated Scottish Referendum, after two years of campaigning and build up. I can't say I was overly fussed about which way it went, as I doubt it will have any effect on me or indeed any normal Scot in our or their everyday lives. But the process and engagement in it all has been fascinating, and if they had gone for independence it would've been a historic move. As it was of course, the status quo remains, though it seems to have been the motivation for greater change generally in the UK.

Rendham.For now though, life in Suffolk went on as usual, with a quarter on the last evening of the working week at Rendham, and despite enjoying those free afternoons, I'm looking forward to some lay-ins!


Thursday 18th September 2014

As the people of Scotland prepare to discover their immediate collective future, back down here in Woodbridge, we were discovering a little more about Mason's immediate future, as the date for his rearranged operation was revealed to us. Having been postponed last week, it is now booked in for 9th October, not too far away, but giving us time to prepare for the upheaval that we expect to come from it. If it goes ahead this time of course!

The news came through to us as we were walking past The Cherry Tree, and with the sun shining it seemed a good moment to sit outside a pub with a pint for probably the last time this summer, following on from an afternoon in town, primarily to take Alfie to his baby club and meet up with his contemporary Maddison, who - I am honoured to say - I have been asked to be Godfather to.

Bildeston.From there though, it was fairly quiet, bar a trip to Tesco where we bumped into Maddie's father Toby and then Ufford ringer Susanne Eddis, and Ruthie's usual Thursday choir practice. Elsewhere, a peal was rung at Bildeston, and there was a quarter at Gislingham yesterday, but this evening it was mainly a night in front of the TV and then early to bed in anticipation of an early start tomorrow. Who knows what will await me or the people of Scotland?


Wednesday 17th September 2014

The two themes to this evening's Pettistree practice were Sandiacre Surprise Minor (Bourne below, Carlisle above)and Woodbine Delight Minor (Kent/Oxford below, Naaaaridge above), the latter of which was being rung very well as Alfie and I arrived, his mother already there having rung in a quarter dedicated to MP-basher Alex Tatlow.

Of course there was other stuff being rung, as well as a discussion on how to glam up the new space in the south-west corner of the church. Not sure if the PCC would be overly enthusiastic of our suggestions of leather corner-sofas and glitter balls...

Ixworth.Nor was the 1260 of Twatt Bob Minor at SS Peter & Paul the only success in Suffolk today, with the band at Ixworth going four changes better in scoring Double Norwich Court Bob Major. And I'm sure we weren't alone in following our ringing up with a drink in the pub, as punters frantically got rid of their Scottish notes and devoured their whiskey ahead of price rises in The Greyhound, goaded on by soon-to-be foreigner Stuart the landlord, as the theme turned to tomorrow's historic vote!


Tuesday 16th September 2014

Many thanks to the Guild's Twitter feed for highlighting yesterday's article in the East Anglian Daily Times on the weekend's Heritage Open Days Event, which whilst only giving an indirect mention to the bells being demonstrated at The Norman Tower and a short paragraph on the Mayor having a go at our art at St Peter's church in Sudbury, features the latter as its headline photo.

There was more ringing 'PR' this evening, as the bellringing episode of Midsomer Murders, Ring Out Your Dead was repeated, a tale of a band attempting to win the local six-bell striking competition, despite half of the band being murdered! It is littered with inaccuracies and impractical and unrealistic scenarios, and doesn't really put ringers in the best of lights, but like any section of society featured in this long-running and enjoyable televisual institution, every characteristic and eccentricity is exaggerated to the max, and there are certainly character traits familiar to me on view! Those ringers charged with overseeing the teaching and safety aspects of the production did tremendously well thirteen years ago, and the background to the filming can be found in a fascinating article by John Harrison, originally published in The Ringing World in the autumn of 2001 just after the shoot. The ringing aspect alone involved ringers familiar to some - especially David Cornwall who spent some time ringing in Suffolk a few years ago - training the actors, as well as about thirty additional ringers for the striking competition results and three different towers, with the ringing chamber at Bray in Berkshire being the scene for the internal shots (despite actually being a 24cwt eight!), the 13cwt six at Monk's Risborough in Buckinghamshire providing the sound, and the tower at Watlington in Oxfordshire (home to a 24cwt eight) being used for the external shots! I can relate to some of the frustrating aspects of working with TV crews highlighted in the piece!

Eriswell.Although our day didn't involve any such excitement, an early start at work did allow me to witness Alfie's latest weigh-in (he is now 19lb 6oz!) and take in my best and quickest dentist appointment since I was a child. Other ringers in the county were busier though, with a 5040 of Doubles rung at Eriswell and although there will be no practice at Offton next week, there was presumably one at this 8cwt ground-floor eight tonight, as the usual pre-practice quarter-peal was successful. All of which you should be able to see on the Guild Twitter feed!


Monday 15th September 2014

Occasionally I read back a year or even two and sometimes longer on this blog. It's not entirely vanity (!), but I find it a useful indication of how things have changed, whether it is personalities, circumstances or the progress of bands and individual ringers. On 15th September 2013, I happened to mention the photos of St Mary-le-Tower bands from 1991, 1982 and well beyond that hang in the ringing chamber, and how it was probably time to do another one. Well, funnily enough, exactly one year on, we were doing just that before this evening's practice, as the class of 2014 gathered at the same spot as most of those previous photos, at the bottom of the famous tower, the pictures courtesy of Peter Davies' equipment, which he had very kindly brought along.

There was about thirty there, reflective of the large amount of support we are very fortunate to get, with a handful of regulars not present on top of that. There was no Simon Griffiths, Nigel Newton or Felicity Brasier for example, or Rowan Wilson and Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters who often come over from Bury St Edmunds to help and be helped. And obviously no Alex Tatlow, who no doubt was in a dark room somewhere being interrogated by the security services on his apparent plans to bump off members of the cabinet one-by-one.

Alfie's first handling lesson at St Mary-le-Tower.It's nice to be able to do this, a visual snapshot of who is ringing at a tower at a particular point in time. The photos from decades gone by still fascinate me, reminding me of ringers who we no longer see or are no longer with us, and highlighting how those still ringing at SMLT have changed and yet haven't. And as much as it has amused others and us, it is a nice record of how my brother Chris and myself have grown up in the sounds of the county's oldest twelve. In different circumstances we would've brought Mason along, but it is nonetheless nice that Alfie could be included in proceedings this evening. God willing the first of many of these for him.

St Lawrence.The big attendance helped ensure that David was able to run a session made up entirely of twelve-bell ringing, including the first Monday night attempt of Newgate Surprise Maximus, which whilst lively was not a bad effort for a band made up of many for whom this was a debut in the method. With so many there, the half-eight notices were a good chance to whip up support for the Wednesday lunchtime ringing at St Lawrence with usual participants Bruce and Gill Wakefield understandably likely to be unable to help for the next few weeks as the former recovers from his heart surgery. And support would be appreciated for St Mary-le-Tower's Open Day on Saturday 11th October, a superb PR opportunity not just for the Tower, but ringing generally.

With a very early start in the morning and no Ron to wait for from bagpipes after he sliced open his finger over the weekend, we only stayed a short while at The Mulberry Tree afterwards, but it has been a superb evening that I hope to look back on with some fondness for a long time.


Sunday 14th September 2014

It was a very special day for Ruthie and therefore naturally for those of us close to her, as she took the step of getting confirmed. Not that it was an overnight decision. My wife has come to this point after several years of us being welcomed into the congregation at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, and she could have been confirmed several months ago if she hadn't been working on the Sunday that others from our local church were.

Combs.Two of the bells at on the floor of Combs church.Hence this afternoon we found ourselves in St Mary's church in Combs for the big occasion, joined by her grandparents, her mother, Ron and Kev the Rev amongst a decent crowd in this delightful building. We've been to many churches in the county through ringing, but of course there's quite a few that we haven't been to because they don't have bells, or at least ringable ones. This is one such place. Familiar from a distance whenever we've made our way to and from the Whiting's annual BBQ, it has nonetheless remained a mystery close-up as we've not had call to ring at this church that sits on the edge of Stowmarket's sprawling suburbs. There are bells though, sitting on the church floor in full view of everyone, and as much of a shame as it is for them to be down there rather than up in the tower (at 18cwt, they'd probably make an impressive sounding ring if augmented to an eight), it was an interesting diversion.

Ruthie at her confirmation.The family at Combs for Ruthie's confirmation..The main event was the service though, and it was wonderful seeing Mrs Munnings going through with something that she has been building up to for over a year. in the company of six others from places like Bildeston, Buxhall, Great Finborough and the hosting church, led by the former Bishop of Tewkesbury Jeremy Walsh. I well remember my confirmation, as I didn't get confirmed myself until I was eighteen, so I could empathise with my better half's nerves and her relieve afterwards, helped in no small part by a cup of tea and a spread of food that most ringers would be pleased with! Congratulations Ruthie!

It was a good social occasion too, with her grandfather being mistaken for the bishop and our chance meeting with Gislingham ringer Peter Lucas' brother Rod and his wife Pam, but it was also the second church service of the day for us, having already attended the morning one back in our town of residence, where I was able to help the local ringers, especially with tower captain Bruce Wakefield out of action for the next few months due to surgery to replace one of his heart valves at Papworth earlier this week. His wife Gill was there though, and able to impart the good news that all went well and he is recovering in the famous hospital. Our best wishes - and I'm sure those of all who know him - go out to this long-serving member of the Guild, and my predecessor as SGR Public Relations Officer.

Our best wishes also go out to Alex Tatlow, who now has a tale he can dine out on for life, having driven into a car carrying the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. Thankfully AWT is fine, though his car is not, and it meant he missed out on ringing in the 5055 of Stedman Caters at Grundisburgh he had been due to ring in.

As far as I'm aware, there were no such dramatic backgrounds to the other successes within our borders, with the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh notched up and no doubt providing some superb ringing, a handbell peal rung in Bacton, and quarters at Buxhall and The Norman Tower. The 1260 of Minor on the 15cwt six of St Mary was a poignant one as ringing continues to mark the First World War a century ago, and also a bit of a family affair, and well done to Rebecca Steed on ringing her first of St Clement's Bob and to her and her parents Hazel and John on ringing their first blows in Buxton Bob. Well done too, to George Reynolds on ringing his first of Grandsire Caters inside in the 1259 on the back ten of Suffolk's newest twelve, and congratulations to Ernie and Renee Bishop on their sixtieth wedding anniversary and to Wendie and Peter Summers - who were ringing in the success - on their thirtieth wedding anniversary.

Congratulations as well to Drew Craddock and his wife Sue on their fortieth wedding anniversary. Drew is perhaps best known - to us ringers at least - as the founder of Pealbase, the brilliant database of peals that has been so useful to so many, including me! Many will also remember he spoke at The Guild Dinner last year and I believe he occasionally reads this blog, so I am very happy to pass on our best wishes!

Nice to be able to offer up so many congratulations, but especially to my wife!


Saturday 13th September 2014

Orford Castle.When I first moved back to Suffolk into my little pink cottage in Tunstall on the junction to Snape in 2005, it was yards from The Green Man, which at the time was still a lively and active rural pub, open fields greeted me every time I opened my bedroom curtains and a sign directly opposite told me that Orford was just six miles away. After eight years in the urban and oft depressing jungle of the West Midlands, it seemed incredibly liberating to have all this on my doorstep. I decreed that I would never take it for granted, as I had as I grew up, and I think by and large I have stuck to that. It still fills me with pleasure and even excitement to travel our beautiful county, primarily through ringing, but what I have been guilty of is ignoring some of the attractions in our immediate area, so I've been delighted by Mason's recent enthusiasm to explore that which tourists travel from hundreds and even thousands of miles to see. Last weekend, we went to Woodbridge Museum and Framlingham Castle. Today, the li'l chap decided he'd like to visit Orford Castle, and so we made our way for the third time this year to this one-road-in-one-road-out coastal idyll.

Having a picnic outside Orford Castle.St Bartholomew's church in Orford from the top of the castle.The castle climbed and views across the village, St Bartholomew - home to a 10cwt eight - and as far as Felixstowe docks and Sizewell Power Station taken in, we took advantage of The Crown and Castle, one of the three hostelries that this geographically isolated community impressively houses, for a quick pint. Frankly, we - at least Ruthie and I - could have spent all afternoon sat on the sofa watching life going on around us as we supped ale, but we wanted to head over to Ipswich and in particular Halfords, as Alfie grows up fast. He has now got to the stage where he has almost outgrown his car-seat, so we popped into the county town to purchase a bigger one, as not far away a peal was being rung at St Margaret.

In fact, it was quite a busy day for peals within our borders, or at least peal attempts. A 5040 at Monks Eleigh was called round after 2880 changes due to the poor go of the tenor, which has to be of concern if a ringer of David Salter's abilities has to bring a peal round early. However, his eldest son George was even unluckier, losing a peal at Tuddenham St Martin just twenty-two changes from the end, less than a lead from the end after 2hrs33mins ringing when a rope broke! I've lost peals late, with one at Long Ashton near Bristol after one of the band members got irretrievably lost and one on sixteen at the Bullring when the conductor decided the ringing wasn't good enough, both after more than three hours, so I can certainly sympathise! At least the Salter males had the consolation of a success at Edwardstone yesterday. Well done as well to Julian Colman, Cherril Spiller, David Lord and Stephen Rabong on ringing their first of Uxbridge Surprise Major in the 5088 at Stowmarket, and congratulations to Winston 'Mr Stowmarket' Girling on ringing his eightieth on the bells and Jeremy Spiller on ringing his one hundredth for the Society of Stowmarket Youths.

Nice to see our ringers taking advantage of all that the county's bells offer!


Friday 12th September 2014

Cathedral Church of St James & St Edmund.There was an unexpected, but lovely bit of PR for ringing on Radio Suffolk this afternoon, as the Public Relations Manager at St Edmundsbury Cathedral Sarah Friswell called the station to mention what would be happening at her place of work for the Heritage Open Day on Saturday. The Norman Tower, bells and ringers got a healthy mention, as they are opening up the tower and ringing at forty-five minute intervals over the course of the day from 10am. Well done them and thank you Sarah.

Other bells were ringing out today and indeed yesterday in the county, with a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Horringer on Thursday and the same length of Plain Bob Doubles at Otley for the FNQPC this evening, but we were altogether less active ourselves, with not much of the day left after my 7pm finish and having picked Mason up. Perhaps all the excitement is to come tomorrow.


Thursday 11th September 2014

It's mainly because we've got to them late, but for the second evening running we arrived at a practice in the darkness, the nights noticeably drawing in and with a slight chill in the air too. It definitely feels a little like autumn is gradually sneaking in, as you might expect it to at this time of year.

Ufford.Whilst last night we got to Pettistree at eight due to my late shift at work, our half-eight arrival for the Surprise Major session at Ufford was because Ruthie was at choir practice in Woodbridge, and with her usual lift Kate at a meeting on this occasion, it was left to me to collect her and Alfie. We appeared as a decent sounding course of Rutland was being rung, and despite our considerable lateness, we were able to contribute to some Pudsey and Bristol on another varied and useful night.

It was a useful day too for Alan Regin, who down in London at Spitalfields was becoming only the third ringer ever to ring 5000 peals, behind Bernard Groves and of course Colin Turner. I've not rung a huge amount with this fine ringer, but he is a well known and - with his tall frame - instantly recognisable, and who in his position in the Central Council as Stewards of the Rolls of Honour has been responsible for the huge amount of research in putting together the Great War Memorial Book of Church Bell-Ringers, which lists those ringers who lost their lives fighting in the First World War. Congratulations Alan on reaching this staggering landmark.

There was no time for such shenanigans for us though, as we just about found time to grab a Chinese takeaway on a rushed evening!


Wednesday 10th September 2014

It wasn't the best day for the two boys.

Mason travelled with his mother all the way to Great Ormond Street Hospital in anticipation of his planned operation tomorrow, only to be told that the surgeon who would be carrying it out had called in sick this morning and thus the procedure would have to be postponed. That means more uncertainty over his and our immediate future and plans, at the very least until next week when we hope to get a new date through, and that he will have to go through the anxiety he goes through immediately beforehand, as well as dragging things out even further. GOSH have been absolutely superb so far, and we've all been delighted with how the li'l chap's first operation with them went back in May, and to be fair there is nothing that can be done about a surgeon calling in sick and indeed the short-notice nature of the situation, the effects of which must be multiplied in a place as busy as this rightly respected and celebrated institution. But it was a little frustrating that he had been allowed to get down to London and across the capital in a taxi at great expense for this morning's pre-op appointment, when they could have got in touch earlier and spared the lad the stress of several hours of travelling.

Meanwhile, his younger brother Alfie seems to be coming down with his first illness, sniffling lots and not guzzling down his food with his usual enthusiasm and quantity. It is to be expected, and is not necessarily a bad thing for him to get a cold as we look to condition him to life (within reason!) and build up his immune system. Besides, we've probably done quite well to get up to five months without any ailments at all!

Pettistree.We did consider not going out to Pettistree practice this evening, but by the time I'd returned from my late shift at work, he had seemed to have perked up, and we felt a bit of fresh air and the distraction of bells and people would do him some good, so we did (eventually) arrive to aide the session at a church where the much anticipated renovation work seems to have begun, with the pews at the back taken out and replaced with a pile of bricks. The ringing meanwhile was tailored to a lower than typical attendance, though Woodbine, Norwich and a well-struck touch of spliced Doubles were rung whilst we were there, all following on from a successful 1320 of Snowdrop Treble Bob Minor before the start of proceedings - thanks for the footnote guys!

As is the norm on a Wednesday, the success at SS Peter & Paul was accompanied by one at Preston St Mary, which on this occasion saw Andrea Alderton ring her first blows of Morning Exercise Delight Minor - well done Andrea.

Also as is the norm, we reconvened post-practice in The Greyhound, with Alfred still a little subdued though smiling and eating better, but his older sibling's future still uncertain.


Tuesday 9th September 2014

Michaelchurch Escley.This week opened with the story on a ruling preventing the 6cwt five at the quaintly named Michaelchurch Escley in Herefordshire from being re-tuned reaching the national press, with The Telegraph and The Daily Mail diverting from their blanket coverage on the Scottish Independence Referendum just nine days away. In response, ringing's social media outlets - in particular Facebook - were predictably awash with the familiar discussion about the merits or otherwise of the conservation of bells and their fittings, especially when it is seen to be detrimental to ensuring the future of ringing on the bells. It is a policy that has certainly hindered a number of projects in Suffolk, and whilst I can sympathise with the noble aim to preserve our history (which I think is generally very important), it seems to be a little too set in stone to do as much good as those keen on conservation are perhaps hoping for.

Whilst that debate raged on, I was popping round to see Mason on the eve of his trip to London for his next operation on Thursday, the boy typically unmoved by something which us adults are all far more nervous about. Hopefully it is something he won't have to go through again.

The Wolery.However, it was a quiet day otherwise, with a late shift at work and the main highlight being the opinions arising from those newspaper articles. Maybe in 280 years time we shall be having the same debate on the historic ring of bells at The Wolery, which by that point will probably have been pealed about 15,000 times by successive generations of the Salter family. Counted among that number will be this evening's latest 5040 of 41-spliced Surprise Minor methods, something which seems remarkably standard now, in no small part due to this famous ringing family, who have used their ring of bells to progress ringing, as hopefully the ringers of Michaelchurch Escley will be allowed to do at some point.


Monday 8th September 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.It was good to have George Pipe back up St Mary-le-Tower this evening, ringing and imparting advice and instructions in the way that only he could. His very presence was enough to terrify his namesake Mr Vant, but the youngster from Essex overcame his nerves to ring extremely well alongside GWP in the climax to the practice, Little Bob Maximus. He is precisely the kind of ringer we need at SMLT - keen, and more importantly attentive, constantly listening to advice and acting upon it. That he is young helps, but it is far more important that he takes everything in and improves, and even in the few times I've seen him up here, his ten and twelve-bell ringing has come on.

Not that he's the only one improving on Monday nights. Next week - all being well - we will be trying Newgate Surprise Maximus, a new venture that not that many twelve-bell towers outside the big, urban centres of ringing could contemplate, and all done with a band made up of relatively few experienced twelve-bell ringers who have worked hard (occasionally taking backward steps!) over the last few years to get to this point. We don't pretend we are a leading light in ringing circles - not by any stretch of the imagination - but these are exciting and interesting times at Suffolk's heaviest twelve.

Tonight's session was a bit of a rush to make, as a late shift at work meant that having popped into house only long enough to get changed after returning from the office, and as we were kindly being driven into Ipswich by Kate, I was enjoying a sausage sandwich generously prepared by Ruthie, though the late start enabled me to drop Mason off at school ahead of another big week for him. We finished the day in our now usual post-practice haunt of The Mulberry Tree, on an evening that also saw a quarter rung at Harkstead, conducted by George Salter. It has been a good night for the George's!


Sunday 7th September 2014

Having read much on social media and viewed photos from the event, it was good to catch up with those today who actually went along to the Ringing Roadshow yesterday, including my parents. Some issues seem to have come up. The food was expensive, apparently not very good and served at the front of huge queues due to there only one booth serving it, though this was by all accounts due to the cost charged by the hosting Newbury Racecourse for opening more than one. Personally - and it doesn't seem I was the only one - the full-rate charging of children was off-putting. There were other factors why we didn't go along yesterday, that were out of the organisers control, but perhaps if Mason could've come along free of charge, they would've made £24 out of us (plus all the other money we would've spent whilst there) rather than the nothing they made out of us in the end. You only have to look at the dwindling crowds at Portman Road to see the effect that charging larger ticket prices for a smaller number of folk can have as opposed to charging less and getting more people in and all the benefits that come with that. That said, the fare that Ipswich Town offer up is poor, and for all the minimal quibbles about yesterday, just about everyone I have spoken to or heard speaking about yesterday's event says it was a typically interesting and entertaining day out, making the most of ringing's biggest selling point - friendship.

That was something I was able to enjoy in the course of a typically hectic first Sunday morning of the month, with ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh, with decent attendances at all three, including the return of Rosemary Caudle at SMLT after many years, days after ringing was carried out here for her mother Lilian's one hundredth birthday.

Tostock.Friendships were also being renewed throughout the county on a busy day of ringing generally, with four quarters and a peal rung within our borders. Well done to the entire band at Tostock on ringing their first of Original Minor, Ruth Suggett on ringing her first blows of Carlisle Surprise Minor in the success at Pakenham and congratulations to Josephine Beever on ringing her 1200th quarter in the same performance, whilst there was also a 1280 of Doubles at Pettistree, a 1272 of Plain Bob Minimus in Rectory Road on the Salter's newly purchased handbells, and there was a longer length on handbells in Bacton.

For us though, there was rather less ringing, as in between Ruthie singing for morning service and then evensong at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge with the choir returning to their sabbath duties after their break, we four popped over to Kate's where she and Ron very kindly cooked up a roast for us - thanks guys! It was a nice way to finish an interesting weekend, both here and in Newbury.


Saturday 6th September 2014

Usually when we ask Mason what he would like to do, we get an answer which is either impractical - like going to Disneyland or watching Ipswich win - or undesirable - such as playing on the Wii U all day, so when we asked what he would like to do on the last Saturday before his next operation on Thursday, we were pleasantly surprised when he said he wanted to go to Woodbridge Museum, a castle and out for tea.

Therefore, we found ourselves in the local museum, somewhere that was as new to me as it was to the li'l chap, and extremely interesting, as I explored the history of the community I inhabit and largely take for granted. It is small, but packed with fascinating information, and if you ever find yourself here on the Market Hill in the shadow of the tall tower of St Mary the Virgin which houses the 25cwt eight that is so familiar to us, it is well worth popping in for just a few quid.

Mason at Framlingham Castle.Mason the tour guide shows Ruthie around Framlingham Castle.The tower of St Michael & All Angels, Framlingham - home to a 16cwt eight - pokes over the castle walls.Ruthie, Alfie & Mason in The Cherrytree.

From here, it was then up to Framlingham for a picnic and a visit to the popular castle that along with the College and St Michael & All Angels' church - home to a 16cwt eight - dominate this pretty rural market town. It's years since Ruthie or I had been to this famous ancient fortress, and it was a first for Alfie and his older brother. Alfred was of course completely unmoved by it all, but more importantly, Mason loved it, enjoying the views from the walk around the walls, enthusiastically taking in the history of it all and leaving with a sword and helmet, before some tea at The Cherrytree topped off our adventures.

They were adventures which didn't involve the Ringing Roadshow at Newbury Racecourse, although we were undecided right up until this morning as to whether we would make the journey down to Berkshire or not. The reasons for wanting to go were numerous. It would've been a fantastic opportunity to catch up with ringing friends we don't usually see, and judging by Facebook and the event's Twitter page there were quite a few of them. There were lots of stalls, exhibitors, mini-rings and seminars that would've been fascinating to explore, I'm sure, especially the mini-mini ring! And having never been to one before and heard many good things from those who been to previous ones, we were intrigued to experience one ourselves. Also, who knows when the next one will be? They have been sporadic to say the least, with the last one held six years ago, the one before that three years earlier, which in turn was held two years previously.

However, having not been to one before, it seemed a little bit of a gamble to travel two or three hours and pay £12 for a seven-year old with only a passing interest in ringing currently, in the hope that he would be interested enough to spend the several hours there to make the journey worthwhile. It might have been worth the gamble in different circumstances to what Mason faces this week - it would've been rough for him to have a long boring day on his last weekend before his next daunting date at Great Ormond Street Hospital, so I'm glad we spent the day as we did.

I'm sure Ian Culham and George Salter are happy they spent the day the way they did, as they ticked off a significant peal, the former ringing his 150th and the latter ringing the 49cwt tenor at Southwark Cathedral, both in the 5007 of Stedman Cinques there this afternoon. Congratulations to Ian and well done to George. For all that we puff our cheeks out at how ringing at St Mary-le-Tower goes sometimes and that it is obviously a long way short of the standards achieved in the big centres of ringing like Birmingham and London, I think it's fair to say this talented pair have been helped tremendously on their higher number ringing by the opportunities they've had at SMLT, though we in turn have been grateful for their progress and the help that that in turn has given us. To get up to that point, they have been lucky enough to be given chances in their earlier days by those around them, but I am full of admiration for how much they have both made their opportunities, so this is a well deserved achievement. I'd be delighted if one day we asked Mason what he wants to do and he says "I'd like to ring a peal at Southwark Cathedral." Though he may have to make do with a trip to the Ringing Roadshow, whenever that may be next!


Friday 5th September 2014

I'm glad to get to the end of another week of early shifts. As much as I enjoy the afternoons with Ruthie and Alfie, usually popping out and doing something, and relaxing in front of an episode of Lovejoy (I love trying to spot whereabouts in our beautiful region they are!), I can't say I'm going to miss getting up in the middle of the night, the curtailed evenings and falling asleep in the afternoon and waking up feeling dreadful!

Still, it was nice to pick Mason up from school at the end of his first couple of days of being in Year Three, and a gentle night in on an otherwise quiet day.

Clopton.It wasn't so quiet on the ringing front, I'm glad to say. There was a peal at Clopton, a quarter from the FNQPC at Earl Stonham, and the first as cover for Alex Brett-Holt, knocking behind to eleven Doubles methods at Tostock. Well done Alex!

Happy 100th birthday to Lilian Caudle too, whose father was a ringer of some repute locally, and congratulations to Alex Scase on gaining a place at Sheffield Hallam University, as the northern city benefits from the arrival of another of our young talents, following in the footsteps of Claire Roe, Tom Britten and of course his cousin Tom Scase. If it's anything like my experience, there won't be too many early starts at university!


Thursday 4th September 2014

Reading back over my blog yesterday, I realised it may have given the impression that I spend time with Mason and Alfie under duress. I don't of course, and one of the benefits of the early starts at work are the early finishes, which allowed me to spend some quality time with the youngest this afternoon. It was quality time shared with others at the Children's Centre in town, including Amy and Maddison, as I accompanied him and Ruthie to baby club, where - unlike last time - I wasn't the only man there!

A pleasant hour-and-a-half was spent watching our alert son interacting and getting the hang of rolling over, before we attended to some of my wife's South-East District secretarial duties, dropping the remainder of the Awl a'huld copies in our possession to Ray Lewis in Wickham Market and the Harpers in Hollesley. I hope others charged with getting this latest edition of the superb magazine out have managed the same this week.

With Mrs Munnings returning to choir practice this evening after their August break, I got to spend more quality time with Alfred, including him supervising me cooking tea. All done entirely voluntarily and happily on my part!


Wednesday 3rd September 2014

Something unusual happened in August. Or rather didn't. I rang no peals. Or even attempted one. A bit of research through mediums such as Pealbase and this blog (it does have a purpose after all!) tells me that the last time I went through a month without scoring anything was August 2010, and to find a month when I didn't even attempt anything at all, you have to go back to the month I returned to Suffolk after my eight years in the West Midlands in July 2005.

I still have lots I'd like to achieve in peal-ringing. For all the 'excitement' of getting to my 500th a couple of years ago, I still have a way to go to my one thousandth, especially as I have never been particularly prolific, and I'd like to get to that at least. I'm just three short of reaching a century of Maximus peals, and buoyed on by successfully conducting peals of the standard-41 Surprise Minor two and three years ago, I'd quite like to ring and call one of the compositions of 23-spliced Surprise Major, something which would take similar organisation to that involved in the aforementioned Surprise Minor project I suspect. And I generally just enjoy peal-ringing, so I'm certainly not hanging up my metaphorical boots.

However, whereas with Mason who I've rarely been responsible for for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and which allowed a bit more freedom for me to go peal-ringing, I feel it would be unfair of me to dart off as much as I have done in the past, leaving Ruthie looking after Alfie or imposing upon our various family members and friends with constant babysitting, as happy as I'm sure they'd make out they are to do so. That combined with the break I had from The Wolery peals following Alfred's birth and that my early and late shifts recently haven't fallen in such a way to allow me to partake in the monthly fourth-Wednesday peal attempt on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower as I usually do, has meant that my peal-ringing ambitions have stalled for now. They are likely to remain that way for September too, as work will prevent me from the next SMLT Surprise Major attempt, and with word that my eldest is booked in to have his next operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital on 11th September and will be in a wheelchair again for a few weeks, I've had to pull out of a peal I was booked into for the College Youths Peal Weekend in a couple of weeks.

The Wolery.Band that rang in the 300th peal on the bells at The Wolery.That said, there had been an opportunity for me to ring in this evening's 5088 of Indexer Surprise Major in Old Stoke, but I decided to pass that opportunity to someone who has had an even longer break than me from peal-ringing, and so my wife rang her first since becoming a mother, and indeed her first since one of Zagreb Surprise Major thirteen months ago at this same venue, as she gently eased her way back into the medium with 1hr52mins of ringing in the little blue shed at the top of the Salter's garden. It is one of the benefits of such lighter rings that they can enable someone like Mrs Munnings to get reacquainted with this part of our art after such a long break from it, without being plunged straight into three hours of ringing. This 9lb eight has also enabled Michael Edwards to continue his peal-ringing, with his health problems meaning that peals on heavier church bells isn't an option for him. It has seen him reach his 1000th peal and this evening his 400th for the Guild, not bad for someone from south of the border! He doesn't profess to be an advanced ringer, but his reliable trebling has allowed more advanced ringing to be done, primarily in the second-Sunday peals at Aldeburgh whilst he was able, and here in Rectory Road, so it was appropriate that his latest landmark coincided with the 300th on the bells altogether, as they continue to show their worth. So congratulations to my better half and Mick, and well done to Colin Salter, who completed the Surprise Major alphabet in the same performance at his home, though he was modest, saying he was only ringing what his father had told him.

Sproughton.Whilst his mother was getting back into the swing of things amongst the terraced houses packed in tightly together just south of the river, AJM accompanied me to Sproughton to help out on their practice. Wednesday nights on the gallery from where this 8cwt six are rung is where it all began for me of course, and there are a number of reassuring constants from those hazy days of the late 1980's and early 1990's so fondly remembered. Ralph Earey is still the driving force here, with my parents continuing to offer support and assistance, and it was nice to see Crawford Allen too. You still have to decide whether to ring the fourth from the top or bottom floor of this two-layed ringing chamber. And it was nice to meet June and Hannah, the great-great granddaughter and great-great-great-great granddaughter respectively of Charles Mee, who along with Frederick and George Mee was a mainstay in the famous Society of ringers that emanated from here just over a hundred years ago. But there seems to be a bright future too, as the youngsters at All Saints - none of whom were even thought about when I started on these bells - continue to thrive together, and did so tonight in a session that took in Cloister Doubles to a well-rung course of Cambridge Surprise Minor. I was more than happy - along with Andrew, an apparently frequent visitor from Grantham due to work - to help out, as I owe a lot to Ralphy from a ringing perspective, who along with Mum and Dad guided me through those early stages of an art that has given me so much pleasure ever since.

That ringing has given me so much joy (and indeed I suppose I owe my existence and marriage to it!) meant I felt almost obliged to fill in the Central Council's 'Ringing Motivation Profiler', which despite its slightly grand name, is a survey that if as many ringers as possible fill it in, may be very useful to the CCCBR's Ringing Trends Committee as they aim to attract more ringers and keep more interested in this wonderful art. Likewise, the Association of Ringing Teachers are looking for your views on ITTS. Your response on both could be invaluable.

Maybe the ringer who was on Chris Evans' Radio Two show this morning talking about our fulfilling hobby has filled them in already, but I waited until after I'd picked Ruthie up after enjoying the usual welcoming hospitality of the Salter's and returned home on a productive evening for her and her mother, who had not only partaken in the pre-practice quarter of Henry the Hoover Surprise Minor, but along with Peter Harper had subjected Mike Whitby to the Ice-Bucket Challenge outside SS Peter & Paul, an event captured - as so many others have been in recent weeks - on facebook. Perhaps if I hadn't spent all of August watching those, I might have fitted a peal or two in.


Tuesday 2nd September 2014

Quiet as it was today, with just the pleasure of going in for Alfie's latest weigh-in (he's 18lb13oz now!) after another extremely early start at work, and I spent much time retrieving photos taken at the Guild Striking Competitions to add to that day's blog entry, which hopefully add a bit more of the flavour of long, occasionally difficult, but overall successful day. Better late than never! Still, there is much planned for the coming days and weeks.

Wednesday is due see the last Great Barton Afternoon Summer Practice of the season from 2-4pm, and the latest North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles, whilst pencilled in for Friday is the Stoke-by-Nayland weekly practice, before a busy week next week! There is something booked in for almost every day, starting with the North-East District visiting Aldeburgh practice on Monday, the Second Tuesday Ringing going to Halesworth and Wissett the following day, the Bacton Monthly Practice on Wednesday, before we're back to the weekly Friday practice at Stoke-by-Nayland. And although the date for booking cheaper advanced tickets for this Saturday's Ringing Roadshow at Newbury Race Course has passed, it will be possible to pay at the door, though we are still weighing up whether it is worth travelling down to Berkshire and paying £12 for a seven-year-old who currently only has a fleeting interest in ringing. Still, I would encourage those of you not in that position to head on down, especially if you have a keen youngster! It would be a shame not to go down as there is lots on and judging by previous Roadshows lots of friends to catch-up with. Otherwise, it may be another quiet day.


Monday 1st September 2014

Hypocritical as it may seem after my musings on the Ringing World yesterday, the arrival of the latest edition of Awl a'huld - thanks to some dedicated delivering from Richard Gates as he dropped a boxful off at ours on the way to delivering more in Aldeburgh as he crossed the breadth of the county - generated much interest in the Munnings household (Woodbridge branch) yesterday afternoon. Like the RW, there is stuff that some will have seen online, but there is also the typical mix of fascinating insight into the districts, useful ringing tips and interesting articles, all packaged into a glossy, colourful magazine that is more immediate and relevant to local ringers who may be sat in Suffolk's ringing chambers than the global publication for ringing, and importantly this can be used as a PR tool, so try and get it out to the public, in waiting rooms, pubs and certainly in the church  and ideally the local incumbent.

Ruthie was busy distributing them amongst a good attendance at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, before Kate, Alfie, my wife and I made our usual detour to The Mulberry Tree for a drink and to meet Ron after his bagpipe practice, via trying desperately in vain to get one of the ringers to switch their car lights on as they headed out into the darkness! I'm sure they noticed eventually!

It all came at the end of a very long day at the start of another week of early shifts, as I found myself in work well before the first daylight of September 2014 broke, the month less than four hours old, leaving me too sleepy this afternoon to even read Awl a'huld!


Sunday 31st August 2014

It was good to see George Pipe ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, fresh from Brian Whiting's annual quarter-peal holiday, which this year - as with the last two or three years - saw them representing Suffolk ringing in Herefordshire and over the border in South Wales. Well done to Ele Earey on ringing her first of Treble Bob in the Yorkshire Surprise Major at Madley and her first of Grandsire Triples inside in the 1274 at Caldicot, whilst there were also a further five quarters of Surprise Major rung, with Bristol at Llanfeugan, Cambridge at Llangattock, Rutland at Blaenavon (where we went on the Rambling Ringers Tour a few years ago), Superlative at Presteigne and Lincolnshire at Knighton, where I worked for a short while when I lived in the West Midlands. Stedman Triples was also scored at Llanfrechfa and Double Norwich Court Bob Major was successfully negotiated at Caerleon on what looks to have been another typically interesting and entertaining ringing holiday.

Also at SMLT was Phil Wild, a ringer from Nottinghamshire who we know from the Ramblers, and he was able to contribute to a morning of quite decent ringing, with Ruthie also helping out on her final Sunday off from choir, for this summer at least.

Being fifth Sunday, it meant that many benefices were having a combined service at one of their churches. Today that saw the sprawling Carlford Benefice that Grundisburgh falls into having its joint service at Swilland, home only to a single 5cwt swung-chimed bell, meaning ringers weren't required for that. However, Sproughton were hosting their benefice service, and when Mum mentioned that they may be very short with the Eareys and others away, we felt we ought to pop over and come to their aide. We're glad we did, as without us it would've been just my folks and Sandy Jones.

Meanwhile, it was interesting to see some discussion on the purpose and quality of The Ringing World on Facebook. Personally, I enjoy glancing through copies when I come across them, typically at Pettistree, and it is sometimes quite a fascinating read, but it's a long time since I've considered subscribing to it. This is now a recurring debate, especially in this day and age of social media, BellBoard and Campanophile. Occasionally there is something of interest that I didn't know about in it, but it usually feels so out of date, even taking into account that the copies I read aren't usually the latest. For example, thanks to the two aforementioned performance-recording sites, I can tell you immediately that there was a quarter rung at Redgrave today, something that most likely won't be in the RW for a few weeks. I hope it continues, but it seems hard to imagine how it can in the long-term.

Whether it does or not, I hope this blog and website can fill the void locally, with reports on the progress on the county's most famous ringer and our members' exploits in far-flung counties.


Saturday 30th August 2014

Congratulations to two of Suffolk's young ringers on today ringing their first peal for their respective London-based elite societies, as Clare Veal made her début for the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths in the 5136 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at St Mary le Bow down in the capital, whilst closer to home at St Mary-le-Tower, George Salter was breaking the seal with the Ancient Society of College Youths, by conducting a 5007 of Stedman Cinques. This pair of talented local ringers have very different personalities, but have both benefited from regular peal-ringing, and the experience of ringing with some of the best that these societies have at their disposal will only do them good. Well done as well to Ian Culham on ringing his first of Stedman Cinques in the success in Ipswich.

Whilst Clare and George were representing the county's ringers so superbly, Ruthie, Mason, Alfie and I had a packed and enjoyable day of socialising, eating, drinking and ringing, and started with a trip out to Wickham Market to meet baby Robyn for the first time in her three-week life, the daughter of my eldest's Godmother Kala and her husband Nick. Our visit coincided with a visit from the boy's Godfather Toby, his finance Amy and their eight-month daughter Maddison, as the three babies gathered all together for the first time, the trio of friends united by drinking in The Green Man in Tunstall nine years ago now numbered ten, and now well settled in adult family life, our responsibilities highlighted perfectly in Nick and Kala's living room as the children all mingled as children do.

Winston.Farewells made after a lovely morning, a quick bite to eat, and then we were off to a rarely visited location, an idyllic and isolated slice of rural Suffolk, Winston. This afternoon's South-East District Quarterly Meeting here just about ticked all the boxes for me. Whilst the 5cwt five are far from easy going both physically and on the ear, this is part of the appeal for me. My wife shudders as she recalls a peal she rang here almost exactly ten years ago, but as I've mentioned before, I'd find ringing awfully dull if all we had to ring on were peals of bells where the go are perfect, the sound pristine and absolutely no oddstruckness can be found, and whilst we obviously need good rings of bells, those rough around the edges peals like the ground-floor ring at St Andrew are - in my humble opinion - a vital experience for learners.

Ringing at Winston at the South-East District Quarterly Meeting.Members gathered in Winston church during ringing at the South-East District Quarterly Meeting.Having tea in Winston Village Hall at the South-East District Quarterly Meeting.Awaiting the start of the South-East Quarterly Meeting in Winston Village Hall.

Besides, I enjoy the challenge of bells like these, and their rustic sound emanating from the tower of this unassuming hamlet hub, surrounded by nothing more than a small gathering of quaint, ancient cottages and dwellings, forest and fields, a location it shares with the equally delightful village hall immediately adjoining the churchyard, where we headed straight after a nice service for a fantastic spread of food and the meeting. With Mary Garner returning to her former role to chair the meeting in Ralph Earey's absence, this was a relatively straightforward affair, though the GMC and BAC reports lengthened proceedings with issues arising from the Guild Striking Competitions and discussions to restructure them, to Little Cornard, which whilst not in our district was interesting to hear about and Winston Girling's attempts to buy a machine to measure oddstruckness. Even then, the meeting was only fifty minutes in its entirety.

Though we had plans, others were then making their way over to Debenham, but it was a real pleasure coming along to the event, meeting up with faces familiar and new, some not seen for a while, like Roger Coley and Aunty Marian, in a nice location on a late summer's afternoon. As with all the districts, we ought to be looking to get out to as many different places as possible, and the South-East is certainly doing this with this afternoon's tower, Tuddenham St Martin planned for October's practice and Easton also on the horizon, and it seemed that SE members responded today, with almost forty present over the course of proceedings on a date - albeit moved forward a week to allow people to attend next Saturday's Ringing Roadshow if they so wish - that has traditionally been very poorly attended. Well done and thank you to the Debenham ringers for their hospitality.

Our absence from the 21cwt eight of St Mary Magdalene in the evening was down to one final social engagement for the day, as we caught the tail-end of a BBQ at Mrs Munnings' former schoolfriend Verity, though after that tea in Winston there wasn't much room left for more food!

Meanwhile, whilst all of that was happening, well done to Neal Dodge on his first quarter of Grandsire as conductor in the 1260 at St Peter in Sudbury, another of our youngsters achieving something new on a good day for them generally.


Friday 29th August 2014

All this week, with 7pm finishes at work and something on every evening, we've been eating quite late, so when Mason suggested going out for tea, we didn't need anymore encouragement. It beat thinking of something to eat, getting it (shopping is another thing we've not had time to partake in since the weekend) and cooking, and so immediately after finishing a day of calling schools in the Americas, I joined Ruthie, Mason and Alfie at The Cherry Tree for some tea.

Earlier, it was interesting hear ringing mentioned in a discussion on Mark Murphy's Radio Suffolk show in regards to apparent complaints about the geese which have roamed freely in varying numbers for forty years on the village green in Beyton, as it was intimated that the people behind the complaints fell into the same bracket as those who moan about farm animals and bells. That doesn't reveal the exact story, as it appears only one person has complained about the geese, with the main concern seemingly - and understandably - being the waste they leave behind on the children's playground, but it was good to hear that our local BBC radio station still see us as part of life in the county. As are the pubs that provide grub for lazy folk like us!


Thursday 28th August 2014

There was a first for Alfie today, as he rolled over onto his front all by himself, and then - just to prove it was no fluke - did it again, an early achievement for the four-and-a-half-month-old.

I was able to catch one of the momentous moments as I popped home for lunch on a day that saw John Catt Educational at their generous best again, as we were returned to the scene of a sporting triumph for me in 2013, Alderton Bowls Club for the latest company treat. Last year I was fortunate enough to be paired up with one of JCEL's resident league players Ian, but without his expertise this afternoon, I floundered a little, and my partner Hilary and I came in joint last. Or to put it more positively, in the top five. Still, we all had fun!

It wasn't the end of our expedition though, as having returned back to Woodbridge from the far reaches of the Bawdsey Peninsula, we popped into The Crown Hotel for a drink and then crossed the road for a meal at Prezzo. I then left some of the others who seemed to be preparing for an altogether later evening, to be reunited with Ruthie, Alfred and also Mason, who in my absence had been dropped off by my parents after they had very kindly looked after the boy on this final Thursday of the summer holidays.

Whilst I was jollying it up, other Suffolk ringers were being more productive, with an impressive peal of a 168 Doubles methods and variations on handbells in Bacton and a quarter of Single Oxford and Double Oxford Bob Minor at Great Barton. Good luck to Neal Dodge and Simon Veal - two of the leading lights amongst the county's young ringers - on their respective immediate futures, with the former - the man behind the Guild's superb Twitter account - seemingly leaving us to work with Transport for London, whilst the latter will be beginning studies at Otley College. Well done to them both as well on ringing their first of the two methods in the 1260 today. Indeed it has been a day of achievement for youngsters within our borders!


Wednesday 27th August 2014

Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey.You don't often see a brace of osprey, let alone a brace of Osprey Helicopters (tiltrotor aircraft), so the sight of two of them circling Pettistree at low-level as the practice at SS Peter & Paul was being carried out saw several sudden rushes to the door as they flew over the village.Not that it affected the session on this ground-floor six too much. There was the usual variety, ranging from Call-Changes as Daphne Rose gets back into the swing of things, up to some very reasonable 'messing about' which consisted of some well-rung spliced variable-treble Doubles and Minor, prior to us reconvening in The Greyhound, which yet again was encouragingly busy.

Beforehand, a quarter was rung to the memory of Chris McArthur's father Donald who died last Friday, and our thoughts go out to Chris and his family.

That 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor wasn't the only ringing performance today in Suffolk or involving its ringers, with a 1320 of spliced Surprise Minor rung at Preston St Mary and Colin Salter ringing at his one hundredth different tower for a peal on the 3cwt six at Strensall in Yorkshire, somewhere I vividly remember going to over twenty years ago for some reason. Well done Colin. But a sixteen-year-old reaching a century of pealed towers? That's not something you see often.


Tuesday 26th August 2014

It was bound to happen sooner or later. After weeks of seemingly everyone from George W Bush to Bedfordshire ringer Andrew Keech to David Beckham getting soaked in iced water in the name of charity, and nominations to do the challenge flying around on Facebook, it seemed only a matter of time before I got nominated to do it myself. What I wasn't expecting though, was that it would be Mason who pointed the finger at me!

Not wanting to be a spoilsport, but I shan't be doing it, even at the request of my seven-year-old son. Instead, the Motor Neurone Disease Association will - thanks to the li'l chap - be £20 better off from me, and I would urge you to spend the time you would've spent watching me getting soaked, looking at the MNDA's website and the work they're doing, and donate to them or any charity you feel would benefit from any spare cash you may have. That's not to say I didn't appreciate the nomination - I was quite touched by it actually - and I hope that the challenge keeps raising awareness of and money for the various charities that are being associated with the millions of brave and generous folk worldwide who are partaking in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

There were challenges of a different sort in Suffolk ringing today, with three quarters rung, as Grandsire Triples was scored at Offton before their practice night, Doubles was rung at Old Newton, and Richard Stevens rang his first of Grandsire in the 1260 at Campsea Ashe, which also celebrated the birthday of local ringer Glenys Fear. Well done Richard and Happy Birthday Glenys!

Unusually for a Tuesday, we were doing our bit on the end of a rope too this evening, as with Kate away, we went along to Ufford for their weekly session. I ended up running what was a very lively hour-and-a-half with a decent attendance that included the visit of John Pereira, once of Stutton, but who with his wife Sandra - a former Secretary of the Guild - moved away a few years ago. It was nice to see him and he contributed to a practice that ranged from Plain Bob Minor and Plain Hunt on Seven to the Major varieties of Kent Treble Bob and Cambridge Surprise. That was as challenging as it got, and I was happy with that!


Monday 25th August 2014

It was the day of constant rain. From the moment it started this morning, through to us going to bed late tonight with it still pounding down, it was just hour after hour of the wet stuff falling, meaning our motivation for going out on this Bank Holiday Monday was limited.

Rumburgh.Still, others did go out, with a quarter rung at Rumburgh, and The Vestey Ring set-up at St Gregory's church (home only to three swung-chimed bells) in Rendlesham as part of the village's fete. As it turned out, they were in position for some unexpected PR, as Radio Suffolk were there as part of the Lesley Dolphin Show, and as the show cut to 'Roller Robbie' the presenter on the scene, the bells were ringing, before he then began interviewing a selected ringer, which just so happened to be my mother. Sadly, she was cut off in her prime, as technical problems probably connected to the weather meant that part-way through they lost sound, and Mrs Munnings' voice faded into the distance. However, the fact that the Suffolk Guild of Ringers were there and some background was imparted, and it's always nice to get some good publicity.

We were able to congratulate/commiserate with the radio star (though she had no idea most of her spiel was lost until we told her!) at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, as we braved the damp conditions for what has become the norm on a Bank Holiday Monday. As has been the case here and elsewhere this month, we were a little shorter on numbers than we typically are, but with the visits of George Vant and Don and Helen Price, we were still able to produce a decent repertoire from Eight-Spliced Surprise Major to Little Bob Maximus to London Surprise Royal (No.3), prior to heading home in the continuing downpours.

Before I sign off today, I'd like to mention a landmark reached by a ringing friend of mine, Stuart Hutchieson, who I rang with much in my time living in the Midlands, and who we now ring with on Rambling Ringers, as he rang his 1000th peal today, appropriately at his home tower (apart from his mini-ring!), Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire. He is a very, very good ringer and has done much for ringing in the Lichfield & Walsall Archdeaconries Society over the years, and I fondly remember his 'mad' spliced project for the Society which took in Four-Spliced Surprise Royal in Dudley, Eight-Spliced Surprise Maximus at Amersham and peaked with Four-Spliced Surprise Fourteen at St Martin in the Bullring in Birmingham, all with a band that was talented but many wouldn't have given much chance of succeeding in such stuff. I was also very grateful for him coming out to ring a 5021 of Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower in my early days of peal-arranging back in 2001. So congratulations Stuart, who - in a nice touch - shared the occasion with the 100th peal for his wife Liz and 2000th peal for his teacher Brian Harris. At least the rain didn't perturb you!



Sunday 24th August 2014

The topic on Rachel Sloane's show on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning was fundraising for churches, a topic that will be very close to the hearts of many of us as we look to raise funds for bell projects. It isn't always easy in this day and age to bring in thousands of pounds from a public still being squeezed after a tough few years, especially as there are causes that many will understandably see as more worthy than augmenting or rehanging a peal of bells, but there were lots of interesting suggestions to aide us in raising money for such projects, as well as much discussion on the outlets available for grants.

A very successful project was the rehanging of Pettistree's bells nearly thirty years ago, a project that received tremendous support from the villagers. As with quite a few places in recent weeks, holidays meant they were a little short for service ringing this morning, so Ruthie and I thought we ought to go and help out on this occasion. Our presence allowed all six to be rung, with the help too of David and Mary Hallett, a brother and sister who learnt to ring as local residents here when the bells were done up back in the mid-1980's. Considering their lack of practice, they not only contributed to some call-changes, but also Grandsire Doubles, all of it struck extremely well, for which Daphne Rose also deserves much credit.

Felixstowe.We didn't quite make it to Woodbridge for ringing, the last touch just starting off as we entered the church for the service, but we were in Felixstowe in plenty of time for my wife's next ringing engagement, a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Major. This was primarily an opportunity for Alex Rolph to meet Rosemary Hill, editor for the recent impressive edition of The Ringing World, but much more importantly in the circumstances, Ringing Master of the University of London Society of Change Ringers, as the youngster affectionately known as Flea prepares to begin studying at the Royal Veterinary College next month. It almost pales into insignificance compared to her brilliant A-Level results, but well done to her on ringing her first of Surprise Major in this afternoon's success on the coast. As ever when we lose our youngsters to university around the country, we shall be very sad to lose this talented ringer. She has made tremendous progress over the years, and whilst she is a quiet girl who will never shout about her abilities, there are plenty who will, especially in the North-East District. However, best of luck in her forthcoming education in the capital.

I wasn't ringing in the 1250 as I was looking after the boys, which involved ice cream on the beach (the sacrifices we parents have to make!), but we caught the end of it, which sounded assured and well-struck, before we all returned to the seafront for refreshment outside One 29. It was nice to catch up with everyone, especially the Hills before they returned south after a lively weekend!

We returned home to make our own pizzas, which entertained Mason, but probably won't be a great fundraiser!


Saturday 23rd August 2014

Maybe I am getting more mature. Ten years ago, if Ipswich lost to Naaaaridge as they did this afternoon, I would have been really very annoyed, and regrettably quite ungracious. Thankfully it didn't happen very often back then, but it has become the norm for our feathered friends from up the A140 to get the better of us in recent years, when they haven't been in the Premier League. Whether that is the reason for my rather philosophical acceptance of the latest capitulation to what - for all their success in the last few seasons - is still only the second most successful football team in East Anglia, or whether I have just grown up and acquired extra responsibilities and priorities, I don't know, but as we queued to leave the Spiral Car-Park after the 1-0 defeat, I found my self consoling a reassuringly upset Mason, as he looked back on his first experience of 'The Old Farm Derby'. It was - I told him - only a game, and we can look forward to the next one.

Whilst that much is true, today the yellows were the better team, admittedly aided by us being quite abysmal at times, but it was good to have the fixture return to the calendar after three years, with a superb atmosphere, though I suspect that it will only be back for one season on the basis of our visitors performance on this occasion. Us Ipswich fans have become accustomed to disappointment, with this just being the latest of many over the last decade and beyond, and I had pretty much reconciled myself to that same feeling as soon as their goal went in. At least we didn't lose 5-1 this time!

Life goes on of course, and did so immediately for myself and my eldest son, as we were reunited with Alfie and Ruthie at my wife's grandparents' abode, or at least once she had finished singing for a wedding at St Mary's. As ever, our hosts demonstrated wonderful hospitality and we were fed far too much, with us eventually leaving several hours later with plenty of leftover cake to take home with us, for which we were very grateful.

Meanwhile, a member of my family was ringing with another family who were gathering together this weekend, as my mother joined the Hills in celebrating Dick and Daphne Pegg's Diamond Wedding Anniversary with a quarter-peal at Bramford. Unlike the Tractor Boys three miles down the road, at least they scored. Ah well, you can't win them all.


Friday 22nd August 2014

It was a glorious end-of-a-week-of-early-shifts Friday afternoon made all the better by not having to get back to work until 11am on Tuesday, thanks to Monday's bank holiday! I look forward to rediscovering sleeping for a full night. Or at least as much as one can when one is responsible for a four-month old.

Some will have some extra spare time on their hands over the longer weekend too, as due to people being away there will be no ringing at Ufford on Sunday morning, with Pettistree also short earlier in the morning. If you can help, then I'm sure you'd be most welcome!

Our weekend started with a little bit of shopping as Mason enjoyed a trip round Ipswich on the open-top bus tour which explores the sights of Suffolk's county town, courtesy of his Nana - thanks Mum!

Elsewhere, congratulations to Dick and Daphne Pegg on their Diamond Wedding Anniversary today. Daphne has been a loyal servant to ringing in the South-East District, travelling up from their home in Capel St Mary to Sproughton and Grundisburgh regularly, often being available to help out for weddings and the like, and whilst Dick doesn't ring, he has been a huge support to her, sometimes to be found out in the car having accompanied his wife to ringing and always by her side at social events. And of course they have been the foundation of a very successful ringing family, with her daughter Christine Hill and granddaughters Katie and Rosemary integral parts of some of the best ringing scenes in the country.

Grundisburgh.So it was quite appropriate that sixty years to the day since this lovely couple's wedding at Bramford, that a peal of spliced Diamond and Bramford Alliance Royal involving one of their grandchildren, their daughter and both of their son-in-laws was rung on the back ten at the little wobbly red-brick tower that Mrs Pegg can be found in on a weekly basis, and which was also a birthday compliment to their other daughter Liz Pettman. Well done to all the band on ringing their first of Alliance Royal, Happy Birthday Liz and Happy Anniversary Dick and Daphne!

Whilst not quite so spectacular, it was also good to see the Friday Night Quarter-Peal Club notching up another useful quarter, this time at Ashbocking of St Clement's College Bob Minor, a glorious success on a glorious Friday.


Thursday 21st August 2014

Having moaned about the early starts all week, this afternoon highlighted a positive of them, as I collected Mason after lunch and we joined Ruthie and Alfie in heading over to Ickworth House, along the way negotiating the country lanes north of Ipswich in a superb advert for a northern bypass, and spotting the Vulcan Bomber that was flying over the A14 on its way to the Clacton Airshow as our local BBC radio channel gave a running commentary. On this occasion we weren't visiting this popular tourist destination in the heart of west Suffolk, but meeting up with my mother's sister, Aunty Janet, who was down from Lincolnshire for the day on a coach trip to the neoclassical gem.

The family in the grounds of Ickworth House. l to r - Dad, me, Alfie, Mason, Ruthie, Aunty Janet, Chris & Becky. Mum was taking the photo!Mum and Dad were there too, having met our visitor for lunch in nearby Bury St Edmunds, and we were also joined by newly engaged Chris and Becky, quite literally fresh from their life-changing trip across the continent, only arriving home an hour before our parents and aunt popped round to their abode! It was lovely to catch up and for another member of the family to meet Alfred, and especially to hear about our recently-returned travellers' adventures!

Once we had bade our farewells to Aunty Janet as she embarked her coach home, and mater and pater departed for Ipswich, we four were invited back to Chez Munford-Munnings for a cuppa and to hear all about the romantic proposal!

It involved no ringing for us, but there was some going on within our borders as we caught up with family, with Philip Moyse conducting a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Reydon in memory of his grandfather David, whilst the same length of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Campsea Ashe. Well done as well to Simon Veal, who yesterday rang his first peal of Major in the 5120 at The Wolery.

For me though, it was another early night, as I caught up on the sleep lost this afternoon!


Wednesday 20th August 2014

With a slightly later start of 6am at work this morning, came a greater sense of feeling a part of civilisation. Today's latest search for a second-hand high chair was again fruitless, but a social occasion nonetheless (as going into Woodbridge town centre usually seems to be for us!), as we bumped into Ruthie's work colleagues both present and past, as well as local ringer Susanne Eddis, who as a teacher is still enjoying the school holidays!

Great Barton.Talking of school holidays, there are still two more of the Wednesday Afternoon Summer Practice's at Great Barton left, amongst a programme of ringing which is typically busy, but different in timings. For example, both the South-East and South-West Districts are using the fifth Saturday of August for events that would normally be held at other times, with the former bringing forward their September Quarterly Meeting at Debenham and Winston from the first Saturday of next month, and the latter avoiding the forthcoming bank holiday weekend by moving their practice at St Peter in Sudbury. Support at both would be much appreciated - neither have been moved and arranged for just a handful of people to turn up.

Then - following the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles in two weeks time, and the Stoke-by-Nayland practice a couple of days after that - it is the event that is the reason for the SE moving from their usual monthly slot, the Ringing Roadshow at Newbury Racecourse, on Saturday 6th September. I've never been to one before, but I'm hoping we can go this time, as those I know who have been seem to have really enjoyed them. Whether we go or not will largely depend on whether Mason will be called down to Great Ormond Street Hospital for his next operation, as we have been warned to expect it around that time, but I hope that as many from Suffolk as can, take advantage of the chance to gather with ringers from across the world and catching a glimpse of the infinite possibilities that ringing offers. The list of exhibitors looks interesting (though admittedly a little dry in places!), and if reports and pictures of shows over the last few years since the first one in 1997 are anything to go by, there will be lots of familiar friends to get reacquainted with and new ones to make! It is worth noting that advanced tickets are only available up until 31st August, and after then will go up to £12 per person over the age of six.

Those unable to make it to Berkshire that day may be interested in the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology & History's 1st Annual Wheeler Conference (not anything to do with well-known ringer Stephen Wheeler that I'm aware of!) at The Athenaeum in Bury St Edmunds, which will be focusing on the The Suffolk Church in the Middle Ages. This is a subject that will be close to the heart of many a Guild member who carries out their ringing in these buildings, with one of the speakers being Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, who presented the TV series 'How God Made the English' which featured ringing at St Lawrence a few years back. A jolly nice chap who alone will be very interesting to listen to.

Whether it comes up in theses talks I don't know, but Pettistree church - like most in the county - has a history dating back to the Middle Ages, including some of the bells, which were in full flow as usual this evening. It all started as it traditionally does with a successful quarter involving my wife, and then continued with a decent session only interrupted by Peter Harper breaking the rope of the fourth. Not that that had any effect on me, as at that very moment I was nipping back home having forgotten to pack most of the clothes that Alfie needed!

Elsewhere, many congratulations to the Society of Stowmarket Youths on ringing their one hundredth peal, marked as so many of them have been on handbells in Bacton.

As ever, we finished with a drink in The Greyhound, which was again very busy with seating at a premium, but we didn't stay as long as we tend to, as despite the 'lay-in', it was still a long day that was beginning to catch up on me!


Tuesday 19th August 2014

I enjoy a good stat, and there are a decent smattering of them from Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters' Cycling Ringing Tour of Suffolk with Rowan Wilson and Abby Antrobus two weeks ago! Thirty-three towers over 238 miles, in the progress raising £361 is a phenomenal effort, and Ruthie and I were delighted to be amongst the 86 who helped out. We enjoyed ourselves, I hope the cycling threesome did too!

For me today though, it was another rather less exhilarating 4am start, and another afternoon of sleep, though we did manage a journey out to Kidz Kupboard in Rendlesham in search of a high chair, only to discover they've gone on holiday this week!

Offton.Preston St Mary.Rendham.Pettistree.

Elsewhere they were thankfully more alert and active, as the pre-practice quarter at Offton was successfully rung, the thirteenth there in 2014, putting them level with Preston St Mary and two ahead of Rendham, but some way behind the forty-four scored at Pettistree since 1st January. Like I said, I enjoy a good stat!


Monday 18th August 2014

Many, many years ago, in what seemed like a different lifetime, and in many respects actually was, my body was able to cope with late nights followed immediately by early mornings regularly when needed, whether that be for lectures, an assignment deadline or - more likely - ringing. Indeed, on a couple of occasions, in order not to miss the fun of the last night of term at university or a peal the following morning, I didn't go to sleep at all before getting my lift to what were successful attempts in both cases, though regrettably I doubt I could've rung that well!

Despite what Ruthie says, I'm not exactly ancient, but physically and mentally my ability to follow such lifestyle patterns has diminished significantly. As fun as much of it was, and I am glad I was able to experience it at that youthful time of life, as is the case with many I look back and cringe at a lot that I said and did in my teens and twenties when one's mindset is very very different, and regret some of it. Personally I hope I'm a better person than I was ten/fifteen years ago - I'd like to think I have learnt from my errors and gross misjudgments, and you can't turn back the clock of course, as much as you'd sometimes like to. As with my contemporaries who are also now married with children in nonetheless decent jobs most of us wouldn't have even entertained in our naive and wild ambitions, I have gradually matured (I continue to make mistakes!), with new responsibilities and contentment, and adjusted aspirations that are less selfish and hopefully less likely to cause upset in the present and embarrassment in the future! That combined with my ageing faculties means such shenanigans are no longer advisable or desirable, but it seems also to make the 4am shifts at John Catt a lot more difficult.

When I first began getting into work early in the morning for our international shifts way back in 2008, I recall being quite active in the free afternoons that followed. They were almost like days off and I - and the then Miss Eagle when she wasn't at work or uni in her own reckless youth - would often do a fair bit. The midweek ringers sometimes got the 'pleasure' of our company, I'd often go for peal attempts (including goes at the spliced Surprise Minor) and I even remember going on a mini-pub-crawl following a morning where I'd got up with or even before the sun. As the early shifts for the current sales campaign began in the blustery dark though, and following a quick burst of necessary shopping for Alfie that also took in a brief encounter with a blast from the past in the form of our old Sun Lane neighbour Bob, I was asleep for the vast majority of the afternoon, leaving my wife to watch TV as her son and husband snored in unison in the background.

St Mary-le-Tower.Indeed, the only reason I was woken was for the need to have a bite to eat before we picked Kate and Ron up for the resumption of our Monday evening trips into Ipswich after a four-week break, the latter for his bagpipe class, the former to join us at St Mary-le-Tower for the practice night. I'm glad we did too, as with quite a lot away during this peak holiday season, we were down to just fourteen including us (but not Alfred!), though that included the welcome appearance of Sean Antonioli, an entirely understandable rare occurrence currently. That said, it made for a useful evening for him, Mandy Shedden and Peter Davies, the latter two involved in an extremely good half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal that was set off by some absolutely spotless rounds, highlighting the importance of a good start from the very first pull-off. And following a quick nappy change for AJM, the evening was finished with some Stedman Caters that was going very well before it inextricably collapsed, as Stedman is prone to do.

Elsewhere, an appropriate quarter was rung to the memory of David Moyse, at his home tower Reydon, and featuring his grandson Philip and good friends of his, which I'm sure he would have been pleased with. A fitting tribute.

Back in the county town, we three followed our session at SMLT with a drink at The Mulberry Tree, where we were joined by our resident piper after his session. I guess I'll find out tomorrow if I'm still able to combine a trip to the pub with a 4am start!


Sunday 17th August 2014

It's funny the things you notice. As Mason and I crossed Tower Street to St Mary-le-Tower this morning, the bells suddenly struck up. A young lady looked up as you might expect someone to when a sudden noise bellows forth from a huge structure such as that which holds Suffolk's heaviest twelve, but largely seemed uninterested. The young boy she was pushing though, was looking up in awe, a huge look of joy and curiosity spread across his features. It's nice to be appreciated!

What he wasn't to know was that we were actually quite low on numbers this morning, with just enough to ring some rounds on ten and then to finish with three leads of Bristol Surprise Major on the back eight.

Grundisburgh.In a role reversal of the normal order of things, Grundisburgh had a larger than usual attendance, with all twelve rung to some call-changes, helped by the visit of John Verity, a nice chap who normally rings on the 14cwt eight at Redhill in Surrey, but who descends from the village and was taught to ring by the late Cecil 'Jim' Pipe in the little wobbly red-brick tower.

Having met up again with Ruthie and Alfie who had accompanied Kate to ringing at Pettistree, lunch and tea sandwiched the departure of my eldest as I have a very early start tomorrow, before a busy evening that began with this month's special practice at the aforementioned SMLT, another useful session that also saw the visit of young George Vant from Essex. Having not met him until Ian and Claire Culham's wedding a couple of weeks ago, this is the third time we've had the pleasure of Mr Vant's company, and it's good to see a youngster being enthusiastic and getting himself out and about, and especially in pushing himself as he was this evening. Keep it up George!

With my wife due to attend the South-East District Committee meeting at the Earey's abode in Sproughton just an hour after we finished in the centre of Ipswich, it seemed silly to go back to Woodbridge just to leave almost as soon as we got home, so we were grateful to my parent's hospitality that allowed the current newest Mrs Munnings to have a cuppa before I took her over to carry out her secretarial duties, and then kept myself and their grandson company until it was time to collect her.

It was an apparently busy meeting, as it should be to be truly worthwhile. Of course the Guild Striking Competitions (and striking competitions generally) came up, and it was good to hear that differing opinions on them came up, which is important as we'll never get things right unless we are aware of as many viewpoints as possible. My personal view is that these are vital tools - if you and your band allow them - to progress your ringing, and a jolly good social occasion. The aim is not necessarily to win, but rather to improve, and I believe we have to be flexible to allow as many bands and ringers as possible to take part, even if that means ringers ringing for more than one team, which is actually a relative rarity these days, at least compared to the competitions of many years ago which some members still seem to base their perceptions on. However, we have to make sure that we aren't putting off those who don't partake, and properly address the concerns that discourage them from benefitting from these highlights of the ringing calendar.

Apart from that, arrangements for the forthcoming SE District Quarterly Meeting at Debenham and Winston were brought up, which it is important to note will be on Saturday 30th August, rather than the usual first Saturday of September, so as to avoid clashing with the Ringing Roadshow in Newbury. And thanks have to go Jane Harper who has taken on the arranging of the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich this year, after Brian Redgers stepped down from organising this superb event after more years then he cares to remember. I'm sure I speak for all who have enjoyed this traditional festive adventure on the last Saturday before the 25th December, when I say how grateful we are to the Reverend Redgers for arranging them. As much as he receives a tremendous response from the county's ringers, that is in no small part to how popular the occasion has become and how willing people are to help him, but it is no easy task. At that time of year, he was always heavily reliant on the weather, which didn't always play ball, and mechanical failure and even shootings have played their part in making life hard for him, but its always been a tremendous success. Thank you Brian, and best of luck to Jane!

Meanwhile, congratulations to Clare Goodchild on ringing her first quarter, trebling to the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Hollesley, as this geographical outpost continues to punch above its weight when you consider how far out on a limb it is. Hopefully it gave Clare and the others in the band as much joy as ringing gave that little boy this morning.


Saturday 16th August 2014

Family was the theme today, as we joined Ruthie's vast and currently fast-growing family at Edwin Avenue, where Kate and Ron were very kindly hosting a BBQ for us all. The adults all enjoyed catching up, and in some cases meeting my wife's uncle's new girlfriend, whilst the children boisterously bound about the place, the boys Mason and Freddie thick as thieves, the girls Lucy and Poppy giggling anytime anyone walked past, and contemporaries Alfie and Thomas staring each other out cautiously, their first proper interaction as Alfred was only a few days old when they first met. Many thanks to our hosts for a wonderful afternoon.

Fun as this all was, we weren't marking any particular occasion, other than it has been a while since we all gathered together, and today was the only date on which everyone could make it, but it did mean missing the Guild Social in the South-West District. Hopefully that all went well, but something that does seem to be going well is the holiday of my brother and his girlfriend Becky, at least judging by the exciting news that last night they got engaged in Prague! They make a superb couple, and this is another family landmark that marks us all growing up! And it fits in nicely with today's theme...


Friday 15th August 2014

Reydon.It was nice to see the quarter rung at Rendham this evening to the memory of David Moyse, whose funeral was held yesterday. Synonymous with Reydon of course, his influence went beyond just the 10cwt six and even the North-East District. His work on the BAC was invaluable and his grandson Philip - who was appropriately ringing in the 1344 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major - is a fine legacy.

We were having a quieter night at home, whilst neighbours further down the road were having quite some party. For several hours until nearly 1am. The boys slept through it of course, being less sensitive to others getting on with their lives at a higher decibel than a whisper, perhaps due to them being exposed to noise from the beginning. When I arrived at one tower once to be confronted by a local resident who had complained that the bells had previously kept her neighbours' children awake, several hundred yards away, behind closed windows, I had been tempted to point out that Mason had spent much of his early months sleeping IN ringing chambers. I held back of course, diplomat and fence-sitter that I am, but was chomping at the bit to put the sound of bells into a context for her. How she - and her friends' kids - would've reacted to the noisy celebrations tonight of teenagers who have presumably just got their A-Level results, I can only imagine, but it highlights that the art that offers us so much, and that dear David enjoyed so much is not the menace some would have you believe. 


Thursday 14th August 2014

Barndeston.Often when youngsters get it, they really get it. So it seems with Richard Stevens, the ten-year old who just a few weeks ago was feeling his way through trebling to Plain Bob Doubles and who in less than a month has rung his first quarter, his first as cover and today with the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Brandeston his first inside. As with his debut at Sweffling, this was at the first attempt and with both his parents in the band, who must be delighted, and rightly so. Well done Richard.

Also with our county's border, but beyond the Diocese's and Guild's, well done Julie Moore, who was ringing her first quarter at the first attempt, in the success at Kessingland, and whilst this Norwich Diocesan Association effort in Suffolk was carried out, there was also a peal rung on handbells in their name at Bacton, alongside one rung for the Society of Stowmarket Youths at the same location.

A busy day then for ringing in the county, one that Ruthie and I contributed to with our attendance at Ufford for this month's Surprise Major practice, where we were accompanied by fourteen other ringers in a crowded ringing chamber. It meant there were a decent number of those more experienced at this level, whilst not too many of those learning, meaning that they got a proper opportunity to practice their method of choice. There was much Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Superlative rung, plus a course of Bristol which sounded exciting as I changed Alfie out in the car (it was a little too cosy to subject those present to that!) and some eight-spliced which took two bites but eventually went alright in the circumstances, and will probably be a focus for future practices!

By this point we had been blessed by the appearance of Mason, who had spent the afternoon travelling with his Nan on the open-top sightseeing bus around Woodbridge, and was very kindly fed and brought round by Mum and Dad after I'd finished another late shift at work, and Ruthie and Alfred had had fun at baby club and dodging thunderstorms with Amy and her daughter and AJM's contemporary Maddison.

Talking of youngsters having fun, it is worth reading Neal Dodge and George Salter's report on the Young Ringers' recent day out at and participation in the National Youth Contest in Worcester, where they did superbly, and is an indication of a potentially bright future for the Guild. Next year's competition is due to take place in Oxford on Saturday 11th July, which avoids the first Saturday when the South-East District holds its events and God willing may mean we might be able to go along, something I've wanted to do since the contest began three years ago to mark the centenary of The Ringing World. I'm glad to say he's got a lot of competition, but at the rate he's going, young Master Stevens mayl be in contention for making the team! Keep up the good work Richard!


Wednesday 13th August 2014

This evening's practice at Pettistree was a typically useful affair. Anne Buswell rang Beverley Surprise Minor very well, Richard Stevens continued his progress by ringing inside to Plain Bob Minor for the first time, with bobs thrown into the equation too, and the quarter beforehand was scored. But it was very quiet, with a number of regulars not present.

Conversely, The Greyhound was overspilling with a 'network event' filling the beer garden, car-park and pub, the village crammed with cars. In a day and age when reports of inns closing permanently are still sadly a regular occurrence, it was a wonderful sight, a lesson to other 'landlords' not so far away of how much better and more rewarding a thriving hostelry is for a community than money-grabbing selfishness. Indeed, it was the second Wednesday running that seats here have been at a premium, but Ron and Kate had very kindly saved us some space among the throngs inside, with for once no space available outside!

Meanwhile, SS Peter & Paul wasn't the only place in Suffolk where a quarter was rung today, with a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor completed on the back six at Bardwell and Kevin Ward ringing his most Doubles methods in the 1260 on the back five at Preston St Mary. Well done Kevin. Whilst it seems both venues were short, as at Pettistree, it appears they were typically useful affairs.


Tuesday 12th August 2014

After all of yesterday's 'excitement', its successor was considerably quieter. With a 1-0 defeat to Crawley Town, Ipswich Town pulled off their annual defeat to a lower league club at the first round of the League Cup, something that is almost as much of a tradition each year as Christmas or Robert Beavis starting a new degree course, so that wasn't exactly out of the ordinary.

Ropley bells.Ropley bells.There were some interesting pictures on Facebook from Matthew Higby of the damage done (which is surprisingly little bar a couple of bells being cracked) to the bells and church at Ropley down in Hampshire following the recent fire there, but although there was lots in the national and international news about yesterday's death of Robin Williams, ringing-wise it was a very slow news day, with not even any quarters or peals rung in Suffolk or for the Guild, at least not any that have been put on BellBoard and Campanophile at the time of writing. Not every day can be exciting I suppose.


Monday 11th August 2014

We love living in Woodbridge, but it's not the most exciting place. There was the train accident at one of the level crossings a few years ago which wiped out the car of our landlord of the time, but thankfully not him and his family. A tree blew over in Kate's street once. And on a couple of occasions the traffic lights stopped working, though everyone agreed that was a vast improvement on them creating miles of queues and clogging up the town as they usually do. Today we had something that is usually the preserve of big cities and notable landmarks. A bomb scare.

It all occurred at the Deben Pool, not the most obvious or high profile target for such an act, and of course it all turned out to be hoax (not that the staff or emergency services could be sure of that), with most in the town assuming it originated from a disgruntled ex-employee or someone who had been ejected, but that is of course all conjecture and something for the police to investigate. For this morning, it meant a more complicated drive into work than I typically have, as the road outside the Pool that I usually use on my daily commute, and the only main through route in the town was cordoned off by the boys in blue with a considerable presence.

If I was on a normal 9-5 at John Catt, I would've missed it all, but this week I am on later shifts as our annual mammoth sales campaign for the IB World Schools Yearbook begins, meaning we shall need to be in over all sorts of times to contact schools across the planet during the next two months or so, and ringing will probably be a little sidelined at times.

No such sidelining for the band ringing a peal at Great Barton today, which replicated a peal rung there on 2nd October 1912 involving Oliver Bullman and Frederick G Dewell, two young men who only a short time later were to lose their lives fighting in the First World War, the centenary of which was the main reason for this poignant half-muffled 5040.

On another sad note, I was sorry to hear of the death of David Moyse, a man who had done so much for the restoration of and ringing at Reydon, as well as on the Suffolk Guild BAC and who must have been chuffed to bits to see what his talented grandson Philip has achieved thus far in ringing. I'm sure many will want to be be present at his funeral, which will appropriately be at St Margaret on Thursday at 2.30pm.

He would've been pleased I'm sure to see the North-East District he rang in having such a success with its 'Week of Firsts', and particularly with Michelle Williams their Ringing Master for organising it. Nineteen people managed firsts at nine different towers over the week, a phenomenal effort. Well done to them all, including young Richard Stevens, who topped off a brilliant week by ringing inside to touches of Plain Bob Doubles at Aldeburgh practice. And congratulations to Michelle on putting in place such a superb event.

This was all worthy of celebration of course, but we had another reason to celebrate on this Monday, as we reached our second (cotton apparently) wedding anniversary. Yes, incredibly it is already two years to the day since that glorious, roasting hot day when Ruthie became Mrs Munnings, another of those exciting events in Woodbridgian history. Not wanting to get too sickly on such a blog, now is probably as good a time as any to publicly put on record how lucky I am to have such a lovely, patient wife, particularly over the last year through pregnancy, sleepless nights and lots and lots of nappies, all whilst continuing her role as South-East District Secretary so well, and being a wonderful stepmum to Mason, who is so appreciative of her that he insisted on getting us an anniversary card!

Mrs & Mr Munnings after their anniversary meal.To celebrate therefore, we left Alfie in the capable hands of Grandmother Kate (thank you again Kate!) and risked our lives by wandering into our dangerous town of residence for a meal out. Our original plan of trying somewhere new amongst the many places to eat we are fortunate to have within our community, was thwarted by The Table being closed on Monday evenings, so instead we less than reluctantly wandered a few yards down the road to an old favourite, The Anchor. As ever, the food was marvellous, as was the company of course, and we topped off the night by popping into The Cherrytree for a pint on the way home. Who said Woodbridge isn't exciting?


Sunday 10th August 2014

So we survived Hurricane Bertha, or the remnants of it at least. In fact, so watered down was it by the time it hit the shores of Suffolk that we overslept, thus missing ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, which was unfortunate as with the St Mary Woodbridge's choir on hiatus for the month, Ruthie was in a position to accompany me.

We at least managed Grundisburgh, contributing to an attendance big enough in numbers to ring on all twelve, but it was otherwise a very quiet Sunday for us.

OrfordNot so for others, with Alan Mayle ringing his 950th for the Guild and conducting for the 350th time in the peal of Wrinkonshire Surprise Major at Orford. Alan has done much for the Guild over many years, in particular to regards to peal-ringing that has brought up the standard of many of our members, and his stint for several years as Peal Secretary, so it is a landmark well-earned, and of course only fifty short of joining a very select group!

Someone who may have many years of contributing to the SGR ahead of him, but who is currently primarily benefitting ringing in Bristol whilst carrying out his studies is Alex Tatlow. Well done to him on ringing his first on sixteen in yet another strong indication of the strength of ringing among this country's younsgters, as band with the average age of twenty-two years and two months rang a  5016 of spliced Yorkshire Surprise and Little Bob Sixteen on the UK's only ring of sixteen, St Martin's-in-the-Bullring in Birmingham. It is a fine achievement, especially when you consider that Alex was one of fourteen ringing their first on that number. Well done to the lad from Great Barton, especially on ringing it through a hurricane!


Saturday 9th August 2014

Alfie and me watching Ipswich Town on the TV as we get into injury time.The football season is back! I can hear sighs, especially as the World Cup barely seems to have finished, and I'm sure it won't take long for disappointment and frustration to take over as it does every season for Ipswich Town fans, but the first day has been a joy. Not only did the Tractor Boys unexpectedly start their 2014-15 and thirteenth straight Championship campaign with a 2-1  victory over Fulham who were in the Premier League just three months ago, but it was shown live on TV, allowing Ruthie, Mason, Alfie and myself to watch it unfold as it happened. Despite going 2-0 up, allowing our visitors to get one back meant it was a nail-biting finish, even for young Alfred, though in many ways it made the result even more satisfying.

Hopefully 17,000+ people descending upon St Matthew's parish for the 5.15pm kick-off didn't cause too many problems for the finish at the same time to Jed Flatters, Rowan Wilson and Abby Antrobus' immense cycling ringing tour of Suffolk on the 10cwt six up the road from the home of East Anglia's (still) most successful football club, but two places where ringing definitely wasn't prevented were Halesworth and Theberton, where quarters of Superlative Surprise Major and Doubles respectively were rung. The former saw Veronica Downing ring her first in the method and Michelle Williams conduct her first on eight, with the latter being the platform for ten-year-old Richard Stevens' latest achievement as he rang his first as cover, both successes part of the North-East District's Week of Firsts, whilst there were also visiting quarters of Grandsire Doubles at Drinkstone and Yorkshire Surprise Major on The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.

There was no ringing for us however, though as all this was happening, my wife was singing for a wedding at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, whilst the boys and I popped along to the Hasketon Fete in glorious sunshine, signalling that whilst the footy is back, summer isn't finished yet!


Friday 8th August 2014

First thing this morning we got some really good news as Mason's Godmother Kala gave birth to a beautiful girl who has been named Robyn, a first child for her and her husband Nick. Another baby for my eldest to coo over, and another contemporary for Alfie alongside Maddison. Get-together's in the future may well get very lively!

It was fantastic news to wake me up in readiness for my return to work after two weeks of holiday. As much as I feel very fortunate to be in work even in these days of apparent economic recovery (which is primarily a byword for the richer getting richer rather than there being any discernible additional benefits for the rest of us) and although I enjoy my work immensely, it is always a shame to have to put an end to deadline-free days and the opportunity to do almost anything you want to do. Within reason of course. No quaffing champagne whilst yacht racing round Silverstone, but you get the idea.

Alfie getting used to his new bouncer.The li'l chaps can still enjoy such freedoms of course, and they had the pleasure of Ruthie's company whilst I was back at John Catt, but I at least got to spend the evening with them, ahead of a quiet weekend, with Alfred enjoying his new bouncer. We have more planned for next weekend, which will sadly preclude us attending the Guild Social a week tomorrow, but if you are able to make it you have just a couple more days left to get tickets.

This was a truly superb event when it was last held in the South-West District five years ago, and with ringing at Polstead, Boxford, Kersey and Hadleigh before the main event of BBQ, beer, games, raffle and much more at the Guild Hall, there is something for all people of all ages, and the SW have obviously put in a lot of effort to arrange it, so please, please do support it if you can.

Hopefully having as much fun today were the ringers of quarters of Doubles at Tannington and Plain Bob Major at Rendham, the latter seeing Ian Wright ringing his first of Major. Well done Ian, and Happy Birthday to loyal Guild servant, all-round nice guy and friend to so many in ringing including - we're privileged to say - us, Trevor Hughes, a mere seventy years senior to little Robyn!


Thursday 7th August 2014

It was one of those unexciting but pleasant and productive days, as we got stuff done that we can't very easily do when I'm at work. We did some shopping for Alfie and us at Toys 'R' Us and Currys & PC World respectively and I was then able to join Ruthie and Alfred at the baby club they attend at the local Children's Centre. Conscious as I was that I was the only male there being able to walk all by myself and not wearing a nappy, it was an enjoyable afternoon watching young AJM interacting with his contemporaries as they splashed around in a paddling pool, and it was good to catch up with Amy and Maddison who were also there.

On the way back, we bumped into Giles Croucher, a ringer whose father Martin is on the Guild's BAC. Giles is also a fantastic photographer and was wandering the area around our home for shots on another one-moment-monsoon-conditions-next-moment-roasting-sunshine day. His superb work can be checked out on his website, which is well worth a visit.

Grundisburgh.Later, having picked Mason up, we went along to Grundisburgh practice. Since Mrs Munnings joined the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and their Thursday night practices, it has become less practical to go to the sessions on Suffolk's lightest twelve, even since their recent resurgence due to the efforts of Joanne Crowe. However, with the choir now taking their traditional and well-earned August break, we decided to help out on this occasion. And judging by this evening, they need the help. That's not to be disparaging to those there, who were trying their best, and there were some highlights, such as the decent course of Yorkshire Surprise Major and some well-rung Stedman Triples called by Bruce Wakefield, that was successful at the second attempt after my wife and I swapped in the first attempt! Generally though, they need more experienced Surprise and higher number ringers to help them, especially as for various reasons Stephen Pettman is rarely able to come along.

Stoke Ash.We weren't the only ones ringing today of course, as most notably a peal was successfully rung at Stoke Ash. Well done to Neal Dodge on ringing his first in eleven Doubles methods, and congratulations to Louis Suggett on ringing his 100th for the Guild. A productive day all round then!


Wednesday 6th August 2014

Last Wednesday we went to The Mason's Arms for Mason, this Wednesday we went to the Sir Alfred Munnings for Alfie. Our opportunity came after ringing on the six in the village of the senior AJM's birth, Mendham, all a part of Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatter's cycling and ringing tour of Suffolk this week to celebrate the centenary of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich. I think this is a superb idea, and I'm sorry that today is the only day we've been able to join Jed, Rowan Wilson and Guild Librarian Abby Antrobus as they cycle around our beautiful county.

South Elmham St Margaret.Now I'm not a cyclist, but I don't mind admitting to being slightly envious of these three intrepid bikers and their journeying through country lanes and along rivers and coastline in the height of summer. Except for this morning that is. As the heavens opened and unloaded a considerable percentage of their water supply on East Anglia, we were happier to be negotiating the huge puddles on the waterlogged roads along our border with Norfolk, where the tour was today after two days making its way up the coast. We were even happier still to have the shelter of Aloysius as we arrived at the first tower of the day, Bungay. There was no noise, and with the rain so heavy that just stepping out of the car resulted in me looking like I'd jumped into a swimming pool with my clothes on, and only about ten or fifteen minutes left of ringing, we felt it better to head to the next planned tower South Elmham St Margaret and await the arrival of our ringing companions.

Ringing at South Elmham St Margaret, l to r - Jed Flatters, Rowan Wilson, Ruthie & Paul Bray.Ringing at Mendham, l to right - George Vant (2nd), Abby Antrobus (3rd) & Rowan Wilson (4th).A soaked Jed on the 5th at Mendham.

It was a good job we did too, as once there we discovered the reason for the silence of the previous tower had been a lack of a key and a service running as the cyclists arrived, but there were no such problems on the 11cwt ground-floor five, as a decent turnout allowed us to make a good job of this tricky peal, before going onto the birthplace of the Munnings family's most famous member for a session that saw a variety of ringing from some Plain Bob Doubles for Helen the local to treble to a course of well-rung Primrose Surprise Minor.

Weybread.Oakley.Lunch enjoyed, we partook in Norwich Surprise Minor at Weybread and appreciated the photos, books and memories of local ringer Norman Howard that gave a tremendous insight into ringing in this far corner of the SGR, before eventually starting at Oakley once the cyclists had helped Abby through her second, third and fourth punctures of the day. But whilst the sun was now out, very well done to Jed, Rowan and Abby on their efforts, which it is to be remembered is the third of six days of cycling and ringing. I really hope those who can come out and support them over the next three days, do so. Keep it up guys!

Our efforts were not over once we left the final tower of their touring today, as we followed it up with attendance at Pettistree practice, where we were helped by the visit of Alex Tarlow, and Bill Lloyd filled us in on his adventures with trebling to Cambridge Surprise Minor. With The Greyhound reassuringly packed, the evening ended outside on another pleasant, warm night, but it began with a 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor, one of two quarters rung in Suffolk today. Well done to John Ramsbottom on ringing his first of London Surprise Minor in the 1320 of the method on the back six at Bardwell, which joined yesterday's 1260 of Doubles at Wickham Market in commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, whilst there was also the first ever peal of Elmley Lovett Surprise Major rung for the Guild, scored at The Wolery, and which was also Colin and Katherine Salter's one hundredth together. I'm not aware of a Salter's Arms nearby to celebrate in afterwards though.


Tuesday 5th August 2014

Apparently - according to a report highlighted on BBC Look East today - there are 120,000 people classed as lonely in East Anglia. Along with the frequent reports that youngsters don't have anything to do, it seems there is huge potential for ringing to offer something for these people, and in the process boost our numbers. As PR Officer it is something that I think a lot about, but it doesn't mean it is down to me to find the answers. I am always happy to accept ideas!

There were peals on handbells at Bacton and on the mini-ring at The Wolery today, but somewhere there won't be an opportunity to ring is Rushmere St Andrew on Friday evening, as this week's practice has been cancelled. And following ten days of churches, we went nowhere near any today. However, as I am still on holiday, I was able to partake in the fortnightly weighing of Alfie that I typically miss due to work, and with the li'l chap weighing in at 17lbs3oz (winning the family mini-sweepstake!), I also got to accompany Ruthie to our son's latest jabs, and God willing the last until he's one. It wasn't a pleasant experience, but Alfred was a brave little boy and even managed the postnatal class that he and his mother usually attend on a Tuesday afternoon, before a quiet night in. Though, thank God, not a lonely night.


Monday 4th August 2014

If I had been born in 1878 instead of 1978, I may well have been faced with an almost impossible decision a century ago today, and I can't say I know what I would have done. Hindsight and my general cowardice suggests that I would choose not to put my life at risk by joining others of my age and younger in the trenches of northern Europe. Of course many didn't realise what they were getting themselves into, and in those circumstances I may well have joined friends and family in doing my bit for King and country, especially as the alternative of staying behind and being branded a traitor and generally being ostracised by the community may not have seemed so appealing in comparison.

We now know that the decision of Britain and Germany to go to war exactly one hundred years ago would lead to the deaths and life-changing injuries of millions around the world in unimaginably awful conditions for reasons that were largely forgotten four years on, and although some world leaders still don't seem to have learnt the lessons of the First World War, God willing it is unlikely that I or any of my civilian contemporaries will have to face the choices of my age-group in 1914, a situation that is in no small part due to the sacrifices made and risks taken by the young men of that time.

Ron playing the bagpipes in Pettistree churchyard.Alfie taking in the bagpipes.So although the events of today that climaxed in a candlelit vigil at Westminster Abbey and lights across the country going out (including ours) were a marking of the moment that war began rather than specifically a memorial to the lives lost, it was hard not to think of the vast waste of life and the individual stories of pain and loss we have heard about in recent months as the world commemorated this significant date. Therefore, the very least we as bellringers could do was ring out for the occasion, and that is what many have done, including us in Suffolk. Today there was a peal rung on handbells for the Society of Stowmarket Youths in Bacton, forty-two minutes worth of Oxford Treble Bob Minor at Great Barton which was Neal Dodge's first in the method (well done Neal), a quarter of Doubles at Kersey, a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Thornham Magna and a 1320 of Centenary Treble Place Minor at Pettistree. Ruthie and I were honoured to partake in the latter, and privileged that we could witness Ron - who had very kindly looked after Alfie whilst we rang - play the bagpipes afterwards in the churchyard, a performance that attracted attention from villagers coming from all directions on a beautiful sunny summers evening.

Having brought him and Kate, we returned them home, but not before a drink outside The Coach & Horses with my wife's workmate Carol and her fella Nigel, who we bumped into by chance. As we drank and joked under the setting sun, it seemed a world away from the events of one hundred years ago.


Sunday 3rd August 2014

How often do you sit next to a Queen's Chaplain and opposite the mother of Griff Rhys Jones watching a DVD of when the former met the Queen? Not very often, but it was a welcome way to relax following church at St Mary the Virgin back in our town of residence, Woodbridge, as after days of travelling we went no further than Tesco.

The aforementioned scenario was at Kev the Rev's for a cheese and wine party that was the highlight of a day that predominantly saw us sorting ourselves out after our week away. Others were busier though, with a quarter of Grandsire Doubles on the back six at Halesworth and one of four Doubles methods at Pettistree, the former seeing Alex Rolph and Philip Gorrod ring their fiftieth together.

A reassuringly quiet day then, if a little strange!


Saturday 2nd August 2014

So farewell Yorkshire, it has been a wonderful week in your company. It started with a little grumble about some towers not being overly helpful in arranging a time to visit, but the main sense we come away with is of a wonderful welcome from the majority. They don't seem to do big ringing chambers or short ropes, but it has been a joy exploring some of the biggest county in the UK, up beat and down dale, into some of the most secluded and beautiful places in the country, and through the urban industrial heartland of the north of England that helped make Britain the world power it once was. It has also been wonderful to see first-hand how much they celebrated the Tour de France visiting their back yard, with bunting and yellow bikes still present across and alongside its streets, lanes and roads, almost a month after the Grand Depart, and days after the entire Tour came to an end in Paris.

Of course the Tour de France left Yorkshire all those weeks ago to carry on to Cambridgeshire and then Essex, and today we made a similar journey for a very special occasion and the reason we had finished early from another Tour, that of the Rambling Ringers. For this afternoon at Lawford, Ian Culham and Claire Turner were married on a lovely afternoon in north Essex, in the company of ringers from both sides of the border with Suffolk. The Pettmans, Pipes and entire Salter clan joined us in representing ringing from within our borders, along with The Vestey Ring, whilst the Towlers, the Sparlings' Brian Meads, Jon Waters, Tom Roast and of course Claire's mother Anne Bray and her husband Paul and David the father of the Groom were there on behalf of the county hosting the happy event. There were also members of the Guild of St Agatha that play such an important part in the family's life, as well as Ian and Wendy Campbell, prominent members of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths.

The new Mr & Mrs Culham come out of Lawford church to ringing on The Vestey Ring.Ian & Claire ringing on The Vestey Ring.Paul Bray making his speech.The quarter being rung as the reception continues.

But the stars of the day were of course the new Mr and Mrs Culham, who had arranged a tremendous afternoon, from a lovely service that also involved the Catholic element so dear to Claire and Anne in particular, to a lively reception that reflected how this tremendous couple met through ringing without boring non-ringers present. The SGR Mini-Ring enthralled all who were present, ringing out the newlyweds at the bell-less church and then hosting a quarter during the reception at the Venture 2000 Centre round the corner.

Alfie generally behaved impeccably, though he did register his customary disliking of the speeches, whilst Mason and his contemporary Henry Salter were typically inseparable, but after a long day of travelling that saw us spend only just enough time at home to get ready for the wedding, and it getting late for the children, we bade more farewells as Ian's brother's band were getting into full flow, with Ruthie very kindly driving us home - thank you Ian and Claire for inviting us and for a fantastic afternoon and evening!

Our presence at their big event meant that we missed the Ramblers Tour meeting that is traditionally held on the second Saturday of the Tour and the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening which is now a tradition of the first Saturday. As suspected, they all coped with our absence, as the former voted to go to another nice part of the world in the shape of North-East Kent for the 65th Tour in 2015 and the latter saw three quarters scored at Ashbocking, Clopton and the reassuringly familiar Otley. Well done to all involved in what is a highlight of the Guild calendar, but especially to Matt Newson on ringing his first inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at the latter venue on his 21st birthday and Tess Styles on ringing her first altogether in the success at the former. They weren't the only successes though, as another 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Reydon.

Pleased as we were to see that, personally today was all about saying goodbye to Yorkshire and hello to Mr and Mrs Culham!


Friday 1st August 2014

The views from Middlesmoor church.The views from Middlesmoor church.Happy Yorkshire Day! And what better place to celebrate such a day then in the hills of the county in the mist and drizzle, as Ruthie, Mason, Alfie and I embarked our last day of ringing on this year's Ramblers' Tour, a day started at the end of a long lane hugging the side of Gouthwaite Reservoir high in the hills at Middlesmoor. Even in some miserable conditions, the church of St Chad which houses a 10cwt six is in a stunning location, and it seemed a shame to leave, but we were due back down the hill at the eight at Pateley Bridge so light that there aren't even stays on the two trebles.

We weren't so desperate to grab the four at Winksley, and so we decided to head to Kirkby Malzeard, where Mum and Dad have been staying this week, but more immediately the location of the first tower after lunch. The plan had been to grab a bite to eat in the village and be ready for ringing on the 16cwt eight. However, The Henry Jenkins Inn has apparently been closed for some time and when we wandered hopefully into The Queen's Head in sight of St Andrew's church, we discovered that the people running were new to the establishment and hadn't got kitchens set up yet. They did very kindly point us in the direction of the neighbouring community of Grewelthorpe though, where we found The Crown Inn, my kind of place. It may seem old fashioned to many eyes, with brasses and pictures on the walls, timber beams and nothing particularly exotic on the menu, and sadly the place was empty except for us four, but I love these sorts of places, finding them more relaxing and accommodating, though we have still been delighted with the meals we have had all week.

 Ringing at Kirkby Malzeard, l to r - Thirza & Paul de Kok (sat down), Geoff Wells on the treble, Geoff & Linda Pick (sat down), Sally Munnings on the second, Ellie Maude on the fourth. Ringing at Masham, l to r - Mike Dew (7th), Harm Jan de Kok (8th), Andrew Blacklock (9th) & Chris Woodcock (Tenor).West Tanfield.Satisfied and full, we returned to the big KM for a ring on a six where the treble and tenor ringers have to be reacquainted afterwards, due to a huge clock case in between, before heading on to Masham, home of course to The Black Sheep Brewery. There was no time for a visit to this famous location however, especially as a delay in finding the key meant there was limited time to ring on the 13cwt ten at St Mary-the-Virgin, though we did fit in some London Surprise Royal (No.3), prior to the final leg of our participation in this Tour, as we grabbed rings on the sixes of West Tanfield and Kirklington, the latter the scene of the best piece of ringing I've heard this week as my wife partook in a faultless course of Beverley Surprise Minor. Nothing like saving the best til last!

And it was a nice note on which to finish a wonderful week of ringing. It has been a strange week too though. Many regulars were missing or sporadic in their attendance, not least the Crabtree family, and our condolences go to them on the day that Tony and Jim's mother passed away. Perhaps as a consequence, the ringing hasn't always been of the high standard that the Society sets itself, but it has certainly been of a good quality that most ringers would be delighted with, and all done with laughter and focus.

As we bade our farewells to friends, some of whom were strangers to us six days ago, back in Suffolk where God willing we'll return to tomorrow, the familiar Friday Night Quarter-Peal Club were scoring a 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham, in the process marking a special occasion. Congratulations to Chris McArthur on becoming a Grandfather to Oliver this week. Something certainly worth celebrating on a day of celebration.


Thursday 31st July 2014

Ramblers have taken me to many wonderful towns and cities. Worcester, York, Chester and Winchester spring readily to the memory. But the beauty of the Tour and indeed ringing generally, is that it takes you to places not typically on the tourist trail, communities that many may consider less salubrious. Hull, Milton Keynes and Luton come to mind, and today you can add Bradford. This is the industrial north as imagined by most, the kind of dark satanic mills that William Blake may have been thinking of when he wrote Jerusalem, the complete opposite to the waterfalls, forests, picturesque villages, dry stone walls and winding narrow lanes of Tuesday when we last partook in the tour. It is also a world away from the soft, colourful rural surroundings we are used to in Suffolk, but there was some familiarity in the form of the name of a place we traveled through, as having been through and near Snape and Tunstall, we sandwiched our day out today by passing through Otley, though this Otley seems to be in a strange parallel universe where it has shops, banks, pubs, traffic lights, an 16cwt eight and no Jimmy Wightman. I'm not sure I like it...

Ringing at Saltaire, l to r - Geoff Wells, Andrew Blacklock & Janet Dew.Refreshments at Idle, l to r, sat down - Willy de Kok, Alan Munnings, Ruthie, Alfie & Thirza de Kok.As usual though, I did enjoy the ringing, which took in Pudsey Surprise Major as we hovered near the town, and Idle Surprise Major as we actually rang there, once we found it amongst the housing estates of this mass of urbanisation. We were rewarded with tea and biscuits very generously supplied by the  local at this 15cwt eight, but whilst we weren't treated to quite the same level of hospitality elsewhere today, we were still kindly welcomed throughout the day, from the 4cwt six at the unusual Saltaire United Reform Church at the start, to the 16cwt eight at Guiseley at the end, where ringing was somewhat hampered by members being delayed by roadworks and the massive queues that accompanied them.

Ringing at Saltaire, l to r - Geoff Wells, Andrew Blacklock & Janet Dew.In between, the Society flexed its improving twelve-bell muscles at Bradford Cathedral, with the highlight being a very decent piece of Bristol Surprise Maximus, despite not being able to hear the first three leads over Alfie's apparent disapproval at the choice of method! Although not in the same class as Towcester, at 25cwt this is yet another example of the type of twelve we could really do with within our borders - easy going and undaunting, with enough beef behind them to avoid the flightiness that can often make higher number ringing more difficult. Meanwhile, Tong and Drighlington were rung upon either side of lunch at The Greyhound down the hill from the former, though a relaxed break saw us miss grabbing the eight at the latter.

It was all a nice return to ringing on a day when we were joined for a while by Adam Crocker, the youngest person to ring a thousand peals and who exchanged a bit of friendly banter with Andrew Mills who had previously held the record, and also by Katharine Thorley, daughter of former Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, the late, much missed Martin Thorley, a native of course of Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, back in his adopted county, there was a quarter of Plain Bob Minor at Barrow to celebrate the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of Kath and Peter Childs, whilst across the border in Essex, there was a 1440 of Norwich Surprise and Double Oxford Bob Minor on the Guild's mini-ring, The Vestey Ring as a prelude to the wedding of Ian Culham and Claire Turner in two days time, featuring the groom-to-be and his father, and rung at Lawford where the ceremony is due to take place. And many congratulations to Donald Carter, who must be very proud to have had his 300th peal failure in the 'success' at The Laurels in Wedmore in Somerset involving our very own David and Colin Salter.

At least they were ringing in a more picturesque place then us!


Wednesday 30th July 2014

 Peal Band at York Minster.Since Mason has joined us on Ramblers Tours in the last few years, we have tried to set a day or part of a day aside to offer him something other than just churches and bells. He enjoyed Sunday's day on the trains, but we were determined to offer him more than that. So today, as the Society of Rambling Ringers rang at towers in the areas surrounding York, we headed into the great city itself, one of my favourites. This is a place of great memories. I remember a peal of Stedman Cinques I partook in way back in 2001 at the Minster (taking in possibly the best view in ringing), another peal that I look back on and realise how fortunate I have been in my ringing 'career', given my limited abilities. As an aside, it is a ringing career that will never to take me anywhere near the dizzying heights of the amazing Mark Eccleston, who down in Birmingham today called the 'Impossible One Part' of Stedman Triples at St Paul's. Take a look at the composition - it is phenomenal, and along with the only other two to have called it - David Pipe and Charles Webb - it is an achievement that is to be rightly highlighted with much fanfare.

Mason enjoying the National Railway Musuem in York in front of Mallard.Beyond my own personal highlight of York, one of the first National Twelve-Bell Finals I attended saw me have a superb weekend away in glorious sunshine in the shadow of its magnificent Minster primarily from the grounds of The Minster School in 1999. Perhaps a bit too glorious, as I ended the day with bright red sunburn, exacerbated by the fact that I had bleached blonde hair on the day! Fond thoughts of childhood trips there also come to mind.

But quite apart from all of that, this is a beautiful, ancient centre, still largely intact as it has been for hundreds and thousands of years, benefiting from avoiding the sufferings of other towns and cities across the UK - including Ipswich - caused by wartime bombings, terrible planning or a combination of both, and is home to so many places of interest, including the National Railway Museum and the Castle Museum, which we were delighted to introduce the li'l chap and his younger brother Alfie to, though the latter was slightly less appreciative than the former!

Ruthie, Alfie & Mason outside York Minster.York Minster, with St Wilfrid's in the foreground, home to an 18cwt ten.We managed to fit in a quick visit to the outside of the aforementioned Minster, before we left this gem of English tourism, but our day was not over yet. For the last few days, as we have turned right off the A61 to Markington and ultimately our campsite, there have been signs encouraging us to turn left to The Masons Arms in Bishop Monkton, and we have felt that as we have a Mason - and as he pointed out, he has arms too - that at some point this week we ought to frequent this particular establishment. The opportunity to do so came on the way back from a fulfilling but tiring day in the county city today and we weren't to be disappointed by what we found. A well kept pub in a pretty village, serving good food underneath hundreds of tankards hanging from the ceiling greeted us, and is to be recommended, whether your name is Mason or not. Or indeed regardless of whether you have arms.

Typically on a Wednesday evening of course, we would be at Pettistree practice, but it doesn't seem they were missing us, at least with the quarter beforehand, with a 1320 of Morning Exercise Delight Minor successfully registered, as ironically our ringing colleagues back in Suffolk managed more ringing than we did during a ringing tour. The smile on Mason's face made it all worthwhile though!


Tuesday 29th July 2014

We are extremely lucky to live in Suffolk, but those who live in the Yorkshire Dales can also consider themselves fortunate, at least judging by what we saw today on Day Four of the this year's Rambling Ringers Tour. The area we took in on this Tuesday was truly stunning, as we drove up and over huge peaks and along tight, winding lanes in the process of ringing at another four towers.

Mason at Aysgarth Falls.Mason at Aysgarth Falls.Aysgarth.

That was two short of the six towers arranged, but having passed on the ring of three at West Witton just before lunch, we missed out on the 11cwt six at Aysgarth just after lunch as we took Mason (and Alfie of course, for all that he appreciated it!) to the famous falls nearby, as our colleagues rang out over the many tourists. Hopefully the ringing will stick in the happy memories of the holiday makers around us.

In between we had lunch at The George and Dragon in the latter village, where they coped admirably with large crowds in the absence of the chef who had had to take his wife to hospital. The hospitality and quality of food was superb in the circumstances, and is well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.

The falls were the latest location visited this week which have been famously caught on film, being the scene of a fight in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and following on from Sunday's trip on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, the setting for The Railway Children, and preceding a visit to the last tower of day, Grinton, which hosted the ringing scenes from the final ever episode of All Creatures Great and Small, and also featured some of the local ringers of the time, including the man who let us into this 10cwt six.

Ringing at Grinton, l to r - Chris Woodcock, Chris Birkby, Phil Wild, Paul de Kok & Geoff Pick.The location was a stunning and fitting finale which began with me running the ringing at East Witton and the methods of the day Wallace Treble Place and Gromit Treble Place Minor in honour of the characters which originated from this part of the world. They were methods that featured along with more Belgow Surprise Major as we also took in the eight at Middleham and six at Askrigg, as we welcomed Julie and Stephen Bell from Newcastle, former ringing colleagues of my mother in Northamptonshire and the sister-in-law and brother of Graham Bell, one time vicar at Pettistree and Wickham Market. They picked a good day to join in!


Monday 28th July 2014

Hard as it is to believe, the seven towers over the last day and a half have merely been the warm-up for the real business of the 64th Ramblers Tour that started in earnest today, with methods to learn and a busier programme. It was still all very relaxed and enjoyable though. Learning the methods isn't obligatory, but rather it helps prevent ringing fatigue setting in over the next few days, whilst we are a group of ringers that by the very nature of being on this tour enjoy ringing at different towers.

Ringing at Ainderby Steeple, l to r - Chris Birkby, Geoff Pick, Janet Dew (sat down), Chris Woodcock & Jill Birkby.Ringing at Bedale, l to r - Chris Birkby, Thirza de Kok (sat down), Harm Jan de Kok, Phil Wild (sat down), Geoff Pick's back & Paul de Kok.Alfie taking a deep interest in what his brother Mason is doing whilst Ruthie oversees.Ringing at Pickhill, l to r - Chris Woodcock, Paul Curtis' back, Andrew Blacklock, Chris Birkby's back & part of Mike Dew.

Belgow Surprise Major (Belfast below and Glasgow above, hence the name) is the main Major method of the Tour this year, and had its first tentative but successful outing at Thirsk, whilst the methods of the day Sowerby-juxta-Thirsk Surprise Minor and Ainderby Bob Minor were rung at the respective six-bell towers they were named after, whilst we also rang at Kirby Wiske, Bedale, Burneston and Pickhill, with a wonderful lunch at The Wellington Heifer at Ainderby Steeple  prior to ringing there, though we were confused by the lack of an actual steeple...

Whilst back in Suffolk a 5040 of Minor was rung in Bacton, we returned to our caravan at the end of the first day of business of the 2014 Rambling Ringers Tour. If it continues like this, we're in for a good week.


Sunday 27th July 2014

Today saw a combination of our favourite things - bells, trains and beer.

Mason, Ruthie & Mason at Haworth station.All three towers on the second day of the 2014 Rambling Ringers Tour were along the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, and so with the Pick's, Wells', Birkby's, Ringing Master Chris Woodcock and newcomers Andrew Blacklock and Ellie Maude, we found ourselves on the 9.40am train from Keighley, as we headed to the six at Haworth, This is a church set at the peak of a huge cobbled hill, and hard work to get to with a seven-year-old who only weeks ago was in a wheelchair and a three-month-old in a buggy, but it was ultimately worth the climb. Not necessarily for the 10cwt ring, pleasant enough as these were, but for the lovely shops, cafes and pubs at the top, including The Apothecary Tea Room where Geoff and Sue Wells partook in tea and cake with ourselves and Mum and Dad with superb views over this part of Yorkshire, before a wander around and then lunch at The King's Arms.

Mason enjoying the train back to Keighley.A treat on the train back to Keighley.The latter seems a popular venue for the locals to come for Sunday lunch, so much so that our plan to catch the 1.35pm train onto the next tower Oxenhope went out the window. A quick check of the tour list suggested we could jump on a later train and still catch the end of ringing at the 12cwt eight, but we hadn't bargained on the church being such a long walk up a steep hill, meaning we arrived just as the bells were being rung down. Hot, bothered and frustrated, we made our way back to the station for the return trip to Keighley and the 16cwt eight there. Over our fruitless stomp to the previous tower and helped by a pint on the train, we enjoyed a final ring of a day that saw our numbers boosted by Paul and Ruth Curtis, who brought Harm Jan de Kok after a few days staying with them. The former are a talented couple whose skills have been honed over thousands of peals, most of which have been with each other. Indeed, only Roger and Kathleen Baldwin have rung more than the 3,467 peals that Mr and Mrs Curtis have rung together, so their combined presence for today and tomorrow is a welcome boost, particularly this week. As is the arrival of the young Dutchman, fresh from becoming almost certainly the first native of the Netherlands to ring a peal on twelve in the success at Lincoln Cathedral yesterday, an effort which also featured Essex and Suffolk's very own Ian Culham, Stephen Pettman and George Salter, the latter of whom was completing the Grandsire family from Doubles to Cinques, one of a number of footnotes from an impressive result. Well done to them all, but particularly Harm Jan and George, whose younger brother Colin was also succeeding with distinction yesterday, ringing his first peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus in the 5042 at Shepton Beauchamp in Somerset.

And back to today and back in the homeland, there were two Society of Stowmarket Youths' handbell peals in Bacton of five and seven Surprise Minor methods, whilst there were also quarters of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower, two Minor methods on the back six at Kersey and a half-muffled of Grandsire Triples at Southwold to mark the outbreak of the First World War.

Nice to see Suffolk ringers still doing the business whilst we were off enjoying ourselves!


Saturday 26th July 2014

It's the final Saturday in July, which means the start of the marathon that is the Rambling Ringers Tour, two weeks of touring, generally very good ringing of a varied and different repertoire, involving dozens of people from across the UK and beyond.

That said, we don't usually make the first weekend, typically because Ruthie is working, and/or it clashes with Brian and Peta Whiting's must-attend BBQ, but with my wife not currently working and the aforementioned highlight of the calendar already ticked off for 2014, we took full advantage and this morning set off up to Yorkshire, the location for the 64th Tour, and a place we've been looking forward to returning to, especially with Mason and Alfie in tow, ready for what will hopefully be the first of many pub lunches over the next week. We'd been tipped off by the Society's Secretary Geoff Pick that The Arabian Horse in Aberford was a decent punt for grub, so we aimed for there, only to find just Geoff and his wife Linda in there. Sadly, it may be a scene that is likely to be more common this year than in previous years, as a combination of circumstances happy, sad and unfortunate mean that Mr Pick is anticipating a lower turnout than we typically get. The Crabtree family and associates which make up a large proportion of the regulars may be sporadic in their presence due to a family illness, the Ramsbottom's who are normally part and parcel of the Tour aren't about, Richard Shere has used up all his holiday on a trip to New Zealand and Australia, the Hutchieson's are currently down in that part of the world, whilst Paul and Anne Bray are understandably busy preparing for Anne's daughter Claire's marriage to Ian Culham next Saturday, which also explains Stephen Cheek's absence this week as he'll be playing the organ at the ceremony, though he will at least be about for the second week of the Tour, even if we aren't.

The Secretary has also had a tough time organising the towers for this fortnight of exploration, with a lower amount of helpfulness from tower correspondents than we have got from other areas in previous years, which doesn't put this fine county in the best and most welcoming light. Ringing at St Peter's in Harrogate is apparently restricted, and combined with a busy period which included ringing for the Tour De France, it was understandably difficult to get a response, but it was a pity that they couldn't be pinned down after months of correspondence, and so next Saturday evening's ringing seems unlikely. And I'm particularly disappointed that we shan't now be able to go to Escrick on Wednesday as planned as - believe it or not - they cannot find someone or any way of letting us in.

Still, for all the above, the first three towers today were successfully rung at, as the small, humid belfries of Thorner, Collingham and Wetherby saw a still decent number ringing a decent range on eight, complemented by newcomers Andrew Blacklock (Ringing Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths from 1996-97) and Ellie Maude from Lincoln Cathedral. It was a decent start to the Tour, but once I'd had a ring of Bristol Minimus on the four at Spofforth, we bade our farewells for the day and headed off to our accommodation until next Saturday morning.

Our preference on these occasions is camping with other members on the Tour's campsite as we normally do. Socially, it is a nice way to finish a day's ringing with a few drinks and jovial conversation into the late hours, a sense of communal enjoyment of the tour, and a real sense of getting away from things, and it is certainly something that Mason has come to enjoy. With a three-month old in tow though, the practicalities meant that we thought it sensible to go one step up to a static caravan this time round. Even then, we would've quite liked to have stopped on the same site as the others, but with the caravans there quite pricey, we plumped for Yorkshire Hussar Inn Holiday Caravan Park in the picturesque village of Markington between Harrogate and Ripon, and arriving this evening we aren't disappointed with our digs. The eldest son is particularly chuffed to find that the playground is immediately opposite our caravan, and the atmosphere is - as is generally the case on such sites - is lively and family orientated.

Now we feel like we're on holiday!


Friday 25th July 2014

Although it didn't mention the bells, it was interesting and encouraging to hear a report on Radio Suffolk today about Suffolk Mind's project to renovate and turn St Mary at the Quay church in Ipswich into a Wellbeing Heritage Centre, complete with an interview with TV presenter Loyd Grossman, who is apparently the Chairman of The Churches Conservation Trust who have been caring for this redundant building for the last few years. Far from this ancient 7cwt six (the youngest bell is the fifth, which dates from 1775) being forgotten in amongst this grand plan as has often been the case when churches have changed uses, the restoration of the bells is quite high up the list of priorities in the process, with the tower correspondent Stephen Pettman kept in the loop and consulted all the way, and there is even a chance that they may be augmented to eight, although as far as I'm aware there is nothing concrete in place yet.

Whatever the long-term future for this peal, our immediate future is far from here as we prepare for our forthcoming holiday in Yorkshire, so this evening saw lots of packing, following a day of shopping for Ruthie, Mason and Alfie, whilst elsewhere a quarter of St Clement's College Bob Minor was rung at Ashbocking, with Mervyn Scase ringing his first in the method - well done Mervyn! Certainly worthy of a mention!


Thursday 24th July 2014

With Mason's mother starting a new job this week, there is a slight tweak to arrangements with my eldest son, which will see us take him in on Thursdays after work over the summer holidays if all goes to plan, beginning with this evening.

Along with Ruthie and Alfie spending the afternoon at Mummy and baby club with Amy and Maddie, his arrival was the only real thing of note today, though he was able to accompany his younger brother and me in picking my wife up from choir practice. Hopefully there are more exciting days just ahead!


Wednesday 23rd July 2014

It has been a while since I mentioned PealBase, so it's worth highlighting the latest interesting section on Andrew Craddock's superb resource, which is 'The Most Gregarious Peal Ringers'. As you may have guessed/worked out, it is a list of those who have rung peals with the most ringers, from 1,000 upwards. John Pladdys leads the way, having rung with 2,267 different people, and whilst I have rung peals with many on the list, the ringer who features the highest in the list that I have participated in such successes with is David Brown, coming in at number five, having rung with 1,946 awestruck souls. In terms of Suffolk ringers, John Loveless comes in at number eight having rung with a still impressive 1,873 individuals, but the highest entry for a current resident SGR member is perhaps unsurprisingly George Pipe. He comes in at number fifty having featured in peals with 1,465 folk from around the world, though in reality that number and his placing is likely to be higher as his peal-ringing career goes back further than Pealbase currently goes, so watch him move up the table! It is a superb indication of just what a big family ringing is, and the friendships and associations that can be made.

I haven't rung peals with enough people to feature on the list, but this evening I did add a name to the 501 I had already had the pleasure of pealing with, predictably taking my total to 502, still only halfway to joining John Warboys and Anthony Cotton (who I appear in the lists of and vice versa of course!) at the 'bottom' of peal-ringing's Gregarious Champions League. Ringer 502 on my list is Tim Stanford, joining his father David, mother Suzanne, uncle Stephen and step-father Jonathan, and following up his younger brother Richard's achievements at Sweffling on Saturday with a superb effort to ring his first peal of spliced in the success on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower. He kept his head as others came close to losing theirs. At one point as David Rothera was coming out of thirds-place bell and with no change of method (COM if you ever wondered what that meant on compositions!), the ringer from Chelmsford on the fifth had to lean over to George Salter on the sixth to ask him which method we were ringing. In turn GMS realised he didn't know either and had to lean over to Ian Culham on the seventh. I waited with baited breath for my turn to come, but thankfully young Mr Culham was paying attention! Mr Stanford junior did everything right, even reading the memo about wearing shorts (shame on you Messrs Whiting and Salter!) and it is a deserved landmark for a young lad who has really excelled since returning to the art recently, and his enthusiasm, dedication and hard-working nature suggests that there will hopefully be more to come.

What was to come immediately for some of the band was a trip to The Cricketers across Tower Ramparts Bus Station for a drink and food, but having quickly and reluctantly grabbed some grub from McDonalds beforehand, I headed straight off to Pettistree to join Ruthie and Alfie in The Greyhound beer garden, at the end of a busy day of visiting all three of AJM's great-grandparents with his Aunty Clare and cousin Katelynn on their final day south of the England-Scotland border.

When I arrived, they were in the company of a jovial band of ringers following another successful practice on the ground-floor six at SS Peter & Paul, which started with a quarter of Beverley Surprise Minor, Sonia Harriyott's first in the method. Well done Sonia, who along with husband John have been up from Sussex on their annual holiday here for the last couple of weeks. Having been otherwise engaged last Wednesday and with tonight's exploits, I haven't had a chance to catch-up with them this year, so I was glad to grab a quick word with them before they left, and it was good to see them.

Sadly, it seems unlikely that Sonia and Tim's achievements will trouble another list, that of the most popular performance on BellBoard, as that is - the peal of Rebel Alliance Maximus aside - the domain of the frivolity of the one-bell 'peal' at Tulloch and now the no bell 'peal' of Spliced Differential Noughts. That said, it is nice to see ringing displaying a sense of humour (albeit one of those in-the-know niche ones that only ringers would get), though neither 'performance' is going to change PealBase's list of gregarious peal ringers!


Tuesday 22nd July 2014

It was a very quiet day, perhaps surprisingly for the first birthday of a potential future king. There were no quarters or peals anywhere in Suffolk to mark the occasion, or indeed any other occasion, at least not recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile at the time of writing. Not that we were alone on a largely unremarkable day of ringing nationally, with the only references to the anniversary of an event that this time last year was celebrated with OTT fanfare being a 1272 of Single Court Place Minimus at St Mary-le-Wigford in Lincoln, conducted by our friend and Ringing Master of the Rambling Ringers Chris Woodcock and a 1360 of Plain Bob Major on handbells in Chichester.

Not that our day was anymore interesting, as apart from Alfie being weighed and coming out at 16lb6oz(!), there was nothing much more notable to report than bumping into ringer Sally Mason outside Tesco and taking in the reaction to yesterday's 'peal' on one bell at Tulloch Ringing Centre, which ranged from amusement to pity. As I said, it was a quiet day.


Monday 21st July 2014

Over the last couple of months, with help from Kate and Ron, we've been growing vegetables in our long garden, a new experience for us as we've never really had the space before. One thing that caught us by surprise was how quickly courgette's grow. However, when I popped up to the patch this evening to grab one for tea, I was staggered to find one almost as big as Alfie, a huge specimen that even after plenty of butchering for eating today is taking up a fair amount of our fridge!

Not only does it mean we'll have to find various ways of eating courgette over the next few days, but it kept us amused all evening, and even got me in trouble during notices at St Mary-le-Tower practice later, as David Potts jokingly requested I share with the 'class' as I was showing my mother-in-law a picture we'd taken of the beast alongside her grandson. When I answered "well we've got an enormous courgette" I think he'd wished he hadn't asked!

It was in keeping with a jovial but focused session on a night when Mr Potts had rather sensibly suggested we bring drinks along. The temperatures have dipped a little since their peak at the end of last week, but it is still hot work heaving a 35cwt twelve about in a ringing chamber full of twenty ringers for the best part of two hours, and I for one was glad I brought a bottle.

How hot it will be on Saturday 2nd August is unclear at the moment, but whatever the mercury reaches, Tom Scase is keen that as many South-East District members take advantage of the Quarter-Peal Evening that day as possible. Currently there are quarters lined up at Clopton, Helmingham and Otley, with a meal at The White Hart of the latter's village, but last year this proved so popular that Ruthie had to arrange extra venues! Whether that happens or not this year, it really is a fantastic event, a real highlight of the ringing calendar round these parts, a good mixture of useful, focused ringing, ideal for firsts, and social activity, as those who have rung in the quarters and hangers-on mingle afterwards over food and drink. Please get in touch with District Ringing Master, 07542 470974, if you can help or want to be helped.

That is then followed by the exciting sounding North-East District Week of Firsts, culminating on Saturday 9th August with a Quarter-Peal Day. No doubt this doesn't necessarily need to be firsts in quarters and peals (though hopefully there will be plenty of that too), so if you are a NE member, do get in touch with District Ringing Master, 01502 723829, to find out more.

And don't forget Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters' cycling tour of the Guild starting on Monday 4th August to mark the centenary of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese - all help would be appreciated for this worthy effort, whether on bike or otherwise!

Before then there are a couple of the Great Barton Afternoon Summer Practices on Wednesdays, and South-West District Practices this Saturday at Stradishall and then a week later at St Peter's in Sudbury, so please do support these events if you can.

For all that is planned for the days and weeks ahead, there was ringing activity beyond the usual Monday night practices in the county today, with Ruth Suggett ringing her first blows of York Surprise Minor in the 1320 of spliced at Ixworth, and the entire band on ringing their first of Hereward Bob Minor in the success at Tostock. Well done to them all, especially Ruth!

We followed up our ringing in Ipswich in a way that I'm sure many of the above events will be followed, with a trip to the pub, as we took up our seats in the now usual venue of The Mulberry Tree, drinking to giant courgettes!


Sunday 20th July 2014

It was a morning that saw the tenor at St Mary-le-Tower shedding dust, Stephen Pettman getting annoyed by his broken fan at Grundisburgh and Kev the Rev telling all about his encounters with the Royal Family.

But it was the afternoon we had been looking forward to, as we headed out to Moats Tye for one of the highlights of our calendar - Brian and Peta Whiting's BBQ in their beautiful gardens that surround their lovely home. This event is the main reason why Offton always wins the St Edmunds Clapper Competition every year, and today it raised another £400 to go into the Bell Restoration Fund, in a competition that any tower can enter and make a big difference - let's give them a run for their money!

 Clare, Mary Garner, Katelynn, Kate & Ruthie with Alfie at Brian & Peta Whiting's BBQ.Handbell ringing at Brian & Peta Whiting's BBQ - Ruthie, Maggie Ross, Brian Whiting & Philip Gorrod.Ralph Earey's new measuring system.Mason, Ralph & Tessa Earey, Will Goodchild and Maggie Ross playing boules.

For us though, it was - like the Woodbridge ringers BBQ on Friday - an opportunity to catch up with friends in a relaxed atmosphere in wonderful surroundings, enjoying plentiful amounts of good food and drink, as the weather just about held, despite ominous rumbles of thunder echoing across the big wide skies of rural Suffolk. There was no Vestey Ring on this occasion, but handbells were still rung, boules played - despite a depleted number of boules - and the raffle even saw us win a prize that Mason selected for me. I have a bit of light-reading over the next few nights!

Ruthie particularly enjoyed it, having missed out on this event through work the last couple of years, and of course it was Alfie's first experience of what will hopefully become a very familiar highlight for him too. Clare and Katelynn were also able to come along as this peaceful corner of the county reverberated to the sound of everyone chatting, ringing and playing, as a cricket match played out at the adjacent club. It was all very quintessentially rural England, and as ever we were grateful to the invite from our hosts and for a typically tremendous afternoon to follow on from our entertaining morning.


Saturday 19th July 2014

Mad dogs and bellringers.

 Alfie & Mason 'occupying' themselves at Ufford during the wedding.You may have noticed it has been quite hot in recent days, with the highest temperatures of the year thus far recorded this week. So perfect weather for an extremely busy day of ringing then, for me and Suffolk ringers generally. Ruthie was occupied singing for a wedding and a blessing at Woodbridge, on a day that saw the bells of the county much called upon for marriages. Hopefully they got enough to ring for the ceremonies at Bramford and Rushmere St Andrews, but you could see why they were struggling to get people, with bells also wanted at Helmingham, St Margaret's in Ipswich, Sproughton and at Ufford, where Mason, Alfie and myself found ourselves whilst I rang the bride in and out, either side of her walking up and down the aisle to a trumpeter playing the Star Wars theme tune.

Ringing at Henley. l to r - Alan Munnings (5th), Diana Pipe (with her back to camera on the treble), Simon Griffiths (6th), David Stanford (7th) & Nigel Newton (tenor).As we passed the time during the service at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was a shame to note on the back of the order of service that everyone bar the bellringers got a mention on the list of thanks, especially as we had taken time out of a busy day. The boys and I had just made it via the huge queues caused by the ridiculous traffic lights in our town of residence, following a morning helping out on Simon Griffiths' cycle outing to first Henley and then Ashbocking, where bizarrely I saw the second reference to Christmas during this roasting hot period, some five months ahead of Jingle Bells, mangers and Santa. Following on from the Coach and Horses having their festive menu out in anticipation of the season of good will when we visited there on Wednesday, All Saints church which houses this pleasant 10cwt ground-floor six had a list of their Christmas services out on the pews as I sat feeding Alfred, desperately trying to keep cool. I guess it'll be here before we know it...

There wasn't time to contemplate crackers, mince pies or baubles, as whilst the others were heading off to The Barley Mow in Witnesham for lunch and then afternoon ringing at Tuddenham St Martin, we three headed onto ringing for the wedding, before we returned home for some late lunch and then a swapping of parental duties, as my wife returned from choir duty and I was almost immediately picked up by her mother for a peal that had been long in the planning.

Brandeston.A few years ago, Mrs Eagle and Maggie Ross realised that come 2014, they would become fifty and forty respectively, and therefore they ought to ring a 5040 to mark the occasion. It seemed a good idea at the time I'm sure, but as we stood in the near-airless ringing chamber of Brandeston on this humid day, it perhaps seemed less so! By the end of 2hrs41mins of ringing the tenors between them, I think it felt even more of a bad idea! By that point, we had done it of course, with an effort that vindicated my view that peal-ringing is the best medium for getting good ringing out of people, as after a decent but cautious opening two extents, the ringing gained momentum and was a real joy, even in the warm conditions, the girly back-three doing marvellously well after us three chaps had been gentlemanly and taken the front three! We did ring down for them afterwards!

The band from Richard Stevens' first quarter at Sweffling.During that third extent and in a coordinated effort, my wife was partaking in a 1260 to mark the significant birthday of former Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod at neighbouring Kettleburgh, whilst her sister Clare, niece Katelynn, Ron and Mason took advantage of the nearby park, and before we all gathered in the beer garden of The Chequers in the village. There was a definite air of celebration, enhanced even further by news of young Richard Stevens ringing his first quarter-peal at the first attempt at the age of ten, in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Sweffling this morning, marked by a brilliant selfie of the band! He has been absolutely superb when I've rung with him, and is an intelligent, nice young chap who should do very well in this art if he chooses to do so, and his success has already given Maggie the idea of her next project, a Suffolk quarter on eight involving those who have turned ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy and eighty this year! For now though, very well done Richard on your achievements thus far in the hobby of mad dogs.


Friday 18th July 2014

Ruthie and Alfie at the Woodbridge Bellringers BBQ.The start of BBQ weekend began on this sultry summer's evening at Kev the Rev's rectory, with the Woodbridge Bellringer's annual BBQ. It was a lovely, relaxed get-together in the pretty surroundings of the garden and home of one of the Queen's Chaplain's, with gorgeous weather, plenty of good food, and pleasant company.

Meanwhile, further up the east side of Suffolk at Rendham, a band were ringing a composition from the west of the county in the form of Alex Tatlow's 1260 of Plain Bob Triples. A fine start to what will hopefully be a very enjoyable weekend.


Thursday 17th July 2014

Although not from this area, some round here will know Margaret Chapman and will have rung at the much-pealed Pig-le-Tower (or at least heard of it!), the 20lb eight-bell mini-ring she installed with her late husband Tom at Marston Bigot in Somerset, and will be interested I'm sure to see the piece on this evening's BBC Points West, the West of England's equivalent to our Look East. Indeed, even if you don't know Margaret or have ever rung on her mini-ring (and that includes me), it is still interesting to see bellringing feature in the media.

Closer to home though, there are some calls for assistance. Two come via the ever-useful Suffolk Guild Facebook page and relate to weddings on Saturday afternoon which need ringers. Paul Sharples would be delighted to hear from you if you could ring for a 1pm ceremony at Rushmere St Andrew from 12.40pm beforehand and also afterwards, whilst Rose Godfrey is waiting to hear from folk on 01473 745 232 if they can ring for one at the same time at Bramford, though only for afterwards. It would be a massive shame if bells that have been requested for these couples' big day can't be provided in their entirety, so if you are free - and fancy making a little money - then please do help out.

Clopton.Meanwhile, the new band at Clopton has got to the stage where they are ready to widen their opportunities. Hopefully this will include visiting other towers and/or District and Guild events as and when they can, but David Stanford is also keen for more to come along to practices on a Friday evening, which now seems to be the settled night for their sessions. It is vital that where we have a keen band as we have at this newly restored six, and which have been brought on so superbly by David, that we look to encourage them, so again, if you can help it would be much appreciated. Whilst unlike the weddings above there won't be money in it, there may be biscuits and the pub afterwards!

There is much else planned for the near future, including the Wednesday Afternoon Summer Practices at Great Barton, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday, and the South-West District Practice at Stradishall from 7-8.30pm on Saturday 26th July. Please support where you can.

That today's blog is talking about so much to come is correctly indicative that this Thursday wasn't an overly interesting one for us, at least from a ringing perspective, the highlight being Ruthie and her sister Clare going on a shopping trip for children's clothes with Alfie and Katelynn on a hot and humid day that Alfred in particular struggled with.

Tostock.Having said that, there was ringing reported today, with the entire band ringing their most Minor methods in the successful quarter at Tostock. Well done them. I wonder if we could get them a slot on Look East?


Wednesday 16th July 2014

Ruthie doesn't like surprises when she knows there is a surprise coming. Much like her mother, she likes to be in full control of a situation, and if she knows that she's not going to be, that worries her. However, she liked this evening's surprise, partly because she didn't know it was coming (though myself, organiser Kate and half of Suffolk did), but more particularly because it involved her sister Clare and niece Katelynn coming down from Scotland and making an unexpected appearance at a planned meal at The Coach and Horses in Melton in honour of my wife's birthday this evening.

It did lead to some logistical headaches for myself though, as having only found out about our guests myself twenty-four hours earlier, I had previously agreed to meet Mrs Munnings and Alfie at John Catt after work to then make the ten minute walk to the Deben Inn's pub where we were meeting for the dinner. However, in order to make sure that everyone was in place and awaiting the birthday gal's arrival, my mater-in-law had asked that I get her there at 6.10pm, which meant I somehow had to make that ten-minute walk last an extra hour. In the end - despite much bemusement from her - I persuaded my better half to meet for a drink at The Red Lion, newly owned as of yesterday and thus still letting the bitter settle. Still a bottle of Hobgoblin for me and a pint of Guinness for the unsuspecting RM served its purpose of holding her back just long enough for the impact of our visitor's presence to take full effect!

The meal was of course superb, although almost secondary to the siblings catching up and the antics of Alfred's two-year-old cousin, in between the occasional cursing from my beloved for our deception! Many thanks to Mrs Eagle for arranging the meal and getting Clare and Katelynn down from north of the border - Ruthie very much enjoyed it all!

We parted company, with a pitstop in the beer garden of The Bell & Steelyard on the way home so AJM could have some food at the end of his mother's landmark day, one that was marked by a footnote in the quarter at Pettistree, along with birthday's yesterday for Pippa Moss and tomorrow for Bill Lloyd - thank you, and Happy Birthday Pippa and Bill! Having passed Mike Whitby at the traffic lights outside our first hostelry of the evening just before six, we were delighted to see he made it in time to call the 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor!

It wasn't the only successful quarter in the county mind, with a 1312 of Rutland Surprise Major rung on Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake's The Millbeck Ring in Shelland and well done to Richard Brewster on ringing his first of Beverley Surprise Minor and Stephen Dawson on ringing his first of that and it's sister method Surfleet Surprise Minor in the 47minutes worth of ringing at Preston St Mary. And eight days after ringing his 200th peal with his eldest son George, David Salter was ringing his 200th peal with his middle son Colin in the 5058 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung over the border at Ardleigh in Essex, which the sixteen-year-old also called. I've said before that there will be parents up and down the land who would dearly like to spend as much time with their teenage children as David and Katharine do (although I'm sure also many who wouldn't!) and ringing is fantastic as something that all generations of families can do together. Indeed, some of my happiest early memories are of ringing with Mum, Dad, Chris, and my late Grandfather Jack, including a quarter at Sproughton where Ralph Earey became a honorary Munnings! So congratulations to David and Colin, and whilst we're at it, well done to George Vant on ringing his first on eight.

And Happy Birthday Ruthie!


Tuesday 15th July 2014

Wordle.Recently, I haven't had the chance to keep up with the superb Guild Twitter account that Neal Dodge runs on our behalf, so I'm arriving a couple of weeks late to this, but I couldn't help but marvel at the 'wordle' that he put on the account referencing the most used words in the near 2,440+ days I have been writing it. Predictably Ruthie and Mason feature heavily, as well as Suffolk, ringing and bells, and it is encouraging to see that well, good, great, success and enjoyed appear, though interestingly attempt, old and work have a bigger billing than I would've hoped for!

This has been a brilliant extra way for Guild members to keep in touch, and it would be good for more to get involved and get information flying across it. I include myself in that!
Perhaps it could highlight that nobody yet has bought a ticket for the Guild Social on Saturday 16th August in the South-West District. I have to admit that we initially held off as we were unsure as to when my eldest's next operation in London would be, but an email from the tower captain at Hadleigh where it is being hosted has been a good reminder. It is again being held in the beautiful Guildhall gardens that the Social was hosted in five years ago, and if the occasion is just half as good as that time then it will be well worth the entry fee! Please do get in touch with Richard.

However, the SGR Twitter feed is already carrying news of a pre-practice quarter of Oxford Treble Bob and Cambridge Surprise Minor at Offton and two peals at The Wolery, one of seven Surprise Minor methods, the other of twenty.

For us though, it was a quiet evening in as Alfie supervised me wrapping presents and signing cards for his Mummy's birthday tomorrow, though a little grumpy that he hasn't done enough to get into the blog's wordle yet!


Monday 14th July 2014

So the Suffolk Guild's future President may be a woman, as the General Synod voted to allow female bishops into the Church of England. The legalities of it all won't be passed in time for the next Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich to be a lady, and hopefully there won't be a host of female bishops appointed just because they can be. I have a strong dislike of the sort of quotas that get forced through when it comes to getting more women into certain positions (and which is currently coming up again as David Cameron prepares to reshuffle his cabinet tomorrow), as I feel it undermines the abilities of those women who do get roles on their own merits. However, without looking to get into a theological debate (which I would undoubtedly fall short in!), personally I think it is a good move, though I can understand where those who object to it are coming from.

Whatever the gender of our future President, ringing carried on today in a familiar form, as being Monday evening, it was St Mary-le-Tower practice. We were a little light on numbers tonight, as amongst a number of absentees, Kate was unable to accompany us this evening as sadly E.B.Button duty called and we were missing the Salter brothers George and Colin, with them partaking in a birthday peal in Essex at Mistley for Ian Culham, which of course also ruled the birthday boy out too - Happy Birthday Ian!

Still, there were enough to have another productive session on ten and twelve, with more focus on striking, and advice and guidance still forthcoming with noticeable improvements in places, especially in regards to getting good rounds before going into changes. There is still a lot of work to do, as getting to the standard we want will take time, and indeed I feel we have come a long way in the last few years, so perseverance, dedication and patience are needed.

We were helped this evening by the visit of Jane Boyle from Birmingham Cathedral, contributing to an exhibition of ringing for two young visiting ladies Jennifer and Joanna, who will hopefully return if we haven't put them off! They were having a go at chiming the treble whilst we all left, but with Ron working with my mother-in-law and therefore not at bagpipes practice, we decided to skip on the pub and return straight home, at the end of a day which started with me dropping Mason off at his mother's new abode in Hasketon, as a new chapter starts for him there.

Rumburgh.Meanwhile, there were even more ringing their first quarter-peal at Rumburgh today, with Steve and Sange Wilson joining the three first-timers in the area from Saturday in a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles. Well done Steve and Sange, and Happy Golden Wedding Anniversary to Ian and Pamela Harris who were also partaking and have done much to help ringing in that part of the world. Our future Presidents - male or female - will be delighted to see such activity on our bells!


Sunday 13th July 2014

The first World Cup I remember watching was the 1990 tournament held in Italy. I was eleven at the time and although I was Mason's age four years earlier, the kick-off times in Mexico in 1986 were probably considered too late for my brother and me at our then tender ages of five and seven, though I do remember being given a project at school to find out as much as I could about Canada, as they were participating that year.

Italia '90 is fondly remembered by me not only for being the first one I took in, but also for England reaching the semi-finals under Sir Bobby Robson's management, the second best manager ever from this country just behind Sir Alf Ramsey, but the best Ipswich Town manager ever just ahead of, well Sir Alf Ramsey. However, it is generally considered by neutrals to have been the worst World Cup ever, with the fewest goals per match ever scored at a World Cup, and defensive play so dull that even the most ardent fans struggled to stick with it. The final mirrored the tournament, being scrappy, dirty and at times violent, with two sendings off and the winning goal coming from a penalty, as Germany (or West Germany as they were for a few months more then) beat Argentina 1-0, the only goal scored a few minutes from the end. The result sound familiar?

It all came back to me as this evening I watched 'my' seventh World Cup Final, history repeating itself to give us an identical score to that first one I viewed twenty-four years and five days ago. Thankfully, apart from the goal being scored minutes from the end, that was all that was the same. There were some tantrums thrown, but otherwise, this was a thoroughly entertaining, tense thriller that was in keeping with one of the best world cups ever. The last thirty-one days since the hosts Brazil kicked things off with a 3-1 win over Croatia have seen 171 goals scored, a joint best effort along with the 1998 competition held in France. There were shocks and surprises, controversies and just generally smashing games to watch in amongst a vuvuzela-free atmosphere in the sunshine. The Three Lions were not unexpectedly out of their depth, but their game against Uruguay gave us the chance to enjoy the communal pub experience we so enjoy, albeit fleetingly. And Mason has got into the spirit of things, even nearly staying up for the 11pm kick-off for England's first game, and studying the wall chart in his bedroom intensely at times.

I shall miss it all, though Ruthie shan't. But even my wife seemed to enjoy tonight's grand finale, especially as it won me £20, with the Germans being my team from the John Catt sweepstake! It was a fine way to top the tournament off, as many fans of the beautiful game already begin casting an eye towards Russia in 2018.

Whilst they do that, you'll be glad to note that in this ringing blog there was some ringing going on today. In fact quite a lot. The handbell ringers at Bacton were busy ringing peals of six and seven Surprise Minor methods, whilst the first peal of Gooden Surprise Major was rung for the Suffolk Guild by the second-Sunday Aldeburgh peal band at their summer retreat of Rendham, and our friends and neighbours from the Norwich Diocesan Association rang a 5040 of Stedman Triples at Wilby - congratulations to Simon Smith on becoming an uncle.

Meanwhile, well done to Adam Shard on ringing his first of Triples on the treble in the 1260 on the back eight at The Norman Tower, David Steed on ringing his first of Minor as conductor in the quarter of Cambridge Surprise at Ixworth, and well done and congratulations to the ever-enthusiastic and hard-working Ruth Suggett on deservedly reaching her 600th quarter and in the process ringing her most Surprise Minor, as the same band had another success at the same venue.

Even I managed some ringing, as I guided Mason and Alfie up the many stairs to the ringing chamber at Woodbridge this morning, where there was a decent turnout of eight and much anticipation of the forthcoming ringers BBQ planned for this week.

From here though, our day was ringing-free again, going to church, popping into to see Ruthie's Nan ahead of my wife's birthday this Wednesday and then visiting Toby, Amy and Maddie, dodging torrential downpours and thunderstorms in the process, before settling down to the evening's familiar entertainment. So long World Cup 2014, it's been a joy!


Saturday 12th July 2014

We could do with more Claire Monks in the Suffolk Guild. Young, lively, enthusiastic and determined, along with her sister Sarah, she arguably laid the foundations for the success of our current young ringers. When I became Guild Ringing Master eight years ago, their already established Young Ringers practices at Tostock were something I was keen to encourage. Now of course, that has all been taken to a new level, with more opportunities and more youngsters, helped no doubt by the rise and rise of social media and a dedicated number of organisers who can individually and collectively boast attributes similar to Miss Monk's.

Walsham-le-Willows.Those attributes have since taken Claire very successfully through university in Sheffield and into the world of brewing at Welbeck Abbey, becoming a trailblazer for female brewers, and producing very nice beer in the process! Sadly, her worthy dedication to that and settling down in the north of England means she was lost to the ringing scene within our borders some years ago, but today her home village and tower of Walsham-le-Willows welcomed her back as she married her sweetheart Tom and became Mrs Roe!

Mason, Alfie, Ruthie and I were privileged to be invited and delighted to attend (even if a stray email acceptance meant they didn't realise we were coming until earlier this week!) their big occasion, which was the type of energetic and informal affair you would expect from her. The Reverend Sam Long was something else, and it would be worth getting the AGM or any other Guild event that requires a service, held here purely to hear him! There was time for Ruthie to grab this 11cwt six after the ceremony with a superbly-struck touch of Little Bob Minor featuring an entirely under-thirties band, before we headed over to The Priory Rooms, a quaint little venue immediately next door to St Mary's church and right in the shadow of its fine tower. Speeches followed and of course interrupted by my youngest for the second wedding running, before we tucked into sandwiches, cake and raspberries, strawberries and cream, and whilst I couldn't partake in much of the wonderful 4.9% Unity Celebration Beer from her brewery, those of us driving were kept supplied with tea of the liquid variety from the poshest ringer's tea we've ever been to!

Their union was marked down the road at Bardwell with a quarter of Doubles that featured the ceremony's organist John Ramsbottom, but whilst there was also a 1280 of Lessness Surprise Major at Hopton, from a quarter-peal perspective, the main headliners today were in the east of the county, where there were three (yes, three!) local ringers ringing their first quarter in what seems to have been a brilliantly coordinated effort. Congratulations to Catherine Draper whose big moment came at Chediston, the latest young kid off the block from the Rolph family, Matthew, who rang today with his father and older sisters at Rumburgh at the age of twelve, and Sal Jenkinson who trebled to the success at Wissett. Very well done to all concerned, but especially the three first-timers!

It looked like great fun, but back in the west we were having great fun too. There were familiar local faces like Ruth Young in attendance, but it was also lovely to catch up with Tom Britten and his better half Emily, and with Claire having joined the Rambling Ringers in recent years, there were some present from the organisation that all being well we'll be joining up with again soon, with it being good to chat with Jenny Crabtree and the Society's Ringing Master Chris Woodcock.

But most of all it was great to see Claire on her happy day, and to meet Tom who seems a super chap. Together they make a wonderful couple - thanks for the invite guys! We can't make the second half of their celebrations which will be the evening reception and camping back up at Welbeck Abbey next Saturday, but it was lovely to take in the occasion and welcome the bride back to Suffolk ringing, if only for a day. Hopefully one day they'll return more permanently - the Suffolk Guild could do with more Claire Roes.


Friday 11th July 2014

We got sent a copy of the Tour List for this year's Rambling Ringers' tour today. It won't be very exciting to most of you reading, as it is simply a schedule of fourteen days worth of visiting towers, but for us it signals that our holiday is not too far away. We are very excited generally, as most people are when they look ahead to their holidays, but for us, if all goes to plan (so for example if Great Ormond Street Hospital don't tell us they want Mason in that week for his next operation having told us to expect it at the end of August or beginning of September), it will be our first trip away with as a family of four.

We are also looking forward to going to this year's destination, Yorkshire, a beautiful county that promises us dramatic scenery and good bells. God willing, in a few weeks we shall be enjoying steam railways, and peals of bells that I recall fondly from a previous Ramblers trip to the region back in 1995, and a family holiday four years earlier, like Bedale and Grinton, the latter of which was incidentally the location for the ringing episode of the 1980's TV series All Creatures Great and Small, for those who remember that! And as you may expect, I'm particularly looking forward to the twelves. Whilst we shall sadly not be on the tour in its second week when they visit Selby Abbey and Ripon Cathedral, two towers that I have previously rung on but before they were augmented to twelve, all being well I shall be about to return to Escrick - which were just an eight last time I went there - and Ruthie and I (and Mason and Alfie too I suppose) will go Bradford Cathedral for the first time.

Whilst we are anticipating ringing adventures in a far-away part of the country, there is much happening here in Suffolk. Next Tuesday sees the North-East District Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham, Great Barton plays host to the first of a series of weekly practices over the summer holidays on Wednesday, and there will be the monthly practice at Helmingham on Friday, and the South-West District Practice at Stradishall occurs on the evening of Saturday 26th.

Alfie and me trying to figure out the computer.But for this evening we found ourselves looking up where we'll be going in a few weeks, as Alfie looked on, a little more bemused than excited!


Thursday 10th July 2014

It is quite difficult to think of different ways for bells to celebrate the centenary of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich. There have been quarters rung at Beccles, Gislingham, Preston St Mary, Stoke Ash, Thornham Magna and Yaxley. The Norman Tower bells rang out when the Archbishop of Canterbury came to the Cathedral at the end of March, and indeed on 21st January the local band there celebrated the exact date one hundred years on from its birth in 1914. And I was pleased and honoured to be involved with the appropriate peal of Edmundsbury and Ipswich Surprise Major at Offton on the morning of the Guild AGM.

But the best idea I've heard so far for ringing to mark this landmark is Jed Flatter's idea of a Ring Round the Guild, where the Guild Ringing Master and friends will be cycling around the county from Monday 4th - Saturday 9th August, starting at the 7cwt eight of Felixstowe at 10am, and working their way around the county to end in Ipswich on the Saturday afternoon. There is now an itinerary on this website, and support would be much appreciated. You don't have to go on a bike. As I'll be off work most of that week, I hope we'll be able to help at some point and we haven't got bikes. And hopefully locals will also help out.

Meanwhile, some of Suffolk's towers were being rung today, with quarters of St Martin's Bob Doubles at St Lawrence in the county town, St Clement's College Bob Minor at The Wolery and Bourne Surprise Minor at Woolpit, whilst we were enjoying a useful Surprise Major practice at Ufford, where we were joined by Helen and Paul, visiting ringers from Sussex who had been wandering around the village and heard the bells, and so arrived just as Ruthie and Kate did following their duties in Woodbridge. Only ringing can offer that, and that is something to celebrate.


Wednesday 9th July 2014

As is often the case due to work, we were unable to make today's Veterans' Day at Debenham, but being able to get to Pettistree after work, it was possible to hear about yet another triumph of organisation by Muriel Page, as those we saw who had attended enjoyed the day immensely, along with a good number of others. Well done again Muriel! She deserves a huge amount of credit for arranging this much anticipated fixture of the Suffolk Guild calendar, which is also appreciated by many from beyond our borders.

Before we could hear more about it though, there was the small matter of the pre-practice quarter on this familiar ground-floor six where the fifth is heavier than the tenor, and which has been home now to nearly a thousand quarters. A large number of those have been in unconventional and unfamiliar methods to concentrate the local band's mind, and this evening was another example, as we rang Woodbine Delight Minor, as practiced last week. Made up of two well-known methods in the shape of Oxford Treble Bob and Norwich Surprise, it meant this wasn't so complicated ever to have been in serious doubt of being lost, but kept us six focused, resulting in a very decent 1320, as Ruthie looked after Alfie in the church.

Lavenham.I'm sure there was a similar attitude and therefore result at Lavenham, where a 1260 of Grandsire Triples was rung to celebrate the ordination of Rev. Mark Woodrow and David Steed's birthday - Happy Birthday David!

Our success was typically followed by a varied and lively practice, enhanced on this occasion by Adrian Craddock's plums, and was as usual followed by a drink in The Greyhound. Hopefully they will have raised a glass in Debenham, especially Muriel - she certainly deserves it!


Tuesday 8th July 2014

For us personally, it was an unspectacular day. Ruthie went to her weekly 'baby class', and as a deep voice from seemingly nowhere said 'Richard Munnings' in Budgens, I thought a higher being was communicating with me, until I realised it was Mike Whitby's daughter Sarah. It was one of those days.

5,668 miles away (give or take a few yards) in Belo Horizonte in Brazil, the hosts of this year's World Cup, winners of the trophy more than anyone else, and largely expected in many quarters to be on their way to winning it a sixth time at this tournament in front of a home crowd, were getting smashed 7-1 by my sweepstake team Germany in an extraordinary semi-final that broke just about every record going and which will be remembered for decades to come.

The Wolery.Closer to home and not making quite as many headlines, but certainly more worthy of a mention on this 'ringing' blog, it was a spectacular evening for those ringing at The Wolery, as a peal of the 'standard' 41 spliced Surprise Minor methods was rung. I say spectacular, as such is the ability of the band and the practice that they put in not just here but in peals across the county and country, that this could be considered quite routine for them. However, despite a number of successes at this number in the county (from what I can make out, at least twenty have been scored in Suffolk in the last four years), this is still a phenomenal feat of concentration, especially at the speed today's success was rung at, so well done to them, and particularly to son and father George and David Salter on ringing their 200th peal together, achieved in just four years!

Now that is spectacular!


Monday 7th July 2014

Ipswich, St Clement.Whilst our neighbours Cambridgeshire and Essex were whipping themselves into an impressive frenzy about the Tour De 'France' coming through their communities, it was business as usual here in Suffolk, as Ron, Kate, Ruthie, Alfie and myself made our weekly Monday evening trip into Ipswich. With Ron dropped off at bagpipes practice, the remaining four of us wandered into St Mary-le-Tower with the sound of St Clement's bells drifting across the summer evening's breeze, as the six were being rung as requested for an event, before the participants there joined us for our session on the twelve.

It was a session that left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, David was understandably exasperated by piece after piece collapsing in a heap, and our baffling inability to pull off correctly. But in amongst the exhausted pleas before every touch to get our bell in the right place from the very first handstroke, I found hope. Whether it is particularly related to an element of stagnation that seems to have set in at SMLT in recent weeks, the exposure for many to the magnificent ringing at the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final in Oxford nine days ago or both, there seemed more guidance being put forward tonight. We can't expect those coming here to learn to improve if we don't tell them what they - and indeed others who should know better - are doing wrong and how they can put it right, and perhaps those of us more experienced on ten and twelve haven't done that enough. It's easily done, at least as far as I'm concerned. Personally I find myself worried how some people will react to being put right, especially as the nature of conveying instructions as a piece of ringing is continuing means that they are often sharp, loud and can appear quite rude. There seemed no sense of that this evening. No tears, no backbiting, nor sarcastic retorts. Rather, there appeared more instruction and guidance put forward, and in turn that seemed to be taken on board, with bursts of decent ringing, and ringers visibly taking on what they were being told and trying to implement it. This evening, it didn't always work, but hopefully we've taken a step back to go two or three forward, providing we keep this attitude up week after week.

And there were - as there normally is - some highlights, with London Surprise Royal (No.3) rung in a way that many comparable towers could only hope for, and a touch of Stedman Cinques only spoiled by a Stedman-hater trying to spike it in the last four changes - and it wasn't my wife! It was all done without the Salter boys who were ringing a quarter of Woolpit Surprise Minor at Harkstead, the elder brother George now recovered from his impressive efforts in pulling in Southwark Cathedral's 48cwt tenor to a quarter of Yorkshire Surprise Royal in one hour yesterday - well done George!

With no call to E.B.Button from the Lord whilst we were up the tower, we topped the practice off in the way we prefer to finish any practice off, with a trip to The Mulberry Tree, for good beer and friendly, prompt service, with not a bike in sight.


Sunday 6th July 2014

Great to see the Salter brothers up St Mary-le-Tower this morning, full of tales about yesterday's trip to Worcester for the Ringing World National Youth Contest, particularly the recounting of someone with the initials GMS not being able to pull the tenor off at Worcester Cathedral. Well done anyway lads on representing Suffolk so well!

Being the first Sunday of the month, we were called upon to ring at St Lawrence, which we did dutifully as my Mum tried to feed her youngest grandson, before Mason, Alfie and myself headed over to Grundisburgh for the first time for a few weeks. Sadly the ringing here wasn't great, nothing quite clicking, but we at least finished with some reasonable call-changes on ten, with numbers relatively high this morning.

The afternoon was a ringing-free one, though not free of ringers, as whilst Ruthie popped into Ipswich to perform at The Regent as part of St Mary's Woodbridge Choir's contribution to a Songs of Praise to celebrate the centenary of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, us boys hosted Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis, along with Alfonso, a visiting Spanish student who they are putting up. Primarily it was for Pete to diagnose what was wrong with our internet, but once that was sorted we found ourselves in the beer garden of The Cherrytree nearby as their beer festival came to an end. There was plenty left for us, and for my wife once she had arrived back from her singing duties, and a good time was had by all. Not quite as exciting as what our young ringers got up to yesterday, but enjoyable nonetheless!


Saturday 5th July 2014

Very well done to our Young Ringers, who once again served Suffolk ringing with distinction in the Ringing World National Youth Contest in Worcester. For me, them just being there is a triumph, and reward for all the hard work they and their helpers like Ralph Earey, Ed Rolph, Maggie Ross, Katherine Salter, Ruth Suggett, Michelle Williams and I'm sure many others (apologies for anyone I've not mentioned!) put in to events and get-togethers for the Guild's youngsters all-year round. Sixteen teams is a good number when you consider that some feel ours is an art dying out, but is a fraction of the number of centres of ringing there are around the country, so we can be chuffed that we are not only able to put a team together, but with many in reserve. Indeed, each year we seem to lose at least one member of the band as they creep over the eighteen-year age limit, but each year there seems to be a multitude of children ready to take their place, which is fantastic!

Even more impressively, they always ring a method rather than call-changes, putting them very much in the minority, but they still came a very respectable joint fifth out of the entire entry today, having had to hang around all day waiting to ring after being drawn sixteenth. Whilst winning would've been the aim, the experience at their age is more important, getting them out into the wider world of ringing when they might otherwise have been restricted to the limitations of their local tower and probably lost interest. To that end, if you are a young ringer, or have young ringers at your tower who haven't yet got involved with Suffolk's Young Ringers and the adventures they have, then please get in touch with them!

Mason playing at Offton during the South-East District Practice.Ringing at Offton for the South-East District Practice.The only (very, very minor!) downside was that the South-East District was without a large, talented chunk of its membership for it's July practice, which this was held this evening at Offton. Combined with the inevitable but understandable holidays and weddings, as well as one member judging the Essex Association Striking Competitions and another having to travel to Abergavenny and back for work, it meant we struggled for numbers, just about scraping together twenty, so it would've been nice for those in a position to support the event if they had. We can't demand members come along, and have no desire to do so, and as intimated there were many who couldn't come along. But I'm sure there were many who just simply didn't bother - I can't believe that all the near-300 members not present tonight had other engagements, commitments and/or duties.

For most improvers and learners, this was a brilliant opportunity on a light ground-floor ring of bells to advance their ringing on eight surrounded by a collection of more experienced ringers that you wouldn't typically be able to call upon. For those more experienced ringers, it was not just a chance to do some good by helping others to progress, but also a relatively rare chance to try more complex stuff without having to organise a quarter or peal. Apart from anything else, it is a great time of year to visit this church, in its pretty setting at the entrance to the village, looking out over rolling fields and healthy-looking woodlands, on a long light summer's evening, which even after a wet day like today was warm and uplifting. The needs of ringers across a district are varied, and when attended by a representative cross-section in both numbers and variety of abilities, these events are the perfect place for them to meet those needs, with the committee putting a lot of time and effort into arranging them. It would be nice for as many as possible to reward their efforts by turning out to support them.

That said, District Ringing Master Tom Scase made a great job of sculpting a worthwhile session from the depleted attendance, with much rung from Plain Hunt on Eight, to a superbly rung three leads of Bristol Surprise Major at the end, which I hope made it worth the journeys from Hollesley, Clopton and in the case of Tom Sharpe, Essex.

Most ended up at The Limeburners up the road, the local public house for the ringers here, and another good reason for coming along this evening. We're looking forward to getting our youngsters back next time though!


Friday 4th July 2014

Disappointingly and unusually, I have heard nothing back from the local media about our youngsters' participation in tomorrow's Ringing World National Youth Contest in Worcester. However, I shall keep hounding them, as their trip out is newsworthy (certainly compared to some of the stuff that gets covered!) and I need little excuse to highlight the youthful element of our membership as I attempt to bust the perception that many still seem to have of our art.

Whilst Ruthie, myself and our two youngsters had an evening in, the Friday Night Quarter-Peal Band were not unsurprisingly out on this Friday night ringing a quarter-peal, on this occasion at Earl Stonham. Happy 75th Birthday James Juby, and best of luck to Suffolk's Young Ringers as they set off to the wild west this evening!


Thursday 3rd July 2014

At either end of the hottest day of the year thus far, I got to see our local area at its finest, in glorious sunshine under the wide bright blue skies so typical of East Anglia.

With Aloysius the car still at Champkin's Garage, I set off early for a stunning walk to work, alongside the banks of the River Deben as it glistened dazzlingly in the strong sunlight. Even at 8am, it was hot out there! There are few better ways of approaching Woodbridge, as short of from above, there are few better views of the town. Wandering the footpath upstream from Waldringfield direction, the whole community is laid out before you. Melton Grange sits proudly at the top, the Tide Mill, Riverside Theatre and railway station dominate the near view and in between the towers of St Mary the Virgin and St John look out over the scene. Even the huge crane outside work whilst retirement apartments are being built opposite us could be seen early in my commute. And it is all so tranquil, with traffic noise barely audible, above the sound of nature splashing the nearby waters and rustling the leaves of surrounding trees, and the occasional train trundling gently by.

It was a similarly tranquil scene at Little Lodge Farm on the outskirts of Framlingham, where Ruthie and I found ourselves this evening, car now fixed and back in our possession, and Alfie being very kindly looked after by his grandma - thanks Kate! The occasion was something different, courtesy of some familiar generosity from John Catt Educational. Every summer, they try to organise something for us employees as a thank you for our hard work, which is very kind of them considering the huge Christmas meal and gifts we tend to leave the office for the festive season with, and the other meals out that they give us.

Last summer we did lawn bowls on a roasting hot day in Alderton. Today it was pop-up cinema in a barn amongst the rolling countryside just beyond this delightful market town's castle and college, as we became the first visitors to a new venture called Little Lightning. Based at Little Lodge Farm, the idea is that just up until September, the old barn here is transformed into a cinema showing a wide range of films, and whilst ours was a private viewing of the 1959 classic Some Like It Hot starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, it is open to the public from 19th July showing all sorts of movies, and I would certainly recommend it! Whilst it all sounds very rustic, and potentially uncomfortable, we enjoyed comfort this evening that you won't find at your average cinema, along with a superb hogroast, fantastic puddings and as much drink as they could they could throw at us, and all for the fra_ction of the price you'd pay for a typical meal out and movie. And all enjoyed in beautiful surroundings that saw Suffolk at its very best!


Wednesday 2nd July 2014

Today - as The One Show so excitedly told its viewers this evening - is the exact mid-point of 2014. There have been 182 days of the year up to yesterday and starting tomorrow, there are 182 days left on this year's calendars. On my first blog entry of the year I mentioned how we were within touching distance of the Suffolk Guild's 10,000th peal, due at current rates to be rung in 2019, but if we upped the rates to 163 per twelve months that we could reach the momentous landmark in the SGR's ninety-fifth anniversary year of 2018. At this half-way point of the Guild's ninety-first anniversary year it seems that is an ambitious target, as this evening's peal of Vulgate Surprise Major at The Wolery was the sixty-eigth in our name in the last six months, meaning we're quite a way short of that original aim, and indeed of beating 2013's total of 155.

Still, congratulations to George Salter on ringing his 250th in the successful 5152 in Old Stoke, on a day that quarter-peal ringing reminded us that it too is a vital medium as we look to progress ringing within our borders. Well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of Bourne Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Preston St Mary, and Happy Birthday to Webmaster Chris Garner and Happy Anniversary to him and his wife Mary, the occasions marked at Pettistree by the pre-practice quarter of Thong Hall Surprise Minor, named after their abode.

Thank you too to mother-in-law Kate, as with our car at Champkins' Garage until tomorrow, she very kindly picked me up from work, took her daughter to SS Peter & Paul for the 1272, and then picked myself and her grandson Alfie up when she returned to Woodbridge for Ron and their dogs Jude and Mia. So whilst there is no practice at Pakenham this Friday, we were able to partake in a typically useful practice here, helped by the visit of Martin Whitaker who was over seeing his parents and accompanied his father Mike this evening. There was the usual variety, which on this occasion took in Woodbine Delight Minor (Oxford Treble Bob below, Norwich Surprise above), and climaxed with a decent touch of spliced Minor that took in six methods, before we convened to The Greyhound.

What a superb way to top off the first half of the year!


Tuesday 1st July 2014

It was a typically ringing-free and relatively quiet Tuesday. But part of what I enjoy about living in our little terraced community is that on a sunny summer's evening like this, there is always gentle activity going on. Our immediate neighbour Sean was sat out the front watching the world go by as he usually does, with old boy Fred from a couple of doors down chatting to him as he pottered about doing the gardening that he so enjoys. Another resident Colin, a lovely man with a broad local accent, was out back telling me about his favourite Suffolk pubs before he spotted a pigeon sat on a chimney, got his air rifle out and said "watch this." I did indeed watch as with his first flick of the trigger he realised he had nothing in it and with the second he missed. Remind me never to get on the wrong side of him...

Other ringers were more active today though, especially our young ringers, who prepared for Saturday's Ringing World National Youth Contest in Worcester with four quarters rung by a band with the average age of seventeen years and nine-and-a-half months. Well done to all of them on ringing their first blows of Haughley Doubles, Badwell Ash Doubles, Hunston Doubles and Wattisfield Doubles at the variations' respective five-bell namesakes. Well done too to Neal Dodge on ringing his twenty-fifth quarter of Doubles in the final attempt of the day at Wattisfield, which was also the fortieth different tower he'd rung a quarter at, and congratulations to him and Clare Veal on ringing their fiftieth together in the 1309 at Badwell Ash.

As I speak, there are efforts being made to publicise their trip to the other side of the country this weekend, as our young ringers are living proof that ringing isn't just for retired folk as so many people think, so hopefully they'll be something in the media at some point over the next few days. Watch this space, I'll try and keep you updated!

They weren't the only ones ringing quarters today though, as the weekly pre-practice attempt at Offton was successful with an impressive 1280 of spliced Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major rung. Glad there were no pigeons in the ringing chamber...


Monday 30th June 2014

Recordings of all ten test pieces from Saturday's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final in Oxford can now be found on the competition's website. Indeed, you can listen to all seven hours plus of commentary on the event if you really want to, but I would particularly urge you to listen to the pieces, especially if you have ambitions to ring on twelve or currently are ringing on twelve. Indeed, regardless of the numbers being rung on, the recordings highlight the importance of ringing together at a consistent speed, usually set by the back bells that have less leeway to adjust their speed to that of the lighter bells. In each touch, a rhythm is set, and although it was generally acknowledged (including by the judges it would seem) that the first band up Cambridge rang far too fast, generally the quicker pieces were the better pieces, including that of the eventual winners Birmngham, with a sense of life to them that tapped along cheerfully and rhythmically rather than plodded mournfully. A good example of closer handstroke leads, and - particularly pertinent on higher numbers - the little bells being tucked in when they get together at the back, not dragging themselves out haphazardly.

It is the type of ringing we need to take note of at SMLT, as there is - and has been for many years now - too much of ringers not going with the pace set by the big bells and instead ringing at their own speed and not listening to their striking, as well as little bells dragging out when they get together at the back, the result too often being a disjointed piece of ringing. That said, we can't be too harsh on ourselves, as we still produce a practice that many twelve-bell towers would be chuffed with. My perception of our place in the 'hierarchy' nationally on this number is that we're somewhere towards upper mid-table. We are still far off the standard produced in Oxfordshire at the weekend, but there are more than a handful of places where they rarely ring all twelve, and where they are all rung in other towers it a very basic diet of Plain Hunt, Plain Bob and/or Grandsire.

And it would be tough to judge this evening's practice at SMLT alongside the honed efforts now online from ringers with years of experience on higher numbers and hundreds and even thousands of peals of Cinques and Maximus under their belts. Although there were about twenty present, we were missing a number of Surprise Maximus regulars, meaning that two half-courses of Yorkshire Surprise Max came to a premature end, though the latter attempt produced some decent ringing in the circumstances before collapsing through the two reasons that hold us back most of all here - lack of concentration and people not doing as they are told. However, the evening climaxed with five brilliant leads of London Surprise Royal (No.3) that at least puts us near the top of the table in respects to ten-bell ringing, which bodes well as we look to continue the considerable progress that has been made over the last few years, even if some aspects never seem to change!

Another positive tonight was the return of Sean Antonioli, having been rather tied up in recent months with a combination of work, college, a long-running course down in London and of course parenthood! His success at holding his very first backstroke back as he trebled to some call-changes on twelve put many who fail at that on a regular basis to shame! Good to have you back Sean!

Having been accompanied into Ipswich by Kate and Ron as is usual, we then had to head straight back home after the practice as duty called for our travelling companions, meaning that sadly we couldn't go to the pub on this occasion. Though not as sad as the reason why we had to return to Woodbridge early of course.

There was happier news elsewhere though, as a 1320 of Kent Treble Bob Minor was scored at Brandeston, hopefully rung with the some of the principals displayed in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition.


Sunday 29th June 2014

I am glad to hear that Muriel Page is feeling better having been unwell recently. There's never a good time to be ill of course, but there were worries about The Veteran's Day event at Debenham that Muriel has arranged for more than twenty years, but as far as I am aware, this superb annual event is still going ahead on Wednesday 9th July, so all support would be greatly received, whatever your age!

This good news follows on from news of recovery for another notable servant of the Suffolk Guild, former Ringing Master, Chairman, Secretary and CC Rep for the SGR, Lawrence Pizzey. So unwell was Lawrence, I'm led to believe that he was in a coma for a couple of weeks, but is now not just home, but sitting in his garden! I'm sure I'm not the only one glad to hear that these two tremendous characters are improving in their health.

Ruthie found out about Muriel's updated condition in the process of making arrangements for the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening on Saturday 2nd August. There is of course much ringing going on across the county before then, not least this Saturday evening's SE District Practice at Offton, but such has been the success of this event since Tom Scase's predecessor as District Ringing Master Kate Eagle introduced it a few years ago, that this takes much organising, with extra towers having to be added in 2013! Hopefully the same will happen this year, so if there is anyone looking to achieve something in a quarter, than this is a superb opportunity.

Somebody already doing just that is Caroline Priestley, who rang her first quarter as she trebled to the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Stradishall, with Adrian Lee ringing his first inside in the same performance. Well done Caroline and Adrian - it's just a shame we're now losing the former. Suffolk's loss is Herefordshire's gain!

There was also a quarter at Rushmere St Andrew and a peal at Bardwell, and for once, even I did some ringing on a Sunday!

Mason's greater mobility gave us the chance to return to St Mary-le-Tower for this morning's ringing, though his cautious recovery still means it is not as easy to get around with him as it was pre-op. Still, he gave Grundisburgh park a go before we arrived at a deserted St Mary the Virgin, where the fifth Sunday service was presumably being held elsewhere. I guess there are still some who don't have my new email address! And Ruthie was able to join in the fun as we returned to Pettistree to do some some general ringing for their Open Church Weekend following a baptism this afternoon.

And congratulations to Kersey and Polstead, winners of the South-West District's Method and Call Changes Shield's respectively yesterday on the latter's bells. Good news then, to round off a day of good news in the county.


Saturday 28th June 2014

The magic of technology meant the sounds and sights of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Christ Church in Oxford were available in real time in our living room in Woodbridge. Through Facebook, Twitter, and the superb broadcast by Matthew Tosh and his helpers, we were able to listen to the bands ringing, see photos of the scene in the Master's Garden, and read people's comments on the competition from Canada to New Zealand to Italy to Australia to those lucky enough to actually be there.

Despite an initial technical hitch which meant it had to be transferred to You Tube, the broadcast was professional and superb. Each test piece could be listened to as it happened, and as they practiced there were interviews with those present, including ringing friends like David Pipe, Stephanie Warboys, James' Forster and Ramsbottom, Mark Regan and David Brown, the latter two of whom were half of the four-strong judging team that also included David Dearnley and Tom Hinks. Neal Dodge ensured the Suffolk Guild got a mention through our Twitter account, and there were other connections to our part of the world there, with Alex Tatlow no doubt cheering on a Bristol team that included Gill Waterson's daughter Molly, and Peter and Christine Hill given a 'shout out', as 770 drank, ate, mingled and listened at the event itself, and hundreds more followed through the internet.

Predictably, the ringing was of an immense standard that we can only dream of at Grundisburgh, St Mary-le-Tower and The Norman Tower, but that's not to say it is a standard that is unattainable. Many of the 120 participants are undoubtedly naturally talented, and what some of them can do in control of a bell or two (and occasionally more!) is amazing, but a theme that came across during the course of the day as band members were interviewed, was the preparation and attention to detail they had all partaken in. It is something that I was used to during my time in the Birmingham team, but it seems all ten teams taking part among the dreaming spires had done all they could and more to make sure that their pieces were as perfect as they possibly could be. They used practices at the 31cwt twelve that hosted today's competition and elsewhere, recordings made and listened to several times (with some listening to their recordings as they went to bed and traveled in on the train) and even graphs and data to pinpoint to milliseconds the striking. Generally the touch was memorized by all in the band and not just the conductor, thus avoiding any embarrassing surprises, and every blow was subjected to intense scrutiny and concentration both in the lead-up to the test piece and during it. Many will say this takes the enjoyment out of the ringing, but I found the exact opposite, as the result was ringing that was out of this world that one couldn't fail to enjoy immensely. Suffice to say its not practical for bands to undertake quite the same dedication to every local striking competition, let alone our everyday ringing, but we should all be looking to have the same attitude to our ringing as we strive to produce a standard that would not only increase our own enjoyment of our ringing, but is a standard we should be striving to as a matter of course. If we are to see any of the Suffolk towers competing for the famous Taylor Trophy, we need 15-16 ringers prepared to undertake the time and dedication displayed by those privileged enough to take part in the biggest annual ringing event in the world, willing to be corrected and have any striking faults pointed out to them. They need to be prepared to travel and to focus on every handstroke and backstroke. I wish a contest like this would inspire our ringers as it should do, rather than put them off as seems to be the case. I'm convinced we have the ability, we now need the application.

Ultimately, despite the best efforts of all partaking, it wasn't enough to prevent the Brummies from taking the title for the fifth consecutive year and for the twenty-first time in total. I hadn't exactly written them off earlier in the week, but at a time when the quality of twelve-bell ringing across the country and even in the eliminators is getting higher, it seemed a tall order for my former teammates to continue their unprecedented dominance of the competition. But as the opposition get better, so does it seem do the West Midlanders. There were plenty of success stories beyond this familiar one though. The Cumberlands not only beat the College Youths (well done them!) in their own private 'battle', but came out as the best of the rest, essentially equivalent to winning the whole thing these days! But Bristol can also be chuffed to equal their third-place spot of last year, though they were apparently slightly frustrated by a minor sticky patch that they felt may have cost them winning the whole thing! The home team Oxford put up a good fight and finished in the top-half of the table. And even though they came last, Leeds can feel pleased that they produced ringing that most twelve-bell bands - including ours - can only wish for at this stage. And whilst any time SMLT wins one of our competitions it seems enough to make others throw in the towel and give in here, Birmingham's actual dominance of the Twelve-Bell seems to only have strengthened the resolve of their competitors. Imagine the kudos for the team that does eventually topple them!

It all brought back memories of previous finals attended, and it was a shame we weren't there. We had considered a day trip over, or even making a weekend of it, but with uncertainty over what Mason's condition would be, and with Alfie in tow too, it might have been a difficult day out. Instead, my eldest and I popped out to his school's fete in between the heavy downpours that littered both our day here and the one in Oxford, downpours that had thankfully passed completely before we headed out to Pettistree. The ringers had been asked to ring for the Open Church Weekend to raise money for the restoration of SS Peter and Paul, so we rang a 1440 of Cambridge Surprise Minor as the BBQ outside was fired up, following on from a quarter that Ruthie had rung on the same bells for the same occasion this morning.

Southwold.Whilst Mike Whitby called the success in the afternoon, he was otherwise engaged in the morning, conducting a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major on the coast at Southwold, which was Michelle Williams and Tim Stanford's first of Surprise Major - well done Michelle and Tim! And performances in the county weren't restricted to these, with 1260s of Plain Bob Minor and Plain Bob Doubles at Buxhall and Sproughton respectively, whilst the Southwell and Nottingham Diocesan Guild rang a 5040 of Bristol Surprise Maximus in Bury St Edmunds.

We finished our day at Pettistree by winning nothing in the raffle (though my wife's grandfather and Ron did infinitely better!), witnessing a lively auction and having a pint and a couple of games of Battleship in The Greyhound.

It perhaps wasn't as exciting as the goings on in Oxford, but we enjoyed it!


Friday 27th June 2014

It was another big day for Mason, and another trip down to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for the seven-year old who has thus far dealt with his situation superbly. This time, the occasion was a little less traumatic, as he had his cast taken off after more than a month of not being able to put any weight on his left foot. As we knew before, he has to go back at a later date to flatten his heel, but we now also know that this is planned for the end of August or beginning of September.

And it was good not to have to collect that blinking wheelchair with the li'l chap this afternoon after work. He has still got his 'Olympic' frame and seems intent on milking that, but the doctors couldn't have been happier with the way it went. It is lovely to see his foot - and him - looking a lot better at the end of his big day.


Thursday 26th June 2014

Ruthie and Alfie went along to the Children's Centre in town for the first time today. Mummy - and to be fair me too - was a little unsure as to what would await when I dropped them off at the end of my lunch-break, but I was met by Mrs Munnings and Alfred after work having enjoyed an afternoon in the company of Amy and Maddison, playing with toys and doing foot painting to be featured in Woodbridge's carnival on 5th July!

No ringing to speak of though, neither for ourselves nor on BellBoard and Campanophile.


Wednesday 25th June 2014

St Mary-le-Topwer.In recent days, research by a doctor has been publicized that suggests that standing for three hours a day for five days a week, is as good for you as running ten marathons and will add two years to your life. So this evening, seven other ringers and I decided to take up this latest health advice and ring a peal, as for the second month running a 5152 of ten spliced Surprise Major methods was successfully completed on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower.

Pettistree.Having scored last month's, there seemed a little more confidence in this effort, though on a warm evening after a day's work it was still quite a feat of concentration, and we were quite rightly chuffed with our efforts, though we were sorry not to be ringing with Christine Knight who was to have been ringing. Our footnote was one of two sad footnotes attributed to performances today, with the other one belonging to the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree. Our thoughts are with Jonathan, Suzanne and their family during what has been a very difficult few months for them.

Hopton.There were happier footnotes elsewhere. Happy Birthday Colin Salter, who celebrated his 16th at home, with a 5040 of Surprise Minor on the back six of The Wolery, and congratulations to Louis Suggett on gaining a 1st class degree, an achievement marked with a 1282 of Pudsey Surprise Major at Hopton, with a band that included his mother Ruth.
What is better, they were all doing their health a lot of good!


Tuesday 24th June 2014

This afternoon's England World Cup game against Costa Rica should've been an eagerly anticipated occasion. With its 5pm kick-off, there should've been an excited dash from work, quick change and into the pub at the earliest opportunity to join in with the tension, suspense and ideally joy of the Three Lions qualifying to continue their adventure in Brazil, a pint in hand and in amongst the collective experience that is so enjoyable.

Of course it was completely the opposite scenario, as the two teams played out a largely irrelevant and uninspiring 0-0 draw which was nothing much more than an overblown friendly. We watched it, but at home and sober, and I wasn't in a desperate rush to get back to see it. In fact, the thought of watching it was quite a depressing prospect, but I couldn't help but tune in. A bit like when you pass a car accident.

Still, the festival of football continues, and thankfully I don't just watch it for our participation. Instead, I will be like many other English fans and keenly follow other teams over the next couple of weeks. Judging by facebook, former Guild member Annie Brechin seems to be enthusiastically cheering on her immediate past country of residence France from her new home in Dubai. There will be some among our membership who will be supporting the USA. Many will have teams in sweepstakes, with my teams being Chile and Germany, both of whom will be in the second round when that starts at the weekend. And with fond memories of childhood holidays to visit family friends in Belgium and the Netherlands, I have a soft spot for them too, whilst I shan't be devastated if my tip for the competition Argentina prove me right! That should just about cover my bases and keep me interested right through to the final on 13th July!

For all that I wasn't really in the mood to have a few drinks with the 'big' match, another reason was that with Kate away this evening, she had asked if I could run Ufford practice tonight. However, having picked Pete and Susanne up, by eight o'clock only Elaine and Derek had arrived, so we called it a night and I picked Ruthie and Alfie up from my wife's confirmation class.

Offton.Others were having a more fruitful evening, with the pre-practice quarter at Offton successfully scored, but for us it was back home to watch more football!


Monday 23rd June 2014

As the best footballers in the world - and England's - convene in Brazil, this Saturday sees the best ringers in the world gather in Oxford for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final. Relatively speaking, there is as much hype going with the biggest of all bellringing striking competitions as there has been for the World Cup. As with those following proceedings in South America, across the country and indeed the world, ringers will be cheering on their team of choice. Personally I will be hoping for victory either for my old team Birmingham or for the College Youths, whilst others in Suffolk will be keeping their fingers crossed for the Cumberlands or indeed Bristol, with its many connections to our county, including Molly Waterson who will be in the band.

The website and facebook page is alive with information and anticipation, with a chance to predict who will win, and the usual questions being asked. Can Birmingham win again? Will the ASCY beat the SRCY or the other way round? Will there be a surprise team as there has been in the past? And will there be enough beer? In response to those questions, Birmingham are already on a winning streak, having been victorious in the last four finals, so one suspects this may be the year that that run ends, which begs the question of who can win if they don't. St Paul's Cathedral may be favourites to take over having been the only team other than the Brummies to win in the last twelve years, but York are another experienced team at this level, whilst Bristol and Cambridge have been improving greatly in the last few years and can't be discounted. And of course the two London societies that so many are members of will fancy their chances, and will at least be keen to come out on top in their own mini-competition!

In the past, teams have surprised everyone, like Melbourne at St Paul's Cathedral five years ago, and Bristol last year, and both are capable of similar results this time round, but home advantage may count for a lot for a talented Oxford band, and Leeds have been getting better and better, so look out for them too!

Beer tent.As for the beer, the beer tent is up and on display on the Facebook page, and hopefully the pubs nearby are primed - local landlords have been known to underestimate the drinking abilities of bellringers at this event on more than one occasion and run out of ale!

Above all else, it will be a day of superb ringing, as the recordings on the website will testify. I came across the recording of my first final for Birmingham back in 2001 and had forgotten just how good the ringing was - if only I could ring like that now! As with all the recordings of the Brummies' ringing, it is worth listening to for the closed handstroke leads, precise ringing at pace and lack of dragged out little bells at the back. You will also be able to listen to it live on the internet as it happens, which is also well worth doing!

It is the type of ringing we should be aiming for at St Mary-le-Tower, and this evening saw the latest Monday night practice as we look to work towards that standard. We're a long way off that of course, with Stedman Cinques crashing to a halt at the end of the night, but as ever, there were signs of progress, and so we shall keep working at it.

I'm sure that the ringers of Woolpit are working hard to better themselves too, and today's quarter of St Simon's Bob Doubles won't have harmed that aim. Welcome to Lavenham Margaret!

Whilst progress will be halted temporarily at Beccles this Wednesday with the cancellation of the practice at this landmark tower on the border, there will be opportunities to progress in the county on Saturday, with the South-West District Striking Competition at Polstead and the Young Ringers Practice at Sweffling and Rendham as mentioned in yesterday's blog, and I would always encourage members to support these events first and foremost. But if you do get the chance, or are in the Oxfordshire area instead, I would urge you to pop in on everything going on in Oxford. Failing that, the final comes to Norwich next year on Saturday 27th June, so if like us you're busy this year, put the date in your diary for next year to listen to the best!


Sunday 22nd June 2014

A thoroughly uneventful but pleasant day for us personally, with church but no ringing at Woodbridge (though it was very nice of the ringers to make a beeline to myself, Mason and Alfie as they came out from their long climb downstairs from the ringing chamber) in the morning, and then an afternoon of gardening, as Kate assisted Ruthie with some weeding in our huge garden.

Beccles.Other ringers were having a more notable day in Suffolk, particularly Katie Wright and Craig Leach who were ringing their first of Grandsire Caters in the quarter at Beccles. Well done to them both!

And there will be much activity on the end of the bellropes of the county next weekend, with the Young Ringers Practice at Sweffling and Rendham on Saturday, and the South-West District Striking Competition at Polstead on the same day. After the massive disappointment of the cancellation of the North-West District Striking Competition recently, this will be an opportunity for the SW to show how its done, and hopefully encourage teams from this corner of the world to enter next year's Guild Striking Competitions. So if you are a member of the SW District, please encourage your tower to put an entry in to Derek Rose - if they haven't already - and make sure that the judge hasn't had a long, wasted journey. These are such superb events, and I feel a major benefit to learners in particular.

Here's to a busier weekend next weekend!


Saturday 21st June 2014

Those who were teenagers a decade ago will have been impressed by Ruthie's singing engagement today, as she sung Ave Maria solo at the wedding of Charlie Simpson at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge. Who? He is a local boy whose family are well known locally as part of the Clarke & Simpson chartered surveyors, but many of those of the aforementioned age-group - and particularly of the female persuasion - will know him best as the lead guitarist of award-winning once-popular boyband Busted. He has since been in another band Fightstar, and according to his Wikipedia page, he is still active as a solo artist, though I haven't heard of him for years, despite some of his former bandmates notoriously setting up a new band with members from McFly (another popular boyband from a few years ago for those understandably not in the know) called McBusted recently, sadly sidestepping the option of calling themselves Busted Fly.

So having already been quite nervous about her solo anyway, Mrs Munnings' nerves weren't entirely helped by realising who she was singing for, though judging by the number of people congratulating her on a job very well done as Alfie, Mason and I waited for her outside, it obviously didn't effect her detrimentally! I was also impressed by the ringing as the guests and new Mr and Mrs Simpson came out into the sunlight, so well done to the ringers too on some good striking.

And the happy couple had a good day for it, as they were able to take advantage of an unusual combination of the longest day, a weekend and glorious, hot sunshine. We were able to take advantage of it too, with us three lads occupying ourselves around town as my wife did her star turn, and although with Mason's current restrictions playgrounds were out of bounds, we had a pleasant afternoon in the superb local library and a book sale, as the boy showed an encouraging bookish side.

Whepstead.We topped our day off with a trip to The Duke of York pub round the corner from us for a meal out, as requested by my eldest son, but elsewhere, ringers were busying themselves ringing, especially the active quarter-peal ringers of the west of the county, with successes in Doubles at Whepstead, Stradishall and Preston St Mary, the latter of which was the first silent and non-conducted for the band, so well done to them all!

A happy day all round then, whether you're a ringer or a pop star!


Friday 20th June 2014

So that's it for another four years at least. Following England's defeats in recent days, when Italy and Costa Rica - the other two teams in our group - met this afternoon, we needed our European neighbours to win to stay in the 2014 World Cup. Typically, having been so good at the weekend that they completed more passes successfully than had ever been recorded in the history of competition (who sits there measuring these stats?!), our Mediterranean friends transformed into something more akin to another team beginning with I that I usually spend more time following, and subsequently lost 1-0 to their opponents.

It all means that it is mathematically impossible for the Three Lions to progress into the next stage of the tournament, even with one match on Tuesday left to go, an occasion which will be a huge anti-climax. Whilst it is a shame that our four-yearly adventure is over less than a week after it began, the vast majority of straight-thinking fans of the national team knew they weren't going to win the trophy or even come anywhere near doing so, and as I mentioned in passing on this blog a couple of weeks ago, this predominantly young and improving squad should be better for the experience. Many of course are calling for Roy Hodgson's head as is usually the knee-jerk reaction of most football fans these days, but again a lot of sensible fans see that this is but the early stage of building and growing towards a better team. To jack it all in now and start again would be counter-productive, and we have to continue going forward, maybe occasionally taking a step backwards to take two forwards.

Offton.Such a philosophy is as true to ringing as it is to the world's most popular sport, especially with our own young and improving members, and there was evidence of that process happening at Offton as a number of those youngsters partook in a quarter of Plain Bob Triples. They will be taking part in their own competition in just over two weeks time as they travel to the National Youth Striking Contest in Worcester on Saturday 5th July, and if you're not planning on going to the South-East District Practice at the aforementioned ground-floor eight that evening, then your support would be greatly appreciated, though if you're feeling really adventurous I'm sure you can make both, in part at least!

I'm sure they'll give a much better account than the country's football team have this week, but whilst the latter's fate was being sealed down in Brazil, we were welcoming Mason for the weekend and visiting his Godfather Toby and his own family, Amy and Alfie's contemporary Maddison. It was a nice reminder that it's only a game, and there is more to life than just football! Which is lucky...


Thursday 19th June 2014

This evening it was time for England's footballers to take centre stage at the World Cup again. Even in defeat to Italy on Saturday night, the performance of a predominantly young and untried team at this level, the optimism was high ahead of today's match against a Uruguay team who had been poor in their defeat to Costa Rica at the weekend.

Sadly, it was a familiar tale of being let down, a reminder that we had all decided not to raise our expectations this time around, as our South American opponents ran out 2-1 winners, all the more galling for both the goals being scored by one of the most unlikable people in the game (and that's saying something!) as Luiz Suarez beat us almost on his own and then had a pop at the country who pay him so handsomely, and have put up with him through his various despicable acts of diving, racism and biting. The maths of it all means we still stand a good chance of getting through from our group, but it is now in the hands of other teams, never a satisfactory state of affairs.

Still, we had largely enjoyed the occasion, as we took advantage of the earlier kick-off to take Alfie up to The Bull Hotel to watch the proceedings, with Pete Faircloth managing to join us for the second half. Though Alfred was a little shocked when our goal went in to much uproar! It seemed somewhat comforting watching the high-pressure drama from a far off land whilst overlooking the very English Market Hill of the very English Woodbridge, on this long, light midsummer's evening.

And ultimately there were worse things happening in the world and indeed on these shores today, as the parishioners and ringers of Ropley in Hampshire will testify, having watched their church and wooden tower go up in flames. The exact condition of the 15cwt six within the tower is not clear, but it seems unlikely that they'll be in action for some years. Some Suffolk ringers will be familiar with the bells with Molly Waterson having rung a quarter there less than two years ago, and Philip Gorrod and Maggie Ross ringing (and the latter calling) a 1272 of Carlisle Surprise Minor just a few months earlier. And I believe I rang there on a Rambling Ringers tour back in 1999. Very sad, and hopefully something none of us will ever have to go through with our local towers.


On a more positive note on a day of sadness and disappointment, details of the 2014 Guild Social have been revealed. To be hosted by the South-West District on Saturday 16th August (note the change from the original date), there will be ringing amongst beautiful countryside at Polstead, Boxford, Kersey and Hadleigh, followed by the main event at the latter venue, which will include a BBQ, quiz, raffle and apparently even a chance to brush up on your driving skills! All for just £10.50. The last time the SW District held this event in 2009, it was a fantastic occasion, and having struggled to sell tickets, many people missed out. Make sure the same doesn't happen this time - get your tickets ASAP!

It will be a heck of a lot better than watching England lose again!


Wednesday 18th June 2014

It was Ruthie's turn to ring in the pre-practice Pettistree quarter this week, though on this occasion with her mother ringing too, they made their way together; with Alfie and me joining the successful band later, for an evening of cake, courtesy of Adrian Craddock. It was followed by a drink in The Greyhound afterwards of course, which was again encouragingly busy and lively.

The Millbeck Ring.Meanwhile, there was more ringing in the county today, with a 1328 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung to celebrate Jonathan Slack's recent wedding, successfully completed on The Millbeck Ring in Shelland, at the home of his father Gordon.

There is plenty more ringing to come too, within our borders and beyond. There are special practices at Helmingham and Stoke-by-Nayland on Friday night, before we give way to a weekend of Young Ringers events, firstly on Saturday for their outing to London and then on Sunday for a practice at a mystery location. You'll have to ask (07960 888041) !

All in all,busy times for ringing!


Tuesday 17th June 2014

Over the last couple of days, I have been watching with interest the dispute over a planning application for flights at Bentwaters, one which is being fought by some local residents. With my very firm views on people who live next door to churches and complain about the bells, it may surprise people to know that I have some sympathy for the residents. The narrative that seems to be coming out is that they are killjoys against the minimal flying of old war hero the Spitfire, aggressively forcing the Grace Spitfire to pull out of this Saturday's Rendlesham Show, but a look at the Bentwaters Campaign Group's website suggests that they are not against this at all, but rather what they claim is a more expansive application that would or could lead to much busier skies above an unspoiled and peaceful Area of Natural Outstanding Beauty. It certainly doesn't seem to be quite as black and white as it first appears.

However, as with the controversy over peals at Aldeburgh a few years ago, it seems this is someone living next to a noisy or potentially noisy location and then complaining when they haven't got absolute and constant peace, another case of the minority looking to the majority to fit in with their lives. To that end, I hope the NIMBY's don't win.

The Wolery.Not that Ruthie and I were disturbing anyone with bells this evening, as we enjoyed a quiet night in at home. Someone else who was enjoying a night at home, and wasn't disturbing anyone (unless they like spending their evening's hanging around the alleyways of Old Stoke) was Katharine Salter, who was becoming the first female to ring a thousand peals for the Suffolk Guild, and only the fifth ever to do so, as she rang the fourth to a peal of Surprise Minor at The Wolery, with her husband David and sons Colin and George. She fully deserves reaching this landmark, having done so much to support the SGR, but also nurturing a family that has given so much to Suffolk ringing, and continues to do so, and of course comes from a family that long ago earned its place in Guild history in the form of the Whittells. Congratulations Katharine!

Elveden.Although not grabbing as many headlines, there were also quarters at Bardwell and Eleveden of Superlative and Xystus Surprise Major respectively. Hopefully they weren't too much bother to the locals!


Monday 16th June 2014

In case you hadn't noticed on the useful Guild facebook page, there will be no practice at either Bardwell or Stutton this Wednesday, possibly down to holidays or illness. Or maybe they're all keen to catch Spain play Chile at the World Cup on TV. Whatever the reasons, on these long summer evenings there are still plenty of other places for those who would've gone to the aforementioned cancelled practices to keep their oar in, including (but not exclusively) Acton, Beccles, Gislingham, Hadleigh, Long Melford, Otley, Pettistree and Sproughton. Do check the practice night page on this website, call ahead to check the session is on and see if you can help and/or be helped before opting just to sit in front of the television!

There was definitely a practice night on at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, and with a slightly better attendance than last week it was a decent night of ringing, with Stedman Cinques, Cambridge Max, Yorkshire Max and London Royal (No.3) all rung as part of a repertoire that many twelve-bell towers would be chuffed with. There's still work to be done on striking and concentration, but all-in-all there's a sturdy foundation to continue building from.

It all came at the end of a day that saw an excitable office due to John Catt's appearance in an article on the BBC's website, but whilst most of those present with me on my out-of-work activities went off to The Cricketers as usual, Kate, Ruthie and I made our way to our new hangout of The Mulberry Tree nearby with Alfie to await famous bagpipe player Ron's return from his own practice night. Which I believe is on next week, so hopefully more of the same!


Sunday 15th June 2014

Although he didn't quite make kick-off last night, Mason still had a late night, and so when I with a sore head found him still asleep when it was time to go to church, Ruthie rather sensibly left me at home with the two lads for a lie-in on this Father's Day whilst she went to sing in the choir at St Mary's.

Once I'd dealt with the eldest having a nose-bleed and my wife had returned, I enjoyed opening my cards (thanks guys!) and we popped over to Ipswich to pay both Father's Day and recent birthday wishes to my Dad, as well as catch up with him and Mum after their week in Wales and day out in London yesterday to celebrate Becky and Stephen Munford's joint ninetieth birthday.

It was then over to a family BBQ over at my mother-in-law's (thanks Kate!) before we retired on a quiet day ringing-wise for both us and the rest of Suffolk, judging by the lack of entries on both BellBoard and Campanophile from the county.

However, I would like to extend mine and Mrs Munnings' congratulations to Jonathan Slack, son of Guild Treasurer Gordon and once of this parish, on his wedding to Natasha yesterday. I expect the boys and I weren't the only ones having a lie-in this morning!


Saturday 14th June 2014

England have now begun their 2014 World Cup campaign, disappointingly with a 2-1 defeat to Italy. That said, expectations are so low this time round, the performance from a young, exciting team so good, and the other result in the group - lowly Costa Rica surprisingly beat 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay 3-1 - so unexpected that even at the near 1am finish of this match, most fans - myself included - weren't too depressed about the results. There are still two matches of the group stage to go, and in a tournament that has already produced a couple of shock results in just the first three days, anything could happen!

Even if the football didn't give rise to English celebrations, there was reason to celebrate in one particular corner of this green and pleasant land. Many congratulations to Cherril Spiller on ringing her 1000th peal, appropriately rung on handbells at home in Bacton where she has achieved so much. Whilst sad that much of the ringing here is not done in the Suffolk Guild's name, a good number of local ringers have benefited from the ringing done for the Iceni Society and the Stowmarket Youths in recent years, and Cherril is nearly always willing - if available - to come and help out SGR members across the county in ringing, so this is a well deserved landmark. Her father Frank Price - a giant of East Anglian ringing - would have been watching on approvingly I'm sure.

For us it was a fairly mundane day, building up to a crescendo of football in the evening and into the night. Mason didn't quite make the 11pm kick-off for the Three Lions' opener, but he did well and consumed plenty of popcorn, before he called it a night and left us to watch the big match. There is much for him, us and all other England fans to look forward to.


Friday 13th June 2014

Rendham.Whilst Ruthie was ringing in a successful quarter of spliced Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major at Rendham, Alfie, Mason and I were having a lads night in watching more football being played in Brazil, the highlight of which was watching the current World and European champions Spain surprisingly getting thrashed 5-1 by Holland, with the wonderful world of social networking instantly relaying the excitement from the De Kok's, the Dutch ringing family from Dordrecht that we ring with on Rambling Ringers!

The quarter-peal band at Henley missed the fun, though for good reason, as Tracey Scase rang her first of Bourne Surprise Minor. Well done Tracey, and well done to those at Rendham!


Thursday 12th June 2014

Four years after the 2010 festival of football in South Africa which prompted me to ask Ruthie to marry me, the fun of the World Cup began again this evening, this time in Brazil. Whilst I have nothing quite as momentous lined up for this tournament, this football fan is as excited about the next month of top quality football as I ever have been. To my mind, the World Cup is the backbone of footballing history. Every four years, footballing history is created, dreams realised, and memories made that will be relived over and over whenever the biggest moments of the game are recalled, and almost certainly there will be more occurring over the next few weeks. League Championships, FA Cup victories and even Champions League winners are two to a penny, contested every year and only representing the pinnacle of a fraction of the game's activity worldwide. World Cup winners go down in legend though. Pele, Bobby Moore, Zinedine Zidane (with even his memorable disgrace owing everything to the setting of the 2006 final), Franz Beckenbauer and Diego Maradona are all legends of the game that are truly considered the greatest of the great because they have won the biggest competition in the game and possibly (vying with the Olympics here) in sport. There are many other superb players like George Best and Johan Cruyff whose legacy seems somehow tarnished and unfulfilled by not winning it.

Even beside that, I shall enjoy getting home from work to catch seemingly bizarre match-ups like Belgium against Algeria, Colombia and the Ivory Coast, and Bosnia-Hercegovina versus Iran, and witnessing how England fit into this diverse collection of countries coming together in South America with the same aim - to play football. It all seems extra-special as Mason is really getting into it, with his wallchart up in his bedroom, stickers collected and a desire to stay up late (very late!) to watch England's first match on Saturday night. Even those late kick-offs fit in nicely with our current sleep patterns!

At this point, I shall make my customary apology to those who couldn't care less, but would also encourage you to go along with the flow and the human drama. It isn't the most important thing going on in the world at the moment, with human suffering on huge scales in places like Ukraine and Syria, but in many respects that is why it is so wonderful, as many distract themselves with the drama and emotion that will be played out over the next thirty-one days in a manner that those exacerbating the conflicts around the globe would do well to take note of. Yes, there will be diving and petulant players behaving like five-year-olds, but there will be hands shook, congratulations imparted and best wishes sent to victorious opponents, as colourfully-dressed fans from across the planet gather together to enjoy it all regardless of result.

Ufford.Tempting as it is to take in every last kick, even if Ruthie allowed me, it wouldn't be overly healthy to lock myself away from normal life and camp in front of the TV for up to ten hours a day/night, so I was more than happy to take in my first monthly Surprise Major practice at Ufford for three months, having missed the last two through work meals, births and the like. Another useful session followed, with Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire rung, some a few times as the likes of Anne Buswell, Elaine Townsend, Pippa Moss, Susanne Eddis and Micky McBurnie benefited from repeated practice in their method of choice.

And it all fitted in nicely with the evening's football, as I caught the start of the opening ceremony beforehand, and took in the hosts Brazil starting things off with a 3-1 win over Croatia. Let the games begin!


Wednesday 11th June 2014

Pettistree.Until recently, the west door at the bottom of SS Peter & Paul's in Pettistree had remained solidly shut, more a wall than a door, with boarding serving as a backdrop for certificates from past striking competitions, photos and other bits of information. With a big push to raise funds to renovate the church however, the issue of opening the doorway cropped up, and thus they were parted for the first time for goodness knows how many years a few weeks back.

I experienced the new al fresco ringing experience at this ground-floor six for the first time today, as I rang in the pre-practice quarter of Bourne Surprise Minor (Happy Significant Birthday to Maggie Ross, and whilst we're at it the happily recovering Becky Munford and also to Dad!) and then partook in a practice night on an evening that was a contrast to last night. Twenty-four hours after the hustle and bustle of the tight streets lined with tall office buildings and skyscrapers, and surrounded by noise in London, tonight's practice was carried out in an idyllic village setting, with horses and their riders trotting by, cows chewing the cud in the neighbouring field, whilst Ruthie and Alfie listened to the quarter and Hazel Judge cleaned the brass!

It was all topped off by a pint in The Greyhound, the stereotypically but genuinely rural ancient pub that backs so magnificently onto the churchyard here, whilst elsewhere in the equally picturesque and wonderfully rural Great Finborough, Andrea Alderton was ringing her first quarter of Ipswich Surprise Minor, and Richard Brewster was ringing his 250th quarter in total. Well done Andrea and congratulations Richard!

How lovely we could all do this in such lovely surroundings on such a beautiful evening, all of which we could now see from inside the ringing chamber at Pettistree!


Tuesday 10th June 2014

In recent years, us Suffolk members of The Ancient Society of College Youths have tried to boost the membership of the society in a county that is predominantly of the Cumberland Youth persuasion. There hasn't been a huge upturn in numbers, but there have been useful additions both here and with our Essex neighbours who join us in our ringing, such as Anne Bray who joined in 2009 and Ian Culham who became a member last year. But I have been particularly pleased to be directly involved in the elections to the ASCY of Louis Suggett back in 2007 and Alex Tatlow five years later, proposing the former and seconding the latter, and between them they have rung twenty-one peals for the society, and some very impressive ones at that.

Unfortunately though, it hadn't been possible to go down to their elections in London, primarily because it is just so difficult and expensive to get down to the capital after a 5pm finish at work for a worthwhile evening out. However, with my seconding of George Salter as the latest young ringer from our borders to be put forward for membership, Ruthie and myself decided to take the plunge and head down the A12 to support the boy from Old Stoke, despite my wife being a dedicated Cumberland.

St Michael's, Cornhill.Disappointingly - but as suspected - by the time we'd driven to Newbury Park, had some tea at McDonalds (needs must!), caught the tube and walked from Bank underground station to Cornhill with Alfie in tow, we were just too late to make the 6.30-8pm ringing on the 32cwt twelve, which was a shame, as I haven't rung on the new bells hung here in 2011 to replace the less than satisfactory old twelve. A pity too, to miss out on the chance to ring some of the extended Surprise Maximus repertoire that is possible when you have your pick of some of the best ringers from across the south-east of England and beyond, and plenty of twelves to practice upon, quarter and peal on an almost daily basis. Ariel, Phobos, Zanussi and the like will have to wait for another time.

Still, we were in time to walk the few yards down the road from St Michael's church - which typically for this part of the city is hemmed in and hidden away behind tall office buildings - to The Counting House, the stunning regular location for the College Youths' monthly second Tuesday meetings. We were greeted by the star of the show, GMS, a pint in hand - first test passed - and obviously pleased to see us, instantly making our journey worthwhile.

The actual event was away from the public upstairs in The Griffin Room (which amused us Family Guy fans), with George's election voted through without dissent in amongst the general business of the meeting, which included reporting back on the Central Council Meeting from the Society's own CC reps, officers reports and the plans of the current Ringing Master Simon Meyer to introduce Strathclyde to an already impressive looking mix of practice night methods. However, if you sometimes feel our own District and Guild meetings are quite formal and occasionally antiquated, you'd feel very differently after sitting through one of these! It was all very traditional and businesslike, as you may expect from an organisation that dates all the way back to 1637 and consisting of many who had obviously come straight from a day in the office, judging by the number of suits in various stages of undress on this humid evening. Officers' titles were used throughout, despite the familiarity of most present to each other, Ruthie and young Mr Salter (and I threw in Alfred for good measure) had to be announced as non-members, so the membership could vote on whether they be allowed to stay (which they were!), the candidate for election had to leave the room for the vote and so members could voice their opinions on him and forthcoming peal attempts for the Society were announced and previous attempts reported back, all in the presence of candles sat alight upon the type of holders you may expect a Victorian gentleman to use to guide himself about when awoken from bed, on the top table. It was all very atmospheric.

For all its proud traditions though, this is very much a forward-thinking organisation that has long led the way in ringing innovation and quality, and is the predominant society of choice amongst leading centres of ringing like Birmingham, so George has done well to get in. It is deserved though. I said in front of the meeting that he is very sure of himself, but that he would certainly be a benefit to the ASCY, in much the same way that he has been to the Suffolk Guild, and he had written backing from others beside myself and his proposer David Potts, whilst some in the room had rung with him in the recent peal of Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Bow and had been impressed, including the Master. Well done George!

Apart from that though, it was nice to catch up with familiar faces not seen for a long time, including Past Master Martin Cansdale and his wife Becky whose mother still lives in Ipswich, Alban Forster who along with his father Chris judged the SGR Six-Bell Striking Competitions at Hasketon four years ago, Andrew Stubbs who I spent many a day with frequenting pubs in the West Midlands many years ago, Dickon Love, Paul Mounsey, Katie Town, Andrew Graham and even Philip Earis, who was there on a visit from India where he and his also very talented wife Jennie are currently living and working, with the odd handbell quarter and peal thrown in when they have visitors!

As ever with London, it was great to visit, and the buzz is electric, especially on a lovely summer's evening like this, but it was even better to get back to Suffolk, even in the dark. Hopefully we can be back again soon with another local candidate for election to the ASCY!


Monday 9th June 2014

On a warm sunny evening as we approach the longest day of the year, the only dark cloud was a distinctly low attendance at St Mary-le-Tower practice. Even this had a silver lining though, allowing more opportunities for those who don't always get as many chances to ring when there are huge numbers of people present, as nice as it is to have a big crowd. Good news for Peter Davies, Melvyn Potts and Mandy Shedden.

Ron on Gold Beach, 6th June 2014.Amongst the many absentees tonight was mother-in-law Kate, who was busy settling back at home after a trip to Normandy as part of last week's commemorations to mark the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landings, where her travelling companion Ron achieved fame by featuring on the front of Saturday's Independent as a lone piper on Gold Beach, a picture which also featured inside many of the day's other papers.

Harkstead.With neither of them out this evening though, we passed on the pub and headed straight home, but elsewhere there was activity, with the return of the Monday night Harkstead quarters, with a 1320 of Hanningfield Surprise Minor successfully completed, and across the county in Bacton, an impressive peal of 158 Doubles methods and variations was rung on handbells.

There is also much activity this weekend, despite the sad cancellation of the North-West District's Striking Competition, with the North-East District holding their Picnic and Walk in the beautiful surroundings of Parham, Hacheston and Marlesford. Hopefully they'll have lovely sunny weather as we have had today and this evening, with not a dark cloud in sight!


Sunday 8th June 2014

Helmingham.It was a busy day of ringing in Suffolk, with morning and evensong ringing across the county and two peals and a quarter scored. Well done to David Lord on ringing his first on eight in the 5088 of Pudsey Surprise Major at Helmingham rung for our neighbours in the Norwich Diocesan Association, whilst the usual second Sunday attempt at Aldeburgh was typically successful and a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Ufford.

For Ruthie and me though, it was a day without ringing.

Although only four were ringing out from upstairs, practicalities with Mason on this occasion meant that I couldn't help out at Woodbridge on this occasion, as is likely to be the case for the next few weeks, though there are already signs that the novelty of his situation is wearing off with the li'l chap. Still he is remaining remarkably cheerful most of the time.

With my wife then singing in the evening and all our babysitters away, we also had to pass on a possible quarter attempt at St Mary-le-Tower later in the day, so instead we did a bit of cleaning and a bit of enjoying the sunshine. Definitely not a busy day for us!


Saturday 7th June 2014

In the perfect world, today would have seen the Suffolk Guild travel to Coggeshall to win the Ridgman Trophy for the first time in twenty years (when incidentally the SGR won it for the second year running), before Alfie, Mason, Ruthie and I returned to the homeland's county town to find the best part of a hundred members at the South-East District's Quarterly Meeting at St Margaret and St Mary-le-Tower.

In an even more perfect world the two events would have been on separate days, as they typically have been for the last few years, allowing us to enjoy the whole striking competition day listening to good ringing, with a pint in hand and catching up with friends not regularly seen. We still managed an element of that, as once we'd rung the touch of Stedman Caters we were obliged to ring, most of us sat in the beer garden of The Woolpack Inn next door to St Peter's church in the gorgeous sunshine that had followed the huge overnight thunderstorm that everyone but us had noticed. Good ringing was listened to - though the Bedfordshire Association miss-called theirs immediately after us - and friends were caught up with, such as Philip Wilding and Sue Marsden from the Ely Diocesan Association, Chris Woodcock the Rambling Ringers Ringing Master here today ringing for the Lincoln Diocesan Guild, Will Bosworth who was ringing for the Cambridge University Guild, Andrew Keech and Tony Smith from Bedfordshire and Brian Meads and Vicky Chapman from our hosts the Essex Association.

Sadly the clash of events meant we couldn't hang around to indulge in more of this ringing sociability at its best, though the prearranged early draw made it possible to attend the aforementioned SE District event in Ipswich. As much as I see no reason why there shouldn't be closer to a hundred present on such occasions, I am aware that that is unlikely, especially on this traditionally quiet summer date, and when we were already aware that quite a few of the usuals were going to be away, so the attendance of around thirty wasn't terrible.

Many dislike meetings for understandable reasons, pointing out that they'd rather ring than talk about ringing, and I'm inclined to agree. But they are so rarely that long, with today's just half-an-hour long, and that with opinions put forward on the Guild Striking Competitions. This is an issue that the membership needs consulting on if we have any hope of making these competitions as inclusive to as many members as possible, and highlighted why such meetings are still important gatherings.

Beforehand we enjoyed a brief but thoughtful service designed by the sadly absent George Pipe and led by the Revd Canon Charles Jenkin, and a superb tea supplied by many and organised by Diana Pipe, Jane Harper and SMLT learner Sonia, whilst afterwards my wife and I took turns to do some ringing, whilst the other looked after the wheelchair-bound Mason downstairs, as it confirmed my thoughts that Sunday mornings here may be impractical for a few weeks!

And as we enjoyed ourselves here, news came through that we had come fourth out of eight teams in the Ridgman Trophy, with the Peterborough Diocesan Guild joining Bedfordshire in a premature finish, further highlighting the perils of Stedman in a striking competition. Our Essex hosts were the winners - including SMLT ringer Paul Bray - on a day that also saw Henry Pipe become probably the youngest ever participant in the competition at eleven years old, ringing for Ely whilst his father David was preoccupied in Birmingham conducting an incredible looking peal of Cyclic Spliced Sixteen at the Bullring. It's that kind of family!

Well done to young HJWP on his efforts - his team finished just above us in third - but especially to our friends from south of the border on their victory. And congratulations to Lesley Steed on ringing her 1200th quarter in the 1260 of Doubles at Old Newton today, a deserved landmark for a lady who has done much along with her quarter-peal ringing husband David and their colleagues for keeping so many of Suffolk's bells ringing, when otherwise they may have remained silent.

So things went perfectly for them today, but whilst they might not have done for us, it was a lovely day out nonetheless.


Friday 6th June 2014

It is the in thing to mark all sorts of ridiculous and tenuous anniversaries these days. The 335th anniversary of Lord Wufwaf's extension to his manor house in Bedhamshire. Fifty-five years since the A23 bypass in Leedsfield was opened. 125th anniversary of the birth of Edmund Beavis-Tatlow, the inventor of the Chelsea Turnip Scale. The late, great Martin Thorley's footnotes would look positively ordinary these days.

But today we marked a truly worthwhile anniversary, as the world remembered the day exactly seventy years ago that thousands of young men risked and indeed gave their lives so that generations at that point yet to come, could enjoy the freedoms that we now take for granted and occasionally abuse nonchalantly. For all the foibles of modern UK life, it is a heck of a lot better than it would most probably have been if those brave soldiers weren't prepared to sacrifice what most of us wouldn't be prepared to sacrifice.

Many of us may have heard first hand tales from those who were there, and seen documentaries on the subject. And even more will have had relatives who took part in the D-Day landings, including myself and my brother Chris. Even though our mother's father Cyril landed on Normandy's Gold Beach the following day, he would've still seen more than the majority of us would ever care to see, and I doubt our imaginations get anywhere close to what it was like.

So it was moving to see on TV all the events to celebrate the beginning of the end of a horrific war and commemorate the life's lost to make it happen, attended by their now very elderly colleagues who survived. And it was good to see ringing marking it across the country and indeed the world, including here in Suffolk, where a peal was rung at Chediston, and also on the anniversary of the first recorded peal on the bells, which took place thirty years before those significant landings in France.

There was also a quarter rung at the now world famous Earl Stonham, rung in memory of Wormingford's David Reeve, but there was no ringing for Ruthie or me, as we welcomed Mason to ours for a whole weekend for the first time since his recent operation. It will be a big test practically and logistically, but it is great to have him back, and to teach him of the risks and sacrifices that people like his great-grandfather and his friends took and made all those years ago for all of us.


Thursday 5th June 2014

On a little gallery six in the depths of the Suffolk countryside, there was a little bit of ringing history made today, as a band of local pioneers led the world in the cutting edge developments of our art.

OK, so that may be overselling it a bit, but the peal of Minor at Earl Stonham that included eighteen blocks rung in a peal for the first time since the decision at last week's Central Council Meeting in Maidstone to allow such things has been noticed throughout the ringing world, mostly with amusement! It's nice for ringing within our borders to get noticed in such ways. Well done to all the band!

With such momentous achievements being rung on our turf, it might be easy to overlook other ringing in the county done today, but arguably a bigger achievement in the scheme of things, was Adam Shard's first quarter on the treble in the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Tostock, further evidence of the good things coming out of the North-West District in a bad week for them. There were also quarters on the back six of two of our eights, with Grandsire Doubles rung at Horringer and the same with Plain Bob added scored at Palgrave.

Apart from choir practice for Ruthie and me trying to read our water meter from under a hedge, it was a largely insignificant day for us personally on a significant day for ringing in Suffolk.


Wednesday 4th June 2014

It was a busy day's ringing in Suffolk according to BellBoard and Campanophile.

There was a peal of Xerxes Surprise Major at The Wolery, and well done to the Salter brothers George and Colin, as well as Clare Veal and Tom Scase, on ringing their first in the method. Well done too to the band who rang their first blows of Burnaby Delight Minor in the 1320 at Preston St Mary.

Alfie and Me having listened to the quarter at Pettistree.Meanwhile, there was the usual pre-practice quarter at Pettistree, which I had the pleasure of listening to with Alfie as his Mummy pulled in the tenor, with Bill Lloyd ringing the treble well, as his progress continues.

The session was a little low on numbers, but not on endeavour, and of course finished with a drink in The Greyhound afterwards, which was needed after all that ringing!


Tuesday 3rd June 2014

Sad news from the North-West District, as word came through today that their striking competition - due to be held at Tostock in eleven days time - has been cancelled due to absences and lack of interest. The reasons given are understandable, but it seems the roots of this cancellation go deeper, and has more to do with how the NW members approach striking competitions.

They ought to be enjoyable and social occasions, in my opinion an essential, but at the very least useful way of progressing individuals and bands. To my mind they should be used as something for ringers of all abilities to aim towards, whether it is as a learner looking to reach the standard to partake, or someone more experienced looking to improve their striking. Many bands that take part in the National Twelve Bell Striking Competition these days have been built up around the target of getting in the final, and whilst that is the very highest echelon of ringing, the principal should be the same in District and Guild striking competitions.

Sadly, it seems to be a chore to the majority of the North-West District, which I find ironic, as theirs have always been set up to be the most fun, with a BBQ and an informal and often humourous approach to team entries. I got an insight from one member who responded following my ramblings after the near no-show from the west of the county in the Guild Competitions, but it's hard to figure out why it is just this corner of the SGR that really struggles to get support for this important aspect of ringing. Whilst the experiences of the individual who got in touch with me points to a less than rosy situation, it surprises me that in a District that includes towers like The Norman Tower, Stowmarket, Gislingham, Bardwell, Ixworth and Great Barton, as well as providing the winning team in the Rose Trophy at Helmingham just over two weeks ago that many feel that there isn't enough quality to enter the Guild contests or even their own. And as I mentioned on my previous ranting on the subject, if you feel you aren't good enough to enter a band, then make it an aim to be good enough next time round. Easier said than done, I know.

Besides, it can still be enjoyable if you don't win, or even if you don't expect to win. I know that whenever I enter into a pub quiz, my team is unlikely to trouble the positions winning prizes. But I still love taking part, and have even found myself doing casual research in the lead-up to them, expanding my limited general knowledge. England's footballers stand very little chance of holding aloft the World Cup when it reaches it's finale in Rio de Janeiro on 13th July, but they should be better for the experience of competition with the best. Even this Saturday's Ridgman Trophy at Coggeshall in Essex sees teams that will be favourites above the Suffolk Guild, but I like to think it will help improve us as ringers whether we come first or not. We shall be aiming to win of course, but it won't matter if we don't.

However, I will grant that there are many other ways to progress one's ringing, such as regular quarter-peals, and there was a (8/9ths) successful example at Offton before the practice there this evening, as a 1280 of the standard eight Surprise Major methods spliced was rung. There were no firsts, and it should've been nine methods, but it will have helped improve the eight ringers ringing.

Just like striking competitions can too, if you let them.


Monday 2nd June 2014

Many thanks to the ringers of St Mary-le-Tower for the card and gift voucher they presented to Alfie, Ruthie and myself for young AJM's birth - it will come in very handy, that's for sure, and is much appreciated!

It came on a busy practice night, with another large crowd, a Ridgman Trophy blowout that we have hopefully got out of our system ahead of Saturday's competition at Coggeshall in Essex, a stander-behinder needing a stander-behinder and preparations for this Saturday's South-East District Quarterly Meeting being held here with the service and tea following ringing at St Margaret. This date has traditionally been a tricky one to get a big attendance at, with summer kicking in and holidays being taken, and there will be a few of the dedicated stalwarts taking a deserved break this weekend, so we're really going to need as many people as possible to join us and make it a worthwhile occasion for all concerned. That means learners taking this fantastic opportunity to try something new and progress (especially on the twelve in the evening), and more experienced ringers to help and offer as much variety as possible. If it is anything like last year's corresponding fixture at Coddenham, the meeting will be brief, and whilst I wouldn't usually advocate trips into Ipswich on a Saturday, at least parking in the car-parks is now just £1 (though still £1 too much in my opinion!), and I'm as supportive of Park 'n' Ride here as I'm ever going to be of public transport. All are welcome, so please get your names in for tea.

Southwold.Whilst we were receiving gifts, ringing and discussing forthcoming events, there was quarter-peal ringing going on up the coast at Southwold, with a 1260 of Stedman Triples rung to mark the 80th birthday of former local ringer Douglas Pope. I'm sure he was as appreciative of this gesture as we were of that aimed at us this evening. Thank you again guys!


Sunday 1st June 2014

St Lawrence.Being the first Sunday of the month, it was busy morning's ringing for Alfie and me, with duties carried out at St Mary-le-Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh, with the famous Sproughton girls boosting the numbers at the former two.

Once I'd left Suffolk's lightest twelve where we had peaked at Stedman Triples on the back eight, and picked Ruthie up from St Mary the Virgin back in Woodbridge, that was it from a ringing perspective for us, with the 'highlights' being taking our old fridge and freezer down the dump.

Still, others were ringing on our behalf in the county. There was an Evensong quarter of Ipswich Surprise Minor at Pettistree, but it was particularly good to see Arnie Knights return to peal-ringing in his own 67th birthday celebration at Offton, whilst George Salter was ringing his 100th peal of Minor and his younger brother Colin was ringing his 200th in total in the 5040 Stanford-Salter-Whitby success at Clopton. Congratulations George and Colin, and Happy Birthday Arnie!

And well done to all concerned on keeping ringing busy this afternoon.


Saturday 31st May 2014

Maybush.It was lovely to spend the whole day with Mason today, for the first time since his operation. It was a bit of a test run in anticipation of picking up the normal routine again next weekend, God willing. With a frame and wheelchair added to a pram and car-seat, it was definitely a useful run-out. For whilst a lot of time was spent indoors playing new computer games he earned for being so brave and cool about such a big ordeal, we did get out and about to experiment with fitting all this equipment and us four into our (thankfully) bigger car, firstly into Ipswich to get said games, and then later to the rather more pleasant surroundings of The Maybush Inn at Waldringfield just down the River Deben from Woodbridge.

To my shame, I haven't been here at all in the nine years I have been living in the area on its doorstep, but it was certainly worth the wait! I quite like being by water, so I was delighted that the eldest son requested we eat outside overlooking the river as sailors arrived for food and drink, and rowers rowed by in scenes that wouldn't look out of place in The Wind in the Willows. The food lived up to the surroundings, and myself and the boy got the hang of the disabled toilets, whilst everyone was very kind and helpful as we pushed him and his younger brother Alfie through a reassuringly crowded pub.

Meanwhile, well done in particular to Cherril Spiller on ringing her first peal of eight-spliced Surprise Major (incredible when you think of all she has achieved in ringing!) and to the band as a whole on ringing the first of eight-spliced in the tower in the success at Stowmarket, no mean feat! I had to pull out of this due to the uncertainty of what would happen after the li'l chap's operation, which meant I missed out not just on meeting up and ringing with some more familiar local ringing friends, but also Sam Austin. I used to ring with Sam fairly regularly during my time in the West Midlands, and he is one of my favourite ringing characters, a very good ringer and lovely young chap with a dry Scouse wit typical of his homeland.

However, whilst it was a big shame to miss Mr Austin and the others, I'm glad to have spent an important day with Mason, and am - all being well - looking forward to spending next weekend with him!


Friday 30th May 2014

Back to work just in time for the start of the weekend! If only I got paid the same, I could get used to this one day on, two days off lark!


No time off for Suffolk's bellringers though, with four quarters rung in the county today. Well done to Kevin Ward on ringing his first of Ipswich Surprise Minor in the success on the ground-floor ring at Edwardstone, an occasion he shared with three baby shrews! Well done as well to Peter Lock on ringing his first of Superlative Surprise Major on another ground-floor ring in the opposite corner of the county at Halesworth, whilst a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Woolpit and 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Brandeston saw North-West and South-East District towers respectively get in on the act on a good day for Guild collectively.

Hopefully I can join in on some days off soon!


Thursday 29th May 2014

We got an unpleasant surprise when my brother Chris phoned early this morning to say his girlfriend Becky had been taken into hospital with pneumonia. Thankfully she's gone in just in time, and is in good hands, but I can only imagine its a horrible thing to be inflicted with, so our thoughts are with her, Stephen, Carl and of course Chris whilst she recovers.

It put our self-inflicted sore heads into perspective on the morning after the day before. Eventually we felt safe to leave Maidstone, which was also the location of the Central Council Meeting at the beginning of the week, though as I walked across town to retrieve the car, there were no signs of anti-Motion D placards or corpses of CC Reps bored to death by Monday's proceedings.

Our return to Suffolk coincided with a quarter of Doubles at Great Finborough, though there was otherwise not much to report bar Ruthie attending choir practice prior to the Ascension Day service at St Mary-the-Virgin.

Get well soon Becky!


Wednesday 28th May 2014

It was an exciting day today, as Alfie, Ruthie and myself drove down to Maidstone in Kent for the wedding of Ruthie's school friend Lizzie and her other half Roderick, a lovely couple worthy of mention in this blog not just for our privileged attendance at their big day, but for their surname of Stedman. They met in the county nicknamed the 'Garden of England' at university and since settled in this lovely part of the world, hence the occasion being held in the south-east at The Orangery, a beautiful oasis in a town that is - as so many of its size sadly are - far from pretty, blighted by war and hideous subsequent town planning, bar pockets like that around All Saints church, home to a 32cwt ten and sat in a picturesque spot next to the River Medway.

I'm always fascinated by how differently people go about their weddings, putting the event together as they want it, and this afternoon's proceedings were full of little things that made the day, such as a typewriter to write advice with (it was fun watching anyone under thirty trying to use that!), colour-coded tables and sunglasses, mini fish 'n' chips and a photo 'booth' that produced amusing results in keeping with the humour of the day.

Alfie & me in the photo 'booth' at Lizzie & Roderick's wedding.Ruthie & Alfie at Lizzie & Roderick's wedding.Alfie behaved impeccably on his first trip out of Suffolk (at least better than his parents!), sleeping through the ceremony and disco, partaking in photos and patiently obliging the many requests to be held by besotted guests, only really putting up a fuss during the speeches, before we returned to the Premier Inn we were laying our heads at tonight. Though a nappy malfunction meant that I regretted not bringing a spare shirt! It was all great fun though, brilliant to see friends that - whilst still in regular contact - are spread around in Devon, Northampton and our location today, and it was an honour to be invited to witness the serious bit of the start of Beth and Rod's marriage.

Whilst we were away, ringing continued in the homeland, with a quarter of eight-spliced Surprise Major methods at Bardwell, and the usual pre-practice success at Pettistree. So an exciting day all round!


Tuesday 27th May 2014

Following yesterday's bank holiday, and with a two day trip to Kent for a wedding starting tomorrow, today was unusual for this week - a day at work! With it being half-term, it wasn't the most productive day to be calling schools, though there are also a lot who take the opportunity to get stuff done with the distraction of children no longer about, and there was lots to do before my two days off.

The evening was then put aside for packing stuff, and paying another visit to Mason as he recovers.

The Wolery.Meanwhile, a few miles away in Ipswich, Colin Salter was ringing his 100th peal at home in the 5040 of Surprise Minor at The Wolery. So whilst it is a strange week for us, for others the norm is maintained.


Monday 26th May 2014

St Matthew.It wasn't ringing related, but it was good to hear Suffolk ringer Jonathan Williamson being interviewed on Radio Suffolk about his barbershop chorus VIPs in regards to their second-place finish in the small chorus category and 11th out of 46 overall in the British Association of Barbershop Singers Convention in Harrogate in a judging system that seems akin to that of the National Youth Striking Competition! Well done to Jonathan and his colleagues on representing Ipswich and Suffolk so well! Mr Williamson will be familiar to many ringers, with his jovial personality, and whilst a very good ringer, is perhaps best remembered for starting a band from scratch at St Matthew in the county town with Ralph Earey in the early 1990's, a band which initially numbered over thirty, and which not only provided the SGR with many new members, but Jonathan and Ralphy with wives! That band has sadly disappeared, but was a superb example of how to teach a band, as for many years there was an active ringing scene in this corner of the Guild just up the hill from Portman Road, with some going on to ring quarters and peals, and friendships formed that survive today. And whilst family, work in the wine business and it seems singing commitments mean we don't see him as much as we once did, his talents have become much more familiar in the last year or two as he has introduced his daughter Lucy to the art before she leaves for university.

One young ringer who has already left these borders for university is Philip Moyse, who is now Ringing Master of the Southampton University Guild of Change Ringers, and today rang his first peal on fourteen in the 5096 of Yorkshire at Winchester Cathedral. Well done Philip!

Back in his homeland, we went along to St Mary-le-Tower's Bank Holiday Monday practice, along with Sue and David Rothera from Chelmsford Cathedral, and George Salter, fresh back from today's Central Council Meeting in Maidstone, where the main talking point was motion D, which whilst providing some peal-ringers with an initial bit of fun, will have no affect on most ringer's daily life.

For us though, it was back home after a day hearing about Suffolk ringers and their exploits.


Sunday 25th May 2014

Without Mason, I at least took the opportunity with Alfie to pop up to St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh for morning ringing, before a pleasant afternoon out in the sunshine as we went to Orford. A pint out the back of The Jolly Sailor overlooking the last remnants of Suffolk's countryside before East Anglia becomes the North Sea, reminded us - as so much around us does - of how lucky we are to have this on the doorstep.

Meanwhile, there were ringing achievements aplenty in our beautiful county. Very well done to Gavin Alexander on ringing his first quarter in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles on the back six at Kersey, the headline of the day in SGR ringing. But there was also a quarter of Plain Bob Triples at Bardwell with an encouragingly youthful band, and whilst not rung for the Guild, well done to Cherril Spiller on calling her first peal of Surprise in one of the handbell 5040s at home in Bacton, and congratulations on her ringing her 200th with Peter Waterfield in the other.

All carried out in the wonderful landscape that surrounds us.


Saturday 24th May 2014

It was fantastic to see Mason this afternoon, fresh from his trip in the ambulance that brought him back from London. He was keen to show us how he gets about in his wheelchair and with his 'Olympic' frame, and still seems excited by what he considers an adventure. Whether he will still feel the same in six weeks time when he returns to Great Ormond Street Hospital for a check-up, and the earliest that his plaster-cast is likely to come off, is to be seen! However, it is great that he is still upbeat, and at least now the process has begun, we have a more definite timeline, with his second operation to sort his now bent toes out penciled in for about three months time.

Originally I was going to travel down to the capital to see him, with Ruthie and Alfie having lunch and tea at my wife's grandparents, but with his early return, I joined Mrs Munnings and Alfred for their family engagements, either side of our visit to see AJM's older brother - as usual, we were more than amply fed and still came away with food to take home!

There was plenty of ringing going on in Suffolk as the li'l chap returned to the county, with quarters of Doubles at Winston and Grandsire Triples at Halesworth rung, whilst the Guildford Diocesan Guild rang a peal of Stedman Cinques at The Norman Tower.

For us though, it was a family day, and a particularly special one at that.


Friday 23rd May 2014

It felt strange not to be picking Mason up for the weekend, and we miss him immensely. However, good news came from Great Ormond Street Hospital, as it was revealed that the patient will indeed be returning to Woodbridge tomorrow. Not only does it mean all three of us can see him on Saturday, it also means I can abandon my plans to go down to London to see my son over the weekend.

Back in his home county, there was much ringing recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile. A 1260 of Doubles was rung in memory of one-time Campsea Ashe ringer Barry Gould at his former local tower, Stephen Dawson and Andrea Alderton rang their first quarter of Primrose Surprise Minor at Barking, and Matt Newson rang his first of Minor in the success at the home of last week's Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions, Ashbocking. Well done to Stephen, Andrea and Matt!

And as it is the weekend, I thought I would treat you all to some superb ringing from Birmingham, which was released into the world of You Tube this week, though some of you may have already seen and enjoyed them. One piece was of Stedman Septuples being rung at the Bullring practice night in the ringing chamber that was once so familiar to me. The other is from a lost peal attempt at St Philip's Cathedral which was then scored on Monday, of Spliced Maximus which was made up of an innovative arrangement by David Pipe, affectionately known as 'Pipe's Particles', and brings up more music in ways not possible in anything standard, such as Yorkshire, or even Bristol or Stedman. It is compelling listening, not just for the music, but the breathtaking quality of ringing. Both pieces are stunning examples of closed handstroke leading, and how much life - in my humble opinion at least - it gives a piece of ringing, allowing it to flow, and certainly in the case of the latter ringing, allowing the music to shine through.

And it gave us something to fill the time we had spare this evening without a lively seven-year-old about!


Thursday 22nd May 2014

The stretch of the ringing family was in full evidence today.

The messages of support from ringers across the country and even the world were a source of comfort as we awaited word of Mason's latest and biggest operation to date, down in London's famous Great Ormond Street Hospital. I eventually grabbed a word with him this evening, once he had come out of his groggy post-op state, reassured to hear his typically chirpy voice. Hopefully he can keep that cheeriness up over the next few weeks!

Buoyed by that encounter, Alfie and I picked Ruthie up from choir practice and headed over to Ufford, where George Pipe had arranged for a group of us to ring with Matthew Sorell, a ringer visiting the UK all the way from Australia. I've said before that there are very few - if any - hobbies where someone can travel across the world to partake in their pastime with friends and strangers anywhere, and this was it in its ultimate form, as we rang some Stedman Triples and Bristol Surprise Major on the 13cwt eight, before we went on to some ringing at nearby Pettistree with some messing about and Smeaton Surprise Minor and a pint in The Greyhound. It is but part of a busy week across the country for this friendly and nice Aussie, who has already taken in a peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal at Old St Martin's in the Cornmarket in Worcester on Sunday, and is due to take him down to Kent for this weekend's Central Council meeting.

Meanwhile, well done to Pam and Paul Ebsworth on ringing their 250th quarter together, and their first in Thelwall Bob Minor and Childwall Bob Minor in the success at Woolpit. Always nice to see the family doing well!


Wednesday 21st May 2014

Today was a big day for Mason, ahead of an even bigger day tomorrow, as he headed down to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in advance of his operation in twenty-four hours time.

For various reasons, it was impractical for myself, Ruthie and Alfie to go down with the star of the show, but we were regularly updated as more information was given at the pre-op meeting at GOSH, as it was revealed that he will be mainly be in a wheelchair for the next three weeks, before relying more heavily on a frame, and having been warned he could be in over the weekend, it is now thought he could return to Suffolk on Saturday. Still, when your instinct is to protect your child from all harm and pain, it was very daunting for Ruthie and me sending the li'l chap into such a procedure, no matter how good the hands he is undoubtedly in.

He was in our thoughts constantly of course, and it was nice to be able to dedicate this evening's peal of ten-spliced Surprise Major methods on the front-eight at St Mary-le-Tower to him, which was kind of the rest of the band. Usually such an achievement would be the headline of a blog entry, and deservedly so. This was a top effort, and at the end of a hot day at work for most of us, it was an impressive feat of concentration, with Brian did superbly in guiding us through it. Well done in particular to Maggie Ross, Stephen Cheek and David Potts on ringing their first in that many methods, and for ringing it so well into the bargain.

It wasn't the only ringing in the county recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile today either, with another peal rung in Ipswich at The Wolery, and quarters at Buxhall and Pettistree, with 1296's of Cambridge Surprise Minor and three-spliced Surprise Minor respectively.

After my exploits tonight, I was able to join my wife and youngest son in The Greyhound in the latter village, as we kept my eldest son in our prayers.


Tuesday 20th May 2014

It was a typically quiet Tuesday, bar a visit to Mason to wish him love and luck ahead of his important trip to London tomorrow.

However, well done to Tim Stanford on ringing his first quarter of Spliced Surprise Major in the pre-practice quarter at Offton, on a day when there were also a couple of handbell peals rung in Bacton.

So at least it wasn't quiet everywhere!


Monday 19th May 2014

Another decent practice at St Mary-le-Tower as Alfred enjoyed his tea as we rang, and another trip to The Mulberry Tree for Ron, Kate, Alfie, Ruthie and me post-ringing.

It's all starting to seem quite normal!


Sunday 18th May 2014

Being the last day that Mason is spending with us before his operation on Thursday and his subsequent restrictions, today was all about him.

So, once we'd been ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh in the morning - with a walk to the Cornhill to see some military vehicles that Ralph Earey very kindly gave us the heads up on in between - we met up with his Godfather Toby, Amy and Maddison for an afternoon at Easton Farm Park. For all that this trip was for the patient-to-be, it was a treat for us adults too, with neither Ruthie and me having not been here since we were children, and on a roasting hot day like today we felt extremely lucky to have this on our doorstep - we really ought to go more often.

Most importantly, the seven-year-old enjoyed himself, but it did mean missing the special practice at SMLT this evening, which was hopefully well attended anyway, as these are such important practices in aiming to raise the standard of higher number ringing not just in Ipswich, but across Suffolk.
Someone who was doing just that off his own back was George Salter, as he partook in a 5009 of Stedman Cinques at St Mary le Bow down in London, as part of a band featuring some of the very best ringers around. As much as we all wish he would shut-up sometimes, and that he doesn't seem to appreciate how much grief he puts his parents through, he is essentially a likeable young chap who has become an important part of ringing throughout the county. He is also extremely enthusiastic, which should never be discouraged, especially amongst our youngsters, so well done George on this afternoon's success.

Whilst we didn't get back from the farm in time for the special practice on the heaviest twelve within our borders, there was time for my wife to attend the latest South-East District Committee Meeting at the Earey's in Sproughton, complete with homebrew! As will hopefully be the case in all Districts in the coming months, there was much discussion on the future of the Guild Striking Competitions, but also arrangements for the District's Quarterly Meeting at St Margaret and St Mary-le-Tower on Saturday 7th June, and for the 2015 Guild AGM on 11th April, which the SE is hosting - expect to hear firmer details soon.

It was a useful evening, at the end of a special day for Mason.


Saturday 17th May 2014

Suffolk Guild Striking Competition Day. It is a highlight of my ringing calendar, for me at least. A day of ringing being done as it should always be, but sadly isn't, with concentration and focus resulting in hours of good striking, and rhythmic ringing.

The 2014 competitions can certainly be considered a success, and yet also left a lot of questions to be answered and lessons to be learned.

It was already unusual before we even started of course, with the change of venue and the six-bell competitions held in a different location to the draw, tea and results, but it has to be said that this worked out well. With some coordinated parking and car-sharing, there was room for those who wanted to listen to the teams at Ashbocking, whilst those who wanted to get away from it could go to the beautiful setting of Hemingstone Hut, set well away from the beaten track amongst the fields densely packed with crops swaying in the gentle breeze and glowing from the bright, hot sunshine that had encouraged me to put my shorts on for the first time this year. Apart from the huge numbers of ringers' cars parked on every available bit of space between the Hut and St Gregory church, this could have been a scene from decades ago, with the many children present free to run around the immediate area, playing hide 'n' seek in the rape field directly behind us.

Gathered for the Mitson Shield & Lester Brett Trophy in Hemingstone Hut.Listening to the Six-Bell Competitions at Ashbocking.Tea at Hemingstone Hut.Mason playing outside Hemingstone Hut.Mason playing outside Hemingstone Hut.Gathered outside Hemingstone Hut.SMLT Band. Hollesley Band, winners of the 2014 Lester Brett Trophy - l to r; Sam Shannon, Peter Harper, Sue Bowerman, Anne Buswell, Jenny Lloyd & Peter Harper.

The tea was brilliantly put together by Ruthie, her mother Kate and Jane Harper, as well as the many who generously brought stuff to eat, and made sure we weren't going to go hungry! The judges Lesley Boyle and Gareth Davies from Cambridgeshire carefully ran through their comments to offer advice without offending, before completing the first half of their task by announcing that the St Mary-le-Tower team that my wife and I were a part of along with David Potts the conductor, Ralph Earey, Stephen Cheek and George Salter, were the winners of The Mitson Shield for the first time since the 2011 competition at Nayland, whilst Hollesley did brilliantly to fight off some tough competition to win The Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy.

Outside Helmingham listening to the Rose Trophy Competition. Outside Helmingham listening to the Rose Trophy Competition - l to r; Michelle Williams, Joan Garrett, Richard Rapior, Jonathan Stevens & Ruthie.Awaiting the results of the Rose Trophy Competition in Helmingham church.

And there was more great ringing and thoughtful judging in wonderful surroundings in the Eight-Bell Striking Competition for The Rose Trophy at Helmingham, where the North-West District deservedly won a competition that was entered in by nine teams. But it was this that summed up the mixed emotions from the day - this showpiece occasion has become too successful for its current format. Such was the constraint on time in the evening, that not all nine teams could participate, with the two South-East District teams withdrawing graciously and without fuss. We weren't helped by a hold-up in the afternoon as one of the ropes at the ground-floor six of All Saints was spliced, but irrespective of that, it seems clear that the competitions cannot continue as they are.

The post-competition drinks in The White Hart in neighbouring Otley were awash with ideas, with suggestions ranging from holding the six and eight-bell competitions on separate days, to the six-bell being restricted to the top two or three teams in the four District Striking Competitions. It is difficult to see the latter working, as another issue that was obvious in the turnout was that out of the twenty-three teams entered over the three competitions, only one was from the west of the county, with seventeen in total from the hosting South-East District, with no representation from the west in the six-bell competitions, and no one from the South-West District at all across the day. I find it a big shame that there isn't a team from The Norman Tower. Or Kersey, who apparently ring to a very high standard in the SW District Competition. What about Great Barton which has a keen young band? Lavenham with its proud history? The enthusiastic band at Bardwell? I know it isn't always possible for teams to take part, due to holidays, or other ringing commitments like weddings, but it seems that various excuses about the western District Competitions being held after the Guild ones, apathy and the feeling that its not worth entering because St Mary-le-Tower always win abound. All of which is easy to counteract. One of the many possible solutions that has been mooted is moving the SW and NW District Competitions to before the Guild ones, or the other way round. Apathy shouldn't grip ringers when it comes to a medium that is one of the most effective and enjoyable ways of generating enthusiasm and quality ringing. And even if SMLT did win all the time - which they don't - there is the opportunity to win silverware with the Call-Change Competition, which I reintroduced to encourage more bands - and importantly ringers - to this event from across the county. And the NW District showed at Helmingham that there is winning quality on that side of the county. But there was understandable reluctance in some parts to travel all the way to the South-West District next year if it is just going to be another NE vs SE contest.

I remember the first striking competitions I attended as Guild Ringing Master when they were held at Monks Eleigh and Hadleigh in 2007, and it was a truly depressing affair, a real anti-climax. The Mitson Shield was competed for by just seven teams, six of whom were from the SE. It simply wasn't an event to look forward to. We don't want to go back to that, and personally I'd love to see even more teams taking part next year, especially if meant seeing more teams from across the Guild. Yes it would be tiring to judge, but having judged similar set-ups in Essex and Norfolk, I found it extremely satisfying, and made the journeys worthwhile. And having also been Ringing Master organising these events, I know that it is hard work, but at least it feels worth doing if twenty-to-thirty teams and over a hundred ringers took part across the three contests.

But if that is going to happen - or even continue to be as successful as it is - then it can't carry on as an afternoon/evening event. Personally, I would prefer to see the six-bell competitions in the morning, lunch and then the eight-bell in the afternoon, held after all the district competitions had taken place. And as we have found out, plenty of parking is necessary, and in my opinion there ought to be somewhere for people to go to as an alternative to the church, like a hall and a pub to catch-up and make it a real occasion, with perhaps The Vestey Ring in residence. These are issues that the districts are now being encouraged to discuss, as these competitions are for the benefit of all members, from all towers, to further their ringing, whether you win or 'lose'.

For all that though, I really enjoyed today, especially knowing how much work went into it, and the South-East District Committee and Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters are to be congratulated on an occasion that delivered on the important aspects of the day - good ringing and good company in wonderful surroundings.


Friday 16th May 2014

Ruthie spent the evening making cakes for tomorrow, whilst I was sensibly kept away in the living room entertaining the children.

Sproughton.Meanwhile, well done to Clara Gostling on ringing her first quarter on eight in the 1344 of Plain Bob Major at Offton. Clara is one of several young ringers at Sproughton, and the tower captain there, Ralph Earey is to be commended on guiding them when many of a similar age have fallen away. He's kept pushing them without pressurising them, and it has been refreshing to see them ringing quarters and going out and about to District and Guild events, and no doubt they will be out in force at tomorrow's Striking Competitions. Let's hope many more are to enjoy Ruthie's cakes!


Thursday 15th May 2014

Good news about St Clements in Ipswich.

St Clement's.One week ago, there was a public meeting about plans to turn this redundant church into an arts centre. It is a wonderful sounding plan to finally give this hidden gem of Suffolk's county town a proper use, but it did raise concerns among many in the Guild as to what would happen to the bells. It was felt by some that there ought to be SGR representation at the meeting, which was entirely understandable, but we were assured by Stephen Pettman who maintains the 15cwt six, that the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust have always been keen to see the bells in their care continue to ring, so he foresaw no problems, but once he was back from a ringing meeting in Italy, he would talk with them to ensure that the bells voice would be heard in all this, so I at least felt reassured, though I couldn't have made the meeting anyway.

Today we received confirmation from Mr P that indeed the IHCT have made sure that the new owners - a newly formed group linked to the neighbouring University College Suffolk - are aware of the bells and that access needs to be maintained, taking them up the tower to show them what is up there. And SDP has been promised a meeting between all parties, and is even hopeful of the bells being rehung.

St Mary at the QUay.St Nicholas.Indeed, these are promising times for not just the redundant churches down by the regenerating waterfront, but the bells within them too. The project to convert St Mary at Quay into a therapy centre for Suffolk Mind is well underway, and offers with it the strong possibility of a rehang of the bells there, and even an augmentation of the 7cwt six and a ringing training centre.

Hopefully we will one day see refurbished rings of bells that could've easily been lost when the churches closed and were passed on from owner-to-owner, but weren't, largely due to the hard work of twice Past Master of the Suffolk Guild Stephen to maintain not just the bells, but relations between ringers and the owners.

Woolpit.Whilst redundant churches do exist in the countryside of our beautiful county, Woolpit is more like the kind of active church that we are used to ringing in, and today members were taking advantage with a quarter of York Minster Treble Bob Minor, a first for all the band. Well done to them, and thank you to Mr Pettman for holding the fort with the bells of Ipswich's redundant churches so that we are now in the position to take advantage of the exciting projects happening to them now.


Wednesday 14th May 2014

Good to hear that Norman Tower ringer and son of Guild Secretary Mandy Shedden, Craig Gradidge has left hospital after an operation. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing this personable young man a continued and speedy recovery.

Pettistree.Bardwell.Hopefully he'll be back on the end of a bellrope soon, but those currently fit enough to ring have been taking advantage in Suffolk today. Congratulations to Mike Whitby on his latest deserved quarter-peal landmark, ringing his 1700th in the success at Pettistree, whilst Ruth Suggett was ringing her first of eight-spliced Surprise Major in the quarter rung at Bardwell in memory of Euston's Win Irvings and Wormingford's David Reeve. Well done Ruth.

There was also another impressive handbell peal in Bacton on a busy day's ringing that Ruthie and myself partook in as well, attending the practice that followed the aforementioned 1272 Norwich Surprise Minor at SS Peter & Paul, all followed by a drink in The Greyhound. A nice way to finish a day of good news.


Tuesday 13th May 2014

Having got our heads around Mason having his operation at the end of August, it came as a shock to be informed by Great Ormond Street Hospital today that it has been moved forward. To next Thursday. It gives us just nine days to prepare our ourselves for what will follow, rather than the three months we were braced for. And we will need to be prepared if what we've been told by the doctors comes to fruition. He will be in a wheelchair for a while, though how long exactly depends entirely on how he recovers. Maybe weeks, maybe months. We've been warned that we'll need to move his bedroom downstairs as he won't be able to go upstairs nor should he be carried upstairs due to the risk of knocking his delicate recovering leg. It probably means Sunday morning ringing up St Mary-le-Tower and Woodbridge is out for a little while too.

Ashbocking.Hemingstone Hut.Helmingham.

Whilst we approach the sooner-than-expected goings on with trepidation, the li'l chap is naturally excited beyond belief about going down to London, having wheelchair races and trying out crutches, which I guess is preferable to him getting himself worked up about the limitations he will have to get used to for now. It means we will aim to enjoy this weekend with him as much as we possibly can, including Saturday's Guild Striking Competitions, which he enjoyed immensely last year with Henry Salter. Hopefully lots of other people are also looking forward to the events being held across Ashbocking, Hemingstone and Helmingham in four days time - make sure you get your names for tea in!

Ringers were getting their eye in today, with a peal of Doubles at The Wolery and a quarter at Offton before the practice night, whilst the Second-Tuesday Ringers enjoyed a day out at Yoxford and Rendham. All good preparation for Saturday, as we look to prepare for beyond the weekend.


Monday 12th May 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.With Bank Holidays, Holy Week and the Tower AGM, this evening's St Mary-le-Tower practice was the first normal, full practice on Suffolk's first twelve for over a month. There was no sign of rust though, as in the main there was pretty good ringing, mainly on ten, but also a fair bit on twelve, as everyone's repertoires expand.

Post practice continues not to be normal. The Cricketers - like all Wetherspoons - doesn't allow under-eighteens in after 9pm, but Kate, Ruthie, Alfie and myself still have to wait for Ron to finish bagpipes practice, so we have found a pleasant alternative. The Mulberry Tree is a little further up the road from SMLT, and is a fraction more expensive than our usual Monday night hostelry, with a smaller range. But it was a quieter, easier to get a drink, and importantly welcomed our son in. Plus we got to have a chat with manager Stephen Pipe, whose father George was again present up the tower this evening, which is another welcome return to the norm!


Sunday 11th May 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.Having bemoaned my deficiencies on big bells, I was on Suffolk's daddy of them all this evening as I rang the tenor to a quarter of three-spliced Surprise Royal methods on the back ten at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Whilst bizarre that we rang the London (No.3) better than the Cambridge and Yorkshire, this was a success we should be chuffed with. There would be many centres of ringing across the world who would love to be able to achieve what we did leading up to evensong.

It followed on from a morning that saw me return to the scene of yesterday's efforts for Alfie's first trip up to the ringing chamber at Woodbridge. There was no need for me to ring the eighth quite this soon after my stint on it less than twenty-four hours earlier, as we rang for a service that saw us get a mention from a grateful Kev the Rev. In between, we tried to relax at home, whilst Mason surprised us by tidying our bedroom. Though those of you who know the scene in The Simpsons where Sherry Bobbins tidies Bart and Lisa's rooms will appreciate his style of tidying! Still, well done and thank you li'l chap!

Aldeburgh.Meanwhile the 1320 at SMLT wasn't the only ringing in the county recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile today. Canon Nigel Hartley, who has done so much for ringing at Aldeburgh - not least in his defence of the well-established, well-known and appreciated second Sunday peals at SS Peter & Paul when they came under threat - was given an appropriate send-off on the 11cwt eight by the coast with a 5120 of Louth Surprise Major, the first peal in the method by all the band and the Guild. Well done to all concerned there and well done particularly to Stephen Dawson and conductor David Howe on ringing their first blows of Ashtead Surprise Major in the 47mins of ringing at Ixworth, whilst the same pair were part of the band who rang a quarter of Rutland Surprise Major at Bardwell.

Ashbocking.Back at home though, the aftermath of changing the location for next Saturday's Guild Six-Bell Striking Competition continues, with it important to note that the latest change is that the draw at 1.30pm will be at Hemingstone Hut, (IP6 9RF), which also offers up the opportunities of car-sharing between the Hut and All Saints to help ease the parking situation, as recommended by those in the know in Ashbocking. In the circumstances, the South-East District Committee has done brilliantly in getting things rearranged in such a short space of time, and enabling the competitions to go ahead. There is understandable disappointment of course, not least from the committee themselves, who had so enthusiastically chosen Clopton in the first place. However, the good intentions behind selecting this superb newly rehung six, were also behind the very reluctant decision to move the competitions. The locals had only been told last Friday that the field next to the church couldn't be used due to health and safety reasons, and whilst it is worth exploring why this should be any different to using it for the dedication service eight months ago so that we can hold ringing events here in the future, its inaccessibility at this late stage and the lack of any viable alternatives which were explored meant the SE District Committee were faced with the prospect of potentially up to eighty or ninety ringers - a sizeable number of whom would be children or elderly - negotiating a busy cross-country main-road littered with maybe as many as forty-to-fifty cars at any one point. The numbers may not be as large as that, and I'm sure nothing would actually happen, but the consequences of something happening - if the police didn't come along and have some words to say on it before that point - don't bare thinking about on every level.

Helmingham.The committee are also aware that the alternative is not entirely ideal. But it is the best of a far from ideal situation, and the committee should be congratulated on finding such an alternative - with another easy-going six, and a nearby hall, both with safe parking and not far from the evening venue of Helmingham for the Eight-Bell Trophy - at this point, as well as Podge and Liz for taking on the competitions eight days beforehand. It has been a difficult week for Ruthie in particular, who has spent days phoning and emailing potential venues, checking them with the committee if they would be acceptable, informing the Guild of the changes, and then spent the following days defending the changes, all whilst trying to look after a typically demanding month-old baby. There are lessons to be learned for future competitions certainly, but for now, perhaps we would all be better off supporting the competitions and making them what they should be - a fun day out that offers invaluable experience to learners and improvers.

So - at the time of asking my wife only has thirty names - and enter your teams. We look forward to seeing you all there!


Saturday 10th May 2014

I don't really consider myself a competent ringer of big bells. I was never really trusted with anything of much size before I left Suffolk for university in 1997, whilst in Birmingham there was always a number of established tenor ringers that I had neither the desire nor the bravery to usurp, like Michael Wilby, Andrew Ogden, John Warboys and Ricky Shallcross. It wasn't until my return to my home county nine years ago that I was asked to ring heavy bells. The 35cwt tenor at St Mary-le-Tower is the heaviest bell I have rung to a peal, and it is likely to stay that way, partly because it is - bar the tenor at St Peter's Mancroft in Norwich - the biggest bell in the eastern region, but partly because of mornings like that which I had at Woodbridge today.

Woodbridge.My record with peals on heavy eights is not great. I'd struggled on the 25cwt tenor of our nearest ring of bells with a previous peal back in 2006, and had to give up altogether on the tenor at Debenham for a peal attempt a few years later. After a slightly unsettled start that had seen me trying to find a rhythm, and the need to hitch my falling trousers every couple of of leads or so, three or four courses from the end of this morning's 5022 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at St Mary the Virgin saw me get that same sensation as I did that day, and it nearly saw the effort come to a premature end, as I contemplated giving up, my arms aching and energy drained. However, whilst on the day I gave up on the 21cwt bell at St Mary Magdalene those feelings came six or seven courses from it coming round, today we were tantalizingly close to a successful completion of a peal we had all worked hard for. And it was for a very special occasion, an attempt actually requested by an incumbent, as the Reverend Canon Kevan 'Kev-the-Rev' McCormack was looking to celebrate his recent appointment as a  Chaplain to the Queen. A good band was gathered at relatively short notice, the method had been selected as an appropriate nod to Kevan's county of origin, and Stephen Pettman had come up with a composition that appropriately included Queens, so I was determined not to let everyone down at this late stage. Therefore, I dug in, found some strength from somewhere, and with the help of the band and particularly by brother Chris on the seventh ringing around me, we got through to the end in a time of 3hrs11mins that had as much to do with my struggles to get the bell up as much as anything else!

It was all worth it, as we were greeted downstairs by the man himself, as well as Ruthie, Mason and Alfie, before a longed-for drink in The King's Head across the Market Hill from the church.

Ashbocking.It wasn't the only success in Suffolk ringing today though, with a respectable turnout of seven teams contributing to what I'm sure was a very enjoyable North-East District Striking Competition at Sweffling, with particular congratulations to Halesworth A on coming out on top overall and thus winning the Pat Bailey Shield, Rendham & Sweffling C on getting the runners-up Harry Archer Trophy, and Rendham & Sweffling N on securing the Call-Change Trophy. Hopefully we'll see these teams at Ashbocking next Saturday!

Meanwhile, beyond our borders in Bedfordshire, well done to Tim Stanford on ringing his first peal on ten in the peal at Kempston which highlights the strong links between the two counties. And well done to Stephen Stanford on managing the tenor, no doubt better than I managed mine today!


Friday 9th May 2014

The best laid plans and all that.

Ashbocking.Helmingham.By the time you read this, many of you will have seen via facebook and through the Guild's email list that the planned visit of the SGR to Clopton for next Saturday's Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy has had to be changed to Ashbocking, with the tea and results at Hemingstone Hut (IP6 9RF) nearby. It was a lovely idea to hold the competitions on this lovely little six and the Rose Trophy at Helmingham, the two newest rehangs in the South-East District. But it was set up on the proviso that we could use the huge field that was used for the dedication back in September, and a notion that if it was wet the church had some sort of back-up for events when more than a handful of cars were present.

Sadly, it very recently became apparent that the field wasn't going to be available, and due to the unfortunate geography of St Mary the Virgin there is no real alternative. The busy B1079 that runs straight past the church is not a safe place to park potentially forty-fifty cars or to walk down from any other parking spots that people may have found, and indeed I'm sure the police may have had something to say about it too!

Huge credit has to go to to Ruthie (whilst also looking after Alfie!) and the District committee for making new arrangements at such short notice. There have been phone-calls and emails flying frantically back and forth, and they - and I'm sure all of us too - are extremely grateful to Liz Christian at the new venue for taking us in at this late hour of the process, and whilst parking at Ashbocking church and Hemingstone Hut will still be far from ideal, but it is a heck of a lot better than what we were faced with in Clopton! Hopefully these efforts won't be in vain, and the now traditionally large turnouts for these competitions will continue in eight days time. The ground-floor 10cwt six at All Saints are also a pleasant, easy-going six which should encourage entrants of all abilities to put a team in, and the Hut is in a fantastically beautiful location.

It is worth noting that arrangements for the Eight-Bell at Helmingham in the evening remain unchanged, primarily because there is ample parking available in the grounds to the neighbouring Hall, which some may remember was used for the dedication of the bells a couple of years or so ago. It should still be a brilliant day, with the spirit of Dunkirk streaking through it, so I really hope as many people as possible take advantage. Names for tea still go to my wife by next Wednesday, whilst teams can be entered to Guild Ringing Master Jed.

Mrs Munnings hasn't been the only productive member today, with a 1344 of Rutland Surprise Major at Rendham, and well done to Kevin Ward on ringing his first quarter of Norwich Surprise Minor in the success at Edwardstone. There was also an impressive peal of 210 Plain Minor methods on handbells at Bacton.

But I can't imagine any of them have been quite as busy today as Ruthie!


Thursday 8th May 2014

I am very lucky to work for John Catt Educational. It is a small company with a big reputation in its field, but its biggest strength in my view is its generous treatment of its staff. We are rewarded for our hard-work and successes with meals, hampers, drink and days out, and there is a very communal feel about the place that generates contentment and therefore a desire to go the extra mile. It's why at just short of six years being employed by them, I am still a long way short of being the longest serving employee on the books, which is no mean feat in this day and age. That atmosphere has been carefully and enthusiastically cultivated by owner Jonathan and his wife Chrissie.

Actually, that should read ex-owner, as recently he sold this thriving publishers happily to Alex, James and Jon who have themselves been with us for some time now. I have a lot to be grateful to Jonathan and Chrissie for, as they plucked me from a low ebb and provided my happiest working years to date, so despite my usual reservations at going to work-related events out of work hours, I was delighted to attend a farewell meal for them at The Plough and Sail at Snape Maltings, every drop of drink and crumb of food typically paid for by the company.

The only downside was missing the Cosy Nostrils Practice at Ufford for the second month running, but Ruthie and Alfie were able to attend on my behalf, courtesy of Kate who generously gave them a lift in my absence.

With a quarter at Halesworth, and Norwich Diocesan Association peal on handbells at Bacton, there was at least plenty of others partaking in ringing whilst I thanked Jonathan and Chrissie.


Wednesday 7th May 2014

The Wolery.Lots of ringing firsts in the county today, with the first peal of Hopwood Surprise Major for the Suffolk Guild and all of the band in the 5088 at The Wolery, the first blows for the entire band at Preston St Mary in Stonea Bob Minor and Manea Bob Minor, and Derek Martin's first of Grandsire in the success at Pettistree. Well done to all who achieved something, especially Derek.

There were firsts out of ringing too, with Alfie popping into John Catt Educational for the first time, and a large swathe of the county supporting Sunderland for the first - and probably only - time, as Operation Relegate Naaaaridge was successfully completed. Welcome back down to earth to our feathered friends from up the A140!

Ruthie and I celebrated with a post-practice pint in The Greyhound, courtesy of the very generous Ron ahead of his forthcoming birthday - thanks Ron! On a night of celebration, it was but the first drink...


Tuesday 6th May 2014

After a lovely long weekend of striking competitions, car-rally's, meals out and gardening, it was back to work for me and school for Mason, whilst it was another day at home for Ruthie and Alfie. There weren't even any quarters or peals recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile, bar a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Sweffling. Just one of those quiet days.


Monday 5th May 2014

It isn't ringing-related in any way, but I was deeply saddened to hear today of the death of British tennis player Elena Baltacha at the age of just thirty yesterday. When her father Sergei Senior joined Ipswich Town in 1988 as the first ever Soviet footballer to play in the English league, I ended up playing football with his son Sergei Junior for a time, and met the very young Elena on a handful of occasions, and whilst I can't say that that constitutes knowing her, it seemed to make her tragic passing from liver cancer even sadder to me. She was also a fine ambassador for Suffolk sport, becoming Britain's Number One, and world number forty-nine, though quite how far she could've gone in the game if she wasn't beset by liver problems and injury throughout her career, only God knows. As a keen fan of those representing our county in sport therefore, I had a soft spot for her.

As sad as her death is, for us local sports fans there was light relief in the form of Lowestoft Town winning promotion in their play-off final today (at least one football team within our borders is capable of getting promoted!), helping fill that gap between the end of ITFC's season yesterday and the start of the World Cup on 12th June. It was also an engrossing backdrop to a very productive sunny Bank Holiday Monday, with Kate and Ron coming round to help get us started on our huge garden, which also allowed me to get on with some of the many household chores that had been left undone by weeks of sleep-deprived semi-consciousness, whilst Ruthie hosted Fergie who popped round for a cuppa - many thanks guys!

It was a nice way to spend a bitter-sweet day.


Sunday 4th May 2014

As hundreds of vintage motors partook in the 44th Ipswich to Felixstowe Historic Vehicle Run, Alfie, Mason and I made almost the same journey, as we went morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence in the former town and - having been to Grundisburgh where Peter Emery and yesterday's judges Stephen and Janet were among the visitors, and met Ruthie after her stint in the choir at Woodbridge - my wife joined us to see all the ancient cars, motorbikes, buses, and even prams lined up along almost the entirety of the latter's promenade. It was typically spectacular, and on such a sunny afternoon, a drink in one of the seafront bars was in order too, though I wouldn't particularly recommend One 29 as a drinking hole if you're looking for draught ale!

A far better place to have a drink is The Cherrytree back in our town of residence, where we had a meal out with Mrs Munnings' best friend and one of our bridesmaid's Fergie. It was a good place to raise a glass to Mike Whitby's 1250th quarter as conductor, very appropriately rung at Pettistree where he has done so much since they were rehung over twenty-five years ago. A deserved landmark from a fine vintage!


Saturday 3rd May 2014

Campsea Ashe.When I first moved back to my home county in the hot summer of 2005 I lived in Tunstall, the gateway to the isolated wilds of the Suffolk Sandlings. Having previously sat on the M6 surrounded by the depressing grey concrete urbanity of Birmingham and its surrounding wastelands for my commute to work, my daily trip to employment in Felixstowe took in the lush multicoloured patchwork of our beautiful countryside, and most immediately the picturesque village of Campsea Ashe. With its railway station (even if it is bizarrely attributed to nearby Wickham Market), old people's home (which was once home to the late Sylvia Pipe), shop, pub and pretty parish church, for a long time this was merely a place I passed through on the way to most of the places I needed to get to. I did enjoy a pint in the Dog and Duck before catching a train into Woodbridge for my first peal back in the area (and incidentally my first with Ruthie), and occasionally nipped into the shop, but the awful four at St John the Baptist meant I had no reason to stop off in this otherwise delightful community.

The project to augment to six bells and lower the ringing chamber to a newly-built gallery has since seen me visit the village on a number of times, with fundraising events, the last peal on the four and the test ring among the many reasons for visiting that the added activity here has generated. Another reason happily occurred today, as the village hosted the South-East District Striking Competitions.

Pettistree Teams.And it did it superbly. Ten teams and nearly sixty ringers took advantage of the delightful surroundings, and partook in closely fought competitions for the Cecil Pipe Memorial Method Bell and David Barnard Memorial Call Change Trophy, with both Pettistree teams coming out on top! It was a brilliant endorsement of the dedicated and enthusiastic dedication of Pettistrees' ringers, with many there regular attendees at District and Guild events, quarters rung every week, two or three peals rung every year, social events, outings and a real focus on striking throughout the year. Rather than shunning striking competitions grumbling about ringers ringing for more than one team (of which there was again a very minimal amount of this afternoon), or shrugging your shoulders pleading poverty of numbers, work towards entering a team in a competition next year. It will in the process raise the standard of ringing at your tower. Don't be put off by teams like Pettistree and St Mary-le-Tower winning them regularly, aspire to emulate them!

Apart from the competitions themselves, there was a wonderful bring and share tea in the village hall, and over twenty of us made the landlord's day in the aforementioned Dog and Duck by having a pint or two in his then empty pub. Thank you to the locals led by Glenys Fear for keeping us topped up with liquid tea, Ringing Master Tom Scase's aunt and uncle Janet and Stephen Clarke from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire for judging so marvelously (and not just because we came first!), and well done to Tom, Ruthie and Ralphy on arranging and presenting proceedings.

Kettleburgh.It all came after a pleasant morning of wandering another lovely Suffolk village, Kettleburgh for myself, Mason and Alfie, as my wife rang her first quarter-peal as a mother, which also saw Ruth Darton, Hilary Stearn and Chris McArthur ring their first of St Clement's College Bob Minor. Well done guys!

A great morning of a great day, which reminded me why I came back to this great county nine years ago!


Friday 2nd May 2014

I was very sorry to hear of the passing this evening of Alan Flood from Surrey, a ringer of much renown, and Past Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths, who rang over 3000 peals, and had many friends in Suffolk. Although I only rang two of those peals with him - one of Alnitak Surprise Maximus at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham in 2000 and Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower the following year - I came across him and his partner Swaz Apter at various ringing events during my time in those circles, and found him to genuinely be one of the nicest people I have met. Facebook has allowed many of us to keep up to date with the ups and downs of this lovely couples, with their wedding back in January a rare highlight in a horrid period for them, with Alan being ill for the last couple of years.

It was a sad way to end what had otherwise been a positive day. We in the sales team at John Catt had recently passed our latest sales target, and as a result were taken out for lunch to The Duke of York back across town on my doorstep. If you ever find yourself in there, try the Eton Mess - it's the size of a small European country! And being Friday, we got to welcome Mason back into the fold.

From a ringing perspective, the good news primarily came from the news that the Guild's Young Ringers have secured their place at the Ringing World National Youth Striking Competition at Worcester on Saturday 5th July, coming hot on the heels of their superb effort at raising a fantastic £235 from their raffle at the AGM last Saturday at Stowmarket. Well done guys!

Earl Stonham.Meanwhile, the Friday Night Quarter-Peal Club were typically successful, with a 1280 of Doubles at Earl Stonham.

RIP Alan.


Thursday 1st May 2014

It was a boys night in for Alfie and me as Ruthie went to choir practice, having a deserved break towards the end of my first week back at work.

Hopton.Whilst our activities involved no ringing, there was some going on in Suffolk, as an Oxford Diocesan Guild band including our very own Mary Dunbavin and David Salter rang a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Hopton.

Stoke by Nayland.Meanwhile, tomorrow night will see the first of what is hoped to be weekly (now changed to 1st and 3rd. Ed) Friday practices at Stoke-by-Nayland over the (God willing) warmer summer months until October. I hope that we can at some stage pay a visit (such visits are a lot harder currently!), but I would certainly encourage members to support this new practice.

Friday nights may get a little more interesting than Thursdays!


Wednesday 30th April 2014

The focus today was on the two boys.

Alfie had a visit from Simon the health visitor, and all seems well thank God. His mild jaundice has disappeared, the lump on his head which is apparently nothing to worry about is going down, and he is obviously eating well, as his weight has now reached 8lbs 12oz!

Meanwhile, his older brother Mason has finally got a date booked for his first operation down in London at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The date in question - which could still be changed depending on circumstances - is 28th August, which will mean that he will be fine for our holiday, the school holidays and any hot summer we may have, but will mean him missing the start of the new school year. But at least we have a date.

Both of them were the subject of conversation - amongst much else - as the latter's Godmother Kala and her husband Nick came round the meet the former for the first time. With them expecting their first child in August, babies were the main topic of conversation, but as ever when we meet up with them we spent hours chatting about anything and everything, and so on this occasion it meant missing out on Pettistree practice.

Well done though to Anne Buswell on ringing her first of London in the pre-practice quarter there, on a day when the first ever peal of Capercaillie Bob Triples was rung at The Wolery, and our friends from the Norwich Diocesan Association ventured far into the superior East Anglian county to ring a 5040 at Tunstall.

There was also a video posted by visiting speaker Rosalind Martin on the Guild Facebook page and You Tube featuring ringing Saturday's AGM at Stowmarket, with the demonstration handbell ringing at the fringe meeting with (from left to right) Philip Gorrod, Neil Thomas, James Smith and Trevor Hughes, the service touch of Stedman Triples at SS Mary & Peter, featuring Brian Whiting on the treble, then Gerge Salter, myself, Maurice Rose, Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters, Philip Gorrod, Clive Dunbavin and then John Girt on the tenor, and then the aforementioned Messrs Salter, Hughes, Gorrod and Whiting ringing handbells at the start of the service. Thank you Rosalind for putting that online, and indeed for coming along and speaking.

For us though, it was all about the boys.


Tuesday 29th April 2014

Campsea Ashe.Sweffling.Clopton.Helmingham.Tostock.Nayland.

Now that the AGM has passed for this year, Saturday sees the start of the 2014 striking competition season, as the South-East District kicks-off the Suffolk Guild's calendar in this medium with its competition at Campsea Ashe. Hopefully this young, easy-to-ring, light six by the railway station will encourage another big turnout as we had at Brandeston last year. Likewise I hope there will be lots of teams - and more importantly - lots of ringers in the striking competitions that follow, with the North-East District Striking Competition at Sweffling and the SGR Striking Competitions at Clopton and Helmingham over the following two Saturdays, the North-West District Striking Competition (and BBQ!) at Tostock on 14th June, and the South-West District Striking Competition at Nayland on 28th June. There are so many different ways to improve your ringing, and in my view striking competitions are one of the best. They give bands an opportunity to focus on striking, and whilst winning shouldn't be the main focus at this level, the friendly competition makes them immense fun in my view. And like most ringing events, they are a superb social occasion. Please do support them, either by entering a band, or by coming along to see what happens. As last year's Mitson Shield showed, the results are not foregone conclusions, and with the Call-Change elements in the competitions, there is silverware on offer for all teams.

For today, ringing progression within our borders was happening through the medium of peals and quarters. Well done Neal Dodge on conducting a quarter on eight for the first time in the success at Henley, on a day when there was also a 1280 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Offton, a 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Orford and a peal of three Minor methods at Otley to celebrate local Jimmy Wightman's 80th birthday. Jimmy is one of my favourite characters in the Guild, a real good old Suffolk boy who doesn't seem to have changed in all the years I've known him, and I wish more would show the same dedication to District and Guild events. Whilst he may not be amongst the very best ringers our county has produced (though to keep in the above theme he has won a striking competition!), but his presence has helped many along their way, so this 5040 being arranged and dedicated for his significant landmark is well deserved.

For us there wasn't anything quite as exciting today, as we had a quiet day and evening. God willing though, there is much more excitement to come!


Monday 28th April 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.A lot has changed since we last went along to a St Mary-le-Tower practice. It's had a spring-clean and George Pipe has returned to ringing after over a year out. But of course the main difference is that when Kate, Ruthie and myself entered the ringing chamber of SMLT on a Monday night for the first time in three weeks, we came laden with an additional little person and his entourage of stuff.

Today didn't just see Alfie attend the weekly session upon Suffolk's heaviest and oldest twelve for the first time. It was also my first day back at work following my paternity-leave. Us men get ten working days off for the birth of our child, and with Good Friday and Easter Monday that equated to almost three weeks off. Whilst that has been no holiday, I've been glad I haven't also had to contend with getting to work, so today was a real test. And although a couple of peals and a quarter have given my wife some practice at coping with Alfred (and indeed Mason) on her own, and I was not far away, it was also quite a daunting day for her too.

St Mary-le-Tower AGM.Nevertheless, we all seemed to cope alright, and though still a little dozy from eighteen days and eighteen nights of broken sleep, we were relatively refreshed and ready for the aforementioned practice, which on this occasion was curtailed at 8.30pm for the Tower AGM. Unusually, this was shorter than Saturday's brisk Guild AGM, and yet nothing out of the ordinary brought up. David was rightly positive in his Ringing Master's report, but also keen to point out that there is still much, much work to do to reach the kind of standard that we are aspiring to, highlighting that this will need teamwork. The recently returned GWP commented on how happy the band is, something highlighted by an earlier exchange when having quoted that age-old ringing saying 'good 'uns at the front, good 'uns at the back, rest in the middle' and mocked Mike Whitby for his positioning in the middle for some three-spliced Surprise Royal, Amanda Richmond was asked to ring the fifth! And there was the usual list of maintenance that needs attending to, as may be expected with a near-forty-year old ring of twelve that is rung regularly to practices, Sunday morning ringing, quarters and peals. It certainly served its purpose of keeping us in the loop.

With AJM not allowed in The Cricketers after nine, as his Mother and Gran found out having grabbed a pint in there whilst I partook in the meeting, it was straight home afterwards. A lot has indeed changed since our last Monday night in Ipswich.


Sunday 27th April 2014

The day after the Guild AGM usually sees lots of talk about... well, the Guild AGM. Those who weren't there ask what they missed, those who were tell them. Ralphie's discussion on the future of ringing seemed to be the main talking point, but whilst most see the benefits and importance of a get-together such as yesterday's, some questioned the need for a meeting in this day and age.

I have to admit to seeing their point to an extent. Information - in theory - can be imparted to hundreds of members almost immediately via email, facebook, Twitter and this website, and ringers across Suffolk communicate with each other more easily, extensively and regularly than ever before, and so many of the issues that once were best brought to the membership's attention at the AGM can be dealt with at other times. As a result, the main meeting can seem a bit like an exercise in rubber-stamping. However, besides the fact that there are still a number in the SGR without internet access, I think these face-to-face occasions are still important to ensure that issues that relate to the Guild and its members are seen to be run past those they effect.

The Corn Exchange.This year's AGM Day +1 debate was held at The Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds following a quarter at The Norman Tower, preparation for the Guild's entry in The Ridgeman Trophy at Coggeshall on Saturday 7th June. Despite struggling to hear ourselves when the St George's Day Parade passed by, a very decent 1387 of Stedman Caters was rung, which itself followed on from a trip to the aforementioned pub by myself, Ruthie, Mason and Alfie for lunch.

Earlier, my wife and youngest son joined Mason and me in our usual Sunday morning routine at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, where at the former we were privileged to ring with George Pipe for the first time in well over a year, as his welcome return to ringing which started last week continued this morning.

Meanwhile, well done to Richard Finch on ringing his first of Grandsire in the 1320 at Kersey today, as ringing in the Suffolk Guild continues largely unaffected by its AGM yesterday, whatever its merits.


Saturday 26th April 2014

Amongst some members, the Suffolk Guild AGM has a bad reputation, usually based on the recollection of a meeting in the dim and distant past. But much has changed with the SGR's showpiece occasion in recent years, mainly thanks to the efforts of a succession of officers. Gone are the days when you just turn up for a bit of ringing, a service, tea and a two-hour slog of a meeting, quibbling over wording and painstakingly searching a room of dozing members for proposers and seconders for reports, motions and officers. Now we have a much more diverse event, with something for everyone and plenty to hold the interest of ringers of all abilities.

Ringing at the fringe meeting on handbells, with James Smith, Trevor Hughes, Philip Gorrod & Neil Thomas.Ringing before the service.Handbell ringing at the start of the service with George Salter, Trevor Hughes, Philip Gorrod & Brian Whiting.Today's at Stowmarket was a fine example of how good this day can be. There was ringing on the 20cwt eight of course, as there should be. But as has become traditional for the Saturday after Easter, there was a fringe meeting too, and although I missed the apparently very interesting talk about handbells by Rosalind Martin and Neil Thomas at St Peter's Hall, I was glad to catch the handbell ringing that concluded proceedings. Once I'd grabbed a ring across the churchyard at SS Mary & Peter, more handbell ringing with George Salter on 1-2, Trevor Hughes on 3-4, Philip Gorrod on 5-6 and Brian Whiting on 7-8 kick-started a nice service, before I was joined by Ruthie, Mason and Alfie, very kindly brought along by Kate, for a tea that was a change from the norm. I'm quite a fan of the typical ringers tea, easy to scoop up and the subject of many fond childhood memories(!), but the soup and jacket potatoes were the headlines of a fantastic feast that much effort went into.

Guild Chairman Alan Stanley leading the AGM.The actual AGM was in keeping with what the central element of this day has become. Everything that can be prepared beforehand - such as the proposing and seconding of officers - is done, cutting the length of the meeting considerably. Today's was barely an hour, and was - in the main - kept moving, with most of the superfluous waffle kept out, though it is still hard to stop characters like Maurice Rose and George Pipe having their say! That's not to say it was pointless. The membership had the chance to have their say on what could and should be done about St Nicholas in Ipswich, and there was an update on ITTS. New members were elected, and appreciation shown for the officers who put in so much hard work on our behalf over the last twelve months. It is worth noting that next year replacements will need finding for Mandy Shedden and Gordon Slack as Secretary and Treasurer respectively, two of the most important jobs in the organisation. Please get your thinking caps on.

Ralph Earey leading the discussion on the Future of Ringing. But we weren't finished there. As some headed straight to ringing, around sixty stayed back in the hall to listen to a thought-provoking presentation and debate by South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey on the future of ringing. We could spend hours on this, but in half-an-hour, ideas aplenty were floated by young and not-so-young, and much food for thought taken away.

Whilst many carried on to join the end of the evening's ringing and then the local Wetherspoon's, The Willow Tree, we five returned home at the end of an extremely enjoyable day. I always find this event such a joy, meeting friends familiar and new, with over a hundred in attendance over the course of the afternoon, members/friends from Elveden and Hopton to Tattingstone and Hollesley, Poslingford and Bures to Reydon and Southwold, from long-standing stalwarts like the Prices and Muriel Page to what is hopefully the future of the Suffolk Guild, Simon Veal and Neal Dodge.

But it was a long day too, with mine starting with a generous lift from Mike Whitby to Offton for a special peal, hence the reason my mother-in-law was bringing my family to Stowmarket later. It seemed entirely appropriate on AGM day during the centenary year of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich that paved the way for the formation of our Guild ninety-one years ago, that we were successful with a very decent peal of spliced Edmundsbury and Ipswich Surprise Major. These methods were just the right side of interesting - different enough to keep us on our toes, but not so complicated as to make it too hard. That unfamiliarity led to a false start and an unsteady start, but it improved to a very good level, and at periods some of the ringing was the best I've partaken in for a very long time.

Gerald.It wasn't the only successful peal for the Guild today, with the Salter family saying a very personal goodbye to their cat Gerald, but we followed up our peal success with a pint in The Limeburners round the corner from the 8cwt ground-floor eight we had spent the morning at, before we headed on to that very successful AGM. Next year, we in the South-East District will be hosting the event. Keep Saturday 11th April 2015 free - we look forward to seeing as many members as possible for all that this wonderful occasion now offers. If you haven't been for a few years - or ever - give it a go in twelve months.


Friday 25th April 2014

My paternity leave has hardly been a holiday. It has been over two weeks of changing nappies, constantly sterilising bottles and filling them, packing as if we're going on holiday every time we walk out of the house, waking regularly during the night (if we even get to sleep at all) and generally attending to the frequent needs of Alfie, whilst at the same time trying to work out what exactly he needs. We've reacquainted ourselves with overnight/early morning TV, conversed with other exhausted new parents and people in Australia on Facebook, and I've read the Annual Report from cover-to-cover. This is what we signed up for, and it has come as no surprise, but it hasn't made it any less exhausting.

However, it has at the same time been delightful spending so much time with Ruthie, Alfred and - when he's been here - Mason, and with today being my last day off work before I return to John Catt on Monday, we thought we might holiday it up a little. So having walked up to my firstborn's school to collect him, we thought we would pop into The Duke of York for a drink (well I did say just a little!), before we returned home for another night of changing nappies, sterilising bottles and filling them, waking regularly during the night...


Thursday 24th April 2014

After a couple of weeks of visitors and visits, today was just Alfie, Ruthie and me, all day long. With Alfred still at the sleeping all day and waking up at night stage, there was a fair bit of sleep undertaken by all three of us, so it wasn't overly exciting, but relaxing nonetheless!

Elsewhere in the county, our NDA neighbours continued their Quarter-Peal Week on the Suffolk towers that come under their care, and involving many who do as much south of the border as they do north, with Craig Leach calling his first of Armitage-Is-The-Name Bob Minor, and Liz Sutherland ringing her first blows of the method in the 1320 of it at Kessingland. Well done Craig and Liz!

There was also a quarter in the heart of the Guild, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Coddenham.

I'm glad to see others being active even when we're not!


Wednesday 23rd April 2014

Cross of St George.As advertised, today was St George's Day, the patron saint that we in this part of the world would like to see usurped by St Edmund, but as highlighted recently, Suffolk ringers were doing much to mark the occasion.

Whilst I'm not aware that there was any mention made of the ringing on Radio Suffolk in the end - though they did gratefully acknowledge receipt of the information - I'm glad ringing was doing its bit for St Edmund's predecessor as patron saint of England!

Gislingham.Well done to Andrew Leach on calling his first of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Lowestoft as part of the Quarter-Peal Week of our neighbours the Norwich Diocesan Association, to the band at Preston St Mary in the opposite corner of the county on ringing their first blows of St. George Bob Minor, and especially to Kay Lucas on conducting a quarter for the first time in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Gislingham. Congratulations as well to Guild Treasurer Gordon Slack on ringing his 750th quarter with the Bristol Surprise Major at Bardwell.

There was also a quarter of Grandsire Triples on the coast at Southwold, and of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree, where Alfie, Ruthie and I ended the day at the practice and The Greyhound. It was unusual of late for us to be doing any ringing, but there was plenty of what has become the norm over the last fortnight or so, as we met with family and friends. There was a first visit to his Nana and Grandad's house for little Alfred, as well as meeting Aunty Marian for the first time, before he was reacquainted with his contemporary Maddison, who kindly brought her parents Toby and Amy round.

So Happy St George's Day, but let's have an even bigger response for St Edmund on 20th November!


Tuesday 22nd April 2014

After changing my password several times and getting Pete Faircloth over to throw in all sorts of protection and yet still having my BT email account hacked, and contacts spammed, I've finally had enough, and changed my email address to another provider. You know it's bad if this creature of habit has taken this step, but enough is enough. I can only apologise to all of you who have received messages in Polish, Russian and goodness knows what else. Please ignore anything titled RICHARD MUNNINGS and indeed anything coming from my BT account. All emails will now go through to my new email address, so if you want my new email address then send me an email to the pro@ address and I'll gladly reply with the new one.

Alternatively, you can ask me at Saturday's AGM at Stowmarket, where hopefully many, many of you will be attending the showpiece event of the Guild calender, organised at the expense of much time and effort of those in the North-West District. Even if you don't get your name in for tea, then please do come along to the many other aspects of the day, where your support and input would be most welcome, whatever your ringing abilities, whatever your opinions.

For today though, there was - not unusually for the last couple of weeks - no ringing for us, with the main highlights being visited by our midwife Beth for the last time, tea with Clare and Katelynn on their last night before they return to Scotland, and then a couple of drinks with the aforementioned Pete at ours.

Old Newton.There were others ringing in Suffolk though, with a pre-practice quarter of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Offton, and Kate Herd ringing her first quarter as a British citizen in the success at Old Newton. Congratulations Kate! And whilst we may have been doing less ringing over the last twelve days, a very significant member of the SGR has been doing his first ringing in over a year. Welcome back George Pipe, who apparently partook in the ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on Sunday morning. It's a small step of course, but wonderful to hear nonetheless. Better than hearing about my email problems, that's for sure!


Easter Monday 21st April 2014

I've rung in peals on the back of a lack of sleep before, particularly when I was a student many eons ago. On two occasions I celebrated the last night of term at uni, before meeting my lift to the following morning's peal, no sleep partaken in between. Both the Eight-Spliced Surprise Maximus at Amersham and Double Norwich Caters at St Neots passed without any drama that I recall, the latter even being part of a weekend that saw me immediately travel back across the country to North Wales for a housewarming at Paul Bibilo's cottage and another sleepless night, before I eventually fell asleep beneath the food table to awake to the sound of Richard Grimmett scavenging for breakfast above.

Ufford.But I was fifteen years younger then and it was a lot easier for me to get away with. This afternoon's peal at Ufford arranged specially to celebrate Alfred's birth eleven days ago was a little more difficult for me to get through with such sleep deprivation. Actually, last night was his best night so far and I felt surprisingly human at the start of this afternoon's 5040, but I have to admit that several sleepless nights caught up with me during the performance, so the others did well to keep me on the straight and narrow in time for a very decent finish!

I'm glad I kept going, as it was great to ring a peal for Alfie, especially in a method named for the occasion, though it was shame that his Unky Chris couldn't ring due to work. Thank you to Mike Whitby for organising it, and to the rest of the band for ringing.

It wasn't the only ringing in Suffolk on what was not only Easter Monday, but the Queen's 88th birthday, with Alex Brett-Holt ringing a quarter inside for the first time in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Woolpit. Well done Alex!

Whilst I was tempted to toast our success with a pint, Kate and I had another family appointment, as we found ourselves at Ruthie's grandparents, this time with Clare, Katelynn and Ron. As ever, it was a highly enjoyable visit, and incredibly, I managed to stay awake for the whole day!


Easter Sunday 20th April 2014

Today is arguably the biggest day in the church calendar. Rather appropriately for where Ruthie, Mason and myself find ourselves right now, it is a time of new life and new beginnings. The bells at Woodbridge were rung fully open this morning, having been rung half-muffled over Lent, but whilst my wife was able to make it in time for her return to the choir, by the time I had parked the car in the packed streets surrounding St Mary's, there was only time for myself and the two boys to squeeze into the church where it was standing room only (no sign of declining attendances here!) for the main service.

Stowmarket.One place I am planning on ringing though, is Stowmarket next Saturday, when The Suffolk Guild AGM rolls into town. But there is so much going on other than ringing and the meeting, giving members who have traditionally mocked the idea of attending this important event, even more reason to support those who have gone to so much time and effort to arrange everything on the day for everyone in the SGR. Whilst 'staying behind' after the meeting for the discussion of The Future of Ringing may not seem appealing to all, this is a vital issue for anyone who cares even a jot about our art. If we aren't to bother about this topic, where will be the opportunities to progress your ringing and open up all that ringing can offer? Or where are the ringers who are going enable you to continue ringing at the standard you enjoy for decades to come from? Saturday's discussion won't solve everything or provide all the answers, but it is a good opportunity to impart and take in advice and thoughts that can help us achieve our individual and collective ringing aims. Ralph Earey would really appreciate your support for this noble aspect of the Guild's Day of Fun in six days time.

As would Jonathan Stevens for the now well-established Fringe before the meeting. Since it's introduction to the schedule at the 2010 AGM, there have been lots of interesting speakers covering many topics, and this one promises to follow ably in those footsteps, with Neil Thomas and Rosalind Martin speaking. The former is coming down from Norfolk and the latter up from Bournemouth on our behalf, so it would be a dreadful shame if they didn't get a good turnout for their efforts, and indeed of the efforts of Jonathan himself, who even at this difficult time has done so much to arrange this. Please make it worth his while.

So get booking your teas with by Wednesday at the latest please, especially as with a hot meal being served there is not the flexibility there usually is for those turning up on the day - if your name's not down, you're not getting fed by Carol and her helpers! Even if you don't have a tea though, please turn up to what you can.

There was no need for us to book our tea this evening, as Kate generously treated us four, Clare, Katelynn and Ron to plentiful grub (including Easter eggs!) at the end of a ringing-less Easter Sunday for both of us. Elsewhere though, there was a 1320 of Doubles at Pettistree, and in one of the Norwich Diocesan Association towers in Suffolk, Lowestoft, where Craig Leach rang his first of Major as conductor for our neighbour's Quarter-Peal Week. Well done Craig!

And Happy Easter to you all!


Holy Saturday 19th April 2014

Orford Castle.With Ruthie's sister Clare and niece Katelynn down, the Easter Egg hunt at Orford Castle seemed the perfect opportunity to get the kids together, so we joined our visitors from Scotland and Kate in one of my favourite places in Suffolk, isolated and yet crammed with places of interest, such as Orford Ness and St Bartholomew's church and its now ringable again 10cwt eight. Alfie is a little too young to be joining in such events, but his brother Mason and cousin both threw themselves into proceedings with enthusiasm, before we all wandered down to the Riverside Tearoom for refreshment.

Later, we four headed on to my wife's grandparents to properly introduce the newest member of the family to his Great Uncle Moog and his family, as we enjoyed another busy day with no ringing.

There was once again ringing going on amongst others in the county though. Thank you to the peal band at Grundisburgh for celebrating the arrival of our new car. Oh, and Alfred's birth. Congratulations too to Stephen Cheek on ringing his 100th tower-bell peal in the process. As much fun as today was however, hopefully we'll be joining you all in our local ringing chambers soon!


Good Friday 18th April 2014

Cross of St George.With everything that's happened over the last few days, being Guild PR Officer has taken a back seat, understandably some may say. However, a phone call from Jaimie-Lee at BBC Radio Suffolk today jolted me back into public relations mode. She had been on our website, and seen that we had St George's Day marked on What's On, and wondered what we were doing for it. Although it further highlighted the importance of an interesting, well-used and up-to-date website with all the social media attached to it as we have, it put me in a slightly awkward position, as I wasn't aware what - if anything - members were doing on Wednesday for the day of England's current patron saint, so she asked if I could find out and let her know.

The benefits of modern communications allowed me to communicate with large numbers of Suffolk's ringers to try and do just that, and the initial response has been good. All being well, there will be quarter attempts at Bardwell, Pakefield, Pettistree, Preston St Mary and Southwold, as well as a peal attempt at St Mary-le-Tower, with some attempting St George's-themed methods. However, if you are doing something or are aware of something being arranged on the 23rd - whether it is a peal, quarter or special ringing - and you're happy for me to tell the media about it, then please let know. Whilst I know we're keen round these parts on St Edmund being returned as the country's patron saint, this could be another PR opportunity for us, so let's give them as much as possible to get their teeth into.

My dealings with our local radio station came as we spent our Good Friday in the usual way, but with a twist. When the arrangements for this year's brace of peals usually rung on this day at The Wolery were made a few weeks ago, we couldn't commit ourselves to them as we prepared for our child's arrival into the world. However, it has also become one of Mason's favourite days of the year as he gets the chance to spend the day playing with his partner in crime Henry, the Salter's youngest, so David and Katharine had very kindly invited us round anyway.

So we arrived at their Rectory Road abode just as the morning peal of Purbeck Surprise Major had been completed, before sharing lunch with them, and then having an afternoon of chatting with David, as Alfie primarily slept, his older brother played computer games with his buddy and everyone else rang a successful 5088 of Johannesburg Surprise Major, a first for George Salter, Clare Veal, Tom Scase and Colin Salter. Well done to them, and well done too to Ambrin Williams on ringing her first quarter on eight in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Halesworth yesterday.

Hopefully there will be many more similar stories of achievement to be told on St George's Day.


Maundy Thursday 17th April 2014

If Alfie had arrived on his due date, today would've been a very busy and dramatic day.

Instead it was a very quiet one, at least until firstborn Mason turned up!

There wasn't even any quarters or peals rung, or at least none that I could find on BellBoard and Campanophile, but I'm sure that - and us - will get busier over the Easter weekend!


Wednesday 16th April 2014

A day of arrivals and a farewell.

Although he has listened to much ringing in the womb, this evening saw Alfred attend ringing for the first time in his young life, as we packed him and all his stuff up, and headed over to Pettistree, seeing as he was responsible for us not making it last week! He behaved impeccably, as did most of the ringers, and his cousin Katelynn, who also came along with her mother Clare, making for a lively session. With young Richard Stevens there too, there was a youthful feel to proceedings as well!

Ruthie rang as a mother for the first time as she eased her way into a plain course of London Surprise Minor from the third, and there was the obligatory and fun messing about, all of which followed on from a successful quarter of Annable's London Surprise Minor pre-practice, before many of us headed to The Greyhound for Alfie's first visit to a pub. How it's taken as long as six days for him to manage that, I'm not sure.

Another highlight of the evening was grabbing my first quick read of the latest Guild Annual Report, having caught tantalising glimpses of it on Facebook and Twitter in the last few days. Initial impressions are good. I love the shiny blue cover, and the bits relating to the Diocese's centenary, whilst the various reports make for an interesting overview of 2013's ringing in Suffolk. Well done George Reynolds on his superb debut as editor! Now the challenge is on to get them out to members before the Guild AGM at Stowmarket in ten days time. If you have some in your possession to distribute, please do it as quickly and efficiently as you can. It would be a shame for George's hard work to go to waste because piles were sat for weeks on end on people's kitchen table.

Talking of which, we took some home afterwards, aided by the added space in our new car. Yes, to go with our new house, fridge and baby, our biggest arrival size-wise today was a silver C-Max provisionally named Aloysius for no other reason than having been immensely sensible about naming our son, we felt we may have a bit more flexibility with naming our car!

Emily.It did mean that after twenty-two years of Emily the car being in my wife's family since her Aunty Eileen bought her brand new back in 1992, we handed her over to the trusted hands of Champkins Garage and came away with our new monster truck. She's done well, being Mrs Munnings' first car, faithfully and reliably taking us around the country, and helping us move house several times. And of course, her final act was getting us to Ipswich Hospital to bring AJM into the world and then bring him home for the first time. It was a fitting high on which to part, at a time of many arrivals.


Tuesday 15th April 2014

As you can imagine, we've had a few visitors over the last few days. On top of midwife visits, Ruthie's school chums (and after all these years good friends of mine too) came around on Sunday, and yesterday we had a busy household too, with at one point Alfie's Unky Chris and Aunty Becky, his great-grandparents and his contemporary Maddison and her parents Toby and Amy all in our living room at the same time! It has been wonderful to welcome people to our home and Alfred, and today saw the li'l chap's Aunty Clare and cousin Katelynn come by, down from Scotland for a few days.

In their company, we wandered into town to give the li'l chap a bit more sunlight, but otherwise, the day was another one mainly spent at home, as has become the norm since we returned from Ipswich Hospital on Friday.

The Wolery.Again though, other ringers were more active again, even in Holy Week, with a peal rung at The Wolery in Rectory Road, somewhere they are used to lots of visitors!


Monday 14th April 2014

Judging by the Guild's Twitter page, the latest Annual Report is in and ready to be distributed! From the picture it looks superb, so well done George Reynolds! The challenge now is to get it out to every member over the sporadic Holy Week and Easter period in time for the AGM at Stowmarket on Saturday 26th April.

Talking of the AGM, there is much happening on the day, including a raffle hosted by our young ringers, which I hope as many people as possible will support. Not only do they need to sell tickets, but they also need prizes, so if you have anything you'd like to offer, like a bottle of wine, chocolates, car, holiday or similar, then please let 01502 723829, know.

Grundisburgh.As mentioned though, there is Holy Week and Easter to come first, and with it now being the former, there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, meaning another day of no ringing for Ruthie and myself, though of course at the moment that means extra time spent with Alfie! However, there was more ringing in his name at Grundisburgh, and many thanks to the band who rang the 5040 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major for their footnote, which of course will be seen in next year's Annual Report!


Sunday 13th April 2014

Over my twenty-five years or so of ringing, I have on more than one occasion arrived for a quarter or peal (and once or twice to ring for a wedding!) to find we're at least one short, and not always for one of my arrangements. Indeed, when I was living in the West Midlands, I expected to arrive for peals arranged by the late Martin Fellows to find we were one short, as he had a habit of asking people about peals, getting the response of 'I'll check my diary' and taking that as a yes! The sessions in the pub were good though!

However, it's not so common to arrive with too many for a band, though I've managed it with at least one peal arrangement. However, when you've turned up with two too many for a quarter attempt of Cambridge Surprise Royal on the back ten of a twelve, it's no disaster! So it was at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, as Cambridge Royal turned into Cambridge Max.

Alfred John Munnings with his Mummy.Originally the date was booked in for April's Special Practice, brought forward by a week as the usual third Sunday is Easter Sunday this month, but following a lower than usual expected attendance, it was mooted that a quarter be rung, and after Alfie's recent birth, the band had very kindly suggested ringing it in his honour, a sweet touch much appreciated by his Mummy and Daddy. It was lovely to not only get back into ringing, but to do it for the li'l chap's arrival, and particularly so to have his Nanna ringing the treble for it. Thank you guys!

Many thanks too to all the other performances today that kindly footnoted Alfred, with a peal of Deeply Vale Surprise Major rung at Aldeburgh and one of Whitechapel Surprise Major at Saxlingham Nethergate in Norfolk, as well as a quarter of Plain Bob Triples at Halesworth and a 1344 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Toppesfield in Essex. It has been extremely touching to see AJM's birth marked not just in Suffolk but north and south of it too.

Congratulations too to Alan Mayle on ringing his 1700th peal in the success at Aldeburgh, but these weren't the only performances in Suffolk today, with an impressive quarter of Erin Caters rung at The Norman Tower which saw Ruth Young, Tim Shorman, Ruth Suggett, Barry Dixon, Timothy Hart, Rowan Wilson and Phillip Wilding ring their first in the method. Well done to them all!

Well done as well to Neal Dodge on ringing his most methods and his fiftieth quarter in the 1260 of Doubles at Great Finborough and to the entire band in the Doxey Bob Minor at Buxhall on ringing their first blows in the method, both rung yesterday for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week.

This rush of activity on bells is a contrast to what we may expect across the Guild as we enter Holy Week. There will be no practices at many places in the county, such as Offton, Debenham, and the aforementioned SMLT and Norman Tower, but there are places that will still be ringing, like Pettistree and Sproughton, so it is well worth checking with towers before you decide to go or not go to a practice this week.

With a limited amount of ringing going on this week therefore, I was glad to get in this evening's quarter at the end of a day that saw us take a visit from Beth the midwife rather than go to ringing or church, and take in a joint visit from Ruthie's school friends Lizzie, Verity, Vicky and Gavin. No worries about meeting too many on this occasion!


Saturday 12th April 2014

I've found myself capable of dealing with most things thus far in my life, but sleep deprivation is not one of them! I like getting my eight hours in, and those 4am starts at work would be a nightmare if I was asleep long enough to dream. But it is something I'm going to have to get used to for while, as Alfie settles into a routine completely alien to him at this early stage, and we make sure he gets all the food he needs to eventually grow up to be a strapping tenor ringer.

In all honestly though, it is a delight to be spending all this time with him, regardless of the time of day or night, and we've been greatly helped his big brother Mason, who has enthusiastically offered his services to carry and fetch stuff for us. Thanks Mason!

And it was a reassuring day, with our first visit from Beth our midwife to check on Alfred's progress, before we brought Boots to a standstill with a visit and then took him for his first ever visit to Grandma Kate's for tea with her and Ron and as ever, we were grateful to Ruthie's mother for the feed on this special trip.

We were grateful too, to the band who rang the quarter at Stowmarket for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week, for their kind footnote. It's the kind of sentiment that is helping us get through the long sleep-deprived hours!


Friday 11th April 2014

I mentioned yesterday how we were glad to see the end of pregnancy, but of course that doesn't mean we're now in for an easy life. Those early memories from Mason's first few weeks came flooding back today, with sleep sporadic and tentative, as every gurgle saw us braced for a big cry, and every prolonged period of silence had you wondering if this fidgety young being was alright.

That was a sense exaggerated for Ruthie today, as with things very busy in Ipswich Hospital's maternity ward today, she was kept in until five. As mind numbing and difficult as this was in its own right, with other new parents around her coming and going over her forty-eight hour presence on Brook Ward, it wasn't helped by the understandable but quite cruel seeming policy of sending us fathers home for lunch between one and three and then overnight between nine at night and nine in the morning, meaning the mothers are left on their own, albeit with midwives on hand. It has meant that since her waters broke way back early on Wednesday morning, my wife has had practically no sleep, so we were extremely relieved to be given the all-clear to finally bring Alfie home for the first time and allow her to rest in familiar surroundings.

On the way home though, we had a very special pick-up to make, as we collected Mason, and thus introduced him to his younger brother. The li'l chap has been incredibly excited about the arrival of the even littler chap since we told him we were expecting back in October, and his face when we arrived with Alfred this afternoon will remain with me as a wonderful memory of this memorable couple of days.

As immensely happy and welcome as they are, when such big changes occur in life, it is also nice to have some reassuring constants to help reconnect you with real life! Ringing - albeit others ringing - has offered us just that, and it has been nice seeing the North-West Quarter-Peal Week achieving each day. Today saw a 1440 of Plain Bob Minor at Wickham Skeith, but as is often the case, it wasn't the only quarter in Suffolk, with one rung for the sad occasion of Vivienne Stevens Johnson's funeral at Sweffling too. Meanwhile, well done to Kevin Ward on ringing his first of Surprise Minor in the Cambridge at Edwardstone, and Craig Leach on his first of Ipswich and most Surprise as conductor in the 1320 rung within our borders but outside the Guild at Pakefield.

Hopefully myself and Ruthie will be back in the quarter and peal columns soon, but first we have a special, but difficult few days and weeks ahead of us!


Thursday 10th April 2014

Alfred John Munnings with his Mummy.At 2.04am today, our prayers were answered, as the little miracle that is Alfred John Munnings was born into the world, in Birthing Room No.3 of Brook Ward at Ipswich Hospital, weighing 7lb 14oz, somewhere between the weight of the sixth and seventh at The Wolery.

His arrival came over eight hours after arriving at Heath Road, and more than twenty hours after Ruthie's waters first broke, by which point she had decided to sit in the birthing pool to ease the pains that she had endured with increasing regularity and intensity over that time. So good was the pool, that having never intended using the pool to give birth, Mrs Munnings decreed she wasn't getting out, and so Alfie arrived in water with a sudden flying push.

And what an amazing moment it was! For reasons I shan't bother going into here, I didn't get to be at Mason's birth, so this was as new to me as it was to my wife. It was incredible to think I was witnessing the birth of who was at that very moment the youngest human of the billions in the world. But most special was meeting our son for the very first time, after months of following his growth out of view. Although it was a mercifully uneventful pregnancy, neither of us have particularly enjoyed it as a process. The worry about every twinge, every quiet afternoon, what Ruthie was eating and if it was considered safe, the nerves before each appointment, have made the last nine months seem much longer. But the moment AJM came out made it all worthwhile.

Thank God for the li'l chap's safe arrival and the wonderful staff at Ipswich Hospital, especially Annie who saw us through the final big push, and was there to see him out safely and into Mummy's arms.

By the time we'd taken photos and bonded with our son, it was past four in the morning, nearly a full day since we'd last got any sleep, and we were both shattered. So much so that having gone home to sleep with the intention of returning for the 9am reopening of the ward, I woke up to the sound of Ruthie calling to find out where I was at nearly 11.30am!

The rest of the day seemed extremely restful compared to yesterday, and whilst I had time to pop in to my wife's delighted Nan to tell her the good news, it was otherwise a day by Mrs Munnings' bedside as we got to know Alfie and received visits from Kate, Mum and Dad, with the new Mummy being kept in until tomorrow at least, due to the amount of time between the waters breaking and the birth.

It all meant we were unable to go along to the Surprise Major practice at Ufford this evening of course, but we've been heartened by local ringing's response to our good news. Many thanks to the band at Pettistree (which included Alfred's grandma!) for the footnote to last night's quarter, those who rang in the 1320 of spliced Delight Minor at Shelfanger over the border in Norfolk, and the ringers of the latest success of the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week at Great Barton, and well done to Ruth Eyles and Doug Rood on ringing their first quarter in that latter performance, and to Clare Veal on calling her first on six at the same time. It has all been very touching.

Thank you to all those who have sent messages of congratulations, via email, text, Facebook and on the phone, helping make an already very memorable and special day even more memorable and special.

Welcome to the world Alfie!


Wednesday 9th April 2014

It was a day which alternated from the expected special to the bizarrely mundane.

At 6am, the beginning of the end of nine months pregnancy for Ruthie came upon us, as her waters broke. Significant as that was of course, once we'd been to Ipswich Hospital and were told that our newborn son would be with us within the next twenty-four hours, they suggested we get on with our planned day. For my wife that meant going to a useful breast-feeding class at the Kesgrave Children's Centre. For me, it was a useful day in the office, allowing me to tie up loose-ends with more certainty than I had thought I would be able to.

And elsewhere, ringing carried on as it does, not least with the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week, which saw Clare Veal ring her first of London in the 1344 of the Surprise Major version of the method at Ixworth. Well done to Clare, and to the bands who today rang the quarter at Preston St Mary and peal at The Wolery on ringing their first blows of Darton Exercise Delight Bob Minor, and their first of Unacceptable Surprise Minor respectively.

As impressive as the ringing was, our day was strangely normal as we braced ourselves for one of the biggest moments in our lives, but that pseudo-normality ended as soon as I got home from work and it was clear that the time had come to go back to Heath Road for the home straight of what has been an extremely long 'journey'.

Even then, there was a lot of waiting. You hear about it, but nothing quire prepares you for how slowly the time goes, as you watch your loved one go through agony for hours on end, not entirely sure when exactly it is going to end. Having arrived at 5.50pm with a beautiful sunny spring evening still in its early stages. the day ended deep in the darkness of night with us still awaiting our anticipated arrival.


Tuesday 8th April 2014

Doing the washing-up whilst listening to Radio Suffolk commentating on Ipswich Town winning has become a happy habit, apart from the washing-up bit. Tonight's was even more enjoyable, as the Tractor Boys had basically won their match at Huddersfield Town by half-time, so it was a relaxing evening in as Ruthie showed off the baby goods she had got following a day when her grandparents had very kindly taken her shopping and even given her lunch.

As is usually the case, there was lots going on elsewhere, and particularly well done to Eleanor Earey on ringing her first on eight and Clare Veal on calling her first quarter in the Suffolk Guild success south of the border at Ardleigh in Essex. But also very well done to Caroline Goodchild on ringing her first of Stedman in the 1260 of Triples before Offton practice. Meanwhile, there was a peal for our friends in the Norwich Diocesan Association at Bacton, a day after the impressive handbell peal of 378 methods and variations in the same village, which was the most for all the band, and Jeremy Spiller's 900th as conductor. Well done to all, and congratulations Jeremy.

But as has become the norm this week, there were achievements and activity in the North-West District as their Quarter-Peal Week continues apace. Well done to Matthew Warner on ringing his first quarter of Plain Bob Minor in the 1320 at Thornham Magna yesterday (Happy Anniversary to Jan and St. John!), before following it up today by being part of the band which rang Grandsire Doubles at Tostock, as success in the NW District QP Week becomes a happy habit!


Monday 7th April 2014

After yesterday's tremendous social occasion, it was back to business this evening, as another good turnout enabled a focused but enjoyable practice night at St Mary-le-Tower. There was a fair share of things that didn't go, but also a lot that did, with spliced Surprise Royal proving successful again, some reasonable Yorkshire Surprise Max, and to finish, a decent touch of Stedman Cinques, as we were helped by the visits of Nathan Colman and Alex Tatlow.

It is the last 'typical' practice at SMLT for a few weeks though. Next week will of course be Holy Week, and so there won't be a practice, though for those feeling so inclined, there is a spring-clean in the ringing chamber, as there traditionally is on this week. As is usual, the following Monday is Easter Monday, when there will be a practice, as there is planned to be on the two May Bank Holiday Mondays. There is a chance that people will be away on those nights, so if your usual Monday night tower isn't practicing on those nights, not only would your presence be a help to us, but a superb opportunity to either try ten or twelve-bell ringing, or refresh your skills on these numbers - everyone and anyone would be more than welcome. Then in three weeks, the tower AGM is penciled in, meaning.the session will start at seven and finish at nine.

Tonight's final normal practice for a month was all topped by a drink in The Cricketers (once we finally chose a beer that was actually on!), at the end of a day that saw the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continue its fantastic start with Clare Veal's 75th quarter in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Bardwell and the first on the bells at Thurston since their augmentation to six, with the entire band ringing their first of Double Bob Minor in the process. Well done to them, and particular congratulations to Clare, as the NW District got back to business!


Sunday 6th April 2014

SMLT dinner.After snow and ice last year, and torrential rain and wind the year before, we were hoping for a heatwave as we arrived at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club for this year's St Mary-le-Tower dinner today. Still, after those two previous experiences overlooking the North Sea, we were happy enough with a slight breeze, drizzle and grey skies, and as ever it didn't detract from another superb social occasion, as regulars were joined by family and friends of the band. It was wonderful to see George Pipe out, as well as visitors such as Laith Reynolds from Australia, Brian and Peta Whiting, my Aunty Marion, and my brother Chris and his girlfriend Becky, but this was a celebration of a collection of friends who ring together on Sunday's and/or Mondays at SMLT, enjoying our art and trying to improve together, as well as a thank you to those who help us in that.

Many thanks to Diana Pipe in particular on organising the occasion, which was preceded by ringing at Woodbridge - where with visitors we had eleven ringers - for and then attending the service, and then followed by a busy house as Kate and Ron returned to ours for a spot of cot building, and Pete Faircloth very kindly came round to look at my computer and - fingers crossed - stop the annoying spam messages that have continued to sporadically intrude upon the mailboxes of those in my address list, despite numerous changes of passwords.

Elsewhere, there was a quarter-peal rung at Pettistree to mark the very sad passing of Jonathan Stevens' sister Vivienne, and the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week entered its second day with a 1260 of Doubles at Old Newton. It is good to see the NW carrying on regardless of the weather conditions!


Saturday 5th April 2014

This evening's South-East District Practice at Earl Soham is one I have been looking forward to ever since it was revealed as part of the District's forthcoming programme.

Earl Soham.This 10cwt six is not the county's finest sounding. The bells go well enough, and whilst there seems to be a willing bunch ringing them for occasions like New Year's Eve, weddings and other special occasions, it doesn't appear these are rung regularly, and the District and Guild hasn't been here for some time, bar a quarter for the District's most recent Quarter-Peal Fortnight back in October. Meanwhile, the ringing chamber is rustic, with the dim lighting attracting the local wildlife, and the rope lengths seem variable, with the treble rope so low that Mike Whitby had to climb on a chair to tie a knot above the sally.

Mike Whitby trying to adjust the treble rope at Earl Soham for the South-East District Practice as Caroline Goodchild and Pippa Moss watch on.Mike Whitby trying to adjust the treble rope at Earl Soham for the South-East District Practice as Caroline Goodchild and Pippa Moss watch on.Ringing at Earl Soham for the South-East District Practice.

But all of that is part of the appeal for me. I'd find ringing incredibly dull if all we ever did was ring on perfect bells in well-lit ringing chambers decorated to the hilt. It was a long time since I'd been to this village, which I recalled being a charming, active community amongst the woodland and rolling hills, the church of St Mary set back from the road behind the trees, a still open school in its original building, a popular butchers, and a superb pub benefiting from the beer of the local brewery known across the county and beyond. So this was a mini-adventure, and it didn't disappoint. From the early evening sunshine as we arrived for the 7pm start, to the varied repertoire that provided Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles for the learners and Surprise Minor and spliced for those more experienced, to an essential pint of Vic in The Vic.

It was a pity that more couldn't make it, but the twenty-five or so present was enough for such an occasion in this smallish ringing room up some of the biggest steps you'll climb up a tower! As ever, Ringing Master Tom Scase did a great job of running things, and Secretary Ruthie was satisfied that we could get in to this unfamiliar belfry, accommodating a crowd that still traveled far and wide, from Hollesley in the east to Offton in the west, and Thetford in the north(!), as David Rogers helped us out for the second month in a row.

For those who couldn't be bothered (and again, I can't believe that all the 275+ District members simply couldn't help us out), it is worth noting those that came along even after a busy day, including Colin Salter, who is to be congratulated on his first peal of Doubles as conductor in the success at Cretingham today. His father David is also to be congratulated today on his 2000th peal as conductor. I've said before how much this twice former Guild Ringing Master and long-serving CC Rep has done for ringing not just here but nationally, so I shan't embarrass him again by going through all of that further, but it is worth reiterating how his peal-ringing exploits are merely the tip of his iceberg of a ringing career.

He also wasn't the only hard-working member of the SGR called David who was reaching a significant landmark today, as North-West District Chairman Mr Steed rang his 1,000th quarter in the 1260 of Newton Bob Minor at Wickham Skeith. So many of those have benefited those who have rung them with him, and brought sound to many of the less-regularly rung bells within our borders, including the aforementioned Earl Soham back in 2010, and like Mr Salter and peals, his role as District Chairman highlights how his quarter-pealing is just the tip of all he does for ringing. Congratulations David, and well done to all the band on ringing their first blows in the method!

Appropriately, this quarter was part of a successful start to the NW District Quarter-Peal Week, which also saw Kay Lucas ring her first of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the QP at Bacton, and Sally and Simon Veal ringing their first of Minimus and first of Minmus inside respectively, and young Mr Veal and Neal Dodge ring their 25th together in the 1272 at Ampton. Very well done to all!

I now look forward to much more of the same!


Friday 4th April 2014

Clopton.Mason and I returned to Clopton this evening, to once again help David Stanford in his superb work teaching the new band on this rehung six. It was interesting to see how things had changed since our previous visit.

For a start, Ruthie came along with us, and with the clocks having been moved forward since our last visit to this isolated church by the side of the B1079, we arrived in welcoming daylight. My wife wasn't the only addition to those there helping out, with Lindsay Bingham, Caroline Goodchild, Adrienne Sharp and my mother-in-law Kate also offering support. There were slightly fewer learners there on this occasion, though still a decent turnout of four, with a couple having been along earlier and having to leave. But as is the case at most towers when there are fewer improvers present, this gives those there more opportunity, which was certainly the case tonight. Regardless of that though, there was definite progress from a month ago, with more competent handling on show, and more confidence with it. There are very pleasing things happening here, and David is to be congratulated.

Talking of pleasing things, it was good to see the usual Friday Night Quarter-Peal Band succeed this evening, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Earl Stonham. Tonight has definitely seen Suffolk ringing progress a little further.


Thursday 3rd April 2014

Grundisbirgh.There was a Grundisburgh practice this evening. However, one of the sad aspects of the long period of silent Thursdays on Suffolk's lightest twelve, is that those who once regularly frequented what was once one of - if not the - best sessions in the county, have got out of the habit of attending, or - even more difficult to overcome - have found something else to do on the fourth night of the working week.

Ruthie and I fall into this category to an extent. When it became the norm for Thursdays to be free, my wife understandable felt in a position to get involved in her other great love, singing, and particularly singing for St Mary's church choir. However, now that ringing has resumed on the 10cwt twelve, the 6.30-8pm choir practice makes it quite hard to fit in some grub after finishing work beforehand, and then a meaningful visit to the wobbly red-brick tower for ringing afterwards. In theory, now Mrs Munnings is no longer at work, she has more time to prepare for the evening ahead, but understandably she isn't at her most energetic at the moment. We just about manage for the Surprise Major practices at Ufford once a month, but that is with the help of my mother-in-law giving her youngest daughter a lift, and still requires less than ideal eating arrangements. It isn't something we can manage every week, at least currently, so sadly we had to miss out on Grundisburgh practice on this occasion.

We'll have to see how Thursdays go from here...


Wednesday 2nd April 2014

Mark Regan is one of the best that ringing has known, as good a heavy-bell ringer as you are likely to ever come across, who has achieved just about all there is to achieve in ringing. But my mother remembers ringing in Bedfordshire when he was a young boy learning to ring, and in particular an occasion when he was on the treble, stood on top of a few boxes.

"Look to," he prepared the band, "treble's going.... I can't pull it off."
He won't thank me for that tale of course, and I'm aware it may have been a little embellished over time, but it highlights that all ringers - no matter how good - have to start somewhere.

Pettistree.This evening, ten-year old Richard Stevens went one better than Mr Regan all those years ago, by pulling off the treble at Pettistree with no problem. What is more, when one day he is conducting peals of spliced Surprise Maximus, I can say I rang Bob Doubles with him - my future claim to fame hopefully!

It came on a night of celebration, with many birthdays marked with cake and a quarter conducted by one of those changing age this week, Mary Garner. Having picked Ruthie up after her second day of fun with visiting friend Fergie this week, we enjoyed a decent practice, before the Garners very generously treated us all to a drink each in The Greyhound afterwards - many thanks Chris, and Happy Birthday Mary!

The Wolery.Meanwhile, well done to Colin Salter on ringing his first peal on eight as conductor in the 5072 of Plain Bob Major at The Wolery. No doubt another ringer who I will tell everyone I rang with when he was a mere lad!


Tuesday 1st April 2014

Apple® are apparently to release a transparent phone, allowing people to be able to see where they're walking whilst texting or using the internet. If Scotland votes for independence in September, they will begin driving on the right hand side of the road. And the choir of King's College have turned to the use of helium to get around regulations surrounding the use of young boys in the choir.

All April Fools jokes of course, but a reassuringly traditional start to what is usually a busy month for Suffolk's ringers, and which is no different this year. It is the month of Holy Week and Easter, which will see ringing times altered, and in the case of the former the cessation of ringing altogether in many towers. It won't be the case everywhere, as some bands will continue as normal, others will take their practice elsewhere like a mini-ring, and others still will have a social event instead. It is worth getting in touch with your local tower - or indeed any tower that you may be intending on visiting - for the week beginning 14th April before you abandon a practice that is actually going ahead, or turn up unnecessarily at a silent location!

However, it will also see the release of the Annual Report, George Reynold's first as editor. This is a huge undertaking, and whilst it is never meant as an exciting read, it is still an interesting overview of the previous year's ringing in the Guild. Ideally, it is meant to be out in time for the SGR AGM, always a tight deadline, so I hope that when it is published, those charged with distributing it to members (and every member should get one) will go that extra mile to get it out to everyone, especially with the above variations of ringing in the coming weeks.

Stowmarket.That aforementioned day of fun in Stowmarket on Saturday 26th is another typical highlight of the month we have just entered, and I hope as many members as possible are intending on supporting this event, and allowing it to support them. It is as it is every year, on the Saturday after Easter, so there is absolutely no reason why you should be unaware of it, at least if you have been a ringer resident in the county for more than a year or two. There will of course be extremely valid reasons for people being unable to attend, and it has to be said that due to the big event that God willing will be upon us soon, Ruthie and I can't guarantee that we'll be there. But if we can, we will, and I would urge all other members to do the same.

On the subject of the AGM, it is worth noting that instead of the usual tea, the food served will be a hot meal, so there will be no scope for just turning up and expecting grub as you may normally be able to get away with!

Before all of that happens though, there is a lot else going on across the districts. For example, the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week starts this Saturday, and I hope that District Ringing Master Winston Girling gets lots of support for this invaluable exercise. This is an ideal opportunity for learners in particular to get fantastic experience with prolonged practice that they would not normally get.

Earl Soham.The South-East District meanwhile, has its monthly Practice at Earl Soham on this occasion, home not just to a 10cwt six that the District and Guild hasn't visited for several years, but the locally famous Earl Soham Brewery and The Victoria, which will no doubt get a visit from many participants of the practice afterwards!

Harkstead.Polstead.There is then the Second Tuesday Ringing at Harkstead and Holbrook in a delightful hidden corner of the county on the 8th, the Bacton Monthly Practice the next day, and the vital South-West District Training & Teaching Programme at Polstead a week on Saturday. In between, at 2pm on Thursday 10th, there will be what is sure to be a fascinating Introduction to Medieval Graffiti at Maggie Ross' Beccles Library, as it is now to be renamed.

But for all that this month has the potential to hopefully be very exciting for ringing reasons and others, it started quietly for us with a typical Tuesday night in, though at least there was activity elsewhere, with a quarter at Wickham Market, and a peal at Old Stoke in memory of Richard Bowditch, who along with Matthew Higby cast the bells of the little blue shed. Though sad to hear of Richard's passing, it was reassuring to see a busy month for Suffolk's ringers start with successes on Suffolk's bells. Let's hope it continues in the same vein over the next thirty days.


Monday 31st March 2014

It's nice to know that people are still reading this blog, judging by the minor stir Saturday's blog seemed to cause.

Firstly, I certainly wasn't expecting the peals rung in the county to be rung for the Suffolk Guild, nor for the occasion of the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to Suffolk, especially as one was rung for a very specific and special reason. Rather, it was just highlighting that whilst there were no peals or quarters rung for the SGR or Justin Welby's two days within our borders, there were nonetheless performances worthy of note rung here!

It is also worth noting that The Norman Tower ringers were of course ringing on Saturday afternoon as the Archbishop greeted the many present at the Cathedral. And Suffolk's ringers are indeed planning to mark the centenary of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich this year, with Ringing Master Jed Flatters leading the way with an impressive plan to cycle and ring around the Diocese. He will need help and support of course, so please do ask him about and look out for more details.

There are also plans being made for a special peal of spliced Edmundsbury and Ipswich Surprise Major on AGM day on Saturday 26th April which I hope come to fruition. But I'd love to hear more about what members are doing, whether it is a quarter, peal or 'just' general ringing especially arranged for this significant anniversary.

For all that, it was business as usual at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, once they'd fitted the nut back onto the ninth. Not that things started well. In fact, as the ringing troughed with a truly dreadful attempt of Yorkshire Max not helped by some of those who should've known better not doing better, myself and another ringer commented to each other that we weren't hopeful in the circumstances of the Yorkshire Surprise Royal that followed immediately afterwards faring any better, such had been the increasingly poor standard of ringing up to that point. Step forward Mandy Shedden who rang absolutely superbly, contributing to the start of a much better end to the session, as everyone upped their game as the night went on, before many of us retired satisfied to The Cricketers for a drink, at the end of a day that sees congratulations due to Cherril and Jeremy Spiller on ringing their 700th peal together in the 168 Doubles methods and variations rung in 1hr47mins at their abode in Bacton. I know it wasn't rung for the Suffolk Guild or the Archbishop, but I'm just saying...


Sunday 30th March 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.Incredibly, Mason and I managed to defy the hour's less sleep to get to St Mary-le-Tower in reasonable time, only for the ringing to be curtailed with a gentle thud from above, which transpired to be a nut helping to hold the ninth clapper in, as I rang the same bell. Make your own jokes up...

Grundisburgh.Thankfully it was only a few minutes before our planned 9.30am finish, allowing the li'l chap to have a look at the back four upstairs for the first time, and came in the middle of a lowly-attended fifth Sunday morning's ringing at both SMLT and Grundisburgh.

Pettistree.Woodbridge.It seemed slightly busier at St Mary's Church Centre in Woodbridge where we met Ruthie after a busy morning for her, with ringing at Pettistree and singing for the Mother's Day service at St Mary the Virgin, and where the congregation included the ringing Reverend Richard Clement, as he prepares to move job - and of course home - from Scotland to Shropshire, a not too insignificant upheaval!

From here though, the rest of this day of later daylight was spent cooking a roast and relaxing for us, finishing with less damage caused than I began the day with.


Saturday 29th March 2014

Mason showing off his gap and the note and pound coin he got from the tooth fairy!It seems that the going rate from the tooth fairy is £1 and a very kind note, pleasing Mason no end this morning!

Cathedral Church of St James & St Edmund.I don't get many opportunities to say this on the blog, but from the tooth fairy to the Archbishop of Canterbury. For both have been in Suffolk today, the latter to officially open the centenary celebrations of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich at the Cathedral, having been out and about within our borders yesterday, visiting Hadleigh and the county town.

Sadly, there doesn't seem to have been anything much in the way of ringing to mark this significant occasion, which is a pity. There has been the odd quarter rung, and celebrations at The Norman Tower to mark one hundred years of the Diocese, but it would be great to hear of more being done by members to mark this and the centenary of the First World War, so that I can tell the local media about what we are doing to mark these notable anniversaries. Getting involved in well publicised events like these has the potential to get ringing noticed by the public, so I hope we can do more over the next few months - please let me know if you are doing something for either.

Wickham Skeith.There were two peals rung in the county, with Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Lowestoft and 41-Spliced Surprise Minor at Wickham Skeith, though neither were rung for the Guild or for the visit of the Archbishop.

Carl Melville meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury. George Reynolds meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury.That said, ringers were involved in the goings-on in Bury St Edmunds this afternoon, with Pettistree ringers Daphne Rose and Mary Garner, as well as former SGR newsletter editor Carl Melville and new Annual Report Editor George Reynolds meeting the Most Reverend Justin Welby - I hope you got a mention of ringing in!

Whilst they were conversing with one of the most notable people in the country, the li'l chap, Ruthie and I were celebrating another occasion, as we went round to my wife's grandparents to mark tomorrow's Mothering Sunday with all the usual suspects. We were typically fed and watered amply, as the kids raced around noisily with each other. There was much laughter, but with a number of minor bumps occurring, it probably won't be long before the tooth fairy will be visiting the area again!


Friday 28th March 2014

Congratulations to Alex Tatlow on becoming Ringing Master of the University of Bristol Society of Change Ringers, following on from Philip Moyse's election as Ringing Master of the Southampton University Guild of Change Ringers, and the various roles that Louis Suggett has held within the Birmingham University Society of Change Ringers since he began studying in the West Midlands, as Suffolk's young ringers take over the university ringing societies!

Apart from being a testament to the dedication of those who taught and encouraged them in their early years of ringing within our borders to get them to such a stage as to be trusted in these roles, the positions will stand them all in good stead for the future. Today UBSCR, SUGCR and BUSCR, tomorrow The Ancient Society of College Youths and Society of Royal Cumberland Youths? Or even better, the Suffolk Guild of Ringers!

Ashbocking.Edwardstone.Even if he gets seriously into ringing, Mason is a long way off such positions, but today he did reach a landmark in a child's life that many of us will remember - his first tooth came out! So whilst a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor was being rung at Ashbocking, and a quarter of Kent and Oxford Treble Bob Minor was scored at Edwardstone, and - if I know students - Messrs Moyse, Tatlow and Suggett were enjoying a Friday night out, the li'l chap, Ruthie and I were preparing for the arrival of the tooth fairy with bated breath!


Thursday 27th March 2014

They're all coming to an end for now, but my late shift at work today led to another quiet day on the personal front. We did manage a quick trip into Ipswich to deal with my unhelpful bank, a trip that led to a walk across Christchurch Park that Ruthie wasn't slow in telling me she didn't enjoy. But otherwise, once I got into work, left at seven and then had tea, there wasn't much left of the evening.

Brandeston.Ixworth.So at least others were more active in Suffolk. After months of practicing, Hilary Stern was able to celebrate her sixtieth birthday with a quarter of local method Francis Genius Delight Minor at Brandeston. And well done to Ruth Suggett and David Steed on ringing their first of Oxford Treble Bob Major in the 1280 at Ixworth.

Theberton.Aldeburgh.Meanwhile, whilst there is no practice at Gislingham next Wednesday, there is a Young Ringers Practice this Saturday, and judging by the weather forecast, it could be an absolutely wonderful day to be in Theberton and then at the seaside at Aldeburgh. Do go along and help, especially if you have ringing youngsters.

We shall be busy elsewhere on this occasion, but we'll at least be enjoying the fact that I won't be at work!


Wednesday 26th March 2014

It was the day of the reassuringly dull midwife appointment, and the evening of the spilled coffee, the burning flies and the dimly lit course of London Surprise Minor.

The former was very welcome, whilst the latter was all part of the fun and games at Pettistree, the tone of the session set by a successful quarter of Why are there no aspirins in the jungle? Because the paracetamol Treble Place Minor beforehand.

Preston St Mary.It wasn't the only quarter in Suffolk today, as there was also a success at Preston St Mary, and well done to the entire band on ringing their first of Wight Bob and Nicholaston Bob Minor in honour of the centenary of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, apt with the arrival this Friday of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the county to celebrate the occasion.

We finished at The Greyhound of course, as things settled down at the end of an interesting day.


Tuesday 25th March 2014

It's very rare these days that I wish I was at an Ipswich game when I'm listening to them on the radio playing. But as their last minute winner went in against Derby this evening and Portman Road went bonkers, there was a pang of regret that I wasn't in the Sir Bobby Robson Stand going crazy with thousands of others.

Never the less, it was a very exciting highlight of a short evening, following on from a late shift at work and a pick-up of Emily the car after her service at Champkins, and then a collection of Ruthie from confirmation class, all whilst the Tractor Boys were winning. Happy days.


Monday 24th March 2014

As Ruthie's pregnancy reaches its latter stages, there are an increasing number of appointments and courses filling up the diary, and things to be done to prepare. We've packed hospital bags, and noted numbers we need to call. Just two weeks on from our last midwife's appointment, we have another one booked in for Wednesday, and there is a mothers only course planned for a couple of weeks time. And today saw us both at Kesgrave Children's Centre for our antenatal class.

We both expected this to be like on the TV, doing breathing exercises whilst my wife practiced swearing at me, but there was none of that, as we experienced an extremely useful session. Having read so much information, brought up Mason, and heard much from our friends Toby and Amy after their very recent experience, it was tempting to think we knew everything we needed to about what will hopefully happen in the next three-to-four weeks. But led by our midwife and her colleague, it was invaluable hearing from those who have seen and heard of just about every possible eventuality, and indeed from other expectant couples who were coming at the same experience from different angles.

It was a very reassuring day from a practical point of view, as a huge amount of information (and biscuits) were fed to us. But it was also reassuring to meet other couples in the same boat, with most in the room also with due dates from mid-to-late April. Though one had started her contractions yesterday, and was quite clearly in the very early stages of labour, some ten days ahead of schedule, further reminding us that what lay ahead is unpredictable. In fact the day as a whole reminded us that for all that we pray that everything will go to plan and we can prepare, that nothing can be taken for granted over the next few weeks - we may hold off on booking our teas for the AGM for now! However, it also reminded us that thank God we're in good hands, and we have professional and knowledgeable help close to hand.

After all this preparation for labour, birth and babies, it was appropriate that this evening we ended up in Wickham Market with the aforementioned Toby, Amy and their two-and-a-half month old daughter Maddison, as we were all hosted to a tremendous meal by the li'l chap's other Godparent Kala, and her husband Nick, themselves expecting in August, and therefore going through all that we were going through four months ago. Not unexpectedly, most of the conversation was about pregnancy and babies, when we weren't cooing over the youngest guest, but also not unexpectedly it was a superb evening out.

Gislingham.Ixworth.The only downside was that at the end of a day that saw quarters of Spliced Surprise Major and Yorkshire Surprise Major at Gislingham and Ixworth respectively, and a peal of Century Little Bob Cinques at Grundisburgh, we missed the practice at St Mary-le-Tower, but we hope to at least get along to the next two Mondays before the Holy Week break from ringing. We can't guarantee it though!


Sunday 23rd March 2014

We have two doorbells at our home. One is for the back, one is for the front. The only problem is that they sound alike.

So when it rang this afternoon, our first thought was which door we should be answering. Our second thought was who our rare visitor was. For all the possibilities that went through our mind, Sue Freeman, one of the editors of the superb Awl a'huld wasn't one of them!

She was a pleasant surprise, especially when it became apparent that she was going beyond the call of duty to deliver the spring issue of the magazine, the latest and thirteenth edition of what has become an invaluable tool of communication for the Suffolk Guild. It is easy - especially amongst those of you reading this who obviously use the internet - to think that the best and only way of communicating between members these days is online. Granted, we can impart information and news in a way that would have seemed incredible just a few years ago, through Twitter, Facebook, email, the website, and I hope through this blog, but there are still many who don't use the worldwide web regularly or even at all, so this is an essential tool to ensure those members can still keep up with goings on, along with the printed versions of What's On, which EVERY tower should have an up to date copy hanging on their wall.

Elmsett.Besides, there are still articles in this enthralling publication which haven't been published online, at least that I have found. Such as how the North-East and North-West Districts are getting on with ITTS, Crawford Allen's interesting account of the story thus-far of the soon-to-be-ring-of-five at Elmsett, the Mayor of Ipswich's visit to the Wednesday ringing at St Lawrence, a brilliant piece on the late Roger Peters by Trevor Hughes, and my favourite, the tale of the new ringers' gotch at Hadleigh!

Polstead.Sue was on our doorstep (she was at the front door for those at all interested) at the beginning a lengthy trek across the county that was to take her from her Polstead base to - amongst other destinations - Aldeburgh and Coney Weston, and is the kind of dedication that makes it even more imperative that those charged with getting it out to members do so as soon as possible. It would be a huge shame for Sue to put this time, effort and money in getting it out across the Guild if those asked to deliver them just sit on their copies.

It is also vital that when towers get their copies, that they don't just circulate them amongst the ringers, or even worse just stick them on a shelf to gather dust. Awl a'huld is meant as much for non-ringers who may see a copy and be tempted to find out more and even take up ringing, so please put copies in the church, the local pub, doctors waiting room or anywhere they may be seen by the general public. If it helps just one person gain a greater understanding of ringing, then it has done its job in that respect, and whilst we obviously hope it will do more than that, it won't give us any PR at all if its not put out there in the wider world.

It certainly gave South-East District Secretary Ruthie something to do this afternoon, as she arranged piles to be distributed, but it followed on from a good morning at church for my wife, and a decent morning of ringing for my son and me, with enough to ring changes on twelve and a reasonable half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at St Mary-le-Tower. There were fewer at Grundisburgh, with Stephen Pettman among those absent, meaning I ended up running the ringing, allowing me to give Mason the opportunity to ring the tenor to some rounds on the front five, and then on the same bell, the treble to some rounds on eight, which he was chuffed with.

St Margaret of Scotland.Elsewhere there was a quarter at St Margaret in Ipswich to mark what would've been Simon Girt's fiftieth birthday, a solemn reminder - as the twentieth anniversary of his death recently also was - of a ringer who I'm sure would've greatly benefited Suffolk ringing. One can but wonder what effect he would be having now and quite probably for a number of years from now.

We had an altogether quieter afternoon, enjoying having a read of one of the Guild's best PR tools. Many thanks to Richard Gates for his work, but especially Sue for going beyond the call of duty and ringing one of our doorbells!


Saturday 22nd March 2014

Congratulations to Molly Waterson's Bristol, neighbours Cambridge, the superior society ASCY, Ruthie's lot the Cumberlands, my old team Birmingham, St Paul's Cathedral, York, Melbourne and Leeds on qualifying from today's National Twelve-Bell Contest eliminators at Cripplegate, St Seps and Waltham Abbey, thus setting them up for the final on what I'm sure will be fantastic day (and indeed weekend if previous experiences are anything to go by!) in Oxford at the end of June. Commiserations meanwhile to our other participating neighbours Norwich on missing out in the latter eliminator, though judging by the pictures and messages across social media they still had a fun time, as it should be!

Tempting as it was to pop down to one of the aforementioned venues, we had our own day of fun lined up, starting with a practice at Pettistree to help Bill Lloyd, Adrian Craddock and Derek Martin with their progress, and also giving Richard Stevens the opportunity for some really good Rounds and Call Changes on Six, as can be viewed through Mike Whitby's Facebook profile! Well done Richard!

Having finally put curtains up at home following a short shopping expedition, we then joined immediate past Chairman of the Guild Philip Gorrod and former holder of many positions in North-East District Maggie Ross as they continue their quest to have a drink in one hundred specially selected pubs across the country in 2014. I enjoyed their first one at The Low House in Laxfield following our peal of Horton's Four at Wilby on the very first weekend of the year, but it was particularly nice to bring Ruthie and Mason along to The Ship in Blaxhall for their latest visit to an inn.

Good company in one of the nicest spots in Suffolk (and there are a lot!) contributed to a highly convivial afternoon as we chatted football (with both Ipswich and Norwich winning to further raise the mood!), pubs and ringing. Oh, and kept up with events in the National Twelve-Bell Contest. I wonder if one of Philip and Maggie's one hundred pubs is in Oxford...


Friday 21st March 2014

Another happy Friday at the end of a week of early shifts, and the best of the lot as it's the last early shift for a few weeks at least!

Campsea Ashe.It meant I was in a very good mood, enhanced by picking up Mason from his day of Sport Relief fun at school, and hearing about Adrian Craddock's first inside at Campsea Ashe in the quarter of Plain Bob Doubles rung yesterday. Adrian has been coming along very well in recent months, helped by going out to many practices in the area like Grundisburgh, Pettistree and Woodbridge among others, so this is very much deserved. Well done Adrian, I hope more follow your example!

A happy Friday indeed.


Thursday 20th March 2014

Now that we're connected to the internet and its wonderful world of selfies of people with no make-up on and sneezing trombone players, it is quite nice to catch up on what is going on in the world of ringing. Primarily that takes the form of seeing who is ringing what on BellBoard and Campanophile, such as the entire band ringing their first blows of Willesden Delight Minor in the Suffolk Guild quarter over the border at Blo' Norton in Norfolk. Well done to them all, and Happy Birthday for tomorrow Lesley!

But there are also useful bits of information, such as What's On in Suffolk's ringing chambers in the coming days, weeks and months, and indeed beyond the county, but affecting us, such as the Central Council Weekend in Maidstone at the end of May, the Ringing Roadshow at Newbury Racecourse on Saturday 6th September (note that the South-East District Quarterly Meeting which would typically be on that day will be held a week earlier on Saturday 30th August to allow members to travel to the Roadshow if they wish), and that entries are now being invited for this year's Ringing World National Youth Contest at Worcester on Saturday 5th July.

And whilst Facebook can more often than not be full of utter garbage, the Bellringers page comes up with useful advice and interesting debates. One thread set up yesterday but not noticed by me until this afternoon after another early shift at work, was started by someone bemoaning that they had to get permission from a local resident if they wanted to do any extra ringing. Of course the usual topics of sound-proofing and the selfpidity (now I've 'invented' that word, I'm going to get maximum use out of it!) of people who live next door to churches and complain about bells and the like came up. But more usefully it showed that whilst there are complainants out there as you would expect for an art practiced loudly and regularly in thousands of communities across the UK, there are also alternative ways of dealing with them rather than just bowing to their demands and stopping any extra ringing - which stifles ringing not only for the local ringers but also others, and which if every tower took the same attitude would essentially kill ringing off - whilst also maintaining good relations with neighbours. Well worth a read, especially if you have a complainant in your midst.

It certainly kept me occupied as Ruthie went to choir practice, and I made the most of having the internet at home!


Wednesday 19th March 2014

St Giles, Cripplegate.St Sepulchre, Holborn.This Saturday will see some of the best bellringers in the world congregate at three locations not too far away from our borders, as this year's National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition begins with the three eliminators that will determine the nine participants of the final at Christ Church among the dreaming spires of Oxford on Saturday 28th June. Although the eliminators haven't got quite the same large scale, cup final feel of the big day that has been won by Birmingham twenty times and on the last four occasions, if you fancy a day out then you could do a lot worse than enjoy some socialising and excellent ringing at either St Giles Cripplegate, St Sepulchre Holborn and Waltham Abbey. This is the peak of ringing, something that all ringers should aspire to, or at least learn from, and should hopefully inspire many to partake in our own striking competitions, with the South-East District's at Campsea Ashe on Saturday 3rd May, the North-East District's a week later at Sweffling, the North-West District's at Pakenham on Saturday 14th June, the South-West District's at Nayland on the same day as the National Twelve-Bell Final, and of course the Guild Competitions at Clopton and Helmingham on Saturday 17th May. And hopefully there will be support for the SGR team when they represent the county in The Ridgman Trophy just over the border at Coggeshall on Saturday 7th June.

As it is, there will be Suffolk connections aplenty to cheer on at the weekend, with the Cambridge band which came second in Ripon last year being led by David Pipe, Ipswich Town fan and nephew of George and Diana Pipe, and featuring Norman Tower regular Philip Wilding, former resident members Simon Rudd and Molly Waterson will be representing Norwich and Bristol respectively, whilst no doubt Cumberlands and College Youths across the county will be willing their respective societies to qualification for the biggest date in the ringing calender.

Pettistree.Hopefully there will be celebrations for Molly on Saturday to top a week that saw her mother Gill celebrate her birthday today. It was an occasion we quite rightly marked this evening at Pettistree for this loyal and reliable member of the band, as we rang a quarter of Wickham Market Surprise Minor, named after her village of residence.

And it wasn't the only successful quarter within our borders on this pleasant Wednesday as a 1260 of Middlesex Bob Triples at Lavenham saw Neil Avis, Clare Veal, Stephen Dawson and Richard Brewster ring their first blows in the method. Well done guys!

How they followed up their success I don't know, but we followed ours with a decent practice despite low numbers, with the Harpers away tonight, and Kate leaving for sleep ahead of a long, long day tomorrow that puts even my early shifts at work in the shade, though Ruthie boosted our numbers afterwards.

And as usual we finished it all off in The Greyhound doing what there will doubtless be much of in London and Waltham Abbey on Saturday - a few drinks in good company. But if you can't make it down there on the day, and you're not doing anything else, then maybe you could help out at Haverhill for the South-West District Practice, the kind of event that many of those top ringers would have started out at.


Tuesday 18th March 2014

Despite now being a happily settled resident of Woodbridge, I am still fond of my hometown of Ipswich. I will admit that it hasn't got as much for the tourist as Cambridge and Norwich, begrudgingly so with the latter. And though I detest the 'pastime' of shopping, I understand that both those places are light years ahead of Suffolk's county town. In fact, in both respects it isn't as good as towns like Bury St Edmunds and Woodbridge. Still, I will defend it to the hilt as the generally homely riverside town that it is, and the base for my favourite football team.

However, I hate - and I mean hate - going into its town centre during the day. Years of truly awful planning decisions have made it an incredibly time-consuming and unrewarding place to get into, filled as it is with street-clogging traffic lights and expensive parking further out than most people would consider worthwhile walking, at a time when most people can shop online or at out-of-town superstores with ample, free parking next to flowing dual-carriageways. Presumably we're not the only ones who feel the same, as when Ruthie and I reluctantly traveled in for business that on this occasion could only be done practically in what one of my uni mates called 'the Big Swich', we were met by sparse streets on what should have been a bustling workday lunchtime, and empty shop after empty shop.

The Buttermarket Shopping Centre feels like a symbol of the state the town is in. I remember it first opening, as an exciting, gleaming complex. Now, as my wife had her haircut in the Deesigner Hair Studio which is one of the few thriving businesses in the building, I stood waiting outside considering how faded and worn it had become. It is a sorry sight.

St Stephen.St Lawrence.One of the few positive aspects of Ipswich's central wasteland though, is the thriving churches, even if they are not thriving as religious centres. Whilst waiting for Mrs Munnings to have her mop chopped, I had a pleasant wander around St Stephen's church, home to a lively ring of three, and of course the town's Tourist Information Centre. And once she was done, we enjoyed lunch in the restaurant at St Lawrence, though we were twenty-fours early for the weekly Wednesday lunchtime ringing on this famous five.

Nonetheless, we were happy to leave, though the only way we could get in and out of the town was via the Park and Ride, once we'd waited for an age at Martlesham after a bus had broken down, endured the lengthy breaks sat in lay-bys as they tried not to get ahead of themselves, and then stood around in the rain awaiting our return carriage.

Offton.Perhaps the exact opposite of the depressing town centre of Ipswich is the peaceful, pretty and isolated village of Offton, and this evening it was the scene of ringing achievement, as Caroline Goodchild and Timothy Stanford rang their first quarter of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the light ground-floor eight at St Mary. Well done Caroline and Timothy! I'm glad there's still plenty you don't have to go into Ipswich town centre for!


Monday 17th March 2014

We are back online at home! Following a visit from TalkTalk this afternoon over two weeks after we moved into a house we had given them a over week's notice that we were moving into, we can now log onto the worldwide web from the comfort of our living room, and be contacted by landline with a new number.

Not that we have had much opportunity to take advantage of it, as being a Monday night we were at St Mary-le-Tower, where after an encouraging turn-out in the mid-twenties yesterday evening at Suffolk's first twelve, we had another encouraging turn-out in the mid-twenties in the same ringing chamber. With the wider range of abilities and needs alluded to in my last blog posting, the ringing wasn't as universally good as just over twenty-four hours earlier, but progress was still made at various levels, including another well-rung touch of spliced Surprise Royal, which tonight introduced Superlative No.2 to proceedings.

With it being St Patrick's Day of course, our usual post-practice pint at The Cricketers was drunk in busier surroundings than is typical for the first night of the working week, with Guinness hats and pints very much in view, as even Ruthie was able to enjoy a rare half-pint of the black stuff.

It all topped off a day of celebration, to various degrees!


Sunday 16th March 2014

So Ruthie is now a lady of leisure. Appropriately for my wife's last day at work before the start of her maternity leave, Boots was very quiet, gently easing her into her time off.

Mason and I were a bit busier mind, as the li'l chap caught up with his buddy Henry Salter at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, and then led some Rounds on Eight at Grundisburgh, before we spent the afternoon taking advantage of the surroundings on our new home's doorstep. Despite getting lost in woodland initially, we had a pleasant couple of hours wandering down by the River Deben to the boy's favourite play area at Kingston Fields and back, bumping into ringers Mervyn and Tracey Scase also enjoying the warm and sunny weather along the way.

Mayfield.Mrs Munnings did join us afterwards, as she started her freedom by accompanying me on a return journey to SMLT for this month's special practice. And a very, very useful one it was too! These practices are meant to do what can't always be done on a Monday night with a wide range of abilities and needs, by focusing on more advanced ringing that ultimately will hopefully benefit ten and twelve-bell ringing in Suffolk by raising the standard. There was much of that this evening, with a good method repertoire and some decent striking. And having had a mysterious text from David Salter last night, we heard about what was behind it, as Colin Salter's achievements at Mayfield in Staffordshire yesterday were revealed. Well done to young Colin on what was an apparently superb peal.

After a good session on the county's heaviest ring of bells, we returned home via Chez Ashcroft where Mum and Dad had very kindly been looking after Mason, as Ruthie began enjoying her time off!


Saturday 15th March 2014

I was chuffed to bits today - because Mason cried! For as Wigan Athletic took the lead against Ipswich Town at Portman Road, there was a frustrated tear from the seven-year old. Those of us slightly longer in the tooth have become used to such scenarios, and to be honest - despite the vast improvement in East Anglia's most successful football club over the last year and a bit - it was one I and many others had expected. After all, our opponents are FA Cup holders, had just knocked Manchester City (one of the richest and best teams in the world) out of this year's competition just six days ago, and arrived at our half-full stadium having won their previous seven games. But for the li'l chap, having only seen the Tractor Boys win comfortably thus far, and even take the lead today, our 3-1 defeat was a less enjoyable experience for him, though an important one. Much like a lost peal, you need the odd setback to appreciate the value of the successes.

The Norman Tower.Despite that, we had a jolly nice afternoon out, as Ruthie rested at home, and either side we socialised, visiting my wife's Nan this morning following her recent birthday, and hosting Toby, Amy and Maddison in the evening. And whilst the county's professional football club were unsuccessful in its first town, its bellringers were thankfully more successful in its second town, as the first peal was rung on the Collings Eight and Dean Collings Bell at The Norman Tower.

So a real welcome to the peal columns to the Collings Eight, and a real welcome to the world of supporting Ipswich Town to Mason!


Friday 14th March 2014

For all that leaving work on Friday at the end of a week of early shifts is one of the best feelings of everyday life, coming out of work at the end of five days of late shifts is a slightly subdued sensation in comparison. With everyone else but sales having left two hours earlier, darkness fallen for some time even as the days lengthen encouragingly, the next week of early shifts looming, and the evening with Mason and Ruthie obviously a lot shorter, it doesn't have quite the same feeling of elation as seven days earlier. Still, it is Friday evening, two days of relaxation ahead planned, and the arrival of the li'l chap, full of beans as ever.

And whilst there was no ringing for we three, there were of course quarter-peal ringers achieving in Suffolk, as there normally are on the final day of the typical working week, with our NDA friends ringing a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pakefield, the usual FNQPC succeeding at Tannington, and the entire band ringing their most Minor methods to a quarter in the seven-spliced Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Tostock. Well done to all, especially to those involved in the latter success.
Happy Friday everyone, however you spent it!


Thursday 13th March 2014

For more years than he and particularly Suzanne would care to remember, Jonathan Stevens has held arguably the most important job in the Guild, that of Technical Adviser.  He has probably put in more hours and almost certainly more miles for the SGR than anyone else, not just advising, mending, and importantly tightening up the terms and conditions for grants, but imparting his invaluable knowledge, making sure members are tuned in to what is needed to maintain our bells and their fittings. Of course others have the technical know-how, and work hard on behalf of Suffolk's ringers, such as those on the Belfry Advisory Committee, but few have made it a second job, as Jonathan essentially has. If we don't have the know-how to maintain our bells, our art will quickly decay, and he has been brilliant at putting teaching many what is needed.

Stradishall.Wissett.Hopton.Campsea Ashe.Fressingfield.

Mr Stevens has undoubtedly earned the right to step down from the role, but it means we need someone to replace him at the Guild AGM at Stowmarket on Saturday 26th April. I'm sure no one is expecting them to do as much as JJS has done (though that would be tremendous!), but is an important role that needs filling by someone who can continue his good work. The outgoing TA will no doubt pull no punches about how demanding a role it can be, but I imagine it can be very rewarding and most enjoyable. From my time as Guild Ringing Master, I have many fond memories of fun trips out to places like Stradishall, Wissett, Hopton and Campsea Ashe with him to test the go of bells the SGR was giving grants to. And how could we forget Fressingfield...

His will be one of a number of roles that will need to be voted upon at the Guild's big day of fun at the end of next month, most of which will no doubt see the current holders voted back in. But if you feel you could do better at a role, or know someone else who could, then don't be afraid to put yourself/them forward. No one will be the least bit offended, and it may even help someone who is looking to get out and is afraid of leaving the position vacant. Whilst I am more than happy to continue as Public Relations Officer, I would also find it quite a thrill to have some competition! Alternatively, if you think I should be doing things differently, but don't want to stand for the role, or put someone up for it, then just tell me, and I shall endeavour to change my ways if necessary!

For tonight though, my role reverted to my previous one, as with Mr Whitby still away, I found myself running this month's Cosy Nostrils Surprise Major Practice at Ufford. A late shift at work and a call from Aunty Marion on her birthday delayed me slightly, but I was still able to oversee a useful evening's ringing, especially for those learning Cambridge! And there was some good Lincolnshire and Bristol too, helped by the arrival of Ruthie and Kate.

It was but a drop in the ocean of the ringing workload of Jonathan J Stevens though!


Wednesday 12th March 2014

Though my late shifts at work are nice for the lay-ins, today's saw Ruthie and me arrive very late for a practice for the second time this week, with us only making the last half hour of the weekly session at Pettistree on this occasion. We're glad we did though, as we were able to help out - if even just a little - on an evening when there were a few away - including our esteemed leader Mike Whitby - and the pre-practice quarter attempt had unusually been lost. Despite that slight downer, and the quieter feel about proceedings, there was still a very positive atmosphere at SS Peter and Paul, as I managed to make up an entirely false touch of spliced Doubles as I went along, which eventually came round at handstroke some while after we began, and it was revealed that the missing visitors book at Brandeston had been found!

It was all topped off by a pint in The Greyhound afterwards, at an end of a generally very positive day, as my late shift allowed me to accompany my wife to our latest midwife's appointment. This time round we were able to help give a trainee midwife some invaluable experience as our normal one Beth watched on, but the result was  still the same as our previous visits - all seems well so far thank God!

Bardwell QP band.There was positivity elsewhere too, though tinged with sadness, as Teresa Colthorpe rang her first quarter on eight, and David Ruffles his first quarter ever, as the ringers of Bardwell marked the sad recent passing of local ringer Anthony Mitchell with a 1260 of Bob Doubles. I'm sure he would've been pleased to see this success, as I am and I'm sure all of you are too. Well done Teresa and David!

For us, it was back home to bed, as although I am on a late shift again tomorrow, Mrs Munnings has got another early 'un as she works through to her planned final day - for now - at Boots on Sunday. Then she'll be able to join me on those lay-ins!


Tuesday 11th March 2014

The highlights of today were getting a new oven installed at our new abode, and Ipswich Town scraping a 1-0 victory away at tiny Yeovil Town, which probably says all you need to know about how exciting today was.


However, there is much more planned ringing-wise before the end of the month, particularly in the North-East District! In the coming eighteen days, they are holding their Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on the night of the 12th, their Anything But Bob Doubles Practice at a mysterious location on the evening of the 17th, their Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice twenty-four hours later at Worlingham, and finish the month by hosting the Young Ringers' next event at Theberton and Aldeburgh on the 29th. There is stuff going on in other parts of Suffolk too before April is due to arrive, with Bacton also holding their monthly practice on Wednesday from 7.30-9pm, Helmingham holding theirs between the same hours on Friday 21st, and the South-West District having their District Practice at Haverhill the following afternoon.

That should all keep you busier than we were today!


Monday 10th March 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.There were extremes in the quality of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, and in many respects it would be worrying if there weren't. I'm sure we wouldn't complain if we had immaculate ringing all night, but how would others be able to progress to that level without having to go elsewhere, which is easier said then done when you're talking about ten and twelve-bell ringing in the provinces? So we welcome all who are looking to get to grips with ringing on higher numbers, and are happy to guide them through it.

It does mean that probably not everything will go, as we look to push those ringers and ourselves. Tonight there was some poor Yorkshire Surprise Royal coming to a premature halt as Ruthie and I climbed the stairs tonight, and along with some equally disappointing attempts of the Maximus variations of Little Bob and Yorkshire Surprise, there is much work to be done. But it must be carried out patiently, and some more absolutely cracking 3-Spliced Surprise Royal and a very decent half-course of Cambridge Surprise Max (which did well not to be derailed by the fits of giggles at my squeaky shoes!) showed what can be achieved with hard work and patience.

What is gradually being achieved here with occasional set-backs and pick-me-ups, is a lively and enjoyable practice with an increasing amount of good ringing, and that showed in another good attendance of nearly thirty, with a good number of regulars away, including on this occasion Kate, as she looked after Mia after a day that saw her dog have a minor and precautionary operation. We did have the pleasure of Roger Whittell's company, fresh from his daughter Alison's wedding in Hong Kong last week, and there - resplendent in bright red - to thank those who had rung to mark the occasion.

As it should do, it all spilled over into The Cricketers afterwards, where a good crowd chatted about Thomas the Tank Engine, jury service and the similarities between Oscar Pistorius and Colin Turner, though nothing to do with why the former is in the news currently, you'll be glad to hear! Now there's some extremes in conversation!


Sunday 9th March 2014

The Norman Tower.Well done to Adam Shard on ringing his first quarter, at the first attempt, in the 1260 changes of St Simon's Bob Triples at The Norman Tower today, hopefully the first of many.

I remember making similar comments nearly five years ago about another BSE ringer to be, Alex Tatlow, and he has moved on from bonging behind to Doubles at Great Barton that day, to today pulling in the 50cwt tenor at the famous Redcliffe in Bristol, to a quarter of Yorkshire Surprise Max - well done Alex! Hot on the heels of Philip Moyses' achievements in Southampton, Louis Suggett's in Birmingham and indeed that of Beavis, it is encouraging to see we are still giving ringers a good grounding in the art before they set off to other pastures to really expand their undoubted talents, even if it would be quite nice to have them back some time! Adam potentially has much to look ahead to, whether his ringing takes place beyond our borders, or here in the county, as the peal for the Society of Stowmarket Youths at Euston today shows. Well done to Adrian Malton, Jeremy Warren and Daniel Denton on ringing their first of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor in that particular success.

There was nothing quite as exciting in our day. The bells of Woodbridge are half-muffled for Lent, Kev the Rev will soon be working for the Queen and attending her garden parties, Mason, Ruthie and I had lunch with Susanne, Pete, his father Maurice and their two friends at The King's Head in town, and Kate very kindly treated us to roast dinner at hers, after a morning of her and Ron putting together some bits of furniture at ours.

All very entertaining, but not as exciting as others were getting up to today in Bury St Edmunds and Bristol!


Saturday 8th March 2014

Though this Saturday wasn't as hectic for Mason, Ruthie and me as the last one, it wasn't exactly quiet.

Ufford.There was still ringing, as we popped over to Ufford to ring for a lengthy wedding taking in communion, where we were also able to admire the latest example of Don Price's superb craftsmanship with the new cabinet in the ringing chamber.

But either side of that, there was the chance to sort out more of the stuff we'd moved over to our new home, and to welcome our first visitors, (bar Mum, Dad, Kate and Ron after their help in recent days of course), as my wife's friend from school Vicky, and her fiancé Gavin popped round for a cuppa and catch-up. All a lot more relaxing!


Friday 7th March 2014

Clopton.Barring any currently unforeseen circumstances, in just over two months time, on Saturday 17th May, the newly rehung six at Clopton will welcome the county's ringers as they sociably compete for The Mitson Shield and The Lester Brett Trophy. Apart from other unavoidable engagements - and as this event is seared into the calendar on the third Saturday of May EVERY year, members will have hopefully avoided double-booking themselves if they can - and commitments, there is no reason why most bands across Suffolk can't put forward an entry for the Guild's striking competitions. As Ruthie and I discovered at the dedication back in September, and Mason and I rediscovered this evening, these are an extremely easy-going light six, a joy to ring, if a little loud, which shouldn't be a problem. They've even covered up the grill which allowed the ringers to see down into the porch, and for those walking into church to see up into the ringing chamber, which I quite liked, but I know would've put some people off!

The reason my son and I were present at this isolated location on a dark night, was to help David Stanford as he teaches the local band here. Considering they have only been going for a few months, David has done a superb job to get the six that were present on this occasion to the standard they're at, with all of them ringing up and down competently and safely, and ringing at least rounds, and some ringing call-changes and even Plain Hunt! It was a pleasure to watch DIS run them through their paces with patience and good humour, which in turn they seemed to react to well, and I hope that more can help him in the coming weeks and months as this once silent tower flourishes. There isn't a set practice night, as they gather whenever the most of them and Mr Stanford can make it, so it is worth contacting David if you do want to pop along, but the Otley ringers shall be along on Wednesday, and another practice is pencilled in for a week's time.

The li'l chap was an absolute gem, despite feeling a little tired and cold at times, but it was nice to get out on a Friday night for once, especially as my wife was out having a farewell/baby shower dinner out at The Farmhouse in Kesgrave, courtesy of Boots as she approaches her final week before maternity leave is due to start. She came back laden with gifts and vouchers generously given by her colleagues, having had her meal paid for, and more importantly having had a really good time, so it was a nice night all round.

It was a nice day too, as I had that marvellous feeling of finishing another week of early shifts, and was pleased to see that Philip Moyse had not only rung his 250th quarter and his first of Major on an inside pair of handbells in the success at Chandler's Ford in Hampshire (appropriately rung with two very positive influences on his early ringing career up in the North-East District of the SGR, Philip Gorrod and Maggie Ross), but that he has been elected as the Ringing Master of the prestigious Southampton University Guild of Change Ringers, following in some very well-known footsteps! Suffolk is chuffed for you Philip, well done!

Stowmarket.Hopefully the uni holidays will enable him to return for the Guild AGM at Stowmarket on Saturday 26th April, but even if he can't be there, I hope as many as possible who can, will. So much work has gone into making this more than just a meeting, which whilst important, should never be the sole focus of the day. It is a ringing occasion, with a lot of that going on at the 20cwt eight of SS Mary & Peter, but also a social occasion, and there will no doubt be much renewing of old friendships, making of new ones, a chance to find out what people are getting up to, and sharing of tips and advice. It is also a rare opportunity where such a large number of people will get together from across the county to learn collectively, not just on the end of a rope, but with the Fringe Meeting which this year will see the affable and entertaining Neil Thomas talking about handbells, at the start of the afternoon's proceedings, and then the equally affable and entertaining Ralph Earey presenting an important discussion on The Future of Ringing after the AGM itself. As ever, it would be great to get at least a hundred members present, which shouldn't be a huge ask with so much on for ringers and non-ringers in a vibrant market town, slap-bang in the middle of the county with trains, buses and the A14 enabling people to come in and out with ease from all directions.

If ringing is to thrive in Suffolk, it is vital that ringers like those learning at Clopton have lively, interesting social occasions like this and the Striking Competitions to join in with, so if you can come, please, please do!


Thursday 6th March 2014

After another early start at work, the afternoon highlighted the differences to being at our old house and in our new abode. Whilst I was showing a prospective tenant around a chilly Brook Street, with its lack of space, heating and plug sockets, and the windows that were going to be replaced by the start of the winter we're now exiting but still haven't, the handyman for our new letting agent was busying himself sorting the minor bits and pieces that needed fixing in our new house. It was a refreshing display of efficiency, which helped me recover from a visit to my dentist immediately after my early finish from work, on a quite day for us ringing-wise.

Oakley.There were others ringing though, I'm glad to say, and well done to the entire band on ringing their first blows of Braintree Delight Minor in the 1320 at Oakley today, the second quarter of the method in the county in three weeks following the one at Rendham last month.

For us though, once I'd picked Ruthie up from choir practice, and Kate and Ron had been round with more furniture (thanks guys!), we sat back - slightly sleepy - and relaxed in our new, improved home!


Wednesday 5th March 2014

A few years back, the then Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths Stephanie Warboys arranged the 'Master's Challenge' in Bristol for the ASCY's members, a striking competition with a difference. Teams were organised by prominent ringers of the society, such as Simon Linford, Michael Wilby, Roy LeMarechal and David Pipe, the latter of whom organised 'Eastern Promise', a squad drawn from East Anglia. I was fortunate enough to be asked by David to participate, along with other familiar names from our part of the world, like Simon Griffiths, Nigel Newton, David Rothera and Philip Earis. As with much of my ringing career, I was in the right place at the right time, rather than particularly being the best of what was available, as there were many better ringers who could've taken part that weren't in the south-west of England on that early summer/late spring day. It was May 2006, less than a year since I had left the Birmingham ringing scene for home, and not that long after David and his wife Cecilia had made their own move from west to east with their young family, so I was probably still fresh in Mr Pipe's memory, but whatever the reason I was involved, it was a privilege.

The competition itself was a superb innovation by 'Aunty Steph', made up of four elements, all which had points up for offer that would contribute to the final scores. There was a quiz compiled by the society's Librarian of the time Chris Ridley, a six-bell competition at the Lord Mayor's Chapel where teams had to ring up, ring 60 on 3rds and ring down again over a period of at least fifteen minutes and were judged on artistic impression, a twelve-bell competition at St Stephen's where bands could ring what they liked and points were added for complexity (we rang spliced Surprise Maximus, helping us into second in that particular section), and an eight-bell challenge on the bells of the Cathedral. This final element was the most fun in my eyes, involving being handed a line of treble-dodging Major that none of us had seen before we entered the ringing chamber, learning said method and then ringing a plain course, all within twenty-five minutes, with bonus points for those who successfully completed the task the quickest.

The Wolery.There were aspects present of that last challenge this evening, as within the first few blows of our peal attempt of Apsley Surprise Major at The Wolery, it became very apparent that I was ringing a completely different method (Apsley Delight Major as it happened) to the rest of the band. It meant I had just two or three minutes to learn a line I had never seen previously, before launching straight into a peal of it. It seemed to work though, as despite an untidy start, we successfully negotiated a peal in 1hr49mins which got better and better, and in the end it was almost a shame to stop, so good had the ringing got.

I was really glad to have scored, as this is my last peal for now. With the due date of the planned-for arrival of our son being 17th April, now is probably a good time to take a break. It has meant turning down quite a few requests for my participation in peal attempts between now and the beginning of May, from ones at tonight's location (including and particularly the highly enjoyable Good Friday peal-day which this year falls on 18th April), to eight and twelve-bell peals at St Mary-le-Tower, a silent and non-conducted peal of spliced Surprise Major, a SGR attempt on fourteen at the Bullring in Birmingham, and an attempt at Southwark Cathedral. But it is for the greater good, as although we're not expecting (or wishing for) li'l 'un to turn up just yet, we're aware that anything could happen at anytime as we get closer to the due date, and I would prefer to be close to hand if needed.

So I enjoyed this final hurrah for now, with the usual good hospitality of the Salters (and liberal sprinkling of George's tales of a young lad about town), at the end of a day that was due to start early anyway, but began even earlier than intended when our bed collapsed on us! It meant the day finished with us fixing it if we wanted to sleep in it tonight, a challenge a lot less exciting than that one in Bristol eight years ago!


Tuesday 4th March 2014

At the moment, we'd love to be sorting out our new abode, but as is usually the case with our house moves, we first have to make sure our previous abode is left as we found it. After months of living in a cramped space with little storage and a six/seven year-old, and following a disastrous attempt to hang pictures which took a large proportion of one of the living room walls off, that task is no small one, so once I'd finished at 11am, the two of us were back down at Brook Street scrubbing and vacuuming, and generally trying to make sure that we leave it to the high standards the letting agency expect.

It was a long afternoon, meaning we were quite tired come the evening, but we still managed pancakes on this Shrove Tuesday, which at least helped us to feel settled in our new home!


Monday 3rd March 2014

There was a strangely mixed bag at St Mary-le-Tower practice tonight. We made an absolutely superb job of three-spliced Surprise Royal, a piece of ringing that the vast majority of towers could only dream of achieving. Yet almost before we had drawn breath from that brisk touch, which came a week after an equally well-rung touch of the same methods of Cambridge, London (No.3) and Yorkshire, we then rang Cambridge Surprise Maximus as if we'd never even heard of it, let alone rung it. David was understandably disappointed, but then again there was a wide repertoire this evening, with an increasing amount on twelve, all of which marks the progression of the band as a whole, and which ultimately should stand them in good stead.

Welcome as the drink at The Cricketers afterwards and a catch-up with Simon Griffiths who returned to ringing this evening after his customary few months out was, it all came at the end of a long day that began at 4am at work, and continued with more tidying and clearing of our Brook Street house, which in turn of course came after a very busy weekend, so I was ready for sleep!


Sunday 2nd March 2014

With much stuff still packed in bags and boxes, and Ruthie now needing a lift into work, Mason and I only got into Ipswich in time to hear the final piece of ringing of the morning at St Mary-le-Tower, a reasonable sounding bit of call-changes on twelve. With it being the first Sunday of the month though, at least it meant we were there in time for ringing at St Lawrence, where despite my unintentional reluctance to ring St Martin's, we had some decent five-bell ringing, before the boy and I carried onto Grundisburgh, where we had enough for call-changes on twelve, and some pretty appalling Grandsire Caters. These bells can be rung well, but they need to be worked at, and although things at the wobbly red-brick tower have improved in terms of practices over the last year or so, there were still a fair number in the band for whom ringing on ten and twelve is a rarity.

Putting all that behind us though, it was back to house-moving today, as we made use of the second-day of having a van, and so whilst Kate, Ron and Mason went down the dump and then fitted a new washing machine at Edwin Avenue, I found myself at the house we are now departing. Usually in these circumstances, I find myself getting quite nostalgic, remembering all the events have occurred between the now bare walls, and the people that have passed through the empty rooms. But there was none of that on this occasion really. Yes, we have had happy times in here. Thank God we've been blessed with Ruthie's pregnancy and all the joy and worry that brings, and we had a magical Christmas with the li'l chap here. It is in itself a quaint little cottage that has drawn envious tones from people when we've mentioned we live there, and perhaps in different circumstances we would have grown to love it. But the fact we were essentially forced into it from a much more spacious place, with parking, a large garden and central heating, (albeit also with a condemned boiler and cooker, and windows which may as well have not been there, and in parts actually weren't) always put this place on the back-foot with us. It's been useless for entertaining guests, partly because it is so small, but also because people have had to park in the car-parks to visit us, meaning that essentially they were paying to see us and were on borrowed time. We're fed up of being squeezed into the house and feeling cold, and having spent so much time in the new place yesterday, and slept there last night, it has been interesting to compare the two abodes. Our new home is part of a row of houses called Riverview Terrace, so presumably once had a view over the Deben before the posh houses and the surrounding woodland that protects them from the riff-raff were put in the way, but we still have a woodland at the bottom of our decently sized garden out the front, and a garage and TWO sheds (though neither suitable for mini-rings sadly!) before a huge expanse of garden out back, and our sizeable three-bedroom property in between, and is ever so peaceful. Even with practically everything removed from Brook Street, it still feels overwhelmingly tiny, boxed in on all sides and no garden to speak of at all, the noise of the town centre rattling through its windows and doors. We shan't miss it I'm afraid.

We were able to appreciate the warmth of our new centrally-heated home on a wet, windy and cold evening tonight, especially once we'd returned from evensong at St Mary, Woodbridge where my wife had been singing, the li'l chap back at his mothers as I prepare for another week of early shifts at work. And we enjoyed the space as we put our feet up for a short while, at the end of another busy day for us, and another one of ringing achievement for George Salter. Well done to him on ringing his first peal of Bristol as conductor in the successful 5120 of the Surprise Major variety at Henley. Well done too, to Neal Dodge, who rang his first on eight in the process, and congratulations to Stephen Cheek, for whom this was his 100th peal. At least George was able to find the composition better than we were able to find something to wear this morning!


Saturday 1st March 2014

Hollesley.Next time someone says they haven't got time to attend a district or Guild event, I will firmly point them in the direction of this blog entry. For today a seven-year-old, a lady who isn't allowed to lift anything and myself managed to move house AND partake in the service, tea, meeting and ringing at this afternoon's South-East District Quarterly Meeting in far-flung Hollesley. No excuses about needing to do the weekly shop, or deal with the garden, or catch this afternoon's TV (iPlayer anyone?) for us. Despite my wife's important role as Secretary, I'm pretty sure it would have been understood if we couldn't make proceedings on this occasion, but we actually wanted  to support those who had put so much time and effort into everything, a hard concept perhaps for those who seem to have such disdain for these pleasant gatherings. As always, there would've been been perfectly good reasons for many members' absence, such as holidays, work, illness (though George Pipe, still very frail, came out, and very nice to see him it was too), family events, and other ringing commitments like peals (though the three eldest Salter boys still turned up having been south of the border for a peal at Wivenhoe, and Peter Harper, Diana Pipe, David Stanford and Michael Whitby all came along following a peal at Clopton), and we had a good turnout of around fifty over the course of the whole event, with learners benefitting from the chance to ring with a larger proportion of more experienced ringers than they might normally be able to. But it is a shame that they didn't get an even greater opportunity, and that others across the District missed out on this chance, essentially because many members couldn't be bothered.

Those that weren't there, missed an excellent get-together. The service was run by the Reverend Ruth Hatchett, one of four new members elected today, and was a thoughtful and appropriate affair, but not long-winded, as was the meeting, Ralph Earey's first as District Chairman. He kept things moving with good humour, but also allowed focus and discussion when needed. It meant that Roger Peters was remembered, reports from the officers and Guild committees, and the Young Ringers were imparted, the state of the bells at St Nicholas in Ipswich discussed and new members elected, all within half-an-hour, as Mia the dog tried to interject occasionally (but was otherwise impeccably behaved), and Mason dealt with a nose bleed!

In between, we were treated to a tremendous tea, and a good chance to catch up with friends familiar and new, as well as visitors such as David Rogers, down from Thetford, and at either end of the event, there was ringing on what many understandably describe as the best eight in Suffolk. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but aching slightly, and in need of sorting one or two other bits and pieces in our new home, we passed on the chance to have a drink at The Sorrel Horse in neighbouring Shottisham, and left slightly early, some good ringing drifting out from the tower, across the village and out into the darkness of the North Sea.

After all, it had been a long, tough day, and as much as the li'l chap was immensely useful and a real gem, and Ruthie did what she could, we were eternally grateful for the help of Mum, Dad, Kate and Ron to move us from one side of Woodbridge to the other, making sure we'd got the vast majority of stuff over before our trip out to the coast.

Whilst all this was happening in the east of the county, well done to Lesley and David Steed in the west of the county on ringing their first peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major in the success at Hopton. And well done to all those who did come to the South-East District Quarterly Meeting today. The next events on are next Saturday, as the North-West District Practice takes place at Gislingham between 10am and noon, and the South-West District Training & Teaching Programme runs at Glemsford from 3-4.30pm. Members of those districts, if you're not going, I hope you have a better excuse than moving house!

Friday 28th February 2014

Following on from yesterday's depressing story featured on the East Anglian Daily Times website and brought up on this blog, the EADT reported a more sinister example today. For it seems, with scant regard for the safety of themselves or anybody else, some selfpid twadiots took it upon themselves to set fire to the children's altar at St Michael & All Angels in Framlingham, having failed in their efforts to steal some cash set aside for charity. Thankfully it was discovered early, before the church and its 16cwt ring of eight could be damaged, and more importantly before anyone was hurt or even worse, but it is further evidence of the society we find ourselves living in now.

Benhall.Thankfully, bellringers in Suffolk were being more constructive with their efforts today, and indeed marking the life of Roger Peters, a man who was the complete contrast to people like the aforementioned yobs, as a peal was rung at his beloved Benhall today. In the process, well done to Jason Busby on ringing his first peal of Grandsire Doubles, and also well done to Richard Brewster, who rang his first of spliced Surprise in the quarter at Great Finborough.

No such activity for Mason, Ruthie or me though, as we prepared for the big move tomorrow, surrounded by boxes, bags and piles. I suppose at least we weren't setting fire to churches or complaining about those we'd moved in next door to.


Thursday 27th February 2014

Tolerance. It is a two-way thing. Those of us who make loud noise that can be heard by neighbours, like music venues, factories, and yes, bellringers, have to be considerate. Not by ceasing activity, but by taking actions that will minimise and even cut out distress to those who live near where we ring for practices, services, outings, quarters and peals. Make local residents aware when extra ringing from the norm is to be carried out, and if possible explain why it is taking place, and how long for. And sound-control is an absolute essential, especially if the story today on the East Anglian Daily Times website is anything to go by.

For when there are people like the couple who moved in just 560 metres from the Mildenhall Stadium where the local speedway team race amongst many other motorsports, and then complained about the noise, we know that you can never be assured that your long-established practice night that has never had a complaint in the sixty years it has been going is entirely safe. Especially when the Supreme Court has actually ruled in favour of the intolerant pair, whom apparently no longer even live anywhere near the stadium, instead leaving behind the community they parachuted into to deal with the consequences. The comments below the story suggest that most people do still have their heads screwed on in this matter, but when such incomprehensible decisions are taken that in this case could see jobs lost and a business go under, what hope would we as bellringers stand in the same circumstances?

The sensitive couple who brought about this ridiculous case wouldn't have coped with living in the property we spent two-and-a-half years in opposite Jewsons' builders yard in Woodbridge, with constant and sudden loud noises that almost sounded like they were coming from inside the house at times. We didn't mind at all, and were happy to let others get on with their lives, aware that we had moved in next door to them, not the other way round, but that abode seems a distant memory as we prepare to move into our third different property since our days in Sun Lane. Tonight saw more clearing and packing, with the kitchen the latest room to be dealt with, as we passed on ringing again, with a practice running at Grundisburgh, where hopefully they had the sound-control in and were being considerate towards the neighbours!


Wednesday 26th February 2014

With the move three days away, and much still to do, we had to reluctantly forsake an evening's ringing and socialising in Pettistree, as Mason's room was the next to be dealt with. His bed was dismantled and his toys packed away, and gradually it feels like we may be ready for the big heave-ho this weekend.

St Mary-le-Tower.Being on late shifts, I had already had to decline the kind offer of ringing in the peal attempt of Ashtead Surprise Major on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower tonight, but it looks like they were better off without me messing it up on this occasion, and at a speed more befitting of the bells, as the 5088 changes were successfully crammed into 2hrs51mins of ringing. Well done guys!

The Wolery.Preston St Mary.It wasn't the only peal in Ipswich today though, as the first ever peal of Zyzzyva Surprise Major was rung across the river at The Wolery, whilst Suffolk's quarter-pealers were at it too at Preston St Mary, where the entire band were ringing their first of Basingstoke Bob Minor, so congratulations all round!

That goes for my mother too, who celebrated her birthday today, hopefully with a little more excitement than we had! Happy Birthday Mum!


Tuesday 25th February 2014

The routine of moving house is something we have got very used to. Gradually belongings that we have no need for between now and Saturday have migrated to boxes that have appeared from Tesco and Kate, with gratitude to both. Shelves have slowly disappeared, and before I went to work today, the initial financial outlay was dealt with.

Beccles.This evening, there was more box-packing, and disposing of things we don't need but which have somehow stuck with us through previous house-moves. It all meant for a quiet day on the ringing front, as it will be on Wednesday next week at Beccles, when it had been planned to hold the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice. However, it will now be held the following Wednesday, 12th March, so if you were intending on going on the fifth, put the new date in your diary!

Now, where did I pack my diary...?


Monday 24th February 2014

I've announced seasons too early before, so this is said with caution, and fully in expectation that this time next week I'll be encouraging members to get out to their ringing through snow blizzards, but it feels like spring is on its way. Today, the sun was plentiful and warming, as were the temperatures, and although it has never got that cold this winter, a woolly hat has still been practically tattooed to my scalp out of habit, but this too was dispensed with as I wandered to and from work. The sky was bright blue as far as the eye could see, some trees are blossoming, and the days are feeling noticeably longer. And this Saturday is the South-East District Quarterly Meeting.

Since Ruthie has become SE District Secretary, I have taken on an extra appreciation of what goes into arranging these events, a process that starts months beforehand, and involves phone calls, letters, emails, and meetings, like last night's latest District Committee meeting. Much thought has gone into how much ringing there should be, and making sure that there will be food and drink and everything else that goes into the occasion to make it something appealing for members to attend. Therefore, I hope their efforts aren't in vain, and that as many as possible come to Hollesley this weekend to support Ralph Earey at his first District Meeting as Chairman - please get your names for tea to Alan McBurnie by this Wednesday!

As I hope was the case at every practice in the District tonight, it was something that was mentioned at St Mary-le-Tower practice, once Kate, my wife and I had made it. Running as early as we could once I'd finished work at seven and thrown some tea down my neck, we arrived to find the car-park filled to the brim, packed out with members from the choir practicing for their next concert in what used to be a church. It is still incredibly annoying that they choose the one night of the week when there is something else on in the church to practice their singing, but we have to put up with it, though on this occasion it meant parking some distance away for many of the ringers, including ourselves.

And there were quite a few of us this evening, as usual from all over the place, from Bury St Edmunds, Great Barton, Stowmarket, Hasketon, Felixstowe, Essex, and - in the case of the welcome visit of James Smith - from London. It enabled much to be rung, from Stedman Cinques and Surprise Maximus, to pieces on eight and ten to help those working their way up to twelve-bell ringing, something SMLT used to be heavily criticised for not doing many years ago.

The positivity extended beyond just the ringing too, as we celebrated local ringer Sean Antonioli's first child, a son born to him and his wife Louisa on Saturday. Sean has been a superb addition to the band since first learning just over four years ago, and has done very well considering he's had to balance ringing with work, education and keeping up with his family in Italy and the USA, managing to ring quarters, a peal and even win a striking competition into the bargain in that short time! Many, many congratulations to Sean and Louisa.

Woolpit.Congratulations are also due in a ringing sense for Alex Brett-Holt's first quarter in the success at Woolpit today, though for the sad occasion of the funeral of Martin Turner, a ringer upon the six of St Mary, whom I'm sorry to hear of his death. I'm sure he would've been chuffed for Alex, and so is the collective ringing family, so well done!

Our night continued in a positive vein, with even our parking problem meaning we had to walk less distance from The Cricketers to Kate's car! With spring seemingly on the horizon, newborns arriving, good ringing and first quarters, it topped off a very positive day!


Sunday 23rd February 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.Grundisburgh.There was some impressive ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh this morning, with London Surprise Royal (No.3) at the first, and Spliced Surprise Major at the second.

The Norman Tower.Impressive ringing was a theme which continued with me to The Norman Tower where I partook in a quarter of Erin Caters this afternoon, as Ruthie and Mason wandered the streets of Bury St Edmunds kindly getting me cake. That said, we didn't make a great start, with two false starts before we got going with an improving quarter. It is the beginning of preparations for the Suffolk Guild's entry into The Ridgman Trophy being held at Coggeshall in Essex on Saturday 7th June, and whilst I feel we need to do some work on the basis of today's effort if we are to stand a chance of winning south of the border in just over three months time, it was a good start.

It was preceded by a lunch very generously provided by Chris and Becky at theirs (many thanks guys!), and followed by a pint in The Corn Exchange, the first time we have been in this establishment. Whatever you think of Wetherspoons, and for all the controversy this inevitably caused when it opened two years ago, they do have a habit of turning old buildings into wonderful pubs, and this is no different, I think enhancing an already beautiful town. Indeed, it is very impressive.


Saturday 22nd February 2014

One of the many benefits of the Suffolk coastline above some others in my opinion, is the lack of a coastal road. It means that unlike those that have such a route where one seaside resort seems to roll into another, the communities that mark where our county meets the North Sea seem unique, and often - with the exception of places like Aldeburgh, Felixstowe and Southwold - wonderfully isolated. The Wilford Peninsula is a perfect example, tucked away beyond Rendlesham Forest at the end of a handful of winding lanes and roads going nowhere except for the quiet, pretty but slightly wild feeling villages that stand between the rest of the UK and northern Europe.

Hollesley.Next Saturday we shall be visiting Hollesley on the peninsula for the South-East District Quarterly Meeting, hopefully with a lot of our fellow members, but tonight we were in another part of this secluded area, as we wound our way through Bromeswell, dark woodland and Butley to The Froize in Chillesford. The occasion was the 2014 Pettistree Dinner, an event that is meant to be arranged at the tower's AGM at the end of November, but usually gets forgotten about until some time in January when someone will ask when and where it is. Thus far though, it has never suffered for such last minute arrangements. It is always an enjoyable and lively affair, as such an event should be, and today's was no different, in superb surroundings.

Pre-dinner drinks.Sat down to dinner.Mary announces the winner of her 'Monthly' Plate.

Mason was impeccably behaved, and enjoyed the occasion, so much so that he was asleep before we'd left, worn out by the excitement! The food was good, the company even better, and it was all topped off by Pippa Moss winning Mary's 'Monthly' Plate. Thank you to Mike Whitby for arranging it, and to Ron for driving us there and back.

It was a fantastic evening out at the end of a day that saw us take in a baby clothes shopping trip at the brilliant Kidz Kupboard in Rendlesham, and a typically interesting visit to Ruthie's Nan's, but whilst we weren't doing any ringing today, and there weren't any peals or quarters for the Guild or in the county recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile, Suffolk ringers were achieving beyond our borders.

As usual, George and Colin Salter led the way, with both ringing their first peal of London Surprise Royal in the 5000 at Christ Church in Swindon, with the former calling it into the bargain, whilst the latter called his first quarter of Minor in the 1440 of Grandsire Minor at St Mary, Rodbourne Cheney in the same Wiltshire town. But they weren't the only ones, as Philip Moyse followed up his first peal of Stedman Cinques last week with his first peal of Surprise Maximus in the success at Portsmouth Cathedral. Well done to these three young lads that Suffolk should be very proud of, and well done to Michelle Williams back here within our borders on ringing her first quarter of Superlative Surprise Major in the 1280 of the method at Rendham yesterday.

There is much for us to be chuffed with in Suffolk, even beyond just our beautiful coastline!


Friday 21st February 2014

The feeling I get when I finish work on a Friday at the end of a week of early shifts is one of the best there is, as I look ahead to a long weekend, and most immediately can enjoy my afternoon and evening with Ruthie and Mason in the knowledge that I don't have to set my alarm for the middle of the night.

Horringer.When I haven't been sleeping, the early shifts have at least given me the opportunity to catch up on the world of ringing, something which is so much easier and instant these days. Facebook has this week allowed me to see what has been going on around the country. Many of my friends and acquaintances are preparing for tomorrow night's Henry Johnson Dinner in Birmingham, whilst some have just returned from a few quarters and peals on Lundy Island, epicentre of the Great Bristol Channel Quake of 2014 this week. Robert Beavis is going to be on the University of Bristol's University Challenge team soon. Dickon Love is busy planning his latest ringing job, the restoration of St Margaret Pattens, and there is a Facebook page to raise money for the restoration and rehanging of St Stephen's in Westminster. In fact, social media seems a good way of raising awareness of and money for such projects, as indeed Horringer are doing with their FB page. Generally it is free, and can only help towards the ultimate target, and for those involved, a feeling even greater than the one I had this afternoon!


Thursday 20th February 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.For a brief while, Saturday morning's peal of Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower was top of the 'most liked' table on BellBoard, usurping Henry Pipe's peal of Norman Smith's 23-Spliced Surprise Major rung in Cambridge the previous weekend, before the latter returned to the top. No doubt the ten-year old's first peal as conductor - rung on handbells whilst on holiday in Norfolk on Sunday - will overtake both shortly, but as impressive as the exploits - which already amount to nineteen peals including the successful completion of thirteen and sixteen spliced Surprise Major, peals of Bristol Surprise at Royal and Maximus levels, and his very first one at the age of just seven, in addition to his first quarter aged six - of the nephew of our very own George and Di are, it is nice to see something from here break the usual Pipe/Cambridge/Birmingham/London monopoly on the BB leader board, and is further verification of what an achievement the 5148 in Ipswich was.

St Lawrence.St Matthew.The Wolery.

That particular performance was a triumph for a young band drawn from across the country, and exactly one week on from that 3hrs26mins worth of ringing, there will be a less strenuous repeat in the town, as our Young Ringers welcome their counterparts from London for an outing that will take in St Lawrence from 11am, St Matthew from 12.15pm and then The Wolery afterwards. If you are a ringing youngster, or have care of one, this is a superb opportunity to enjoy ringing at its social best. Even if you have no one under eighteen with you, and you can help out, your presence will be much appreciated.

This evening though, we spent a couple of hours in the company of a non-ringing youngster, as we visited Toby, Amy and seven-week old Maddison. It was a pleasant trip out, but combined with Ruthie's choir practice, it meant we missed Grundisburgh practice. Hopefully that went alright, as we look to continue training up ringers to get to the top of BellBoard's leader board!


Wednesday 19th February 2014

This is a year of anniversaries.

A century since the formation of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich.

A century since the start of World War One.

799 years since the signing of the Magna Carta.

The Cathedral.St Mary's, Bury St Edmunds.Clare.Framlingham.Halesworth.Huntingfield.

The last one may sound like it's a year early, and obviously that is the case. But it is 800 years since a number of events leading up to this significant event, and some of them involving places in Suffolk. Bury St Edmunds, Clare, Framlingham, Halesworth and Huntingfield for example. All with bells, and rather neatly representing all four districts of the SGR. It would be great if ringing can mark the dates involved with this bit of history, including a pageant in BSE on 3rd July.

Indeed, if you are doing any special ringing to mark any of the above anniversaries and the visit of the Commonwealth Games Baton to our county on Monday 9th June, then it would be great if you could let me know, so that I can inform the local media outlets of all that we are doing for events that no doubt they will cover in depth.

For now, it seems hard to look beyond the next few weeks, as we shall be moving house, something that in itself has mainly been motivated by the hoped for safe arrival of our little boy in April. Although much has to be planned ahead (including making sure we are living in a house with enough bedrooms!), it is equally hard to get too far ahead of ourselves as we try to do everything carefully and correctly, whilst of course still trying to live a normal life! This morning we made another reassuring visit to the midwife, with all seemingly well and as it should be thus far.

It put us in a good mood as we went to Pettistree practice tonight, which was followed by a drink in The Greyhound, and proceeded by a decent quarter of Killamarsh Treble Bob Minor, at the end of a relatively busy Wednesday of ringing.

Campsea Ashe.Felixstowe.I had been impressed that when we went to Marlesford at the beginning of the month for the South-East District Practice, that a peal attempt for today at Campsea Ashe in the same benefice was advertised in the local magazine. If only some of those towers who capitulate to the merest grumble to ban peals or sometimes even any extra ringing at all would follow this example first. So I was glad to see today's 5040 was successfully rung, as was a 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at another tower that hasn't just hidden away at the first hint of a complaint, Felixstowe, as the man who has rung more peals than any other in ringing history, Colin Turner, came to the county to ring peals number 6191 and 6192. The number that he rings is far beyond the desire of most ringers, but the stats on Pealbase in regards to where and what he has rung, and with whom is staggering and impressive. It takes him all across the UK, and indeed around the world, and only last week he was peal-ringing in the USA. And imagine how many anniversaries and big events he has celebrated!


Tuesday 18th February 2014

Another very early start, but a less active afternoon than yesterday, as I spent most of it asleep, bar a trip to Tesco which saw me get new trainers. Yes, it was that exciting.

Thankfully others were more active, with two peals rung at The Wolery on Day Two of Suffolk Guild Peal Week. Well done to Clare Veal on ringing her most Spliced Surprise Minor in one of those successes.

There is also planned activity in the next few days, with the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday, and then the South-West District Practice at Cavendish the next day. Please support these events if you can, and be more active than Ruthie and I were today!


Monday 17th February 2014

An extremely early start at work, meant an early finish, and enabled me to catch a brief and unexpected plug for ringing within our borders. Following the launch of VisitBritain's Sounds of Great Britain campaign, which features the chimes of Big Ben, Rachel Sloane - sitting in for poorly friend of ringing Mark Murphy - on our local BBC radio station invited listeners to impart their 'sounds of Suffolk', to which one member of the public announced that church bells ringing was her quintessential noise of this part of the world. So well done all of you for making that lady's 'sound of Suffolk'!

Whoever our fan is, I hope she heard the peal at St Mary-le-Tower on Saturday, but if she didn't, she can now watch and listen to twenty minutes of it on You Tube, thanks to the conductor George Salter.

Great Livermere.It was but the beginning of a good weekend for ringing youngsters, which continued today with Neal Dodge's tenth quarter with Ruth Suggett in the 1272 of Plain Bob Minimus at Great Livermere, Colin and George Salter's first of Minor in hand with their 1440 at home, and the Younger Ringers' latest event at Clopton and then Grundisburgh. Despite being moved back due to a wedding at the latter that Ruthie and I were able to ring for, there was a tremendous turnout of ringers from as young as twelve (and six if you include Henry 'Are You a Lady?' Salter), and from across the county. It is well publicised that our lightest twelve are hard work for even the most experienced of ringers, and yet the youngsters of Great Barton, Hacheston, Halesworth, Ipswich, Reydon and Sproughton rang very well, and from what I saw, there are some that I believe would make very good ringers on higher numbers.

Maybe they would like to come along to SMLT, where they would be more than welcome to join us on a Monday night. There was still a good mix of youth and experience and much in between at a decent practice tonight, where the highlight was an absolutely superb touch of 3-spliced Surprise Royal comprising Cambridge, London (No.3) and Yorkshire, though a reasonable half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus came to a premature end, the band perhaps still distracted by the earlier entrance of a young woman slightly worse for wear from the falling down juice, and claiming to look for a ringer who wasn't there. She was harmless and indeed we didn't even know she was sat on the stairs for a while, before leaving without a fuss, but it is a shame we get fewer sober visitors willing to give ringing a go than tipsy visitors barely able to climb the stairs, let alone have a go!

Whether she had ended up in the ambulance that was parked up in the bus station as we wandered across to The Cricketers afterwards, I don't know, but I do know that after a very long day, I was very tired, so after a quick drink it was home for bed!


Sunday 16th February 2014

It has been a busy weekend for those Salter boys. David has spent yesterday and today helping out the Surrey Association Peal Weekend with a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Mitcham this afternoon, and on Saturday at Chelsea Old Church with Plain Bob Minor, and Battersea with the romantically named Z Battery Battersea Park Surprise Major, a timely reminder that Monday sees the start of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2014.

But it is his two eldest sons back in Suffolk who have been the stars of the family over the last forty-eight hours. Not content with their exploits twenty-four hours ago, George and Colin were again busy on this bright sunny Sunday. With his first of Stedman Triples and Stedman Cinques under his belt, the elder brother called his first of Stedman Doubles in the 1260 at St Mary at the Quay which also saw Neal Dodge ringing his first in the principal, and rang his 50th quarter as conductor in the 1288 of Little Bob Major at Stowmarket, where Veronica Downing, Simon Edwards and young Mr Dodge were ringing their first in the method. The younger Salter sibling then called his first of Doubles in the Grandsire at St Lawrence, with Mike Burn ringing his first on five at the same time. So well done lads, and well done to Neal, Veronica, Simon and Mike on their achievements.

With all that on their plate, it was perhaps understandable they didn't have time to attend this month's Special Practice at St Mary-le-Tower, but they weren't alone. With David Potts away, Amanda Richmond no doubt celebrating her birthday somewhere exciting, and Owen Claxton warning that he may be late, it fell upon me to run things on this occasion. For a while though, it didn't look like I would have anything to run, but having started with a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back bells with six of the seven present for the first half hour, we eventually expanded to the Major and Royal versions, but it was a half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal and a touch of Grandsire Triples on the back eight that were the highlights of an ultimately useful session, especially for Peter Davies and Melvyn Potts.

With a very early start for me tomorrow, and having picked Mason up from his grandparents who were very kindly looking after him whilst we were at SMLT, we dropped him off at his mother's, at the the end of a day that started with a big enough turnout to man all eight at Woodbridge for the visit of former Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Right Revd John Waine for confirmation. Even then, there were more ringers downstairs, with Sam Shannon, and the Revd Ruth Hatchett from Hollesley supporting an All Saints churchgoer who was getting confirmed. Hopefully they'll be able to help out next time, we can't leave it all to the Salters!


Saturday 15th February 2014

St Mary-le-Tower.I don't really consider myself a conductor, but I think it is important to spread the load, so it isn't just down to the same few to call touches, quarters and peals. Therefore, though I strongly dislike calling anything on odd numbers of bells, it is one of my resolutions to get the hang of calling Stedman. It is something that I can watch, but calling it is something else, so I was full of admiration for young George Salter, who at St Mary-le-Tower this morning not only rang his first peal of Stedman Cinques, but called it too - indeed, it was his first ever attempt to call any touch of Stedman Cinques! In his own words, it was the easiest composition he could find, and I don't think I've ever rung a peal of Stedman Cinques without being affected by a single call, so it wasn't exciting, but apart from an understandable nervy start, the boy was on top of things all the way through. Not bad for someone who hadn't expected to call it until his conductor dropped out just a few days ago!

That said, the band didn't give him much to worry about. Although limbs and minds seemed to tire a little towards the end, the ringing was generally very good, with few mistakes, and decent striking throughout. Which was impressive, as it is difficult to get a band who don't usually ring together, to ring as well as we did from the off. There were ringers from London, Swindon, Southampton, Essex and even Old Stoke from the other side of the Orwell. Even more impressive was that just five of the band had rung a peal of Stedman Cinques before, and once you looked beyond Heather Forster, Jonathan Slack and myself who had rung forty-eight peals of it between us, there were only seven peals of the principal at this level amongst the band before we began at just after 10am today. Encouraging too, as it was a young band, quite possibly my first peal where I was only the tenth youngest in the band!

Beyond the conductor, well done to Simon Edwards, Philip Moyse, Colin Salter, Daniel Graham and Paul Bray on ringing their first of Stedman Cinques, with Reydon-boy-done-good Philip, young Mr Graham and not-quite-as-young Mr Bray completing the family from Doubles to Cinques in the process, and well done to Ian Culham and Colin on ringing their first on twelve. This was truly a peal chocca-full of achievements.

Debenham.Helmingham.Whilst I returned straight home afterwards to spend some quality time with Ruthie and Mason, for many in the band their ringing achievements today hadn't finished. George and Simon went on to ring their first quarter of Belfast Surprise Major in the 1312 at Debenham, whilst Colin rang his first blows in the method, and as if all that wasn't good enough for GMS for one day, he then called his first quarter of Stedman Triples in the success at Helmingham.

All in all, a good day for the boy - I'm quite inspired!


Friday 14th February 2014

It would be easy to feel the year would disappear in the blink of an eye if one just paid attention to the 'significant' dates. We are only in mid-February, and yet already we have had New Year's Day, Burns Night, Mason's Birthday, and the Chinese New Year.

Today of course saw Valentines Day, and Ruthie and I made our usual token gesture towards the occasion, with cards, and a small glass of fizzy each. With Mason present it was a night in, though we've never gone big on going out on 14th February.

St Mary at the Quay.But it was also a significant day of ringing, with a quarter at Rendham, and two peals in Ipswich, at St Mary at the Quay and The Wolery. The former was the last before the conversion of this redundant church into a new centre for Suffolk Mind, which will hopefully also see the restoration of these historic but hard-going bells. The hardest of the lot is the fourth, as I know fully after my peal on it back in 2010! Well done to Paul Bray on taking that role today, and for ringing his one hundredth peal with Neil Avis, and to Rhona McEune on ringing her one hundredth altogether in the same 5040, as well as to Neal Dodge on ringing his first of Minor inside in the success in Old Stoke.

All worth celebrating, whatever the date!


Thursday 13th February 2014

Benhall.When I was living in the anonymous concrete jungle of the West Midlands, there were several places and names that made me hanker for the friendlier, spacious, rural idyll of Suffolk. Places like Benhall, and names like Roger Peters. This is a tower, and this was a man synonymous with ringing over this way. A pretty, isolated church overlooking fields, woodlands and cottages, and an old boy who did the majority of his ringing in the county, and did much for it.

So I was saddened to hear of his passing today, another character of the Guild's history gone. He was rightly much respected and much liked, and although I didn't get to ring much with him, his peal records show he was a good ringer, with peals of Surprise Major with many of the best that ringing in this county has offered forward to the world, like John Loveless, the Mayles, the Pipes, Stephen Pettman, Brian Whiting, Les Brett, and so many more. Our thoughts are with his family.

No doubt, Suffolk ringing will mark his passing in its peals and quarters in the coming days, but for this evening Ruthie and I were at Ufford for the latest Surprise Major practice, with no sight of Brian the radio star! First though, I needed to carry out my dutiful father bit for Mason's parents evening. It's funny how the dread I had of these when I was the subject of them has now transferred, these days hoping on the boys behalf that he gets a good report from teacher. Well there was no need to worry this time, as the li'l chap got a glowing reference, with him doing more of the stuff he should be doing (including being a very dutiful chair monitor!), and doing it well, and less of the stuff he shouldn't be doing!

Don gets his birthday cakes from Micky at Ufford!It did mean I was running a bit late for my evening at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so I was a little surprised to get there bang on eight to find I was just the ninth to arrive. It turned out I was the first of seven latecomers, which meant that the session eventually turned out to be a very productive one, with Yorkshire in particular being rung very well, all topped with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday for Don Price, and devouring of the lovely chocolate buns made by Micky McBurnie. And it was what I had returned here for all those years ago - ringing at a place and with people synonymous with this wonderful part of the world of ours.


Wednesday 12th February 2014

As someone who prefers being warm to trying to get warm, no winter can really end soon enough for me. But today seemed to be the day when this one got too long. The noise of strong wind blustering down our chimney and through our draughty abode, the eerie sound of it whistling through the masts of the boats moored at the nearby marina, and the sight of the trees opposite John Catt's offices being blown almost horizontal, whilst we dodge puddles with their own tides, and sodden grass, have become an all too familiar experience, though quite how much these emotions are multiplied amongst the poor residents of Somerset and along the Rivers Severn and Thames, I cannot imagine. For me, it hasn't been helped by the start of one of our international campaigns this week, which has seen me chat to schools in the Bahamas, Hawaii, the Middle East, Florida and California, with people basking in roasting heat by golden beaches, underneath blue skies, whilst another gust nearly takes our roof off.

The awful floods in the UK have been headline news for months (apart from when old men in South Africa die peacefully) now, and The One Show even had a 'Floods Special', which was essentially visits to swollen rivers with lots of people standing around watching, in between chirpy interviews with Shane Ritchie, but the thought was there. And in the the absence of any snow and ice this year, the news channels have finally succeeded in fitting in that immortal phrase, 'if you're journey is not essential, then don't go out', whilst unnecessarily sending out dozens of reporters to dangerous outdoor locations to make meaningless reports through disrupted signal that could've just have effectively been made from a studio.

Pettistree.However, whilst our thoughts go out to those in aforementioned areas across the country, the winds had thankfully calmed down by the evening in Suffolk, and so Ruthie and I felt safe enough to go out to Pettistree practice this evening. With today being a late shift, I couldn't partake in the pre-practice attempt of Braintree Delight Minor which was sadly doomed to be a rare loss, but we did enjoy a lively session afterwards, which saw a wonderful exchange between Chris McArthur and Mike Whitby. The former had grabbed hold for what he thought was a plain course of Stedman Doubles, but as we rang the opening rounds, thought he better check with Mike.

"No," Mr W replied. "Mary's calling a touch." "What?!" Exclaimed Chris. "That was my thought too."

Mrs Garner called the 120 most excellently, and Mr McArthur contributed to one of the best touches of the night...

Mr M could have been excused for being a little pre-occupied though, as he searches for the visitors book from Brandeston ringing chamber, which includes signatures from visitors and records of quarters and peals from the last twenty years, including our two successful peals of 41-Spliced Surprise Minor back in November 2011 and July 2012, but which the locals noticed just before Christmas had gone missing. So if you have been ringing at All Saints in the last few months, have a look around to see if you have inadvertently taken their book!

Preston St Mary.Whilst the loss of the quarter at SS Peter & Paul this evening was unfortunate, at least they were succeeding elsewhere today, and well done to Andrea Alderton and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first blows of Thelwall Bob Minor in the 1260 of it at Preston St Mary, with Stephen Stephen calling it into the bargain!

Whether they celebrated with a drink afterwards, I don't know, but we of course topped our efforts off with one at The Greyhound, though we didn't hang around. With it being wife's first day back at work after a week's holiday, it had been a long day, in a long winter.


Tuesday 11th February 2014

We can hear the bells of Woodbridge from our house, a very pleasant backdrop to going about our business at home. However, as marvelous  a job as Bruce and Gill Wakefield do for the ringing here, we don't usually go along to Tuesday night practices, which may seem odd to many, and even a little hypocritical. For I'm forever imploring readers to help out where they can, and I stand by that. Most ringing events need as much help as they can get, and as many learners as possible to make them worthwhile, but that can't keep coming from the same few people who always help out. Ruthie and I already go to two and sometimes three practices a week. More often than not, I ring at two and occasionally three towers on a Sunday morning, and at times in the evening. It is rare for my son, wife and me to miss a South-East District event, especially now Mrs Munnings is District Secretary, which in turn means that all the behind the scene ringing-related stuff that most members don't think about intrudes upon what time we do spend at home. And through my roles as Guild Ringing Master and now PR Officer, I (and indeed we) haven't missed an AGM since I returned to Suffolk in 2005, and have partaken in all but one Guild Striking Competition in that time. We do our bit, but prefer to ensure we have at least one night at home, and once you take into account practices that we became committed to before I moved to the town, it is sadly our local 25cwt eight which misses out for now. Or perhaps benefits, depending on your perception of our abilities, or lack thereof.

We do feel guilty on occasion, such as tonight as five bells rang out across the darkened rooftops of the community. But although my better half is occupied on Sunday mornings through work or choir commitments, I like to help out every now and then on a Sunday, and I shall be there on this forthcoming one, as in Bruce and Gill's absence, Bishop John Waine will be coming to carry out confirmation. It would be nice to get all eight going for this former Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, so if you are able to help out without disadvantaging your local tower, it would be very much appreciated. And then maybe we'll feel a little less guilty!


Monday 10th February 2014

It is highly probable that former Central Council President John Anderson holds the record for meeting the most short for a peal, having met fifteen short for an attempt on sixteen at the Bullring in Birmingham many years ago, having arrived a full twenty-four hours early.

Reassuringly, it seems that kind of thing doesn't just happen in ringing, as we found out when Kate, Ruthie and myself accompanied Ron to The Mulberry Tree in Ipswich for his bagpipe crew's Burns Night supper this evening. The late timing of the event is understandable, as the pipers were not unexpectedly busy around the big night itself, but it perhaps contributed to our eating companion Rod's faux pas. He was becoming slightly agitated and concerned that two guests he had invited hadn't arrived, particularly as he'd had to arrange special alternatives to the traditional haggis due to one being a vegan, and one having a gluten allergy. The reason behind their absence became clear as he trawled through the invite he had sent them, which revealed he'd invited them to come out this Thursday! So if you see a disappointed couple in the vicinity of the pub in three days time, be sure to throw them a wee dram.

Bagpipes at The Mulberry Tree.Bagpipes at The Mulberry Tree.Not everyone was enjoying the bagpipes as much as us...

Such slip-ups didn't detract from a fun evening though, which of course culminated in some bagpipe playing, which was an impressive sound, especially when fifteen or so of them got going together!

It did mean that we missed St Mary-le-Tower practice, but I shall be back there on Saturday morning for a peal attempt, which will in turn see me missing proceedings at St Mary at the Quay across the town centre, for the last chance to ring there from the gallery in its current form, before work starts there next month to convert the church to the Wellbeing Heritage Centre. That is Saturday by the way. 11am-1pm. Just make sure you have it noted correctly!


Sunday 9th February 2014

Aldeburgh.Whilst it was a shame that yesterday's attempt at Henley organised specifically for the landmark was lost, Mary Garner is still to be congratulated on ringing her 400th peal today. Although not planned this way, it was still appropriate that the big 4-0-0 was brought up in the second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh, which makes up a sizable proportion of her total thus far. It is a well-deserved landmark for a lady who I have commented on more than one occasion has done more than most for ringing in Suffolk, at a district, Guild and local level, as well as through her willingness to help out in peals and quarters, all in amongst a very busy non-ringing lifestyle as well.

Congratulations to another ringer who has done much for ringing within our borders, former SGR Peal Secretary Alan Mayle, on ringing his 800th peal of Major in Mary's 400th peal.

Polstead.Edwardstone.Elsewhere, well done to Jackie Latham and David Howe on calling her first and ringing his first blows of Annable's London Surprise Minor respectively, in the quarter in the method at Polstead today, and to both of them again, on ringing their first of Primrose Surprise Minor in the success at Edwardstone, along with Richard Brewster. Well done all three of you!

Bramfield.And congratulations to Richard Walters on ringing his 100th quarter in the 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major at The Norman Tower, and indeed to the quarter-peal band at Bramfield who coped with the pressure of their attempt being revealed in the media to score a 1260 of Doubles at this rare detached round tower.

Meanwhile, I notice through the Guild's Twitter page that there are petitions and debates on the project at Redgrave, which has hit an all too familiar stumbling block - the desire to conserve a frame in a place that not only gets in the way of reviving an ancient art, but is also hidden out of the view of the vast majority of people. I can appreciate The Churches Conservation Trust's aims in this case, as I can in most cases of this type. Our society is littered with the loss of gems from the past that would enrich our surroundings now, which were discarded by previous generations, so I too think it is important to preserve worthy examples, as I understand the frame at Redgrave is. But insisting that it is kept in situ at the expense of an example of a living breathing craft that continues from centuries past, seems entirely illogical, and very sad for all those involved in carrying out the wishes of the late Albert Driver.

With all this going on, our day was altogether quieter. Whilst Ruthie sung in the choir for morning service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, and partook in an apparently hilarious episode where in one hymn the congregation managed to get a verse ahead of the choir, forcing Kev the Rev to bring proceedings to a halt, Mason and I went ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and then Grundisburgh. Whilst it was good to see all twelve being rung at both venues, the most notable aspect of ringing at the latter this morning, was the unfortunate timing of the one wedding there in the first few months of this year, which ha